THE NEW NINER WFO 9

Words by Cole Gregg Photos & Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematics

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More than a decade since its first release, the Niner WFO 9 RDO is redesigned and drawing on years of 29-inch mountain bike evolution. We have been lucky enough to get this bike in well before the public release to put in some initial test rides and give us enough time to create this Dissected Feature to highlight the technology, changes and offerings of the new Niner WFO.

When Niner set out to redesign the WFO major changes needed to be included, including modern geometry featuring an adjustable flip chip to tune the bike to your specific needs, fully sleeved internal cable routing keeping cable rattle at bay while improving shift smoothness and a wider, stiffer rib cage main triangle. The new rib cage matched with large enduro max black oxide pivot bearings and aggressive geo mean this bike is ready to handle anything.

Also improved on the new Niner WFO is the refined suspension curve that promotes supportive pedaling and a smooth end-stroke ramp for all 170mm of its CVA suspension. The trunnion mounted shock also adds to the overall frame stiffness and modernness. After our short film and ride period so far, we’re plenty confident that it’ll hold up for our long-term test period just fine. And for those of you who keep your bikes longer than a season like us, Niner offers a lifetime frame warranty.

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The 2021 Niner WFO 9 RDO is available in three sizes, small, medium and large. Our large test bike has a 480mm reach while the medium and small sizes have a reach of 450mm and 430mm, respectively. All sizes offer a 438mm chainstay. For a large bike this may seem a bit on the short side but it really ads to the maneuverability of the bike through tight sections of trail, although some may find that comes as a compromise for high-speed, all-out downhills.

Niner’s adjustable flip chips allow you to tune the bike for your given terrain. In the Low setting, the headtube angle is 64 degrees and in the High setting the headtube angle is bumped up to 64.7 degrees. While this may not be a very drastic difference, it is plenty to change the on-trail feel.

The flip chip also changes the stack height from 630mm in High to 635mm in the Low setting. The wheelbase grows from 1,257mm in High to 1,259mm in the Low setting. One of the biggest changes other than headtube angle when changing from the Low to High setting is a 7mm growth in the reach from 480mm to 487mm. Something taller riders or those who like a spacious cockpit will appreciate.

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Niner WFO 9 RDO Dissected

When it comes to geometry the WFO 9 hits some of our favorite numbers spot on. At 6’ 1”, the 480mm reach in the Low mode is roomy but not so long that I struggle through tighter sections of trail. This allows plenty of room to maneuver in the cockpit paired with the 438mm chainstays you do not lose out on agility thought tight sections of trail.

The 77-degree seat tube angle in the low setting keeps your weight forward on the climbs. If you’re really looking at a big day of climbing moving into the high setting on the flip chip will bring that seat tube angle up to 77.7 degrees.

There are a total of five build levels to choose from all featuring a 180mm Fox 38 up front and Fox Float X2 out back. You have the option of either four SRAM builds or one Shimano XT kit, which is what we have on hand to test. All builds come stock with a Schwalbe Magic Mary up front and a Hans Dampf out back. Each of the 5-, 4- and 3-Star builds offer a DT Swiss wheel package while the 2-Star build comes with Niner’s own 30mm alloy wheelset. Also featured on all builds is a KS Lev dropper.  Our size large comes with a 170mm dropper while the medium and small comes with a 150- and 125mm option.

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We caught up with Barrett James, Niner’s product manager and asked him a few questions about the new WFO 9.

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE DURING THE DESIGN PROCESS OF THE NEW FRAME?
As with most frames, looking far enough into the future to hopefully not miss or leave out any compatibilities/technologies. We definitely went back to the drawing board once or twice to accommodate some features, such as UDH, to ensure we were delivering the best we could.

DURING OUR TEST RIDES WE NOTICED THE BIKE WAS VERY QUIET, WAS THERE A SPECIAL FOCUS PLACED ON THIS?
Quiet bikes are important to us. With the advent of things like clutch derailleurs to reduce chain slap and internal guide tubes to reduce cable slap, every other sound source on the bike comes to the surface. All of the added rubber protection pieces and cable management were critical to that mission.

OBVIOUSLY WE’RE ALL EXCITED ABOUT THE MANY NEW THINGS GOING ON WITH THE NEW WFO, WHAT, IF ANY, ARE THE SIMILARITIES TO THE ORIGINAL WFO?
Honestly, almost nothing beside the name and purpose. I mean, it’s still a CVA bike but the leverage ratio is quite different. The previous bike was aluminum vs RDO carbon, forks and shocks have all evolved immensely. Geometry has progressed, etc. It is a much more capable bike all around.

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WHEN DID THE DESIGN PROCESS FOR THE NEW FRAME START?
Although we had been talking about an RDO version of the WFO for years, I believe the design really got under way in early 2019.

DURING THE DESIGN PROCESS OF THE NEW BIKE, HOW MANY ITERATIONS DID THE TEAM GO THROUGH BEFORE LANDING ON THE FINALIZED MODEL?
Visually, the bike is mostly the initial iteration but there are quite a few details that were added, improved or revised along the way. We have a pretty good pile of homemade/3D printed pieces and parts that we experimented with a lot. Those will remain in the Niner catacombs.

WHO IS THE INTENDED RIDER OF THIS BIKE?
This bike was meant for going WFO (Google it). It’s meant to be taken on the lifts, entered in enduro events and thrown over tailgates, all while keeping a smile on the face of a rider who values an efficient pedaler and capable climber.

WHEN WAS THE FIRST TEST BIKE TAKEN OUT ON THE TRAIL? AND HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS THE PRODUCTION MODEL COMPARED TO THE ORIGINAL TEST BIKE?
The first bike hit the dirt in late 2019/early 2020. Functionality was all there but like mentioned above, lots of little improvements were made after that. 

WHAT WAS THE CATALYST TO BRING THE NEW BIKE TO LIFE AFTER SUCH A LONG HIATUS FROM THE PREVIOUS MODEL?
The WFO has had quite a following amongst Ninerds since inception. It’s usually one of the first guesses in the comments whenever we mention we’re launching something new. The idea of the WFO has been alive and well all along. We’ve just been waiting for the right time to resurrect it, and that time is now!

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THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSION

This bike has me really excited for more testing. Being a rider that really enjoys big jumps as much as rough descents with long climbs for those amazing DH laps, this bike really hits the nail on the head. So far it seems that the capability of handling massive days in the saddle paired face-melting speed on the downs and poppiness off lips could have it be one of my new favorite bikes.

When standing up and putting the power down on flatter sections of trail you tend to forget you are on an absolute bump-eating monster, it’s not trail bike efficient, but it really blends that line and lives in that efficient enduro/all mountain zone. The kinematics provide a smooth supportive feel on mellow terrain and when the switch is flipped and you’re off the back barreling down your favorite tech trail, it just begs you to let off the brakes. At the recommended 30% sag I have yet to want more from the stock shock tune.

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While this may be a bump eating slayer, it is a very lively bike, which I am super stoked on. Many of the other big travel enduro bikes sacrifice that playful nature for a more ground hugging feel. The Niner WFO rewards you when popping off features and settles back down through rough terrain.

This bike is for a rider that has some serious terrain in the local zone and loves weekend trips to the bike parks. Even if your everyday ride is pretty mellow, you will not be bummed to throw a leg over this rig day in and day out. Niner has really done a good job creating a bike that blends performance, efficiency and fun.

We really look forward to passing this bike around to the crew for our long-term review, that is if I decide to give it up.

VISIT NINER’S WEBSITE TO LEARN MORE
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NINER WFO 9 RDO STAR BUILDS

Niner WFO 9 RDO Dissected

5-STAR X01 EAGLE AXS LTD

MSRP: $10,100
FORK:
FOX 38 FLOAT FACTORY GRIP 2 EVOL
SHOCK:
FOX FLOAT X2 FACTORY EVOL

BRAKES: SRAM CODE RSC
SHIFTER: SRAM AXS EAGLE 12SP
SADDLE: NINER CUSTOM TR WITH CRN-TI RAILS
SEATPOST: KS LEV SI (S-125MM, M-150MM, L/XL-175MM)
HANDLEBAR: RACE FACE NEXT R 800MM WIDE, 35MM RISE
STEM: RACE FACE TURBINE R 40MM

WHEELS: DT SWISS EXC 1200 30MM
FRONT TIRE: SCHWALBE MAGIC MARY EVO SUPER TRAIL 2.6
REAR TIRE: HANS DAMPF EVO SUPER TRAIL 2.6

DERAILLEUR: SRAM AXS EAGLE X01 12SP
CASSETTE: SRAM EAGLE XG 1299, 10-52T RAINBOW
CHAIN: SRAM XX1 EAGLE 12SP RAINBOW
CRANK SET: SRAM X1 EAGLE CARBON DUB, 32T | 170MM
BOTTOM BRACKET: SRAM DUB BSA THREADED

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4-STAR XT 12SP

MSRP: $6,950
FORK:
FOX 38 FLOAT FACTORY GRIP 2 EVOL
SHOCK:
FOX FLOAT X2 FACTORY EVOL

BRAKES: SHIMANO XT M8100
SHIFTER: SHIMANO XT M8100 12SP
SADDLE: NINER CUSTOM TR WITH CRN-TI RAILS
SEATPOST: KS LEV SI (S-125MM, M-150MM, L/XL-175MM)
HANDLEBAR: RACE FACE NEXT R 800MM WIDE, 35MM RISE
STEM: RACE FACE TURBINE R 40MM

WHEELS: DT SWISS EX 1700 SPLINE 30MM
FRONT TIRE: SCHWALBE MAGIC MARY EVO SUPER TRAIL 2.6
REAR TIRE: HANS DAMPF EVO SUPER TRAIL 2.6

DERAILLEUR: SHIMANO XT M8100 SGS 12SP
CASSETTE: SHIMANO XT M8100 12SP, 10-51T
CHAIN: SHIMANO XT M8100 W/ QUICKLINK
CRANK SET: RACEFACE NEXT R CARBON 12SP, 32T | 170MM
BOTTOM BRACKET: RACEFACE BSA THREADED

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3-STAR GX EAGLE 12SP

MSRP: $6,000
FORK:
FOX 38 FLOAT FACTORY GRIP 2 EVOL
SHOCK:
FOX FLOAT X2 FACTORY EVOL

BRAKES: SRAM CODE R
SHIFTER: SRAM GX EAGLE 12SP
SADDLE: NINER CUSTOM TR WITH CRN-TI RAILS
SEATPOST: KS LEV SI (S-125MM, M-150MM, L/XL-175MM)
HANDLEBAR: RACE FACE AEFFECT R 780MM WIDE, 20MM RISE
STEM: RACE FACE AEFFECT R 40MM

WHEELS: DT SWISS E 1900 SPLINE 30MM
FRONT TIRE: SCHWALBE MAGIC MARY EVO SUPER TRAIL 2.6
REAR TIRE: HANS DAMPF EVO SUPER TRAIL 2.6

DERAILLEUR: SRAM GX EAGLE 12SP
CASSETTE: SRAM EAGLE XG 1275, 10-52T
CHAIN: SRAM GX EAGLE 12SP
CRANK SET: SRAM DESCENDANT 7K EAGLE DUB, 32T | 170MM
BOTTOM BRACKET: SRAM DUB BSA THREADED

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2-STAR SX EAGLE 12SP

MSRP: $4,800
FORK:
FOX 38 FLOAT PERFORMANCE GRIP EVOL
SHOCK:
FOX FLOAT X2 PERFORMANCE EVOL

BRAKES: SRAM G2 R
SHIFTER: SRAM SX EAGLE 12SP
SADDLE: NINER CUSTOM TR WITH CRN-TI RAILS
SEATPOST: KS LEV SI (S-125MM, M-150MM, L/XL-175MM)
HANDLEBAR: RACE FACE AEFFECT R 780MM WIDE, 20MM RISE
STEM: RACE FACE AEFFECT R 40MM

WHEELS: NINER ALLOY 30MM
FRONT TIRE: SCHWALBE MAGIC MARY EVO SUPER TRAIL 2.6
REAR TIRE: HANS DAMPF EVO SUPER TRAIL 2.6

DERAILLEUR: SRAM SX EAGLE 12SP
CASSETTE: SRAM PG 1210 11-50T
CHAIN: SRAM SX EAGLE 12SP
CRANK SET: SRAM X1 1K EAGLE DUB, 32T | 170MM
BOTTOM BRACKET: SRAM DUB BSA THREADED