New Bike Review: Niner EMD9

For the past year or so, I’ve been saving my nickels, quarters, and the occasional folding currency for a new mountain bike – specifically, a geared 29er hardtail. After a lot of waffling and agonizing, I ended up ordering a custom Niner EMD9 build through Speedgoat Cycles. I initially wanted just a couple modifications off of a stock build they had, but ended up being able to work out several component changes for exactly the right price (thanks Michael C.!).

Begging to get dirty!

For everyone wanting to know the specs, here you go (the rest of you, skip down to the pretty pictures).

2012 Niner E.M.D.9 aluminum frame with tapered headtube
Fox 32 FLOAT 29 100 RLC FIT 15QR Tapered Fork
SRAM 2×10 X7 drivetrain (derailleurs, shifters, cranks)
Shimano XT Ice Tech brakes
Stan’s Notubes Arch EX 29er wheelset
Continental Race King 2.0 tires
Easton EA50 stem, bars, and seatpost
WTB Silverado Pro saddle
Weight: 25.22 lbs

2x10 SRAM drivetrain

I now have about 6 hours on the bike (3 rides in 3 states, thanks to a recent family trip!) and I have to say I’m having a blast. It’s a solid ride – could be lighter I suppose, but I have no complaints since it’s lighter than my Monocog! I’m also really enjoying the Fox fork (no surprise there), the 2×10 drivetrain, and the XT brakes.

The EMD9 at home

For the frame itself, I have to say it’s a really nice balance – very maneuverable, I can loft the front end easily, which is a nice change from the stable but ground-loving Monocog. I’ve also found it to be a capable climber – the last ride I went on (which I’ll be devoting a separate post to later!) involved some pretty crazy rocky and rooty climbs, and the bike handled them all – I made a few mistakes in picking my lines on unfamiliar trails, but it’s not fair to blame the bike for human error!

Rocks and roots, no problem!

I’m still making adjustments and shaking things down, but I’ve been really happy with my purchase so far. A couple changes may be in order – for one, I still have to get the tubes out of my tubeless-ready setup, and I also want to take some weight out of the seat post (it’s 400mm and I could probably do fine with 300mm). Overall though, I’ve got a sweet and fun ride that can handle a wide range of terrain with ease. If you’re in the market for a new hardtail 29er that doesn’t totally break the bank, I definitely recommend checking out the EMD9.

Demo Rides: Trek Superfly Al and Niner S.I.R. 9

A couple weeks ago, I got the opportunity to drop by the Paul’s Ride for Life event, which centers around a charity ride that raises money for life-saving organ transplants. While I found out about it too late to join in the ride (which seems like it might be a cool thing to do next year), there was also a Cyclefest event sponsored by a local shop, the Bike Lane. As part of that, there were not only tables and booths for cool local organizations like MORE and FABB (join one or both if you’re in the area!), but demo bikes on hand from Niner, Felt, and Trek. I got to try out the Trek Superfly Al (geared) and the Niner S.I.R. 9 (singlespeed) for a few minutes each.

I tried the Niner first, and man… it was a fun bike! You can probably trust the word of a man who owns one more than mine, but in the few minutes I got to tool around on it I was very impressed. The geometry felt really natural – the bike was responsive without being twitchy – and it didn’t feel too hefty despite the steel frame (853 Reynolds, for those who might be wondering!).

Niner S.I.R. 9

When I got on the Trek, I noticed immediately that it had a different approach than the playful Niner. The Superfly (in all editions) is billed as a race-oriented XC bike, and it shows in how it rides and handles. It was a nice bike, but I didn’t really get that grin on my face that I look for when testing a bike out. To be fair to Trek, part of this may have been because the brakes on my test bike were REALLY dirty and noisy, so I was distracted by that for much of my ride.

Trek Superfly Al

This was my first real experience testing out multiple bikes at a demo event (I was supposed to have a 2nd a couple days ago, but it got rained out), and it was a lot of fun! I’m sure many of you do this when you can, but I’d encourage everyone to attend demos when possible – it’s an easy way to check out one or several bikes fairly quickly, whether you’re looking for a new ride or not!

Redeeming my hour

After an exhausting day on Saturday, I got to bed early on Saturday night with absolutely no thoughts of riding on Sunday morning. Before drifting off to sleep at 10:30 (9:30, if you account for turning the clock back for Daylight Savings time) I woke up abruptly at 6:30am. After lying around in bed for a few minutes, I realized that due to daylight savings time, it was actually just 5:30!

Since I was not about to fall back asleep, that got me thinking: how much time do I have to mountain bike and where should I ride to maximize my time? To be very frank, I briefly considered running a couple of miles but I promptly nixed that idea. To me, running = YUCK.

After a few minutes of thought, I came out with:
– 1.5 hours of time, which would allow me to return home with enough time to get both myself and my 3 boys ready for church
– Chino Hills State Park: I would take the streets from my house to the Rim Crest entrance, back down South Ridge and out Telegraph returning back to my house via the streets. Time wise: about 1:15. Mileage: about 11. Added benefit: some good climbing front loaded from mile 3.5 – 6.5.

Overall, a great ride on the Niner Air9 hardtail. I did a route I haven’t done in a while and I was immensely pleased to be able to ride with so few cars on the road. The only bad part: I broke my multi-tool about 10 minutes into the ride. Thankfully, I did not need it for the rest of the ride.

For those of you not racing (looking forward to those race reports, team!) were you able to get in some riding with the extra hour gained?

Ride Report: The Ride that Didn’t Happen

I showed up early Saturday morning for a not-to-be-named boutique bike manufacturer’s demo day. Since my JET9 was stolen three weeks ago, oh how I miss you, I have been perusing the classifieds for a replacement. I have tentatively narrowed down my choices to the following three: Niner RIP9, Santa Cruz Tallboy and Specialized Stumpjumper Expert FSR 29 all of them WAY beyond what I can currently afford. They are all burlier than my JET9 but I think, for my sole FS bike, I’d like more travel bike than the JET’s 80mm.

Back to Saturday morning: having been around a few bike demos including 4 Sea Otters where I demo at least a few bikes each weekend, I have a basic plan of attack to get some saddle time one one of the aforementioned bikes: arrive early, talk to the demo guy and start my ride at 8:00, the scheduled start time of the demo. If the bike I am looking for is being demo’d or they don’t have my size, no worries: I brought my AIR9 (locked to the car of course) so I could still grab a two hour ride with svelte Dan. This, by the way, is my suggestion for any rider looking to demo bikes at a demo day.

7:45. I arrive at the bike shop after a 35 minute drive. Dan had just arrived as well. We look around. No one else was there. No demo van, no other riders, nothing. I am nervous and pleased at the same time. Nervous as the demo van wasn’t there but pleased that we were the first ones and had first dibs on the bikes.

8:00. We stand around outside the shop. When a shop employee arrives, we are let in and the employee tells us that the demo guy is late. That was my first warning. The employee then tells me that there is a sign-up sheet for the riders but he says (which you had to call to be placed on) although he is not sure if the demo guy will use the list or just go by first come first serve. I look over the list. I’m number 3 for the bike I want to ride. Ugh. My second warning.

8:15, the demo guy shows up. He is late and a small crowd has gathered to wait for the demo bikes to unload. As he begins to unload, he glances over at the crowd, pulls out his phone and takes a picture of us and proceeds to tell us that we’re on facebook. I roll my eyes. I should have left by now as there was no way I was going to squeeze in a decent ride in under 1.5 hours but I wait hoping that I’d get the bike I wanted to ride and be off on the trails soon.

8:40, the demo guy asks how he is going to distribute the bikes. The shop employee mentions a list… I sigh. I remind myself that maybe I’m the only one who signed up and showed up for the bike… please, please, please. 10 minutes later: nope, the other two guys before me on the list are both present. Out of luck and by now it’s too late to ride. Might as well stick around, watch Dan get set up on a bike and see him off on the trail.

9:30, Dan finally gets his demo bike and starts off towards the trail while I get back in my car for the 35 minute drive back home. Wasted morning.

Demo guys: please have your bikes set up at the time the demo is scheduled to start. Some of us have other things to do on a Saturday morning. Your tardiness caused me to miss my only chance to ride all weekend.

Sea Otter 2010: Niner Bikes

I stopped by Niner bikes booth for a few minutes to mainly check out two things: how wide is the downtube on the Air 9 carbon and to see in person the new Jet 9.

What I got was a bit of a surprise, and I’ll put it out there at the top so you can’t call me a tease: Niner is coming out with a Carbon Jet 9. This is sort of expected, but the dates are quite surprising: Now Niner is notorious for over-promising and under-delivering on dates so take this with a grain of salt: prototype: Interbike 2010 and shipping maybe Spring 2011.

The AIR9 Carbon downtube:

Yeah, its wide. I didn’t have my ruler with me, so I broke out a dollar and folded it in half. A dollar is about 6 1/8 inches in length. Folded in half, the dollar is just over 3 inches. The downtube is about that width, which doesn’t seem that wide until you’re down at it from above. It’s wide. For reference, the new Jet9’s downtube is 48mm wide or just under 2inches in diameter at the widest point.

Niner Jet9, the non-carbon version. Good news: Steve is saying the replacement Jets are on the boat and will be shipped once it clears customs. The frames are fully assembled with rockers and shocks in place. Niner is estimating 3 weeks starting Saturday. See above disclaimer regarding Niner’s delivery dates.

Niner’s New Jet9… is it a 2011

Single Pass Flat welds. Used only for connecting tube to tube, not tube to forged material such as in the rear triangle. Steve Domahidy says its stiffer than tig welds.

Of course, all the rage: tapered headtube

Old links on a new body. I can’t wait.

And just for kicks: I tell ya, Niners get great treatment out at Sea Otter. Here is the bike stand for my Niner Air9

and yes, “pedal damn it”

More Thoughts on the Ergon GA1

Ergon GA1 in Team colors

I got a chance to put the Ergon GA1 grips on my bike for the last couple of months. The GA1’s are a bit different from the normal Ergon grips that everyone knows. Rather than having a flat area for you to rest your palm on, thereby increase more palm/grip interface, the GA1 has a slight oval shape to it which tucks inside your hand and thereby increasing palm/grip interface over the normal round grip.

Since RL did a full review on these grips before, I thought I’d just add my experience with them. I’ve found the GA1’s shape to be very easy to adapt to. I know RL had a bit of a hurt palm when he first started riding with the GA1, but I’ve found it to be instantly familiar and comfortable. They were more than comfortable enough for a 4+ hour 20+ mile jaunt in the mountains two months ago.

About 10 miles in on a 20+ mile ride. The GA1’s were comfy

I recently swapped the grips over to the Niner AIR9 I’m riding to continue the testing. The change has been nearly seamless although I did have to find the sweet spot again as it wasn’t as easy as just bringing the handlebar over. This took all of 1 ride and I’ve been happy with the comfort and lack of hand fatigue from the grips ever since.

Although not a weight weenie grip I definitely don’t mind the extra grammage of the GA1. After using foam grips for the past few months then switching to the GA1, there was definitely a weight gain. However, I am more than happy to take the weight gain because the comfort level of the GA1 and the clamp that keeps the grip in place. In comparison to the original GP-1, which I’ve run for years, the GA1 is about 50 grams lighter.

Swapped to the AIR9 when the Jet went down for recall. Great on this bike too!

My final thought is to stick with the small. Even though I wear XL size gloves, I find the small to be more than enough room for me. The fit is really good with the small and I really can’t imagine how much bigger the Large sized version of the GA1 would be.

Yes, 1 degree makes a difference

So my beloved Jet9 was recalled. Very sad as I liked that bike a lot. It fit my style of riding to a “T”. The first issue I had to deal with was what was I going to do? I had three options which were:
1. Buy a significantly discounted niner frame and wait 6 months to get a new 2010 Jet9
2. Straight swap to a RIP9. Even trade, no money being exchanged
3. Get $150 and wait 6 months to get a new 2010 Jet9

Since riding rigid, I’ve found that I don’t need a lot of suspension for most of my riding, hence the JET fit my riding style perfectly. I’m sure I could have adapted to the RIP and be happy with that bike, but in this case less is more. So, option 2 was out.

Now it was down to options 1 and 3. I knew which option my wife wanted me to go with and it definitely was not option 1 but, my wonderful wife was supportive when I did go with #1 in the form of an AIR9.

My JET9 replacement, Niner AIR9

I swapped out all the part from the Jet to the AIR. I bought some new cables as I was not crazy about the Alligator ilinks I had used. They were great, but a little finicky to set up. I also had to buy a new seatpost as the seatpost diameters were different.

I got in a short 3 mile “teaser” ride on Friday after everything was done. I immediately noticed that I felt a slightly forward bias as compared to the JET. This bias made me feel more susceptible to going over the bars. I only noticed this in some short downhill sections but since I was on a new bike high and I was only doing 3 miles, I decided to chalk this feeling up to the tackier trail which may have held my caused the front to grip better making me less balanced on the bike. It could also have been the fact that I haven’t ridden a mountain bike for about a month as I went through my busy season at work.

Scandium makes for a light frame that is still pleasing to ride

But today’s ride confirmed it: there is a slight forward bias to the bike as compared to the Jet. I got in a pre-work ride and I noticed I had to consciously push myself farther off the back of the bike on the downhills sections to feel as though I would not fly over the front of the bars. When I got to the office this morning I took a look at the geometry numbers for the first time and compared them with the Jet9.

So what caused this feeling of forward bias? A one-degree difference in Seat Tube Angle. All of the other “main” geometry figures were the same: head tube angle, effective top tube, head tube length. The difference of one degree in the Seat Tube Angle put the seat just a tad bit more forward and also a little higher since the seatpost height stayed the same.

After some consultation, I’ve decided to adjust to the difference rather than make changes to my cockpit setup, which is currently nearly identical to my previous setups.

Southern California: Best Mountain Biking Locale in the World?

A recent press release by the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News website mentioned that Bicycling Mag has decided to move its offices from Burbank to Valencia, California. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Southern California, Burbank is a city just north of downtown Los Angeles while Valencia is a little farther northwest of Burbank, another 25 miles.

Riding next to the beach… +1 for So. Cal riding

Bicycling Mag’s Steve Madden (I thought he made women’s shoes) stated that their reasons for keeping an office in Southern California is because its “important to have a place with access to sunshine.”

Jumping the gap on a So. California trail

That got me thinking: yeah, Southern California is a great mountain biking locale but could it be one of the Best Mountain Biking locales in the world? Could it be THE best Mountain Biking Locale?

Off chamber singletrack with some nice exposure to boot! yum

Here are my thoughts:

1. Diverse trails: You can’t start off any list of best mountain biking spots in the world without a list of what that location has to offer. I live in north Orange County and within one hour of me I have access to literally hundreds of trails. The Santa Monica mountains northwest of me are world renown for their challenging yet beautiful trails. The San Bernardino mountains to the northeast is home to what is widely considered the best singletrack in So. Cal.: San Ana River Trail (SART). To the east are two major race courses in Fontana’s Southridge which runs Cross Country, Downhill and Super D races as well as Temecula known for its Endurance racing. To the south, within an hour and a half drive, there are a ton of trails. I would not be exaggerating if I said that I could ride every Saturday for a year without riding the same trail twice.

Riding SART in the middle of December

The sheer variety of all that is available can make choosing a weekend ride particularly difficult. Want to ride in the mountains? Want to ride in the hills along the beach? Want to do a 100 mile epic? You can find them all in Southern California.

Lance ready to race in early November… notice the beautiful skies

2. Spectacular weather year round:
You can not qualify your locale as the best mountain biking spot in the world if you can not ride on dirt at least 3 seasons of the year. Year round riding gives you another point. Sure there are a ton of great spots in Colorado and Utah to ride but if they’re closed down 6 months of the year for the white stuff then you can’t really stake a claim to being the best. Maybe we’ll give you the title of best mountain biking locale 6 months of the year. 🙂

Think of it this way: I’ve been mountain biking through the last few winters and the coldest its ever been is the high 30s. What did I wear? For my legs: leg warmers & shorts. For my upper body: wicking base layer, long sleeve t-shirt & windbreaker pull over. No parkas, no snow boots, no ear muffs. On the other side of the coin I’ve ridden into the dead of summer with just shorts and tank-top type wicking shirt, no problem. Some guys even ride shirtless… although I’m not sure if that’s a plus or not.

Just an aside but why would you send products to test in places that are packed down by snow 6 months of the year? Unless you’ve got a mountain biking product made for extremely cold weather most products sent in the fall/winter can’t or shouldn’t be tested until spring/summer in those areas. Do you want your mountain bike getting ridden in conditions most mountain bikers wouldn’t venture out in? OK, now I’m just being selfish. 😉

Early MARCH race at Bonelli with temps in the low 70s

3. Tons of Local Bike Shops: If having choices are good then having a ton of choices is even better right? A few weeks ago, I visited 4 different bikes shops to check out there 29er collections. These four shops were within 5 miles of each other, not “as the crow flies” but actual driving miles. In Southern California you are not limited to the one LBS in town. Don’t like one place’s service or bikes? Stroll down the street and see if the next LBS doesn’t do better.

Not only are there a ton of LBS’s but some great big name e-tailers such as & are located in Southern California. Why is that good? Because if you buy something from them and select ground shipping, many times you can get your purchase the next day! No need to pay for expensive overnight shipping if you live here.

Pricepoint is almost down the street in Gardena, CA.

Jensonusa not only has quick shipping to So. California residents it also has two brick & mortar stores. Can’t wait until tomorrow to pick up your order? Roll on over to their store and pick up orders that you make from their online store.

4. Huge mountain biking community. I’m not a fan of riding solo, but that’s usually not a problem with such a large mountain biking community. The strengths of this is not just meeting friends and riding together, it also has fringe benefits. Having a large mountain biking community means demos are always swinging by. Just last week Specialized, Pivot and Rocky Mtn had demos going. This weekend Giant will be doing demos in So. Cal.

Demoing the KHS Flagstaff

Another fringe benefit to having a huge mountain biking community is that there are a lot of bike companies who have offices in Southern California. How is this a plus? Well, you can’t spend 24/7 mountain biking, right? You’re going to have to work sometime to pay the bills and what better place to work, for the mountain biker, than for a bike company? Niner, Intense, KHS, Felt, Shimano, Giant, Turner, etc. all have offices or are headquartered in So. Cal.

OK, enough bragging. Now I want to hear your arguments. Why do you think your location should be considered the best mountain biking locale in the world?