Long-travel 29ers like the WFO always have a “but.” In this case, the Niner is stable at high speed but hard to flick around corners at low speed. It opens up a bevvy of new line options, but the front end has to be muscled. It pedals well out of the saddle, but it’s still heavy.
Whether it is the bike for you depends on what you’re after: nimbleness, or speed in the rough stuff? The WFO is one of the wildest, toughest trail bikes we tested in 2016 and is particularly suited to big riders, but the lure of 27.5-inch wheels will prove too much for those looking for something more playful.
The WFO-9 is Niner’s answer to big-hit, high-speed enduro riding and racing, with a slacker head angle, lower bottom bracket, and — this one’s important — a shorter top tube.
Why is a shorter top tube important? Because top tubes have been extending like Pinocchio’s nose over the last few years. Niner thinks that the touted benefits are nothing but a lie for the 29er wheelsize. This makes the WFO more aggressive, putting its rider in a downhill-esque forward stance with additional weight over the front end. It means that the WFO is designed to go real fast, and it will punish you if you can’t hang.
The result is that the WFO quickly became one of our favorite long-travel 29ers, even though it’s aluminum. But (there’s that word again), it’s still not as playful and flickable as 27.5-inch bikes in the same category. But (again) it might be faster than those small-wheel bikes. It’s tough to say. It feels faster, anyway.
The build is mostly solid, with a single soft spot. The RockShox Pike RC up front is excellent, the Shimano XT brakes and drivetrain are faultless, and the Stan’s Wheels are burly enough for most riders. The Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock was better than we expected and better than most of RockShox’s recent rear offerings. The frame is heavy, making the overall package quite heavy. Thankfully, it carries the weight well. That low bottom bracket does wonders. We’re not huge fans of the external cable routing for the KS dropper post, though.
Niner hit its mark with the WFO. The question is: is it your mark, too? The WFO is a fantastic high-speed, raging-bull, trail-crushing shred sled. It has to be ridden fast. It needs hard trails. But it’s not as nimble as bikes with smaller wheels, even with the post-modern take on trail geometry.
Component highlights: Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes; RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 shock; RockShox Pike RC 160mm fork; Shimano XT brakes; Stan’s Neo/ZTR Flow Ex wheels