Over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to ride this bike on trails from southern California to southern Washington. It’s seen everything from snow and mud, to rain ruts and baby heads. All-in-all the EX 9 kick ass, but before we get into the long list of awesome things, I want to get my one complaint out of the way. This bike plays like a 180 bike. If you’re a jibber and like to pop, unweight, tire tap or do other (slower) unconventional things on the trail, just know that this bike will still feel like it has a lot of travel, because it does. It’s not impossible, it just takes a bit more effort to get weird.
The goods? Where to start… Yes, it climbs as good as they say it does. No I won’t say it climbs like a 120mm bike because it doesn’t. It doesn’t climb like a really good 140, 160, or 180mm bike either. The EX 9 blends the best of both worlds when it comes to climbing, or pedaling in general for that matter. A super efficient VPP-equipped 120mm bike will beat your ass up after a long day of climbing rough trails. Ever done the BC Bike Race or climbed thousands of feet in SoCal where sharp, spaced out rocks just hammer your rear end and rob you of speed? That’s what short travel efficiency feels like when you’re not on a smooth ribbon of trail. Ever climbed those trails on a 160mm bike where you feel a bit more comfort, but feel yourself squish farther into the travel as you put more energy into the pedals?
Each bike has a trade off, and depending on whether you value efficiency and speed on the way up or confidence and capability on the way down more, you had to make that choice. Or own multiple bikes. The EX 9 climbs way more efficiently than any 120mm bike does and blows the small bump sensitivity and traction of a 160mm out of the water. I was chastised more than once for showing up to test sessions with flat pedals as Voss explained I’d be missing out on some of the enhancements achieved by a more circular pedal stroke. After bringing a bike home to test for this long term review, I threw on some clipless pedals and was surprised that it actually pedaled even better than it did with flats. Go figure, they were right.
Acceleration and efficiency are very impressive traits of the EX 9. With 25-percent sag and no pedal platform lever, this bike takes off like a rocket and if you maintain a constant cadence it will reward your every effort. I noticed that if I rode the bike in one or two gears harder than my legs wanted, I would go faster and feel less tired than spinning a lower gear. Furthermore, when I clipped in the bike stayed on plane even better. If you imagine a boat accelerating before the nose drops and it gets on plane you’ll understand what I’m trying to describe. This bike has a very similar feeling no matter how steep the climb is. Once you’re on the gas, the bike sort of sits up and moves forward. The more we rode this the more fun it became to point the bike at rocks we were convinced we couldn’t climb. We waited until we were tired, worn out and didn’t even get off the seat to really see how forgiving this bike could be. It’s game changing. Yes, I said it, now get over it.
When it came time to end the torture and point the EX 9 downhill we couldn’t help but grin. I nicknamed my bike Tommy Lee Jones ‘cuz this thing is more two-faced than my ex-girlfriend. Polygon and NAILD worked very hard to make the EX 9 feel like it had a coil shock on it, and they succeeded. With 25-percent sag and a shock that runs 60-percent less damping than any other shock Fox produces, Polygon and NAILD created a bike with a stable pedaling platform, big hit capability and untouchable small bump sensitivity.