Niner SIR 9 Review: Tested On The Colorado Trail

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Niner’s latest SIR 9 is the company’s third iteration on their cult classic hardtail. For 2017, it retains the high-end Reynolds 853 tubeset for which the bike is known, infusing its new frame with an up-to-the-minute geometry, all the latest industry standards, clearances for 27.5+ tires, and a host of bikepacking-friendly braze-ons. Given that the company is based in Colorado… it only seemed fitting to it out on the technically demanding and physically challenging Colorado Trail.

I have to admit: it’s been some time since I’ve ridden a bike with front suspension. In the interim, the remarkable capabilities of simple, affordable, fully rigid plus-tired bikes have stolen my heart.

But for riding the Colorado Trail this summer, I decided that the length of the ride and the demands of Colorado’s formidable terrain warranted a venture back into the folds of suspension, as did riding a bike that embraced the latest standards within the biking industry. Some habits die out hard though… namely, my love of steel frames. So when Niner updated their SIR 9 hardtail, it seemed like a natural fit for the route.

Niner Sir Review

  • Highlights
  • Frame: Reynolds 853
  • Fork: Fox Float 34, 120mm
  • Head angle/seat angle: 68/74 degrees
  • Chainstay length: 427mm
  • Bottom Bracket: SRAM Press Fit 30
  • Hub specs: 148X12mm (rear); 100x15mm (front)
  • Max tire: 29×2.4″ or 27.5×3″
  • Frame weight: 5.8lbs (inc maxle and bolts)
  • Price: $4,950 (SRAM XO1 Eagle)

The original SIR was something of a cult classic. Last revamped in 2013, this latest version, built around a 120mm travel fork, aims to keep the ingredients everyone loved – its high-end Reynolds 853, heat treated, air hardened tubing – while updating it with a modern trail geometry, the latest industry standards, and all the gubbins you could desire for your bikepacking needs.

What’s more, the SIR is available in a range of builds to meet different price points and wheel preferences, be it ultra grippy 27.5 plus rubber or its slightly lighter 29in counterpart. Prices range from $2300 to $5950, as well as a $1200 frame only option. I was fortunate enough to be sent the 4 Star build, the second highest of 5 tiers. Ringing in at $4950, the SIR 9 I rode positively dripped with high-end components, including a SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, a Fox 34 Float fork, Race Face carbon bars, Stans NoTubes Baron rims, and in the case of my test bike, 27.5×2.8 Maxxis Reckons.

  • Niner Sir Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review

Importantly, the frame has seen a complete geometry revamp, reflecting the trend for longer, lower and slacker rigs; its 68 degree head angle, 74 degree seat angle, and compact 427mm chainstays amount to what’s considered to be a very trail-orientated geometry, designed to excel on steep, techy singletrack.

Elsewhere, its curvy, manipulated tubeset teams a classically slim front and rear triangle to an oversized headtube. Seatstays are especially elegant and there’s no seat stay bridge, presumably to add some compliance. Hub spacing is Boost front and rear, and there’s internal cabling for a 30.9mm dropper post. Those who appreciate bikes that offers more rather than less will be pleased to note that the latest SIR 9 includes a veritable bevvy of braze-ons – enough, in fact, to cater for a framebag that won’t scuff the paint, a bottle under the downtube, a gas tank on the top tube, and somewhat surprisingly for a trail bike, even a rear rack. Given those ultra slim seatstays, I’d recommend a light rear load as more suited to the SIR 9 than an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to bike touring – think Tubus Vega with a couple of micro panniers. Clearances are drawn for 29×2.4in tires, so you won’t be able to fit the new 2.6in offerings that are gaining in popularity. But there’s ample room 27.5+ wheels – mine came with 27.5×2.8in Maxxis Reckons on versatile 35mm (internal) Stans NoTubes Baron rims, leaving plenty of space for 3in rubber or muddy conditions. Although the graphics aren’t my favourite, there’s no doubt that the SIR 9 is an extremely well-finished and thoughtfully considered frame, which goes a long way to justifying its spendy $1200 price tag, for a Taiwanese-made frame at least.

  • Niner Sir 9 Review
  • Niner Sir 9 Review

The choice of a PF30 press fit bottom shell is likely to be more contentious. On the one hand, these oversized BB shells offer a stiffer crank interface and a larger surface area for welding than traditional ones, making the frame building process easier, stronger and more affordable. Similarly, SIR features hollow yoke that is welded from two forged halves, again designed to increase strength, welding surface area, and tire clearance. On the downside, a press fit shell also means you’ll need very specialized tools to replace your bottom bracket. This is unlikely to a major issue for those combining typical weekend trail riding with occasional week-long bikepacking jaunts. But for anyone planning adventures overseas, it’s unlikely to sit comfortably in the back of their minds.

Thankfully, there’s a silver lining. Niner also offers an eccentric insert, the Niner BioCentric 30, which has an excellent reputation. Aside from allowing the frame to run a dedicated singlespeed setup, this means you can install an easily sourced, threaded bottom bracket. An eccentric bottom bracket also opens up options to fine-tune its height, depending on both your riding style and the wheel size and tire diameter you’re running. Typically, a 27.5+ tire will drop the bottom bracket height by 5-10mm, depending on the tire profile. To compensate for this, the BioCentric insert can be rotated to its uppermost position, bringing the effective height back up (the eccentric insert has an offset of 8.5mm from centre, meaning there’s a 17mm difference from the lowest to the highest points, with a full range of adjustment between). And even if you’re not a singlespeed demon, an eccentric bottom bracket allows you to tension your chain, should you tear off your derailler in the backcountry. All this said, none of the current lineup of SIR 9s feature the eccentric insert as an off-the-shelf option, so you’ll need to invest in both it (at $89) and a new crankset should this avenue appeal.

  • Niner Sir 9 Review
  • Niner Sir 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9, 2017-2018, Bikepacking, 27.5+
  • Niner SIR 9, 2017-2018, Bikepacking, 27.5+
  • Niner SIR 9, 2017-2018, Bikepacking, 27.5+

So how do all these numbers and frame details translate, out on the trail? Given its 65,000 feet (20,000 metres) of altitude gain, the CT demands a bike that’s as capable winching up a pass as it is barreling down a mountain. Previously, I’ve found slack headtubes and short chainstays make for a bike that climbs awkwardly, the front tire tending to pop up on steep trails. The SIR 9 didn’t seem to suffer from this trait, thanks perhaps to a combination of its long top tube (shifting weight to the front centre, ie further forwards between the BB and the front hub), the suppleness of its Fox fork, and its grippy 27.5+ tires, as well as the extra stability afforded by running a bikepacking load. In any case, I rarely found the front end wandered. Instead, with the right body English, I cleaned a good number of the steep, rooty, and rocky climbs that mine the CT, many of which I’d have expected to have got the better of me.

The 550-mile (885km) Colorado Trail is also laced with relentlessly rocky, slabby, almost unending descents. The SIR 9’s slack headtube and long travel fork gave me incredible confidence to really let loose and enjoy every aspect of this truly epic ride. Sure, I could have ridden it with a rigid fork and a plus-sized tire, but I’ve no doubt I’d have needed to pick my way down more cautiously, and my body would have taken quite a beating in the process. Given that I’m used to riding relatively heavy bikes, being at the helm of such a light rig definitely had its perks, both in the way it kicked up to speed and – especially for a ride like the CT – how much easier it was to push and shoulder. The net result was that I felt fresher at the end of every day.

  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review

The SIR 9’s comfortable and relatively lightweight steel frame is complemented by some choice components, like Sram’s carbon XO1 Eagle cranks and Race Face handlebars. To achieve the balance of low gears I hanker for, I’m normally used to running a double chainring or a Rohloff. I’ve not tried the Eagle drivetrain before and I have to admit that I was completely won over. For the first time, I could truly see the merits of a 1x drivetrain for all my bikepacking needs. The test bike came with a 34T front chainring (note that the current spec has been updated to a 32T alternative) mated to Eagle’s gargantuan 10-50T rear cassette. I found this range to be spot on for the route, be it steep, technical climbs or fast pavement stints, with enough of a bailout for exhausted afternoon legs. The single chainring drivetrain kept shifting quick, simple and straightforward, which proved especially welcome for my trail-frazzled brain at the end of the day. On the downside, its 12-speed drivetrain felt a little fiddly to set up and sensitive to cable stretch. Perhaps reflecting its race-orientated roots, I also managed to completely sheer one of the jockey wheels after accidentally clipping a rock on a climb. Thankfully, one of the members of our group was carrying a spare, or it would have been a long walk out…

  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review

Wheel and tire choice proved perfect. On paper, I imagined 3in tires and 45mm rims would suit me better. In practice, the 2.8in Maxxis Reckon tires, 35mm Stan’s NoTubes Baron rims, and Fox Float fork combo never left me wanting, providing all the grip, comfort and trail prowess that I could hope for. Conveniently, the SIR 9’s wheelset is set up tubeless straight out of the box, with an especially good interface between the tire and rim bead. I did manage to ding one of the rims, but the seal held strong. Fox’s Float 34 performed flawlessly; it features the fancy Kashima coating and a lockout, handy when riding pavement. On the trail with a bikepacking load, it proved so precise, plush and smooth that I rarely needed to engage the full travel option on its 3 position dial. The bike also comes complete with a KS Lev Integra dropper post that uses a floating piston hydraulic design, of which I’ve heard mixed long-term reviews. Although I’m not convinced that a dropper is an absolute necessity for long distance bikepacking – in some ways, the worry of a failure outweighs its benefits over a tough route like the Colorado Trail – I didn’t have any issues with it during the course of the ride. And I’m certainly not denying it wasn’t fun to use, imbuing me with bonus confidence down the CT’s steeper and more technical shutes.

In terms of tweaking the stock build, I fitted my favourite WTB Pure saddle and a Hunter Smooth Move High Rise handlebars. Although the SIR’s headtube length is on the generous side, I found the fork steerer tube to be cut a touch too short for my liking on my test bike; this shouldn’t be an issue for customers, though, as the frame, build kit and wheels are shipped to your local Niner dealer, where they’re assembled on a per order basis. This means you can have the steerer tube cut to the length you desire. Additionally, the Race Face carbon handlebar specced has an 8 degree backsweep and I prefer 15 degrees or more for long distance rides. I also threw on some comfy Ergon GP1s, as those provided are on the hard side.

  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review

Frameset

  • Frame Niner SIR 9 Reynolds 853
  • Fork Fox 34 Float Factory Fit4, 3 POSITION W/ADJ

Drivetrain

  • Front Der n/a
  • Rear Der SRAM X01 EAGLE 12SP
  • Cassette SRAM EAGLE XG 1295, 10-50T
  • Chain SRAM X01 EAGLE 12SP
  • Crankset SRAM X1 EAGLE CARBON PF30 32T CNC RING
  • Shifter SRAM X01 EAGLE 12SP
  • Brakes & Rotors SRAM GUIDE RSC, 180/160 CENTERLINE ROTORS

Components

  • Headset NINER INTERNAL ZS
  • Stem RACE FACE TURBINE BASIC 50MM, 35MM CLAMP
  • Handlebar RACE FACE SIXC 820MM WIDE, 20MM RISE, 35MM CLAMP
  • Brakes SRAM GUIDE RSC
  • Grips NINER GRRRIPS L/O FLANGED
  • Seatpost KS LEV INTEGRA 
  • Saddle NINER CUSTOM TR WITH CRN-TI RAILS

Wheels

  • Front Wheel STAN’S NOTUBES BARON 27.5+, 110X15MM
  • Rear Wheel STAN’S NOTUBES BARON 27.5+, 148X12MM 
  • Tires 27.5+ MAXXIS REKON+ DC/EXO/TR 2.8
  • Niner Sir Review

Pros

  • A lively, modern geometry suited to challenging trails, both up and down.
  • High end Reynolds 853 frame minimises weight penalty of a steel frame.
  • SRAM Eagle drivetrain offers a perfect gear range for bikepacking.
  • No shortage of thoughtful bikepacking touches, including eyelets for a dedicated framebag, ample provision for water bottles, and even a rear rack.
  • Generous framebag space.
  • Plethora of build options to suit both budget and wheel size preference.
  • Niner’s reliable EBB insert opens up singlespeed options and fine tuning of BB height (though it’s not included).

Cons

  • Although its gear range is excellent, SRAM XO1 Eagle feels built for racing rather than bikepacking. It’s fiddly to set up and sensitive to cable stretch.
  • Press fit bottom bracket requires specialist tools that may be hard to find in the backcountry.
  • While an eccentric insert is available, none of the standard builds include it.
  • Model nameNiner Sir 9 4-Star (27.5+ build)
  • Price$4950 USD complete, $1200 for the frameset (other builds available)
  • Sizes available S, M, L, XL
  • Size tested XL
  • Weight Approx 26lb (11.8kg)
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Contact Niner Bikes

Niner SIR 9 Review

  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review
  • Niner SIR 9 Review

Wrap Up

As someone who usually abides by the KISS principle when it comes to bikepacking – Keep It Simple Stupid – riding Niner’s SIR 9 was something of a revelation. Without a doubt, it increased my enjoyment of the Colorado Trail, encouraging me to savour its technical descents to the very max. A capable climber, it also helped ease my way skyward when it came to chipping away at those long and winding Coloradan climbs. Combined with a relatively light bikepacking setup, I certainly appreciated its lean build, making my toils more forgiving during the route’s infamous hike-a-bikes.

While the ‘4 star’ build I tested is no doubt an envy-inducing option for trail riding, I prefer a more affordable component choice for the rigours of bikepacking – personally, I’d forgo the excessively expensive XO1 Eagle drivetrain. The good news is that since the bike’s launch – and my testing period – the SIR 9’s 2 and 3-star builds have been updated. At $3,200 and $3,950 respectively, these models now favour SRAM’s more affordable Eagle GX drivetrain, which strikes me as a better fit for a non-race steed. Given the bike’s obvious appeal to bikepackers and my own propensity for remote routes, I’d love to see one of the standard builds include Niner’s eccentric bottom bracket, for the convenience of running an easily sourced and fitted threaded bottom bracket.

As for long distance riding, I finished the Colorado Trail with no backache and feeling in good physical shape, despite the unrelenting challenges of the route. I certainly owe some of this to the SIR’s compliant frame, its 27.5+ tires, a generous headtube length, and its roomy framebag space; the latter helped dictate my choice not to wear a backpack.

All in all, there’s very little to fault in this latest iteration of the SIR 9. Ultimately, this is a bike that has opened introduced me to a faster, more enjoyable, and more comfortable way of tackling a testing route like the Colorado Trail, while still retaining the looks and feel of a classic steel hardtail. And it’s not just a great bikepacking bike. Unladen, the SIR 9 proved super fun to blast round my local trails, whether fast and flowy, or steep and technical.

Cass Gilbert

Rider Profile

I’ve been embarking regularly on two-wheeled explorations for the last 18 years. Most recently, I connected the length of the Americas via the road less traveled, explored Mongolia on a fat bike, and helped create the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route. Given my love for mountain biking and backcountry touring, my ideal journey fuses the two, keeping to quiet dirt roads and singletrack where possible.

  • Height: 6’1” (1.85 M)
  • Weight: 165 lbs (74.8 KG)
  • Inseam: 35” (89 CM)
  • Current Location: Santa Fe, NM
  • Favorite Route: Peru Divide
  • Favorite Local Trail: Discount/Jawbone

With thanks to Michael Dammer for additional actions shots from the Colorado Trail.

Niner Sir 9 Review

26 Comments
  • Zachary Brown

    Cass this isn’t a personal attack against you, this review, Logan, or any of the other contributors. It is simply my observation of the last three years of this site.

    I will start by saying that I still like this website and the content of it; however, I’ve begun to be a little concerned with the gear reviews. Specifically, the prices on these reviews.

    Price and affordability are obviously relative, as with many things, but I’m left wondering why $2300 at the low end is considered reasonable. Even if that price was an objectively “affordable” bike, this review of a much higher end model would be irrelevant to what the average bikepacker might be looking at. I see this with many of the other bike reviews too, where it seems like the carbon, or full suspension, or ultra high end components version is reviewed and passed as what is the norm. As contributors you are lucky to be able to demo (keep?) these bikes, but I would say it is a ridiculous standard for most of us.

    My point is that I feel some of the gear reviews, but especially the bikes, are glorifying consumerism and materialism and seemingly putting up a substantial cost barrier to bikepacking. To me bike touring is about getting back to nature, living simply and freely, and travelling under one’s own power. Bike touring does not need to be about 3-6000 dollar bikes and fancy gear. By pushing these reviews we are discouraging people from adopting bike travel/ lifestlye. There is often talk on this site and in bike forums of “the bike and gear you have already is good enough”, but we consistently fail to walk the walk.

    This is only my opinion and it reflects my values. I feel the real value in this site lies in the videos, the recipes, repair videos, the old MYOG articles, the how-tos. These are the things that spread the love of biking and encourage self sufficiency. Not feeling the need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on the newest gear.

    Can we have complete bikes featured (and reviewed) in the $900-1200 range, gear that is a good blend of space weight AND price, more content like Pedalling Nowhere had?

  • Barrett Hoover

    Another great review. It’s always interesting to hear perspectives from people that come from a different side of mountain biking, Cass being a hardcore rigid rider and myself being quite use to slacker full suspension rigs. This sounds like a bike we could both get along with despite very different backgrounds.

    And to Zachary’s point about cost. I agree that $1200 for a Taiwanese frame is a bit steep. Unfortunately quality bikes are typically expensive these days. And I have a feeling Niner wanted to send out a high end build to really show off the potential of theirs frames. There aren’t many $1000 complete bikes I would trust on advanced remote single track terrain. A good set of hydraulic brakes (essential to me for technical or high speed singletrack) will cost you at least a couple hundred bucks retail. Throw in some wheels that won’t buckle under aggressive riding, some suspension, $90 a piece tires, etc, and you can see how $2300 for a complete bike out of the box isn’t crazy for what you are getting. It’s a lot of money, and you can buy awesome second hand bikes for much less. But if you are a retail customer who values a warranty, then it’s the price you pay unfortunately.

    There are some rad bikes for cheaper. Lots of Surly’s, some really cool Kona’s, etc. But you have to sacrifice a few things to get to that price point. Mostly several pounds of extra weight and a suspension fork.

  • Zachary Brown

    Thanks for your thoughts, Barrett. I wasn’t really sure if the price range I mentioned is in fact realistic or not. But I feel like there must be some way that we can market offroad bike travel as an affordable thing and not an expensive niche activity. I can also understand where the expense comes in with suspension, especially full suspension. The review that really made we want to comment on what I’ve observed was the recent Industry Nine wheelset review. You could be out bikepacking for the cost of a wheelset in that case.

    That being said, I looked through the gravel/ full rigid bikes that have been reviewed in the last year here and they still averaged around $2300.

  • Ian Zuckerman

    Not to take over the thread from an interesting and informative bike review, but I do think Zachary points to a much broader problem and dilemma. I can certainly see why the bike industry encourages this kind of consumerism and “gear inflation” – promoting the idea that biking is essentially equivalent to space travel, and you couldn’t possibly get on a bike and ride without spending many thousands of dollars on all the latest extreme technology. You can literally find this attitude in a lot of mainstream roadie publications, and elsewhere. Bikepacking would seem to have some built-in limits to this kind of attitude. Bikepacking takes time, and usually people who have enough time to do the serious long-term trips that all this expensive gear is supposedly required for, for that very reason don’t have the cash to spend on it. I say this personally as someone who quite consciously chose a career in which I am “time rich,” with space in my life for long-term travel and exploration. The result is that my used surly krampus was a big purchase for me. I have a lot of biking buddies who can afford to purchase a lot of the latest pricy gear – and they seldomly can go on trips with me because they’re too busy… working to afford the gear. I can certainly see the dilemma from bikepacking.com’s perspective. Gear reviews are a huge part of the content, the industry is thoroughly committed to gear inflation for its own purposes, and these reviews are as much wish-fulfillment and fantasy-fodder for a lot of readership as they are practically informative. Fair enough. But bikepacking.com is such an excellent and comprehensive website – you guys do such a terrific job – that you play a role in shaping bikepacking culture at large. I guess this is just a really longwinded way of echoing Zachary’s point: as you negotiate that balance, I hope you keep in mind those non-consumerist and DIY values, as well as the practical position that most of your core readership that has the time to do rides like the CT is in. That’s not to say don’t do these kind of gear reviews, but remember that words like “affordable” for many of your readers are anchored in real practical limitations and tradeoffs, not the endless ratcheting of bike industry consumerism.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for your comment Zachary.

    Broadly speaking, I agree with you – we certainly want this site to be inclusive rather than exclusive in the bikes and gear we choose or are offered to review. We can’t judge where readers should spend their money (though from a personal point of view, I’d always prefer it to be on an expensive bike than an expensive car!), but we can at least make sure that the reviews we publish are comprehensive, well rounded and honest. If someone chooses to spend $3000+ on a bicycle, we want them to feel well informed in deciding whether it’s the right bike for them. We’re very aware of this responsibility, so at the other end of the scale, we publish cheap bike hacks and cost-cutting methods to keep bikepacking open to everyone, no matter how much of a gear-nerd you may be.

    Of course, the word you bring up – relative – is the operative one. After all, I have friends that might consider your $900-1200 bracket expensive for something as simple as a bicycle. And I’d also argue that good quality, cheap bikes are increasingly hard to find, without incurring some hidden costs, whether they’re evident (in poor component quality for the demands of bikepacking, for example) or hidden (in corner cutting environmental or social costs). At some point – and where that lies is largely depends on the style of bike you’re considering, as well as the terrain you intend to ride – there comes a time where a secondhand bicycle might be a better option over a new one. Perhaps that’s a post we should consider.

    In the case of this particular review, I noted that more affordable rigid hardtails have often been my personal steed of choice (such as the Surly Ogre, which was the last bike I reviewed) and suggested a more affordable build option over the one tested that I’d recommend. Prior to this, we’ve covered the Surly Karate Monkey, the Jamis Dragonslayer, and the Marin Pine Mountain, all of which could be deemed budget versions of this bike… depending on your budget!

    Lastly, I hope this site offers much more than just bike gear reviews; stories, routes, cultural pieces, and a lot more, to help temper the more consumerist side of bikepacking. But yes, the ultimate goal is to achieve a balance. It can be a quandary achieving this, so thanks for offering your thoughts.

    Cass

    PS We certainly don’t keep demo bikes. But we’re often offered a discounted price on purchasing the bikes we test we if really like them, as you would working within the bike industry.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for your thoughts, Barrett. I think you hit the nail on the head with the Niner!

    Yes, while $1200 might seem a lot for a frame – and I certainly thought that on paper – there’s no doubt the Niner has a lot going for it. Comparing it to a Surly, for instance (and don’t get me wrong, I love Surly frames) it’s clear the tubing is considerably more refined, and the frame is also a good deal lighter. Whether you need that, of course, only you can decide (-:

  • Cass Gilbert

    Some good points, Ian, and certainly ones that align with my own values.

  • Zachary Brown

    Balance and relativity really are the key points here, and I hope it doesn’t get hung up on the price range I offered (that was simply a concrete suggestion).To the point on hidden costs of a given bike, would a solution then to be have an article on how to evaluate the value of a given bike? Or an article on buying used bikes? Or how a better look at mid range components that could be used to upgrade a bike if a rider is able to afford that in the future after buying a given bike? As to the potential social costs of a cheaper bike I would have to agree that I have no good solution or response to that: it is a valid point.

    This discussion isn’t limited to bikepacking, it really applies to all of our consumer habits and hobbies, but to me consumerism is especially antagonistic to the spirit of bike touring. Ian mentions time richness and a person’s values, and from what I can tell from reading this site (a very narrow view I will admit) I get the feeling that expensive very high end gear probably isn’t in line with the values of many of the main contributors (Logan and Gin, Cass, Skyler, Nick) as well. I have come to see that often people with the nicest things or gear in any activity aren’t necessarily the ones who get the most enjoyment out of something.

    The work you all do is appreciated and I will continue to follow this site, and again, these comments only reflect my opinions and values. I’m glad to see a little bit of discussion on this stuff.

  • Mark

    Given that Niner is supposed to be the the 29er specialist, I’m disappointed that this bike isn’t 29+ instead of 27.5+. I think a 29+ with all the same spec as this bike would be rippin’.

  • Ian Zuckerman

    Agreed, and echoing Zachary’s appreciation for all the work you folks do at this site. I for one have gained an extraordinary amount from it over the years.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Have you had a chance to ride a 27.5+ bike? I was pretty impressed (and surprised) but how well it rode in this guise. I’m a longtime 29+ fan and certainly still see its merit. But in some ways, feel the 27+ wheelsize (with front suspension) is the best of both worlds, for a wider range of people.

  • Great points @ianzuckerman:disqus and @disqus_10tZ2ZH1Yo:disqus … and I appreciate both the constructive feedback and praises. I think this discussion is going on swimmingly, but I thought I’d add one thing regarding the higher end bike models that are often the subject of our reviews. Nine times out of ten it seems that bike companies have the top-end model as the ‘press bike’, or the one available for review. I am not sure why this is the case, but as Cass has illustrated in this review, you will always see remarks as to the strengths of other lesser models in the same line, and why the components specced on each play a part in making it a good or bad option. I know that doesn’t address your concerns head on, but again, I will stress that we try and keep a balanced field of content and put a ton of time and effort into route guides, planning articles, and other such research intensive long-form articles that are much more about the time spent than the potential dollars drained… as well as reviews of expensive and shiny new toys that we don’t get to keep. And thanks for following along, we’ll keep a little bit of everything coming!

  • Ian Zuckerman

    I appreciate the content balance you point you, Logan, and for taking my comments not as criticism but as a reflection on the culture and community that we are building. And, as someone who has based countless trips from your trip reports, they are as inspiring and rewarding as anything out there. Keep up the great work.

  • Zachary Brown

    Thanks for shedding some light here. This shows my ignorance on the inner workings of the bike industry. If I’m not misrepresenting you then, it seems that part of my issue may come down to the fact that you guys are partially guided by what the companies (gatekeepers in this case) themselves are putting out to the press (also gatekeepers, responsible for what content sees the light of day). Which leads to the bigger point of why the companies always have something bigger, better, or newer for sale. But that is a discussion for another place and I’ll cut myself off there because this is bikepacking.com and not a philosophy or lifestyle blog. Pedal power!

  • Barrett Hoover

    They had the ROS 9+ for a while. I don’t know if it was Reynolds 853, it was pretty heavy, but still a cool bike.

  • Barrett Hoover

    Man, solid comment section on this one guys! A lot of great points across the board.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hey Zachary, we can request bikes that we think will be a good fit for the site. Generally, bike companies are open to sending out what we ask for, but sometimes it depends on availability, sizing etc… My own take is that mid-level models are generally the best bet, in that they often share the same frame as the top end build, with decent, trickle-down technology parts that don’t incur the price tag of being the latest and greatest. Anyway, given that this conversation is moving further away from the actual Niner review… maybe you’d like to email directly if you have any further questions!

  • Dillon

    Reading these comments has been informative and entertaining. I appreciate a conversation regarding the costs of bikepacking. What I truly believe all “budget” bikepackers must consider: the bike you already have will most likely do. How do you know until you try? The biking industry DOES want us to believe that we need a separate bike for each each type of biking we may encounter. But here’s the solution I’ve reached to circumnavigate this tomfoolery: buy a cheap seatpost rack, two 20l dry bags or stuff sacks, and an assortment of webbing straps and hoseclamps. And–use the bike you already know and love. For me, this is a lowly 09 Giant anthem, full suspension and all. Now, a seatpost rack looks nerdy as hell on this bike, but it cost $20 on amazon and weighs only 500 grams or so — about the same as a Mr. Fusion. Not only this, it holds more stuff than the costlier alternatives. On four trips around Tahoe, I’ve attached a 20l stuff sack to said seatpost rack with webbing straps. A 20l compression sack will hold a sleeping bag, an air mattress, a biivy sack, and all cold weather clothing needed– layers, gloves and all. Luckily, the downtube on this motel has cage attachments, and I attached a blackburn cage (the big one–I forget its name). This holds a 64 oz. klean kanteen. The water bottle cage in my frame holds a 40oz. klean kanteen. I don’t use a frame bag. I did spend a bit of money on two revelate feedbags and a proper top tupe bag (the fuel tank?), because they fill a niche that is not easy to replicate. I attach other stuff to my handle bar with more webbing straps. And a normal backpack holds the rest of my gear. It helps to use the backpack for the lightest items leftover, and put all the heavier items on the bike itself. Granted, I’ve only done 2-4 day trips, with accessible water along the way, but, so far, I’m happy with this setup.

  • Zachary Brown

    Love it, Dillon. I rode a $400 2007 Giant with a seized up front suspension not that long ago. I wouldn’t call it lowly. If it has two wheels and goes forward I would say that you are biking, and that’s the important part. I would personally like to play around with using a dry bag instead of my current seat pack and possibly force myself to pack even less.

  • Great points everyone. As one of the newest contributors with bikepacking.com, I’d like to say that a good variety of bike and gear reviews is important to see, as I’m sure someone mentioned once or twice below. Much of the comments ring true with me, as I would find it difficult to spend over $1,500 USD on a bike (for more reasons than one), but I still see the validity of seeing what more expensive offerings can do for riders… and readers! Although you often get more when spending more, sometimes these benefits are harder to justify. Either way, stoked to be part of a place that allows for open discussion like this, because YOU can have have an influence on what goes on here and within the industry.

  • Hamish Osborn

    I think that there are a load of good points raised above with regard to the cost/value of bikes. Here in the UK there are a few budget options available, including the Genesis Longitude which looks like a really good option for bikepacking (although the Brexit exchange rate has pushed all UK prices up recently).

    It is true that you can make most bikes work for touring/bikepacking but there is most definitely a ‘sweet spot’ in the compromise between price and function. I guess this site can help people explore the options available and help navigate through all the noise created by equipment innovation that definitely doesn’t help or suit the bike-packer.

  • Cass Gilbert

    For the most part, I’ve always been a fan of Genesis bikes. The Longitude is a sweet looking bike, but sadly not available in the US. Being rigid specific, it’s a very different beast than the Niner, and it’s simple, rugged, and heavier build is certainly reflected in its economical price. But yes, it looks to be a great bikepacking option, depending on the style of riding you enjoy.

  • Zachary Brown

    I see it as coming down to exactly where on a curve of diminishing returns in terms of biking needs do you see yourself being. I would hate to see someone miss out on an opportunity to actually be on a bikepacking trip because they over stretched their money on a bike

  • john metcalfe

    My old Kona hardtail cost £700 5 years ago. After a few years chasing my son and his pals round trail centres I’ve put on some Jones bars, cheap rack to strap on some bags and have enjoyed some fabulous bike packing trips in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland.
    No need to spend a fortune, but no harm looking at top end bikes and gear either.
    At the end of the day it’s all about getting out there and enjoying this amazing planet.

  • Patrick Mckellips

    Cass,

    I am really on the fence between a nice steel hardtail/suspension fork like the Niner you reviewed and the Jones Plus LWB. My riding is Midwest Singletrack, meaning lots of short ups and downs. Quite a few tight turns between trees and tree roots.

    Could you compare the ride dynamics between the two bikes.

    Thanks,

    Patrick

  • Cass Gilbert

    Patrick, you coudn’t have chosen two more different bikes to compare… aside from the fact that they’re both steel! First, I should say that I really like both bikes in their own way – here’s some thoughts on how I think they differ:

    The Jones has a ‘magic’ geometry that I really gelled with – despite its unusually long wheelbase (great loose, rocky climbing), it’s still super nimble at the front end while it’s compact, upright cockpit feels really comfortable for long day’s in the saddle. The ti truss fork definitely helps tame the trail, as do its big 29+ tires, while it’s offset fork (and big wheels) inspires tonnes of confidence down steep trails. Ultimately, I love its simplicity and durability – no expensive fork to maintain, for instance. There’s a timelessness to it. For trail use, I’d really recommend a dropper post – big wheels, a rigid fork, and a dropper make a great combination.

    I feel like I ride challenging trails faster on the Niner – that big fork is very forgiving when my technique gets a little sloppy! I also found its long travel fork a massive help for successions of big hits and long, bouldery descents. While the Jones is a super smooth bike as rigid bikes go, at the end of the day, a rigid fork is a rigid fork… and I expect it would catch up with you more by the end of a long distance trail like the CT. There’s nothing I wouldn’t consider riding on the Jones (within my skillset) – I just might take it a little more slowly. For super twisty singletrack, I expect its short wheelbase might help it flick a little quicker through corridors of tress – I certainly felt it handled really nicely in Colorado’s treeline. The Jones handles really nicely but it’s a big bike, and occasionally you can feel that, at least in the larger frame that I tried. I love the fact that that the Niner is a steel frame, yet still lends itself to a lightweight build (that big Jones frame and those big wheels adds up).

    The Jones is a very particular beast and I’d definitely recommend trying to take one for a test ride. It’s an usual bike that I really connected with, in part because I’ve always had an affinity for rigid bikes. Given your criteria, I’d actually suggest checking out the new SWB version with 27.5+ tires… a little shorter with smaller, lighter wheels. It seems like a fairer comparison with the Niner, boiling down to whether you prefer the simplicity/purity of a fully rigid setup or the undeniable prowess and comfort of a plush 120mm fork…

    Hope this helps!