MCR RDO 4-Star GRX 1x Gravel Bike
The MCR RDO exists in the sweet spot between genres, urging us to look at the rough two-track beyond our usual turn-off and see where it goes. The MCR is not the bike we choose for traditional gravel races on graded dirt; we leave that to the RLT RDO. Nor is the MCR the bike for topping the podium on short track cross country races, for that is where the Air and RKT 9 excel. This is the bike for exploring, for going further, all while maximizing pedaling efficiency and ride comfort.
Niner was founded with one overarching goal: to make riding on dirt more fun. 14 years after their first 29er, Niner is pushing the envelope further with the world’s first full-suspension gravel bike, the MCR. When the MCR was unveiled at Sea Otter, reactions ranged from admiration to confusion at this new and unusual-looking gravel bike. But like so many innovations we now think of as standards, the MCR shirks our first impressions with how well it rides over any variety of trail and dirt we find.
50mm rear and 40mm front travel is less than half of what we’d see on the raciest xc mountain bike, yet allows us to ride over and through terrain that would otherwise leave hands and back aching. The suspension is tuned specifically for the smaller, more frequent bumps we encounter on chunky gravel roads, rather than the larger hits on singletrack. The MCR features the same constant-varying arc linkage as Niner’s full suspension mountain bikes, for a predictable and smooth travel path. Like on a mountain bike, the suspension travel of the frame allows the wheel to stay in better contact with the ground, rather than bouncing across the surface. A planted rear wheel gives us more purchase when climbing on squirrely gravel and allows for a smoother pedal stroke since we aren’t forced to coast over the rougher bits.
The 40mm of travel from the FOX 32 AX fork balances absorbing bumps on rougher descents with efficiency for the smoother sections. We’re better able to ride for full days with the confidence-inspiring handling and increased comfort of a suspension front end. Of course, a suspension bike needs a dropper, and the KS Lev is the perfect pair for the MCR with enough travel to get our weight behind the saddle to better maneuver on the descents.
Capable suspension means little without capable geometry, and the MCR delivers nimbleness and comfort in spades. A 71-degree headtube keeps weight further forward for more efficient climbing, while a stable wheelbase helps us carry momentum on the flats. Designed for the long haul, the MCR’s geometry is less aggressive than a true gravel race machine, so we can pedal for days on end and carry the gear to keep us rolling. Niner’s RDO carbon construction optimizes carbon’s natural dampening properties to decrease the road vibrations translated to the rider, which helps lessen fatigue and further increases comfort. Front and rear thru-axles and a PF30 bottom bracket keep the frame stiff and strong.
Equipped with a whopping 11 braze-on mounting points, the MCR may have room for the kitchen sink too, but we wouldn’t recommend carrying such a porcelain liability on the roads you’re taking. The center triangle is the largest we’ve seen on a full-suspension bike, which not only allows for two bottle cage mounts but also a generously-sized framebag for multi-day missions. For those desert rides, there’s plenty of ways to haul water and keep weight balanced, never sacrificing handling for carrying capacity.
Every component of Niner’s 4-star build focuses on taking you further, and it only makes sense to pair the world’s first dedicated gravel drivetrain with the first full-suspension gravel bike. Shimano’s GRX 1x groupset provides precise and reliable shifts over any terrain. The rear derailleur is the piece de resistance of the group, and took cues from the Shadow mountain bike derailleur, adding in a clutch mechanism to reduce chain slap and dropped chains for a quieter and more secure ride both on and off-road. GRX levers are shaped for optimal hand position and comfort, both from the hoods and drops, so you can keep a secure grip when the “road” your friend recommended turns into more of an array of boulders. The flat-mount GRX disc brakes control the speed through any weather with hydraulic actuation.
Rounding out the build, the 40mm Schwalbe G-One tires mounted to Stan’s Grail S1 wheels smooth out the ride, and the frame has clearance for 50mm tires, should you need something more robust down the line. Easton’s EA50 AX handlebar has a 16-degree flare in the drops, giving us a more stable center of gravity for leaning into that bit of singletrack in the middle of a route.
- World’s first full-suspension gravel bike
- 50mm of rear CVA suspension allows you to pedal through washboard and rough gravel
- 11 mounting points for bags and bottles prepare you for multi-day missions
- Integrated rear fender protects components when the road gets gritty
- Front and rear thru-axles increase stiffness for greater efficiency and handling
- Rear shock locks out with handlebar remote
- Shimano GRX drivetrain keeps shifting precise and predictable over mixed terrain
- KS Lev dropper post for getting down steeper descents