Bike Feature: Niner Air 9 employee review

As promised, here’s a review of the recently featured Niner Air 9, written by Viking Steve, one of our part-timers:
I am now entering my 4th season on my Tang Niner Air 9 (editor’s note: “Tang” is the colour). When I made the decision to go with 29 inch wheels I spent a ton of time researching what bike would minimize the disadvantages of a 29 inch wheel (I will get to those later). At the time there were only a few big players making them, most notably Gary Fisher. I did not want a Fisher as I had ridden a 26 inch wheeled Fisher in the past in did not like how it felt. At this point everything I had read said go with a Niner.

At the time I was like “what the h**l is a Niner?” so I checked out their website as there were no dealers anywhere near Winnipeg. I dealt directly with Brett Rosenbauer, who at the time did direct sales to customers. He was very helpful and I ended up with a Air 9 instead of another option, the EMD 9, mostly because of delivery dates. I would have had to wait an extra 2 months for the EMD.

I won’t get into the build as that will change for everyone (Niner’s are available only as frames, to be built up as you wish) and I will try to keep the 26 inch vs 29er stuff to a minimum, but basically 29ers roll over stuff better, maintain momentum better and corner better, whereas 26 inch wheels accelerate better and are lighter.

The first thing I noticed when I rode this bike was how smooth it was. I had just come off 5 years on dualies and was expecting to get beat up. Well it never happened. The combo of the 29 inch wheel, low tire pressure and the Scandium frame sure made for a very pleasant ride. It took me a while to realize how to corner on this bike. In fact it drove me crazy for a bit. Once I figured out that the contact patch was huge and that it would hold impossible lean angles through turns it really changed how I rode my bike. That in turn solved the acceleration dilemma, as I no longer had to slow down as much for twisty corners so quick bursts of speed were no longer an issue because I just stopped slowing down.

Climbing was an issue at first too, simply because I was used to doing everything in the middle ring. Well I fried my knees the first year trying to push the same gear up hills on my 29er as I had on my 26 inch offerings. One thing you will NEVER have an issue with using a 29er (if you have the legs) is getting up anything real steep; traction is not an issue. However, due to the wheel weight, (I am 195 lbs and will not be riding a 1600 gram 29 inch wheelset like I was able to ride on 26) you may feel slow at first. What you don’t realize is that the bigger wheels carry you farther in a smaller gear. So you might feel slower but often you are actually going to same speed or faster.

As far as my overall impressions of the frame, it is stellar. As far as lightweight aluminums (scandium is a aluminums blend) hardtails go it is fantastic. It offers decent stiffness and mine is built at the moment to under 24 lbs. You can easily get it to 22.5 lbs with some lighter wheels and tires and if you want to go rigid then the Niner Carbon fork should result in a 19-20lb build. The welds are clean and I have had no issues with the paint quality. Niner includes matching touch up paint for those scrapes you will get. The graphics are clean and not to crazy. Buy an extra derailleur hanger right away so you have it.

They have made a few changes since I bought my Niner: They modified the chainstays and seatstays to take a 2.4 inch tire and the BB shell is now 73mm instead of 68mm. Other than that the frame I ride is the same as what’s currently available.

When this frame expires my next bike will be another Air 9 and when people ask me “how is it?” my answer is “it’s the greatest bike I have ever owned”.

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