A very attractive bike has been floating around among a few of my riding buddies and it was my turn to take it for a spin yesterday. The bike belongs to The Bike Surgeon and they graciously loaned it out as a test bike.
We took the bike to The Ruby which is one of the premier trails in all of the Shawnee, It’s get technical rocky sections along with fast and flowy; it’s guaranteed to test man and machine. Drew, Joe, Barry, Amy, and I were the crew.
The One 9 is as the name implies a single speed bike. It’s made of Scandium aluminum, this is the 2013 model in the tangerine color option. Aesthetics of a bike aren’t usually a big deal to me, but I have to say this bike look amazing, the color combination, tube shapes and the graphics make this bike a real head turner. Even though it’s a aluminum the welds are so clean that it could be easily mistaken for carbon.
There have been some changes to the Niner lineup in the last couple of years, the One 9 is no longer available in aluminum, only the carbon RDO model, but this frame can be found selling for around 800 bucks new. The parts spec on this particular bike is pretty awesome, XX Sid fork with remote lockout, XX SS crank, and American Classic wheels, it’s the lightest mountain bike I’ve ever ridden coming in around 20.5 pounds.
I raised the saddle a couple times early in the ride, and never really thought I could get the position right. I later realized that a big part of the problem was slippage. I sometimes have problems with slipping posts, but not usually with a big 31.6 Thomson post. The Niner seatpost collar looked slick but it wasn’t up the challenge of Gholson. The handlebars we’re a bit higher then I normally run and bit wider as well.
But enough of all of that, how does it ride? First off the frame is stiff, maybe too stiff. I’ve never ridden a bike with a tapered head tube, but this bike reminded me of my Cannondale road bike, it feels like riding a rail. The tail end was bucking off the trail when I stood up and started kicking. The steel frames I’ve been riding have much more mild mannered characteristics, especially the Bandersnatch, but even the Niner SIR 9 with similar geometry feels a bit laid back compared to this.
I was never very happy about how the bike turned, which could have been partly riding position, but I also think it had something to do with that tapered head tube. It was just really quick and so stiff the bike responded to steering changes way faster then I was used too. The wider bar made it feel like I was doing a lot more steering. I would have liked to to pair up the wider with with a shorter stem, which I think would have tamed the steering issue. Later in the ride I realized that the quicker and more direct turn in wasn’t a bad thing when I dodged a sharp limb that was jutting into the trail.
The Sid fork was neat, the lockout button would completely eliminate fork bob when I stood to pedal, but with the gate setting it would still give you a bit of suspension over the rough. The fork worked so well, and had such smooth travel that I often forgot I had a suspension fork on the bike.
It was kind of nice to have brakes that really work. The XT brakes had tons of power, tons of modulation, and really neat looking brake pads with heat sinks. The eccentric bottom bracket started creaking on me shortly in the ride, and the chain looked a tiny bit loose near the end but I never had to stop and tighten it. I’m sure that some greasing would shut up the eccentric, but I’m starting to wonder about these things. Bolt down sliding dropout seem to be the simplest solution.
I thought I was sold on single speed, but I was wanting gears alot on this ride. There really isn’t much climbing on the Ruby, but there are many technical, short and steep climbs that are much more fun with gears. I didn’t make too many of these climbs and when I was uncomfortably pulling and torquing all over the bike trying to get over some of the steep climbs I kept thinking, this would be way more fun with gears.
So a slipping seatpost was the only real problem I encountered with the bike. Last weekend Adam did the entire ride with his post about 4 inches lower then normal and it didn’t seem to bother him much, but I was constantly worried about my saddle position. If I was looking for a race bike then I would look no further, the One 9’s weight and super quick handling made it an ideal candidate for racing. For the more laid back kind of riding I do it’s it a bit too quick, though I ‘m sure with a few cockpit changes and a beefier seatpost clamp I’d been perfectly happy on the bike.