Reviewed by Brandon Turman and Evan Turpen // Photos by Lear Miller
Billed as a hardtail for riders that don’t like hardtails, Niner's new ROS 9 brings the simplest form of mountain biking up to speed in a glorious, in your face, 4130 Cro-Mo fashion. Niner isn’t shy about what the bike was intended for, and when questioned about the ROS name you’re likely to hear “RIDE OVER SH*T!” It’s a fitting name, too, because that’s exactly what us bunch of hooligans did during our 2014 Vital MTB Test Sessions in Sedona, Arizona.
Buried deep in a garage filled with 25 of the latest and greatest $8,000+ carbon dual suspension rigs, the ROS 9 kept calling to us. This is a bike we wanted to ride. So began our quest to huck over and off of everything in sight…
ROS 9 X01 Highlights
- 4130 Cro-Mo frame
- 29-inch wheels
- 44mm OS headtube
- 67.5-degree head angle
- 73.5-degree seat tube angle
- 2.0-inch (52mm) bottom bracket drop (adjustable)
- 16.5 to 16.8-inch (418 to 423mm) chainstay length (adjustable via BioCentric2)
- Tabs for bash guard only
- Press fit or threaded BB via CYA inserts
- 142mm x 12mm thru-axle
- Measured weight (size Large, no pedals): 28-pounds 8-ounces
- $3,799 MSRP
Don’t let the gorgeous blue finish on the frame and 130mm RockShox Revelation fork fool you, this rig was built to withstand some serious abuse. While it may look similar to the Niner SIR 9, the tubes have been beefed up and tailored to improve durability while maintaining the somewhat forgiving ride quality steel is well known for. With a 67.5-degree head angle and 12x142mm rear axle, you know it means business. You can slack it out to 67-degrees with the optional 140mm FOX fork if you’re feeling extra rowdy.
From the unique dropout design to the sleek brake mounts, removable bolt-on housing guides, oversized 44mm headtube, and removable front derailleur hanger, everything about the ROS 9 is dialed. Internal or external dropper seatpost cable routing is up to you, and an aluminum cover closes the port if you choose not to use it. Because there’s no shock to contend with, of course there’s a bottle mount inside the front triangle. Tabs under the bottom bracket shell accept a proprietary MRP XCG bash guard for chainring protection.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is the BioCentric II bottom bracket interface. The eccentric system is one of the cleanest, simplest, and most effective we’ve seen to date. Crazy enough to run single-speed? It allows for quick setup without the need for tensioners or brake adjustments. Prefer a geared drivetrain? By loosening two bolts and rotating the bottom bracket you can choose the bottom bracket height, chainstay length, and effective seat angle that suits you best. Retightening the bolts applies a clamping force on the outside edges of the bottom bracket shell, which Niner says eliminates the possibility of ovalizing or indexing. The system has a 73mm width and is compatible with external bearing or press fit bottom brackets through the use of Niner’s optional CYA cups. The chainstays run as short as 418mm to allow for as much wheelie popping fun as you can handle. Mud clearance is ~0.8cm with the stock 2.35-inch Schwalbe tire and slammed stays.
Available in Forge Grey and Rally Blue, ROS 9 build options include single-speed, SRAM X7, and SRAM X01 kits at prices ranging from $2,499 to $3,799. It also comes in a frame plus hardware package for $899.
On The Trail
So where does one ride a bike like this? That's simple: the trails you’re likely already riding on a full squish. Not content to ride the cruisers, we hit the ROS 9 with some of the best terrain Sedona has to offer. Teacup, Slim Shady, HT, Little Horse, High on the Hogs, Pig Tail, Broken Arrow, Llama and Bail Trail all served up a healthy dish of red dirt and slickrock. We even dared to rally it down HiLine, one of the most advanced trails in the area.
Throwing a leg over it for ride number one we were surprised to find not only the widest bars we’d seen on a stock trail bike in a while, but also the longest stem. The 780mm handlebars are wide enough to quiet all the gravity lovers, but the 90mm stem seemed way, way out of place. Opting for a 50mm stem instead, the ROS 9’s cockpit was ready to roll. The top tube and reach are spacious enough to allow for easy weight transfers front to back, and overall the rider is in a very neutral position which feels centered between the wheels. Seeking the maximum smiles per mile, we opted to adjust the BioCentric II towards the back of the bike to allow for the shortest chainstays possible.
A confidence inspiring hardtail? While it may sound like a bit of an oxymoron, the ROS 9 had us eyeing up gaps, transfers, wallrides, and humanly impossible climbs that we likely wouldn’t have even glanced at on other bikes.The slack head angle, low bottom bracket and short chainstays combined with a decently long reach and steep-ish seat tube angle make it comfortable right off the bat. It’s easy to get the front end up to clear obstacles but long enough to hold true through a rough line. Since there’s little to no flex, it’s a very precise and responsive ride that changes lines well. Coupled with the big wheels, high volume tires and the added badassery of steel, the bike feels surprisingly stable, agile enough to hop around, and forgiving enough to get away with some of your
dumber finer moments on the trail. For having just 130mm of front travel and a rigid frame, you can do a lot without beating yourself up. As far as hardtails go, this is definitely one of the smoothest rides we’ve ever experienced - provided your legs are up to the task.
You can cruise it or push it with equally good results, although if it gets really rough you better hang on tight! The only time the bike ever felt sketchy is while riding trails that were far beyond the normal capabilities of a hardtail (read: the gnar). As our insanely-talented-on-a-bike photographer put it, "Yeah it’s rough, but that’s mountain biking. The big wheels smooth things out. How can you not enjoy the simplest form of two-wheeled entertainment?"
If you thought you were having fun before, you’ve got to try this ride out. It brings parts of the trail that have become mundane back to life and offers a new challenge. Pushing it on a hardtail takes you back to the roots of our sport, and the whole experience screams capital F-U-N.
At 28.5-pounds it’s no lightweight ninny. The ROS 9 is a hoss and proud of it, which helps the bike stay stable. Luckily rolling speed is pretty good. It also accelerates like a wild animal. Like Niner says, “Zero millimeters of suspension is efficient in every chainring.” No bob out of the rear end means almost pure power transfer, and we never once felt the need to touch the lockout on the fork.
If you’re up for some bunny hopping, the thing will climb like a mountain goat. It does amazingly well on technical climbs as the big, meaty tires claw their way into the dirt and rocks with gobs of traction. Body position is also quite neutral, helping to keep the front end down and in control. Even in the lowest position the bottom bracket height yielded next to no pedal strikes throughout our test.
The entire component spec is spot on for this bike’s intended use, and it all helps to make the ride more enjoyable. Given the option, the only items we’d swap out are the foam grips in favor of lock-ons, the 90mm stem for a 50mm, and the 5-inch drop Reverb Stealth for a 6-inch version to allow for more leg "suspension" when getting rad.
Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic tires in the 2.35-inch size provided excellent traction in all conditions, which is something we can’t say of their smaller sizes. They were good on loose terrain as well as loose over hard, and the relative lack of rolling resistance and weight was surprising for their large size.
The Stan’s No Tubes ZTR Flow EX wheels are an excellent match for this bike. The rim width helps increase the tire’s air volume and creates a better tire profile. They were stiff enough to not feel sketchy, but not over the top stiff. More of a compliant ride which helped the bike track well through corners and on off-camber terrain. Ours were setup tubeless, and even in the punishing terrain of Sedona we experienced no flats.
Avid’s Elixir 9 Trail brakes worked amazingly well. Even with the small 6-inch rear and 7-inch front rotor there was plenty of power. Modulation was good, lever feel excellent, and we never experienced any fade on longer descents.
The SRAM X01 drivetrain also performed flawlessly throughout the test. X01 is a great fit for this bike, providing more clearance, less noise, less clutter, and plenty of usable gear range. It shifted well with no skipping and zero dropped chains even though there wasn't a chainguide on the front ring. With the addition of some Mastic tape on the top and bottom of the chainstay and underside of the seat stay it might very well be the stealthiest of all stealthy bikes.
Long Term Durability
You’re kidding, right? There’s nothing to worry about here. This frame will still be kicking when you're an old geezer and your great grandchildren want to get into mountain biking because it’s cool again.
What's The Bottom Line?
You know the guy who shows up to group rides that just doesn't give a f*** about the latest technology, wheel size debate, or suspension design? The Niner ROS 9 is for that guy. He keeps it real and shreds with the best of them. He might even do it in jean shorts and a collared shirt.
The ROS 9 is simply too much fun to ignore. It brings a new love for old trails to life, offering fresh challenges and excitement along the way. The bike's slack head angle, adjustable geometry, wide tires and big wheels let you get away with just about anything. It requires skill to ride fast through the rough, yet it’s surprisingly forgiving. A rider who appreciates being connected with the trail and the bike beneath them will absolutely love this bike. The "Ride Over Sh*t" meaning couldn’t be more appropriate, and you'll find yourself seeing what kind of craziness you can get away with on a daily basis. It might even make you question if all the latest gizmos we're bombarded with are really needed.
When asked if they would buy one, every one of our testers said, “Hell yes!” That doesn’t happen often...
Visit www.ninerbikes.com for more details.
Bonus Gallery: 12 photos of the 2014 Niner ROS 9 up close and in action
About The Reviewers
Evan Turpen - Evan has been racing mountain bikes as a Pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most.
Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 14 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.