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2013 Niner Jet 9 RDO Bike Review
The Niner Green Jet 9 RDO looks fast standing still. And, if you have a chance to swing a leg over one, you’ll find out that its sexy looks go much deeper than meets the eye. The all-new carbon layup with the 2013 Jet 9 RDO puts this bike into an elite class of 29er XC superbikes — and it must might be the one that owns the competition.
2013 Niner Jet 9 RDO Features:
Niner Jet 9 RDO 5-Star Build Review
Saying that I’m blown away by the Jet 9 RDO 5-Star XTR build (my test bike had the full 5-Star build sans Reynolds carbon hoops) could possibly be clasified as the biggest understatement of my 38 years. I will now do my best to put to words the experience of riding this amazing bike. Is it fast? Oh yeah. Is it light? Yes. Ask me any question about it’s performance and the answer will likely continue to be yes.
The latest incarnation of the Jet 9 RDO was announced in August 2012. At that time, many anxious riders had yet to even see the previous RDO in person (which is now dubbed the Jet 9 Carbon). As if the previous-generation RDO wasn’t sweet enough, the all-new Jet 9 RDO steps things up with a lighter, stiffer carbon layup, carbon rockers, custom-tuned Fox RP23 Factory shock and a 142mm thru-axle in the rear. The entire package took an already fantastic bike and made it that much RDO-er.
I’ve got a long history with Niner Bikes and I’ve yet to find one that I didn’t love. From the original RIP 9 to the new Jet 9 RDO, each one has ridden with trademark Niner geometry and handling. Each has been fun and supremely capable. The new Jet 9 RDO does that and more with every aspect of the bike optimized for XC domination, but not at the expense of its trailworthy-ness.
With an even 100mm travel front-and-rear, the 5-star spec’d RDO tipped the scales just over 23 lbs (including pedals). Yeah, it’s lighter than most hartdails. That low weight is immediately felt on the trails and the bike uses every ounce of rider input to propel the bike forward. Step on it hard… kapow. Step on it even harder… kaboom. Seated, grinding climbs are surprisingly joyous and smooth with minimal front-end wander. The CVA suspension stays put and provides as efficient of climbing as you’ll find. Keep up that cadence and the bike tracks straight and true to take you up and over anything. Standing climbs are met with efficiency as well, when necessary.
Front-end squish is handled by the Rockshox SID World Cup with the new Solo Air platform. Admittedly, I missed the Dual Air because I love tweaking the travel quality, but the Solo Air is half as hard to set up. The travel profile of the SID World Cup leans towards a very stiff initial stroke. At the recommended rider weight, the fork wasn’t the smoothest, but it’s certainly efficient and laterally stiff. I dropped the air pressure 10-15 lbs below the recommended pressure and enjoyed a much smoother all-around feel. Don’t let out too much or you’re bottom it out, but try a little less air for a little more plush (keyword is little — there is no getting around the fact that it is a pure race fork).
In the rear, the Fox RP23 features the ultra-smooth Kashima coating with the CTD lever. I kept the CTD in the middle setting for most of my riding and found it perfect for the RDO. The CVA Suspension was never harsh and always felt active. Traction was always superb — except during fast, rutted downhills. I’m thinking the Schwalbe Racing Ralphs are to blame for some of the poor braking traction. I found that switching the CTD to Descend mode added a small measure of smoothness for these instances.
The Shimano XTR kit functioned well, but the star of the show is most certainly the Shadow PLUS rear derailleur. The quietness and accuracy of shifting was better than any Shimano drivetrain I’ve ridden to date. I’m not a fan of the old-fashioned triggers, but they do still work OK as a thumb/thumb design (SRAM-style), but they are optimized for index/thumb shifting (which used to be the norm, but now feels decidedly awkward). The XTR brake levers provide a good feel — in spite of them not being carbon. I did experience some rear brake fade on long descents, which was a little more than I’ve experienced with other brakes.
Rounding out the bits-and-pieces review, I can’t overlook the Niner RDO flat bar and stem. As 29ers have taken over, so have flat bars. Gone are the days of 620mm flat bars with no upsweep or backsweep. Thankfully, Niner has it nailed with the perfect 710mm width flat bar that provides excellent up and backsweep to give you pinpoint driving chomps. Anything wider and I’d be knocking trees around every corner.
I’ve had the Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25′s set up tubeless from the start. In combination with the American Classic Race 29 wheels, they have been hit-and-miss. I’ve gotten the front tire seated fairly well, and have had to re-juice it once over the past six months. The rear tire has been problematic. I likely just need to **push the reset button and set it up all over again.
On the trails, the Jet 9 RDO feels like a rallycar as it simply flies through twisty-turny singletrack and powers up climbs in true PR-crushing form. I let one of my friends take the RDO out for a ride and he demolished every PR. Hmmm… sounds familiar. With the RDO, I’ve set a high bar for both ascending and descending. As is typical for Niners, the RDO knows how to have fun. All racing makes for a dull boy and the Jet 9 RDO is as playful as it is efficient. Lateral stiffness encourages you to push it harder and harder. I simply can’t believe just how much fun this bike has been.
My favorite trait of the RDO is its ability to respond when pushed hard. Railing bermed corners and carrying momentum on this bike is quite an experience. It literally sends adrenalin through your system with every turn.
When the terrain calls for quick and nimble, the RDO responds. When the terrain requires wide-open railing, the RDO again responds. Occasionally, I did find that the front end wouldn’t track exactly where I wanted it to. This was mostly due to the punchy nature of the SID fork. Something a little more supple (like a Fox Float Kashima) just might calm that down. Or, slapping a 120mm fork could also do the trick.
Good Jet 9 RDO
Bad Jet 9 RDO
Bottom Line: Niner Jet 9 RDO
It’s hard to pick this bike apart. The build kit is phenomenal overall with enough carbon to keep the weight down and smoothness up. Some minor gripes about the XTR kit and the Rocket Ron rear tire, but aside from that, the Jet 9 RDO is easily the most fun, most capable and fastest bike I’ve ever swung a leg over. It’s a shame this one has to go back, but it stands as the current benchmark for XC full-suspension performance in my book.
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