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Review: Niner's Newest Creation, the RDO

Niner RDO Review
The RDO's rear suspension delivered 120mm of travel, but it felt like more. Photo: Tom LeCarner

While in Moab this past weekend for Outerbike, I had the opportunity to spend a little time with Niner’s newest creation, the RDO. I have to confess, it was something like love at first ride. The bike is an excellent all-rounder that is nimble, climbs like a goat, and has enough moxy on the descents for just about anyone.

The frame is a full-carbon beauty with an exceptionally elegant internally routed cable design, tapered head tube, and fully sealed bearings on all pivots. The top tube arcs its way gently to a split, one side intersecting with the seat tube and the other with the massive bottom bracket shell. The rear triangle is isolated via Niner’s patented CVA suspension design. The pivot, which is located underneath the bottom bracket shell, is designed to eliminate chain growth and provide efficient pedaling in all chainrings; it sports 100mm of travel in the rear.

The bike I rode, which is the only production version in existence at the moment, was equipped with a full SRAM XO group, R1 Formula brakes, Reynolds XC 29 wheels, a Fox Float RP23 shock with Kashima coating, and a Fox Talas 120mm fork up front. And while the Formula brakes left a lot to be desired, the set up was well-suited to the desert terrain of Moab, down to the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires, which performed well.

The ride
I took the bike out on Moab’s Brand trail system. The trail was a mixture of dirt singletrack and rocky climbs with twists and turns that definitely keep you on your toes. The first thing I noticed about the RDO was how quick it was to accelerate. At the first slight incline, the bike was almost effortless going up — it felt like it was egging me on, daring me to go faster. The CVA suspension offered exceptionally stiff acceleration out of the gate with no noticeable pedal bob.

Weaving through the tight many twists and switchbacks, I expected the RDO to be less agile and a bit cumbersome in the turns. And while it was not as nimble as a comparable 26er, it took me almost no time to adjust to the wagon wheels and I quickly forgot that I was riding a 29er, at least until the rough stuff came.

Where the RDO really excels is in rough terrain. It is one of the most forgiving bikes I’ve ridden. The Dead Man’s Ridge trail is moderately technical, with some short, rocky uphill blasts that require your attention. On the RDO, if you miss a line, or take a turn too wide, it’s not a problem; it rolls over whatever you put in front of it. It’s an amazingly confidence-inspiring platform that allows you to push your limits beyond what you might have thought possible on other rigs.

The feedback from the Kashmina Fox Float was incredibly responsive, and the Fox Talas did its job up front with no complaints. The RDO has 120mm up front and 100mm in the rear and it feels like a 160mm bike that accelerates like a hardtail.

Perhaps the biggest complaint about the RDO at Outerbike was the line of riders waiting to get on it when I got back.

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