niner rkt9 xc mountain bike ride review

After attending the informal launch party for the Niner RKT9 last summer, we got our own size Large in for testing on my home trails of Greensboro, NC. If ever there were a perfect full suspension bike for our very XC urban singletrack, the RKT9 should be it. On paper, the 90mm rear travel optimized around a 100mm fork should be all that’s needed without losing anything to the suspension. Admittedly, I’m a Niner fan and use the JET9 and RIP9 as test platforms for most every mountain bike component I test, but still, even I’ve been playing with running longer forks on both of those bikes their their original geo charts called for.

So, as luck would have it, the feathery Fox 32 SC fork arrived just about the same time as the bike, so I turned this into a very light full suspension race bike to see how fast I could rip through the trails…

niner rkt9 xc mountain bike ride review

Niner’s CVA suspension hasn’t changed much since it debuted, and for good reason – it works. Everyone I’ve let try my other Niners has been impressed, particularly when climbing. On the RKT9, that translates just as well to flat land sprinting or just sitting in and hammering through the trail.

But when it comes time to soak up the rough stuff, it swings into action. And, because the linkage is so efficient, I could leave the Fox rear shock fully open 95% of the time, allowing it to swing into action very quickly. Ninety millimeters is plenty effective at smoothing out the little roots and rocks found on XC-type trails.

niner rkt9 xc mountain bike ride review

Where the design comes up short, literally, can be in the headtube. Designed with a shorter headtube their the 100mm/100mm travel JET9, the RKT9 was made to let racers keep the front end really low for a very aggressive riding position. And it works, except when I came to steeper descents or drops. The low front end, slightly shorter top tube layout and flat handlebar meant my upper body mass wanted to go forward over the bars. Or, more accurately, it was harder to get my body back far enough to feel really stable on the steep downhill stuff because of the relatively high seatpost.

With my JET9, the slightly taller headtube means I’m able to get behind the saddle just a bit easier. With the shorter headtube on the RKT, it makes it a bit tougher. So, if I knew I were going to a trail with a lot of steep descending, I’d add a dropper post. But given the XC race intentions of this bike, I tested it only with Niner’s rigid RDO carbon seatpost.

All that said, it’s a minor quibble considering the overall performance is rock solid. The frame is very stiff, which translates into predictable handling and near perfect power transfer. Stability throughout the corners was exactly what I’d want, even with lighter Stan’s NoTubes Arch wheels. That handling is probably a combination of the stiff frame and the wider Boost axle spacing allowing for a stiffer wheel build.

niner rkt9 mountain bike actual weight

With the Fox 32 SC, the complete bike (sans pedals) came in at 24.25lb (10.99kg) with tubeless tires.

niner rkt9 xc mountain bike ride review

We’ve seen the UCI World Cup XC race courses getting rougher over the past few years, and more riders putting full suspension bikes into their stable for tackling that terrain. For those not required to ride a certain label, I suspect the Niner RKT9 would make a darn near perfect bike for any level of XC racing.

I tested the $5,500 3-Star build with XT 1×11 group and a Fox Factory 32 fork and 3-position air shock with rebound adjust. That one sits in the middle of the complete bike lineup for this model and provided the expected smooth shifting and solid braking XT is known for. Everything else held up perfectly well, too -tires, wheels, cockpit- making this a good option for most riders wanting a really well equipped race bike. FWIW, I swapped the fork for the entirety of my test, but it, too, was a perfect upgrade for XC racing.

NinerBikes.com

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Graeme
Graeme
5 years ago

Uh, you know you can just put spacers under the stem and leave the steerer tube trimmed long? I don’t see how a short head tube is a valid complaint.

Timothy Guarente
Timothy Guarente
5 years ago
Reply to  Graeme

Or flip the stem for a positive rise. Or use a taller riser bar.

Seth
Seth
5 years ago

Seems on the heavy side for a top end XC race bike. My 2012 Niner Jet 9 RDO weighs less even with XT pedals.

sad
sad
5 years ago

Funny thing, my trail bike comes at a bit over 25lbs with a fox34 😉 (and “only” cost 2000USD more)

anonomouse
anonomouse
5 years ago

I don’t think you should complain about head tube length while still running the stem in a negative position. Or just set up the bike with your normal saddle to bar drop, regardless of HT length, like everyone should do when they set up a new bike. They make spacers for a reasons.

Marin
Marin
5 years ago

Why do people weigh bikes without pedals??? I know pedals are a personal choice but I’m yet to find one who rides bike without them.
It’s like removing saddle, post and bars to weigh the bike.
It’s a personal choice as well and difference between those 3 can be 500gr or more.

Bike weights are artifically lowered by extra light tubeless tires without sealant and when you go ride it in serious terrain, you add 1dcl per tire and put a proper tire that’s 200gr heavier…

mech9
5 years ago

That thing is (deleted) heavy for a top end XC race bike.. So Sad that a bike with the new fox 32 SC fork and NO PEDALS weighs 24.25lbs. Seriously that’s really lame at that price point. My Large s works epic with 1×11 di2 (yep battery, pedals, sealant and all/ ride ready) comes in at 21.92lbs. The med bottom level WC model we have at the shop is even sub 22.

badbikemechanicx
badbikemechanicx
5 years ago

I am stoked that the east coast is getting the cred it deserves for keeping xc racing alive.

Colin M
Colin M
5 years ago

@mech9 – makes comment about weight at $6k price point then notes weight of a $12k and $10k bike. (deleted)

Cc
Cc
5 years ago

It’s got a 71 deg HTA, smallish fork, and longish chainstays relative to wheelbase…even with a 40mm riser, how much descend-ability can it be expected to have? ‘Urban singletrack’–bike path? If RIP 9 accepts 140mm fork, as Niner’s site indicates, I’m doubtful that reviewer is using longer ones. Let’s see him airing out a ROS 9 above the same stones in further content, or stick to road.

Pfs
Pfs
5 years ago

I think there is a mistake on that weight because my rocket has xo1 and it weighs just over 22lbs.

Duzzi
Duzzi
5 years ago

25 pounds with no pedals? Yikes!!!!!

matt1025
matt1025
5 years ago

Upgrading the wheels to lighter hoops would cut off over a 1lb. easily.