Archive for the ‘Riding’ Category

Bike vs Bike: Niner R.I.P.9 and the Niner J.E.T.9

October 14, 2008

Editors Note: Crooked Cog Network would like to welcome “Grannygear” as its newest contributor. He has a wealth of experience and a passion for the sport, but you can read his bio and check it out for yourself.

A native to So Cal (yes, they do exist), Grannygear began mtn biking in the mid 1980s with the purchase of his first knobby tired scooter, a green Nishiki Cascade which was at least one size too big for him (bike shop saw him coming, apparently).

Granny attended many of the early mtn bike festivals in Moab and Crested Butte, raced the Kamikaze in Mammoth, co-founded a mountain bike land access group, co-authored and authored two riding guide books for mountain bikes, managed a race team for a small custom builder, and just generally fell in love with the mountain bike and all it entails.

He is also presently the Feature Editor for www.C4×, a web-zine targeting 4 wheel drive, Jeeps, etc, and writes the VintageOne blog.

He still lives in So Cal with his wife of 29 years, son, dog, and a rapidly decreasing supply of 26” bikes and an increasing supply of 29” bikes, as it should be.

Niner R.I.P.9 vs Niner J.E.T.9

If there is one question that is repeated from the beginning of a cyclist’s time in the sport until the time they go to that great singletrack in the sky, it is this: “What bike should I buy?”

Should it be a full suspension, and if so, how much travel? Or a hardtail, but then made out of what metal, aluminum, steel, titanium, carpet fiber? How about big wheels, little wheels, brand X, brand Y, and so on.

Some times the decision is simple. No one looking for an all mountain experience will be wondering, “Hmmmm…Gary Fisher Superfly or Knolly Delirium?” But sometimes it may not be so simple. Consider the Lenzsport Leviathan in 3” or 4”…same basic frame, slightly different angles, one inch difference in travel. Or, still within that brand, the 4” Leviathan or the 5” Behemoth? Not so simple.

Add in factors such as where you ride, how you ride, what you expect out of a bike, are you a one bike person, or is this just one bike in a quiver…all of this comes into play when choosing the right bike.

Take, for instance, Niner Bikes and their two current suspension offerings, the JET-9 and the RIP-9. These two bikes are quite often the center of a ‘which one for me’ discussion and I thought it would be worthwhile to figure that out for myself on my home turf.

So that is where we find ourselves today, at the Niner booth getting ready to compare the newly refined RIP-9 to the recently released JET-9.

A quick run down of the similarities and differences:

Both are full suspension, the RIP is 4.5” of rear travel, the JET 3.1”.

Both use the Niner CVA suspension, designed to provide a neutral pedaling experience. From the Niner website: So what is CVA™ Suspension? Niner’s Constantly Varying Arc suspension design has a tuned wheel path with a wheel arc that constantly changes throughout the path of suspension travel. Niner was able to dial in the exact wheel arc required to meet the goals as stated above, “pedal neutral”, “brake neutral”, and fully active were all accomplished with a wheel path using a constantly varying arc. The wheel arc of the CVA™ system works to counter forces from the chain, keeping the “instant center” of the suspension design in line with the torque of the drivetrain. Finding the balance so that the system works in every gear is critical and every single millimeter or degree (or both) could hinder the performance of the suspension. In addition, Niner’s CVA™ wheel arc was tuned to keep chain growth at a minimum, insuring that the torque on the chain would not cause suspension movement.
Both are aluminum frames.

The JET-9 is designed to be a racier riding experience

The RIP-9 is aimed at the trailbike crowd

The RIP, with its heavily manipulated tubing and large gussets, looks obviously burlier, and conversely, the JET is a leaner, sleeker looking bike.

Well, how different or similar are they? Can the JET be a lightweight trailbike? Is the RIP good for long climbs? To get a better idea, I got the chance to ride them back to back on home turf on a ride that I do probably once a week all year long.

It consists of 1 mile or so of pavement, then a loose, sandy dirt road leading to increasingly steeper doubletrack climbs, loose, fast and rutted double track to singletrack ridgeline trail, then to a rocky and twisting singletrack in and out of a canyon bottom and back down the fireroad to the pavement and you are done. It is your typical Southern California ride. Factor that in to the review.

The RIP-9

I chose a large size for both bikes, and Brian from Niner made sure I was set up and good to go. Niner had just refined the RIP-9 for this next year and the hydroformed tube set and beefy links looked very stout. Good looking bike, really.

I ran Propedal off and with the Fox 120mm fork set to 50% rebound damping, off I went down the road. It pedals well and my 6’2” bod fit pretty nicely on the 24.5” TT of the size Large. The first rise in the road found me in the middle ring and standing. Looking down at the rear CVA linkage, I could see no pedal induced nonsense and the bike felt very stiff to my 185 or so pounds. I could feel no deflection in the rear triangle. Now with 2.3 Rampage tires and Stan’s Flows, it was not a flyweight wheel build, but it was not at all sluggish feeling. The older RIP had been called out as being flexy in the rear, especially for bigger riders. I think all the time spent re-working the RIP has paid off, as I sure did not see anything going on back there.

The turn onto the fireroad retained that good feeling and the bike motored through sand and loose rock with ease. This is a comfy ride. Seated pedaling was very cush, but not at the expense of feel at the pedals. I did find I was happier in the small chainring in places I might normally be pushing the top cog in the middle ring and I would expect that with a bike like this, but if I chose to get out of the saddle and stay in a bigger gear, it was happy to play along. It was a bit slower than I was used to, but it is heavier and burlier than my Lev 3.0. A climb up to a ridgeline called for the lowest gear and the RIP just cruised along, no fuss, no wandering of the front wheel. Once at the top, I had a feeling that the next section would be the RIP’s time to shine. Loose, rutted, rocky and steep, the RIP just flowed down it like it was barely a concern. I was very impressed with how the rear tire tracked under all conditions, climbing, braking, etc. Man, this is a fun bike for this kind of trail.

I turned off onto the singletrack and rode up it for a ways then turned around and busted back down. This is a good steering bike and there was nothing on this trail that pushed its limits. Did I mention it was fun? I would have loved to have had this bike for last month’s Moab trip. The front end was easy to loft and the bike seemed very agile and well balanced with the Fox 120mm fork.

On the pavement return, I noticed the rear links were just slightly cycling in the big ring, so I flipped the Propedal on, locked out the Fox fork, and rolled down the road. Nice bike, even if it is a bit burly for most of my rides.


If there ever were a ton of expectations on a new product release, it was on this bike. The RIP had been a wild success, but many were clamoring for a lighter, racier version of the CVA rear linkage. The JET was that bike with 3.1” of travel, steeper angles, and a fast feel at the pedal. But is the JET-9 a race day only bike? Can it be a light weight trail bike? We shall see.

First of all, there is not a huge difference in weight between the two frames, although Brian was not certain, he expected a pound or so. The rest was in the build, but hefting the two, it was obvious that the JET was lighter, but not dramatically so. Lighter wheels with the Stan’s Arches and more of a 2.1 sized tire were the most significant weight advantages.

Off on the road out of the demo area, it was amazing how fast the JET felt. Very fast for an full suspension 29″er, it pedaled very well and on the same rise in the road that I stood up on the RIP, the same effort resulted in a much zippier feel. I bet I was 1-2 cogs higher. However; looking down at the rear wheel, I could plainly see there was some flex going on. I could not really feel it, but I could see the deflection in the rear end. Perhaps the JET could use some of the refining that the RIP went through. Continuing on the pavement to the fireroad, the JET was really easy to push a bigger gear. On the doubletrack seated climb, I was back to the middle ring rather than the granny and I was much more inclined to drop down a cog and stand over a rise than I was on the RIP. I also was noticing a lot of trail feel coming back up through the saddle. I dropped the PSI in the shock juuust a tad. I had told the tech I was 190lbs, but with the light pack I was carrying, I was likely lighter by 5 lbs or so. Anyway, I did not notice much change, so off I went. I would not have minded a bit cushier seated experience (my old back nods accordingly).

The grannyring climb was a piece of cake, and just like the RIP, the shock was happy and steady unless I hit a bump.

On to the downhill doubletrack, from the first 100 yds, I knew I was on a much different bike then the RIP. I really needed to pay attention to the front end, not that it was evil, it just liked a firm hand at the tiller. This is where all that climbing prowess built into the design worked against me. The last rutted and steep drop on the road was a cakewalk on the RIP and this section always has me a bit nervous on my Lev. On the JET I had to be more selective of the line I took. Not scary, just not as fun.

The singletrack section was great on the JET. It easily climbed all the rock steps, but did hunt in the sandy wash crossings compared to the RIP. Some of this could be the tire width difference. On the return trail, it took a more aggressive posture and would turn fast and hold the line. The 3.1” of travel and the 100mm Fox fork worked well together and felt balanced. The RIP was more fun here, but the JET was no slouch and just rocketed up the rises in the trail in the big ring. (Editors Note: After confiirmation from Niner Bikes, it turns out Grannygear was correct after all- it was a 100mm Fox fork. Sorry about any confusion this may have caused!)

On the pavement return, I was wondering “Just why is there a Propedal on this bike?” I can’t imagine ever using it.

Summing it up: Neither bike is a stinker. No surprise there. Niner knows their stuff. If I had to choose which bike to buy and could have only one bike, it could be the JET-9, but only because so much of my rides are long, relatively smooth fireroads and in that environment, 4.5” of travel is overkill.

A good climber is one thing and the RIP is all that, but the JET felt great when the world tilted upwards, and on the road sections it felt like a hardtail. I would not suggest this bike for Clydesdales. If I can get it to hula dance a bit when pressed hard, a 200+ pounder might be unhappy. I would totally suggest this bike for anyone that wants the next step up from a hardtail and you need to feel fast, but have a break from the bumps in the trail. It is a fine race bike for events like 24 hour races or rougher XC courses. Not having to worry about flipping the Propedal switch on a rear shock is a good thing when all you want to do is put your head down and pedal. Score one for CVA. But it is not a relaxing bike to ride fast. You need to pay attention and in this sense it reminded me of the Racer X 29er. I would not likely buy this bike just due to where I live and my desire for a less demanding handling experience. But…………

Could I have the RIP as my only bike? Sure. However, if I could have two bikes, (and I can), I would pick the RIP in a heartbeat and get something like a Dos Niner for the long, smoother rides. Why the RIP? Cause outside of the narrow window of sharp response and snappy pedaling that the JET lives in, the RIP was just so much more fun to pilot and it has a wider window of rides and conditions it would be good for. It climbs well, just more leisurely. It turns fabulously, but not on a dime. It takes a quarter.

It absolutely felt wonderful when it got loose, rutted and rocky. It really has me thinking about a longer travel bike. I could take this on a road trip and ride Moab, Fruita, Thunder Mountain, whatever. I would not worry about running into a trail ride that overwhelmed the bike and frankly, anything this bike would be overwhelmed by, I don’t want to ride, but that is me speaking. Your mileage may vary. I don’t ride big, chunky stuff just on purpose and I don’t huck, so the W.F.O. 9 that Niner is rolling out is not even on my radar.

It is an excellent So Cal conditions bike as long as you do not need to be first to the top of the hill among a bunch of guys on hardtails. But, if you are in the all mountain/trail bike, 5-6” travel 26”er crowd, you have no worries. They may, though, once you get those big wheels moving and the grinning begins!

Thanks Grannygear! And welcome to Twenty Nine Inches!

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo 2008

May 24, 2008

It’s time again for that get together of big wheeled afficiandos from all over. The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo will occur in less than a month from now in Decorah, Iowa on June 21st and 22nd. You can click on the link for more information, but here are some salient points and features for you here.

The  Big Wheeled Ballyhoo! Come On Down!

The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo is a get together of mountain bikers of all sorts, but is particularly geared towards 29″er fans. There will be a lot of riding on Decorah’s excellent system of challenging single track trails. Iowa? Yes, single track in Decorah, Iowa is amongst some of the most challenging riding you will do anywhere. Climbing, descending, and sweet flowing single track, all maintained meticulously by the Decorah Human Powered Trails organization, will be available to all who come to the Ballyhoo. But, there is more!

*Demo Rides Niner Bikes, Salsa Cycles, Origin 8, Gary Fisher Bikes, and more.

Camping Available right by the Demo area and a stones throw from the trails and downtown Decorah.

Fun and Games Activities at the campground to amuse yourself with involving bicycles.

The Raffle All registered attendants are eligible for cool stuff that we will be giving away at 2pm. Sunday at the Registration Tent located at the campground. Just stop by at the Registration Tent Saturday or Sunday during Ballyhoo hours or pre-register online for a chance at a special prize just for signing up early. It’s all free, but you must be present at 2pm Sunday June 22nd to win.

Special Surprizes! There will be some big news worthy 29″er happenings at the Ballyhoo this year. Be the first to see them and hear about them. Don’t miss this opportunity to be the first on your block to experience the latest in big wheeled goodness, news, and rumors! Last years Ballyhoo featured the debut of WTB’s Prowler and Stout tires along with Niner’s newest eccentric bottom bracket idea. What will be showing up this year? Well, I’ll say it’s waaay bigger news than last year!

Do You Commute On A 29"er?

November 21, 2007

With the onset of wintry weather here I am in preparation to break out my winter commuter, a 2003 Surly Karate Monkey. You can see more about that here I love commuting on big wheels, especially since parts of my commute are over unpaved trail and a grassy field.

How many of you are commuting on the big wheels? How many are using a 29″er specifically for winter time commuting? Is commuting on a 29″er a bad idea?

Take a moment and go to the comment section for this post and let us know what you think. If you have a great commuting story involving big wheels, type that in too.

24 Hours of Kona Kula 2-9

February 18, 2007

I spent this weekend racing as part of the Kona Bikes “Media Darlings” team at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. I, of course, chose a 29er for my riding and got in three 17-mile loops on the Kona Kula 2-9.

While this is no where near enough riding for an in-depth review, I’ll give my thoughts with the time spent on the bike.

I went with the 18″ frame for the ride and it made for a very agile ride. The Pueblo course has a lot of fast sections in it and one track in particular is tight singletrack completely lined with cactus. Even while weaving through at top speed I felt completely in control. The course also ended in a long, fast downhill that is the most exciting section of the course. I blew through this section at top speed complete with rocky sections and dips and turns and the Kula blew through it with no problem.

I also got a great chance to use the 29er to it’s potential in several sections of the course. While I was definitely one of the slower riders in the race, I was able to use the big wheeled momentum to pass people on several of the long straight sections. It was great pedaling the same cadence as other riders and passing them.

The Shimano XT shifters and dérailleurs are paired with Race Face Deus XC X-Type cranks to make of the drivetrain and performed great. The bike was tuned before the race and never touched again for the 50+ miles of riding in the dusty, desert conditions and it was shifting as good at the end of the race as the beginning.

As for the the wheels, brakes, etc, everything performed well for the race. The bike was a great choice for the course and I had a blast riding it.

Does anyone else ride a Kula 2-9? What are your long term observations?

29er Death Valley tour

February 7, 2007

Just did a two-day dirt tour on the Saline Valley Road in Death Valley National Park. Two of us were on custom 29ers. Thought you would be interested in the trip report and pics.

Click here to check them out…

The Coconino was running a Vulture fork, Bontrager jones tires, WTB drops, custom Coconino rack.

The Vulture ran an On-One fork, Mary bars, Irc Mythos, Old Man Mountain Disc 29er rack.

Everything functioned perfectly and the big wheels were pretty nice over the washboard.

– Wolfy

Raleigh XXIX Updation

August 16, 2006

About 10 days ago I wrecked the XXIX a bit and bent up the disc for my front wheel’s brakes. I switched bikes for a week or so since I didn’t really have time to do any repairs, but Sunday I finally got back into the basement to see if I could pound the disc straight.

Well looky-there, I had an extra 29er wheel in my basement that had the exact same 160mm Avid Disc so I switched them out and continued my riding on the Raleigh.

If you read our sister site, Blue Collar Mountain Biking, you’ll know I’m training for the singlespeed class for a local race and I am planning on riding the Raleigh XXIX for the race. And now that I am actually thrashing around on the bike some I’ve gotten to do a bit of better testing. Here’s some stuff that I’m noticing as I ride harder and faster…

First off, the bike is still the best fitting bike I’ve ever ridden. It’s the medium size frame and I am 5’11” and fluctuate my weight around 190 pounds. Usually after an hour of hard riding on a rigid bike my back is killing me, but not on the Raleigh. While I still have a bit of stiffness once I stop, the pain is not there during the ride.

A problem I’m running into is things don’t seem to be staying tight enough on the bike. I have to take the front wheel off to cart the bike around, however I am well adept at putting the quick-release wheel back on the bike. But even after putting on the wheel with what seems like sufficient tightening, about 20 minutes into the ride I will hear the front wheel start rattling a bit so I stop and, sure enough, the front wheel has come loose a bit. This has only been happening since I have been doing faster descents on rocky, rooty terrain. Also along this same lines, the seat seems to be slipping a bit on me. I’ve noticed that I have to raise the seat at the end of the ride. I probably lose about a half inch after a 60 to 90 minute ride.

The bike does to a great job over the rough terrain though. The frame is definitely built well and does a good job absorbing a lot of the shock.

The Raleigh XXIX still has my thumbs up, but I gotta figure out the deal with the front wheel loosening on me.

Here’s a couple pics from my ride…

Raleigh XXIX 29er
Raleigh XXIX 29 inch