29-inch bikes have been around a few years now and are clearly gaining momentum. Manufacturer support and the fanaticism 29er enthusiasts have fueled the 29er fever this year...
Niner Bikes One 9
A quick preview - It just rolls baby! By Francis Cebedo
Date: April 21, 2005
Photo ©: mtbr.com
View from the front
Head Tube Badge and Welds
Chris from Niner bikes (2nd from left)
29-inch bikes have been around a few years now and are clearly gaining momentum. Manufacturer support and the fanaticism 29er enthusiasts have fueled the 29er fever this year. Having never tried one before, I've heard advantages of: better fit for larger riders, smoother ride and it goes over obstacles better. I've also heard of disadvantages such as tougher fit for smaller riders, slower acceleration and handling and limited choices on components.
Niner bikes is an advertiser of the 29er forum with our company, mtbr.com. I do not allow our advertiser relationships to affect any positive or negative comments I have about a product. Also, I rode the bike for only two hours. A more in-depth review is pending.
I am 5'8", 140 lbs. I ride a Turner 5-spot and a couple of steel singlespeed bikes. I mainly ride cross-country and occasionally race and try to do an 24-hour team race every year. I prefer steel hardtail bikes since aluminum hardtails I've tried are too harsh for my aging body. I've been curious about 29-inch bikes but have been concerned about fit issues for my small stature and I've never had the opportunity to test-ride one.
The test ride was a 12-mile loop at the Sea Otter cross-country race course. This course features rolling hills, steep and gradual climbs, twisty singletrack, sandy spots. Another notable feature of the course are the famous Sea Otter stutter bumps. Over the years, small bumps and holes have developed on the singletrack and have hardened.
Through the last few years, I've ridden this course dozens of times. I've ridden it both for the Sea Otter race and for the 24 hours of Adrenalin series. I've used full-suspension bikes, geared hardtails and singlespeed bikes. Suspension is nice here but then you really feel it on the steep and short Hurl Hill and the long Grind home.
The bike I tested belonged to Chris Sugai, co-founder of Niner Bikes. Chris started the company along with Steve Domahidy. He happened to be my size so minimal adjustment was necessary. My old concerns that I was too short to fit a 29-inch bike were quickly put to rest when I hopped on the bike. I didn't feel high off the ground and I had plenty of top tube clearance. The frame size is medium and the singlespeed gearing is 34-20.
Some notable components on the bike were:
White Brothers Big Wheel 1.0 100mm fork with 20mm thru-axle - Chris said this was a smooth fork with a nice lockout feature. He chose the 20mm axle to provide a stiff and accurate steering front end. He says fork flex can be an issue with 29-inch forks because of the longer fork legs.
Syntace Adjustable bar stem combo - This is a wide, straight handlebar attached to a stem that can pivot around to provide some height and length adjustability. Chris was trying it out and used the lower position to 'level' the bars with the seat.
Kenda Klaw 29er tires - These tires were big and meaty. These tires featured big knobs specially on the sides.
Performance and Observations:
This bike weighs in at about 22 lbs. Wow! However, it is made of scandium. That had me concerned since all aluminum bikes and the one scandium bike I rode before were a bit harsher than the steel bikes that I'm now used to.
The bike fit great and it felt right. I didn't feel high off the ground. My position seemed perfectly normal and no different that what I was used to. Just after five minutes of putting around I felt like I've been riding this bike for months.
On the first long downhill, I quickly saw this bike's strength. It would smooth out the stutter bumps and trail ruts. Descending at Sea Otter was never so easy. The front fork was definitely plush. I was really impressed with the rear end though as if felt so smooth. Chris from Ninerbikes says that scandium is not as harsh as aluminum. I think the 29-inch rear wheel was really helping smooth out the ride on this bike.
The Avid Juicy Sevens on this bike and the Kenda tires performed flawlessly. The brakes were powerful and easy to modulate and the tires were extemely predictable. They were confidence-inspiring as it felt like I didn't come close to reaching their limits.
On the twisty singletrack, the bike steered quickly and was very easy to control. The bike cornered well through the sandy singletrack and held its line very well. It seemed like it maintained momentum nicely as it muffled the stutter bumps and rolled right though the ruts along the way.
Finally on climbs, the bike performed perfectly again. It seemed really easy to pedal and felt fast. Traction was great at Hurl Hill and on the loose gravel at the end of the Grind.
The bike just felt right on this trail. At the end of the ride, I tried to recall if there I had any problems with slow acceleration or slow handling on the singletrack but those flaws really were not evident on this ride. So I really feel a little bit guilty having nothing bad to say about this bike at the moment. But in a few weeks, I will have this bike for an extended review. I will test it in many trails in Norcal to expose some of its weaknesses and discover some more of its strengths. For now though, I'm craving that nice fast and smooth ride.
- smooth ride over stutter bumps
- fast climber on steep and gradual terrain
- good traction on gravel climbs
- stable and easy to control in sand, ruts and obstacles
- none yet. extended review coming this summer
The ride was perfect! In one lap at Sea Otter I was able to understand the many benefits of 29-inch bikes. The biggest bonus for me was how smooth the ride was over stutter bumps both on front and the rear end. The bike seemed faster too and really easy to pedal on the gradual climbs, specially the 3 mile grind home. I will need more time with this bike on varying terrain to expose its weaknesses. But for now, I will look forward to my extended test of this bike. I will also go out on the limb and say that this bike is the ideal bike for the Sea Otter course. It's smoothness over rough terrain, stability in sand and climbing ability gives it an unfair advantage.
The frame retails for $749 and is available for order now at their website. It is available as singlespeed only. First delivery is scheduled for June 15.
- Price: $749 frame only or $1549 with Rockshox Reba fork, American Classic Wheels and Avid Juicy 7 brakes
- 3.3 lb. Niner SingleSpeedSpecific, disc only frame with custom drawn and butted Easton™ Scandium GX2 tubing *weight is for medium frame with EBB
- Super light 110 gram Eccentric Bottom Bracket with Titanium set screws
- Niner specific geometry
- Custom Single speed only drop outs
- Stainless Steel Head Badge
- Internally butted head tube and EBB shell
- S-Bend Seat Stays and Chain Stays for add heel clearance and mud clearance. Frame will accept 2.3” tire
- Requires a 31.6mm post, 400mm length recommended