RLT 9 3-Star Rival 650b Gravel Bike
Gravel and adventure cycling has become almost the new norm around the office here at Competitive. Instead of sticking to a single surface, most of us covet the ability to soar from sleek tarmac to ribbons of singletrack, and up gravel roads that lead to stunning vistas. To up the comfort off the beaten path, Niner has spent some time perfecting its RLT, and this generation packs in a killer build, plus lofty 650b wheels to offer a bit of pneumatic suspension that soaks up chatter and bumps on long miles that are far from smooth. The RLT 9 3-Star Rival 650b Gravel Bike takes queues from Niner's mountain and 'cross bikes to offer all-road capability that's confident, powerful, and capable of diving down long and dusty roads simply to see what's on the other side. And that's quite fitting for the RLT, as its name is short for Road Less Traveled.
The hydroformed aluminum tubing does a tremendous job of bringing high-performance to a price point that makes saddling up on this build completely attainable. Niner's construction process allows it to be drawn thinner with walls that don't compromise stiffness or impact resistance in key areas. Proprietary forged dropouts are designed to reduce weight and integrate the low-profile flat mount with the chainstay. One ride on the alloy RLT and the old myth that aluminum rides harshly will soon be dismayed. Niner's experience in building alloy mountain frames shines through on this design, and a surprising amount of responsiveness, quick handling, and bulletproof durability quickly come to surface shortly after clipping in. The decision to spec a 27.2mm seatpost helps reduce vibration on rough roads causing fatigue that builds up over the hours.
This frame blends Niner's mountain geometry with the barrier hopping 'cross-specific BSB frameset. Compared to the BSB, the RLT 9 is built with longer chainstays, a lower bottom bracket, and a slacker head tube angle. What you will notice is a lower center of gravity that still has plenty of pedal clearance while cornering and a slightly stretched wheelbase for stability. Tire clearance is plentiful letting you clear 44mm meat with ease. The bike is composed on washboard descents and a hoot on singletrack. Build up this bike with parts you have squirreled away or start with a fresh build, either way, the frameset is highly adaptable for whatever your needs.
Niner constructs RLT frames in 3 different materials, but they all feature carbon forks. This fork matches the demeanor of the frame and is no lightweight road model. The 15mm thru-axle securely anchors the front hub over the roughest roads and the stiffness prevents any rotor rub. Rack mounts are able to carry their fair share of the load and get the weight of bikepacking gear on the bike and off your back. The fork shares the same DNA and safety testing standards with its legendary MTB version so we are certain of its durability.
- Soak up chatter with Niner's lofty adventure rig
- Aluminum frame is light and plenty durable
- Tubes shapes chosen for compliance and stiffness
- Endurance geometry with slack head tube and low bottom bracket
- Niner carbon fork with thru-axle for precise tracking
- Flat-mount disc brakes with 160-millimeter rotor maximum
- Works with both mechanical and electronic drivetrains
- Internal routing keeps cables nice and tidy