NINER WFO e9
PARK THE TRUCK
Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Dusten Ryen
Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematics
Niner Bikes has just announced their “e” line of pedal assist eMTBs and we’re sure there’s going to be lots of talk around it. Over the years Niner has created quite a devout following and those who know the brand well have seen the evolution of various types of dirt-capable bicycles from flat bars to drop bars. “Niner is about having fun in the dirt, and we make bikes that bring smiles to people’s faces,” Niner marketing manager Zach Vestal told us. He continued, “Whether it’s a super-fast XC racer, an enduro rider, gravel grinder or now, and ebiker, we’ve always been focused on building bikes that help people get outside and have fun on trails. This is just the next evolution.” There is no denying eBikes are changing the landscape of mountain biking and Niner is now ready to offer their consumers two worthy options of consideration. The two new offerings in the Niner eBike line cover both the self-shuttle crew and the aggressive trail rider looking to cover more miles and get more descents in on their local rides. For our Dissected feature we received the 180mm Niner WFO e9 but we were just as excited to hear that we’ve got the 150mm RIP e9 on the way to the Wolf Den for a long-term review as well. So, without further ado, let’s dig in to the new Niner WFO e9.
COMMITTED TO DIRT
During the course of our Dissected production, we had many phone calls and emails with the folks over at Niner and their commitment to offering more ways to have fun on dirt is readily apparent. They don’t view the e9 line as a departure from their roots but more of a renewed commitment to expanding options to riders looking to explore farther, try new trails, or just get one more lap in before the sun goes down on their after-work rides. Niner says they’re also continuing to support trail access for all types of riders, open space preservation and trail building efforts.
We will mostly be focusing on the WFO e9, which is Niner’s 180mm ebike built to shred, but Niner will also offer their fan-favorite 150mm RIP bike as the second offering in their e9 line. Both bikes pack a punch with Bosch’s Performance Line CX motor and 625Wh Power Tube batteries. Niner was very excited to have their new bikes sporting what many consider, us included, the pinnacle of eMTB motors and batteries. Vestal explained, “We worked had to create a frame with a strong and stiff one-piece, cast and post-machined motor mount that would securely cradle the Bosch system. Niner is aware that people love this platform and it delivers great power, torque, has a very intuitive feel and offers great range.”
Niner also took Bosch’s expansive support network and ease of finding replacement parts into account should a customer need to repair or replace anything on their bike. We’ve had great luck with our Bosch-equipped bikes, not having any problems yet, but also fully admit that we don’t keep bikes as long as many consumers do.
Both of Niner’s eMTB models are built with 6061 aluminum tubing. After lots of research and debate, Niner decided to go with aluminum for two main reasons, beyond durability which gives them the confidence to offer a lifetime warranty. First off, Niner wanted to keep their bikes as affordable as possible for more riders to experience the fun, and by going with alloy they could keep the price closer to $6,000 rather than going carbon and breaking the $7,000 price point.
Second, as a material, aluminum is better at managing heat. Motor and battery cooling are major factors in maximizing range and also ensuring that the motor will continue to put out maximum torque throughout the ride. We’ve had a few bikes that suffer from power loss on long climbs due to the motor heating up, so it’s neat to learn how brands are working to combat this. We’ve not yet had the opportunity to truly compare the WFO e9 head to head because our early bike showed up without a skid-plate as Niner was still in the process of finalizing the design. While it made us a bit nervous about charging full-speed into tall rock gardens and over downed trees, we’re sure it helped keep the motor cool and spinning us up the steepest of climbs. We’ve just received our skid plate and will be installing it to see if we notice a difference for our long-term review coming in a couple of months.
Suspension on the WFO e9 is really impressive, and we applaud Niner’s work on tuning the Horst Link, four-bar suspension platform to work well for their intended application. Niner engineers worked with Rock Shox and tested different tunes to find the right one that complimented the revised kinematics. The WFO e9 blends suppleness and off the top sensitivity for lots of seated pedaling and longer days in the saddle along with bigger hit capabilities.
WFO e9 BUILD & GEO
At the time of publication, Niner will only be offering one model of the WFO e9, retailing for $6,295. Up front is a 180mm Rock Shox Yari RC fork with a 29-inch Stan’s Flow D wheel. Out back a 27.5-in Stan’s Flow D rear wheel is damped by a Rock Shox Super Deluxe coil-sprung shock. We’ve been seeing more brands running the “Mullet” set up in the eMTB world and we’re honestly pretty stoked on it. It allows the bike to accelerate and roll over terrain quickly but gives the heavier eBikes a stiff and short rear end compared to a 29” front and rear spec.
Praxis cranks spin a SRAM Eagle drivetrain while SRAM Guide RE brakes surprised the heck out of us with power and reliability. The large rotors work well at giving the brakes a bit more area to bite into and help modulate heat better than smaller rotors do. While we’ve traditionally not been fan of SRAM brakes, this particular set are working very well.
We received a size large for our Dissected feature and are pleased with the versatility and comfort. The WFO e9 has adjustable geometry, which we haven’t quite played around with enough yet, but look forward to doing more before we report back on our official review of the bike. The head tube angle goes from 64- to 63.5 degrees with a seat tube angle of 76.5- to 76 degrees. An undeniable talking point of the WFO e9 is the tall hump in the top tube, while we don’t love the look of it, some riders we saw said they did. Regardless of how you feel about the looks it gives the bike a 788- to 782mm standover height and will get damaged by your shifter/dropper post lever in the event of a crash where the bars spin. Reach on the size large is 465-470mm with a stack height of 631-635mm. The overall wheelbase goes from 1,270-1,271mm with 450mm chainstays.
TLW: You were probably one of the first adapters of eBikes as far as North American athletes go. What was the motivation for you to look at eMTBs so early and accept them while others did not?
Kyle Warner: I was a definitely receptive to the idea early on compared to some athletes and honestly it was just because I had a chance to ride one at a demo event almost as a novelty thing and it immediately put a smile on my face. It felt like a completely new sport to me and i couldn’t get enough of seeking out technical uphills and seeing what they could get up and over. I love mountain biking and I love E mountain biking. They are both such fun sports and even though they offer so many similarities I have a genuinely different experience on the Ebike when I go out on a ride. To me it was never a this or that situation it was a this plus that thing, and i have always been open to riding them in places that allow them and you will find me smiling the whole entire time haha.
TLW: How often do you hear dickhead comments on the trail, or parking lot from people talking smack about being a “cheater” or riding an ebike?
KW: Honestly it had a wave of being pretty bad I would say like early 2019, when ebikes were talked abou all the time but not something as many people had actually swung a leg over. But it seems like now every day more and more people are trying them and really enjoying them and at least here in Idaho the parking lots are pretty friendly and inquisitive!
TLW: How often do you hear people say, “Man, I gotta get an ebike?”
KW: Pretty much every single time i let someone ride mine for the first time haha!
TLW: In the last few years you’ve ridden for a few different brands, which gives you more perspective compared to an athlete who’s been sponsored by the same brand and only ridden that company’s bikes for the last 6 years. What do you like about the Niner e-line and why?
KW: Yeah I rode for Marin for 4 years and then the Felt / Rossignol Group for the last 2 years and I was definitely able to learn a lot about product development and design while working with both brands. The crew at Niner has been absolutely amazing to work with and I think my favorite part about the bikes is the fact that they are built by people that actually ride and they understand things that need to be durable, like bearings, derailleur hangers and shock hardware. I love bikes that just plain work ride after ride and Niner does a great job on focusing attention there.
TLW: RIP e9 or WFO e9?
KW: I think i like the Rip 9 because it is an absolute all day big ride crusher where the WFO is more like your own personal shuttle rig haha. Both great in their element but I love going up high into the mountains and riding new trails on a nimble bike.
TLW: You’re a very technical rider and tinkerer, how much do you change your suspension setup on an eBike compared to a pedal bike? Why?
KW: Actually going back to the whole Emtb being a different sport idea, I actually tinker way less on my ebike than on my normal bike. For me the normal bike is like a race car where I am always changing suspension settings, geometry, tires, wheels, you name it. The Ebike for me is like my Sunday Cruiser. I just get on that bike and mentally check out, I love it for that very fact. It is my “throw in a podcast and ride up an entire mountain bike.” Whereas my normal bike is more of a racing and tuning experience on every ride, it just requires a lot more focus for me but I think its from spending so many years racing and training.
TLW: What is your ratio of eMTB to non-e rides?
KW: I would say it was 70% E / 30% Normal bike las year and now its closer to 50/50. I love both of them for different reasons and have fun mixing it up almost every ride :)
TLW: What are you most excited about in the ebike space?
KW: I am excited about it really spurring the conversation and need for one way specific bike trails, I think that the infrastructure we need in that area is lacking and with so many more people getting into the sport than ever through e bikes it will really help the mountain bike community as a whole have a larger voice and get more rad one way trails built in higher traffic areas.
I am also excited about the acceleration of product development that has come from the e bike movement and finally I am excited to have less cars on shuttle roads and more personal transport options like ebikes!
When we first pulled the Niner WFO e9 out of the box the weight put us off. Granted it is a coil-sprung 180mm beast, but we expected the 56 pound heft to affect our ride more than it did. Would we love it more if the bike dropped six or eight pounds? Hell yes, but we have yet to encounter an obstacle or instance where the weight prevented us from getting up and over something. We typically like a quick rebound and maybe the extra pop and springy nature the Horst Link suspension design help, but this bike certainly rides lighter than the scale would suggest.
These Dissected features are not full reviews, and as such we typically don’t get enough time in a variety of conditions and for long enough to feel comfortable giving our official word, but so far the suspension has been a standout feature of the Niner WFO e9. We spent time climbing fire roads to get to the top of World Cup DH level tracks, sat down and climbed techy, steep singletrack and rode some mellower, sweeping trails through the woods with lots of downed trees. The blend of seated comfort and the quick reaction to larger hits is impressive and worthy of noting.
Geometry is a personal preference and while so many brands are going longer and longer out front with slacker head tube angles, we’re finding ourselves resisting the trends as we prefer lively and playful bikes than can still offer confidence when we need it on the steeps, but don’t ride like stretch limousines everywhere else. The 64/63.5-degree head tube and 470mm reach was just enough for high speeds and steeps but kept the bike nimble enough to tackle tight switchbacks and backcountry trails.
One area that could still be up for debate is the perceived value. Admittedly, we’re a bit out of touch but we do think that some of the spec choices are a bit lower than we’d hope for the price point of the bike. Time, and comments will tell if the public agrees, but perceived value to spec selection is certainly an important factor to consumers. That being said, we’ve yet to have any troubles or reliability issues with the components spec’d on the bike and we look forward to aggressively thrashing on this bike for the next couple of months to report back in detail.
What we can say is this, Niner has certainly entered the eBIke market with a solid offering. Whether you’re a Niner fan, or have never owned one, the WFO e9 (and we can only assume the RIP e9) are two solid offerings that pack the class-leading Bosch system, impressive suspension tune and crowd-pleasing geometry in a fun and new package. We look forward to continuing to ride our test bikes and will get back to you soon with our official word.