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First Ride: Updated, less-expensive Niner Jet 9 Carbon

For most bike manufacturers, the road to full-carbon bikes is a one-way street.

Bucking the trend, Niner released a new version of the Jet 9 Carbon on Thursday, which has an alloy rear triangle. The previous generation of this medium-duty, 100mm-travel, 29er cross-country bike had a carbon rear triangle.

Why the perceived devolution? Niner marketing coordinator Brad Cole said to VeloNews in an email, “The goal was to be able to create a new Jet 9 Carbon that performed on par with the full-carbon version. This allows us to increase the quality of our builds with minimal impact to the overall cost of the bike and no sacrifice in frame performance.”

Based on side-by-side testing of two identically specced Jet 9s — the previous and new generations — we can say that Niner hit the mark.

The geometry remains the same, giving the rider a neutral position that is confident on most descents, but steep enough to tackle climbs. While the bikes 29-inch wheels are noticeable, Niner is able to tune the bike’s handling to be sufficiently quick and sprightly. The updated Jet 9 will offer external dropper post cable routing on the top tube, if you are so inclined.

Both frames track exceptionally well in rough, technical terrain. They are only held back by the sometimes-flexy RockShox Reba fork, which has 32mm-diameter stanchions.

A different rear shock, the RockShox Monarch RT, is the update that is most easily perceived. As with other Monarchs I’ve ridden, this one has a distinctly linear feel, and also seems to have a tiny bit of inertia before breaking into the travel. It only has two lever settings for compression damping, which don’t drastically affect the rear suspension’s behavior.

Is the Monarch better than the Fox Float CTD Evolution on the previous generation? It’s hard to say. They certainly offer different feels. Riders who enjoy Fox’s buttery smooth top-end and progressive stroke — as well as a third Pro-Pedal lever position — might be underwhelmed with the RockShox. However, when the Jet 9 is pointed into rough, chunky chop, the Monarch is very capable. It’s likely that the 142x12mm rear axle — also an improvement on the new model — aided the new Niner in these situations.

Naturally, the hybrid carbon/alloy frame is a bit heavier than the all-carbon version it replaces. The old model weighed 5.3 pounds, and new version is 5.85 pounds, which includes the thru-axle. I can say, however, that the half-pound of weight wasn’t immediately noticeable on the trail.

When it comes to pricing, the difference between new and old is cut and dried. The new frame’s suggested price is $2,199, while the old model was $100 more expensive. Most complete bikes are $100 less expensive, except for the 3-Star XT build, which is $200 less with the new frame.

Also, on Thursday, Niner released a new budget hardtail, the EMD 9, priced at $1,499 with a 1-Star kit, and it announced a new Rip 9 Carbon, which has an alloy rear triangle, similar to the new Jet 9.

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