This is my first 29er so instead of just an initial impression i will also be going back and forth with the cliched 26er vs 29er battle.
My niner is around the 10kg mark. Give or take. I chose to run a talas fork and have paired it with a set of stans race gold 29er wheels. I continue the trend for 1x setup by using 1x again on this bike coupled with a xx cassette shifted by a xtr shadow plus derailleur. Cockpit setup so far are Formula r1 on 710mm enve non riser sweep bars. I have employed the syntace hiflex seatpost and a selle italia slr carbonio kit to rest my ass on.
Niner, i am honestly disappointed that you chose the cabling system that was employed on this frame. Holy eff is it troublesome to build up. I cringe the day that i need to rebuild the bike for sure. I am using the new niner shift cabling kit as the old ones were known to have all sorts of issues if not setup 100% perfectly. Still, even with this new kit, it is still a bitch to setup. The kink down the bottom is so tight that i worry for the carbon as the pressure is significant. This will be an area i check up on every so often to make sure nothing bad is going on. Other than that, apart from some cable tension wounded in on my first ride it is shifting perfectly. Give me the santa cruz tallboy’s full external cabling any day. You guys have it good! Rest of the frame looks the biz, some times i am tempted to think that it is a generic ebay china frame due to the complete blackness that is often associated with brandless frames but i know, within, that i am riding a very special frame. A pure breed. Quality of the frame is great. No complaints there, titanium headbadge, carbon weave, subtle niner branding. All top stuff you would expect from a 3k+ frame.
Sizing and Fit
No problems here. Being an obsessive mofo pays dividends. For eg, i know where my handlebars should be to my saddle for a trail bike and just by looking at where it is tells me how much fun the bike is going to be. Generally speaking if my saddle is higher or level with bars it is more of a race geo for myself. Even though i have not ridden a 29er properly yet, i know that they are slower handling machines so i always knew i was going to run a shorter stem. Thomson 70mm, the same as Kev’s santa. I think i made a good choice there. 710mm enve bars are a little wide i admit and i can feel that they should be cut down but for the time being i am enjoying being able to absolutely manhandle the bike in the rough stuff vs a 610mm handlebar. Fun stuff. I fit on the bike pretty comfortably, i was expecting more of a sit inside the bike feeling associated with the previous few 29er’s i have tried but this feels more like a conventional 26er where i am more or less perched on top of the bike. Maybe my senses aren’t quite right there or maybe it is the height of my bars/seatpost.
Both my front and back suspension is not setup optimally yet. Front is way too harsh but i can’t lower the pressure any more or i will sag it too much. Kinda confused there. Maybe i left it sitting there for too long and it needs a service (or maybe talas is just harsher). Back is noticably smooth but i think i can still lower the pressure a little more and lower the rebound. My backend is bouncing a bit and that i know is the rebound but more so, i think i can lower the pressure which lowers the overal center of gravity on the bike which makes it even better to ride. I know this was the same case with the yeti and a few psi difference sagged the rear that much lower and changed the feel of the bike completely. I am looking forward to sorting this two issues out. At the current moment, this is by far the biggest issue on the bike i need to sort out. Niner’s CVA sus feels good. Certainly did not make me miss the DW-link suspension and it has no real feedback/chain growth that i can feel. I will take the words of other niner riders which is the suspension is one of the best in the industry.
How it rides
All of the above is useless if it doesn’t ride well right? How does it ride? Well, i guess one of the most prominent feeling is one of confidence inspiring. I have not ridden mtb for hmmm since DW which i don’t really classify MTBing any ways. So really, the last time i rode anything slightly technical was at the beginning of this year around January. I paid 1x visit to Appin and 1x visit to stromlo and that has being my entire mtb intake for this year. Not exactly riding heaps. On top of that, i recently just came back from a 3 month hiatus with riding in general. I used the time to sort out more important stuff in my life but also give myself a mental break from riding. So cutting to the chase, i am not very confident at the current moment with anything requiring technical manoeuvring of my bike.
I specifically rode only Appin as i wanted to get my tech skill’s back in check ASAP, that and the fact Appin is a fun fun track that resist’s very well to weather erosion. I have ridden at Appin twice and the first time was shocking. Appin has changed a fair bit which doesn’t help but my confidence was an all time low. Stuff that usually i laugh at was a major issue. Still, i knew that given a little time i would find my flow eventually. It seems though that the flow has come back faster than i thought it would. Part of that i am sure is down to the bike.
29er’s are definitely confidence inspiring and a little bit like cheating. I believe that now. Everything just seems that much easier on it. Technical climbs become so much easier on 29er’s due to wheels not hanging up on bumps and technical descents are definitely easier too. Small bumps to medium bumps especially stops much less of your momentum and generally allow you to roll on. I know it sounds cliched but that is definitely my findings with 29ers. Within my second ride i was riding confidently again. I cleared everything at appin no problems in a single lap and generally got that confidence back. In terms of rating bikes capability to tame technical stuff i would say that the niner places pretty damn close to even the ibis mojo hd i rode previously. That is just astonishing. Technically it is definitely more adapt than the yeti ASR-5C my last go to bike whilst also being faster as well. It isn’t quite as fast as the scale is but it is damn fast for the technical abilities it possess. Keep in mind, all of this is with ill setup suspension. The front suspension is about 50% there. So really, it is rubbish atm. It is way too harsh but i am still rating it just as capable as the ibis mojo hd. Think about that for a second. Once the suspension is dialled in, god forbid, it is going to be an absolute machine.
So the good of the bike is it is confidence inspiring in the bucket loads but still stays super fast when it comes to putting the pace down. Are there any downsides to this whole 29er craze? Yes.
You see, the funny thing with the bike is, it felt every bit like a big bike to me. The ibis mojo hd was a heft to move around the trail. You can feel it under you and you gotta really use some muscle to man handle it the 29er’s is much the same. I noticed i needed more effort to move the bike underneath me around the trail and in the state that i am in after not riding mtb for a while i did feel the toll on my upper body. Sure, it is also because i haven’t used that group of muscles for quite a while but never-the-less it is definitely more effort required to lift/turn/hop the bike around the trail. The other thing that is weird is that i had a lot of fun. I always do when i am charging down a rock garden but it was missing a little bit of the fun that the asr5 had. It was almost like it is clinical. When i corner with the asr5 i feel like i am on the edge of grip and i can feel the front of the tyre wash slightly and that nervousness/heart in your chest feeling was all too familiar. It was pretty exciting.
The niner? Very clinical. i set the path i want to go into the turn and the damn thing just carves it up. It’s ridiculous. Unless you are retarded or you set your cornering arc wrongly, this bike will just corner like no bodies business. At the end of the day i was pushing more and more in the corners to the point where i felt like i definitely exceeded the asr5’s speed but even at that, the front didnt even slightly wash. It was stupid. Now consider once again that the asr5 was on trail tyres x-king and the niner is just on a set of racing ralph race tyres. Still it is a funny feeling though and i can’t quite place it. It’s almost as if on the niner you do your cornering before you enter the corner whilst on the asr5 you do your cornering ALL THE WAY through the corner adjusting for every little thing. Did you go in too fast? brake a little, is the front washing out a little? shift your weight etc etc. I think the niners capability and clinical nature has made it a little less fun unfortunately. Maybe you have to go that much faster in the niner to up it’s limits and then you will have a little bit more fun although i worry at the thought of how fast this might need to be as i thought it was plenty fast today already.
This is why i think a 29er would be a machine for a race bike. Especially in endurance events. When efficiency is more important over fun. I can easily see the benefits of going out for a night lap already 3-4hrs into the race onboard the niner vs say the asr5. It is the closest thing to cheating.
I already know of a few things i need to do in order to get this bike close to perfect. First to go are the Formula r1’s. I gave them a go and unfortunately they just do not work for me. The lever doesn’t come close enough to the grips for my hands that anything over 1hr and my hands cramp up a little. Only elixir’s for me so i am thinking of replacing it with the new elixir x0 trail. The R1’s should sell well as i got it for a good price and the trail’s should afford me that extra power to cope with the technical abilities of this bike which i heavily underestimated.
Secondly, i need to get my sus sorted. The backend i am not worried about, the frontend, i cant see a solution unless i get a rebuild. I think it is no where near how it should be and that is a major part of the detriments of this bike at the current moment.
Further down the importance is minor things like whether i should chop the bars down to 680mm or change the saddle to a less xc model to improve overall comfort (even though its decent enough atm thanks to the flex post/kashima shock/29er wheels).
Overall, the bike is pretty amazing as i thought it would be. I do miss the straight out fun that the asr5/banshee spitfire was but i think in the long run this bike mixes speed/confidence/technical prowess very well indeed. A true do it all bike then!