2021 eMTB SHOOTOUT
NINER WFO E9 REVIEW
Photos by Dusten Ryen
Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematics
We’ve had our Niner WFO e9 since summer of last year and have spent quite a bit of time riding it side by side with its trail minded little brother, the Niner RIP e9 for a Dissected Feature we filmed last fall. The Niner WFO and RIP both share some similarities in terms of battery size, frame aesthetics, a powerful Bosch CX motor and plush suspension that make them great for plowing rough trails. Both bikes made the trip down to St. George, Utah for our 2021 eMTB Shootout and got put through the paces with the rest of the pack. Here is how it did and where it stacks up.
The WFO e9 is a mulleted, 180mm travel shred sled built around a Horst link 4-bar suspension system, which is a departure from their CVA suspension platform found on their analog bikes. The all-aluminum frame wraps around the rear shock to provide a longer stroke and more progressive travel path. A Bosch CX motor delivers the power with 85Nm of torque with a large and luxurious 625Wh battery for long missions. Much like the RIP e9, the WFO e9’s frame also has the undesirable hump on the top tube that was designed to incorporate Fox Live Valve technology, which can be integrated into the Bosch system. Again, we cannot imagine a very many Niner WFO e9 owners are actually using Live Valve so the large detraction from the frame’s aesthetic for such a small accessory is not worth the visual cost in our opinion.
Geometry is adjustable with a flip chip, though we never felt the need to switch it out of the low setting. The low setting sets our size large Niner WFO e9 up with a 63.5-degree head tube angle, 76-degree seat tube angle, 465mm reach, and a 1,271mm wheelbase. The stack height comes in at 635mm in low and you can put the power down and climb up steep pitches with the 450mm chainstays.
Niner only offers the WFO e9 in a single build spec featuring a Fox Van Coil shock with a 500-pound spring (size large) paired with a RockShox Zeb R 180mm fork. Much like the RIP e9, the WFO e9’s stopping force is provided by a pair of SRAM Guide RE’s with 200mm rotors. The drivetrain is also a SRAM SX Eagle affair. A KS LEV 150mm dropper is included on the large along with a Raceface Aefect R cockpit. Wheels and hubs are provided by Stan’s in the Flow D flavor wrapped in Schwalbe Eddy Current tires.
At 57-pounds, the Niner WFO e9 is a tank and there is no getting around that. Even though it is the heaviest ebike in this year’s shootout, it was also one of the bikes I had the most fun riding. When it came to descents, the WFO e9 ate up everything thrown in its path and it particularly liked fast, chunked out sections of trail. The super plush suspension absorbed every blow and transferred little energy to the rider, the WFO e9’s suspension is comparable to that of a trophy truck, where you can watch the suspension dance while the body stays in roughly the same position throughout the trail. Our WFO may have seen the most huck-to-flats out of any of the bikes out there but was no worse for the wear.
For such a long and slack bike, the Niner WFO e9 climbs well. It’s more of a high-powered tank than a trail scalpel. It actively uses that long rear travel to suck up all obstacles and apply power in every situation. We doubt it will be winning any bunny hopping contests, but it may be the steep hill climb champ if you can keep your legs spinning and traction on the rear tire. As with any long and low bike sporting gratuitous travel, you will compromise tight, technical climbing prowess in exchange for downhill performance. That said, the Niner e9 does its best to make up for that with a huge rear tire and traction for days.
Descending is really what the Niner WFO e9 is all about. The mullet-specific geometry comes alive on steep, fast single tracks. The rear end is quick to snap a turn while the front has the rollover speed to take you down whatever line you choose. Without a doubt though, the WFO e9 lives for the chunk. It takes the biggest hits with ease and mutes the terrain below.
The downside to that magic carpet feel is that it’s a bear to get the bike airborne. No doubt the 55+ pound weight equally contributes to this 180mm bike’s planted feel. Keeping that rubber on the dirt has advantages though, as we were able to plow obstacles with confidence and carve turns with huge amounts of grip that seemed never ending. A surprisingly fun treat however is that the rear end breaks free in the most satisfying way, and snaps Skandi turns with the best of them. Don’t expect to air those little trail rock lips and sniper landings, but do plan for bar dragging turns and a plush plow rig.
When we talked with Niner for the filming of our Dissected series, a goal was to keep the cost of the bike under $6,500. To do this they made decisions that balanced performance with value. Although a couple decisions were also made for them due to COVID-19 product availability issues. For example, we received the bike with the RockShox Lyrik however they are now available with a Zeb. If you are a heavier rider or plan on putting the hurt on the trails, this is a welcome update. Moving on to the rest of the bike, the build is a mid-level spec that leaves the value discussion open for message boards wanting to talk about consumer direct brands and components, but we felt it was pretty reasonable compared to other bikes on the market in our current climate.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Niner’s WFO e9 is a solid contender for an aggressive self-shuttle bruiser in the long travel category. We couldn’t do this review without talking about that unfortunate hump in the top tube and how much better the bike would look without it, which is a bummer because we like the colors, paint and graphics otherwise. Not to mention it’s a liability when you crash as it’ll surely get scratched to hell by the levers when the bars spin ‘round, as you can see in our RIP e9 review which has some battle scars.
Beyond the top tube hump, a couple spec choices and the weight, the Niner WFO e9 has a lot of great characteristics that’ll make it worth a look for riders in the enduro eMTB market. If you are looking for a replacement for your beat old shuttle truck that can handle nearly anything you ride, take a test ride on the WFO e9. The Bosch Gen 4 system helps make this 180mm sled capable of more than just shredding downhill laps. It’s a comfortable bike, with a supple and sensitive suspension platform that allows you to push hard and charge the straight lines just as easily as you could explore the backcountry or cruise fire roads in the saddle. It is maneuverable once you get the technique and is a lot of fun on the ground. If you live in an area with lots of big rocks, we’re thinking SoCal, Arizona, New Mexico and naturally, Colorado, you’ll like the traction and smoothness aboard this machine. If you live for flicks, hops and pops, well, chances are you’re not looking at a 180mm eMTB anyways.
Frame: Welded 6061-T6 aluminum, 180mm
Fork: RockShox Zeb R | 180mm
Shock: Fox Van Coil
Motor: Bosch Gen4 Performance Line CX
Battery: Bosch Powertube 625wH
Display: Bosch Purion
Brakes: SRAM Guide RE
Shifter: SRAM SX Eagle 12-spd
Handlebar: Race Face Aeffect R 780mm
Headset: Niner Internal ZS
Stem: Race Face Aeffect R 35mm
Saddle: Niner Custom TR
Seatpost: KS LEV SI
Wheels: Stan’s NoTubes Flow D
Front Tire: Schwalbe Magic Mary | 29 x2.6″
Rear Tire: Schwalbe Big Betty | 27.5 x 2.6″
Cassette: SRAM PG1210 Eagle 11-50t
Cranks: Praxis Bosch G4 ISIS 165mm, 36t
Derailleur: SRAM SX Eagle 12-spd
Chain: SRAM SX Eagle 12-spd
Ground hugging suspension
Goofy looking top tube
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