RLT 9 Rival 1 Complete Bike
The RLT 9 Rival 1 Complete Bike slots into the Niner line as a do-it-all version of the more cyclocross-oriented BSB, with some changes in materials and geometry that give it a lower price point while keeping it perfectly 'cross-able and also recommending it for comfort on long road rides. But the RLT really shines on gravel, and as we've come to love taking the road less travelled—or at least, less paved—over the past few years, the RLT 9 has been our constant companion and guide. Something of a coach for how to grind gravel.
With this in-house build, we're rewarding the frame's willingness to go virtually anywhere with a curated mix of SRAM's one-by Rival components, Easton hoops, and a carbon cockpit that's equal to the hard-knocks of life on limestone. The spec list helps the RLT move between disciplines with an ease that one of our reviewers describes succinctly as "stable and capable" across all terrains. The bike's like a multi-tool in that it does whatever you need it to do. Except that it's only one, all-purpose tool. And it's a bike, not a tool. So, other than that, it's just like a multi-tool.
Okay, that metaphor doesn't hold up very well, but poetic license never really was our strong point. And anyway, the bike's details speak for themselves, with the loudest voice of the chorus being the frameset. Niner uses the same hydroforming process and materials that we've seen in the shaped tubes on their proven Air mountain frames, so you know that you're getting a lightweight, absurdly durable, and efficient construction. Indeed, the bike is tested to the same standards as the Air, even though it is not meant to see the same level of abuse.
The frame's geometry is a compromise between Niner's mountain frames and the aggressive disposition of the BSB frameset. Compared to the latter, the RLT 9 features a longer chain stay, a lower bottom bracket, and a more relaxed head tube angle. This translates into a lower center of gravity that still affords clearance while cornering and on obstacles, a wider wheel base for stability, and tire clearance that lets you mount tires of up to 1.75 inches. We find that it eats up washboard and is nimble enough for mellow singletrack, so, if you're keen on making the RLT a durable single track speedster with zero suspension, then throw on some knobby tires and get to it. This bike's only limit is you.
Niner tops the RLT 9 off with a handful of less apparent but greatly appreciated details. The bottom bracket accommodates 30 millimeter spindles and simplifies single-speed conversion projects thanks to Niner's BioCentric design. An integrated Di2 wiring port means the RLT 9 is future-proof. You can make the jump to electronic shifting when/if you're ready, or just stick to the internally routed SRAM Rival shifting that it features stock. The carbon seat post keeps things slender at 27.2 millimeters of girth, which adds a touch of mechanical suspension to help tidy up the imperfections of riding surfaces from chip seal to gravel to dirt. This complements Niner's carbon off-road fork, which is the latest in the line of what Niner claims are the best rigid trail forks in the world. After testing this claim on both the BSB and RLT 9, we're not prepared to second guess them.
- A gravel bike for taking the road less travelled
- Aluminum frame is light and plenty durable
- Endurance geometry with slack head tube and low bottom bracket
- Thru-axles increase stiffness and confident tracking
- Flat-mount disc brakes with 160-millimeter rotor maximum
- In-house build features SRAM Rival and a carbon bar and stem
- Front and rear mounts let you load up for long bikepacking trips
- Hydraulic disc brakes add stopping power when travelling with full loads