The real deal.
Carbon frames have their place in aggressive race venues and the quest for marginal gains, but when we're out in the wilderness in search of serene scenery and gravel-filled adventure, no frame material fits the bill quite like the springy responsiveness and durability of steel. And perhaps no bike embodies the Road Less Traveled ethos more thoroughly than Niner's RLT 9 Steel 4-Star Ultegra Complete Bike, which has Reynolds 853 steel tubing, a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, and just the right balance of carbon accessories to soften the bumps without overshadowing that prized steel ride. It lives to escape the concrete jungle for the dirt-strewn wilds of coastal mountain ranges, never ending seas of prairie, and country B-roads that may never see the attention of a grader.
The frame's geometry is a compromise between Niner's mountain frames and the aggressive disposition of the 'cross-specific BSB frameset. Compared to the latter, the RLT 9 features longer chainstays, a lower bottom bracket, and a more relaxed head tube angle. This translates into a lower center of gravity that still affords clearance over obstacles and while cornering, a wider wheelbase for stability, and tire clearance that lets you plush-out to the tune of 1.75in (just over 44mm). In our own test rides of the geometry, we found that it eats up washboard and is nimble enough for mellow singletrack, so, if you're keen on making the RLT a durable singletrack speedster with zero suspension, then throw on some knobby tires and get to it. This bike's only limit is you.
Despite Niner's love of steel, the RLT 9 Steel does make a reasonable concession to carbon by including snappy CX Carbon wheels, carbon cockpit components, and a Carbon RDO fork to further soak up and smooth out road vibrations. The fork is no delicate road race specimen, though—as evidenced by its 15mm thru-axle anchor—and the inclusion of rack mounts means it also doesn't shy away from carrying its own weight. Niner claims its rigid trail forks are the best in the world; after testing this claim across varied terrain on both the RLT 9 and its stablemate, the BSB, we're not prepared to second guess that claim.
- The ultimate adventure machine for gravel and touring
- Endurance geometry is purpose built for long miles
- Reynolds 853 balances weight, responsiveness, and durability
- Stiff, responsive, carbon fiber wheels roll fast and smooth
- Hydraulic disc brakes deliver powerful stopping and modulation
- Three bottle cage mounts carry extra hydration
- Carbon fiber cockpit components absorb road vibrations
- Niner goes gravel and Shimano's venerable Ultegra drivetrain goes disc
More RLT 9 builds
View more Pre-Configured Cyclocross Bikes
Santa Cruz Bicycles Stigmata Carbon CC Force CX1 Complete Cyclocross Bike - 2017
RLT 9 size by rider height
Effective Top Tube
Head Tube Angle
Seat Tube Angle
Bottom Bracket Drop
Reviews & Community
Once you go steel, you won't go back
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Truth be told, CC helped me build this bike up from the frame. So, this review is more on the niner frame than the build shown, but wanted to give Niner some respect. I race a Felt Carbon Road and Santa Cruz Carbon Highball. Since moving back to Wyoming, I needed something to lay down the gravel miles and race. A friend who builds recommended steel. Steel? So I settled for the Niner RLT Steel.
People describe steel has having a 'buttery' smooth ride. Maybe it's a combo of the 40cc tires, but it's so comfortable on road and gravel bumps that it begs to be ridden more. Smiles while punishing yourself? Yes. But, don't equate 'buttery' with 'floppy'. Steel is steel, and it's freakin' stiff. Your power goes direct to the tires. I can't wait for next summer's gravel race season. Race bike? Niner makes a carbon equivalent, but honestly I'll take the strength and comfort of steel and commit to training a bit harder. Those training miles are so pleasant. I'm finding myself doing road training miles on this bike more and more. It's a bit slower with 40cc tires, but heck, who cares when you're having fun.
I haven't weighed the bike yet, but with carbon seat post, cranks, Force cx1, Mercury wheels, I'd wager I'm right around 20-21lbs.
The frame (also on carbon) has dropouts for bike touring... which is nice, because the continental divide is on the bucket list. Reports say some of the rubber plugs fall out and are difficult to find replacements, but this is in no way structural, and mine are all still there.
The geometry is fantastic. 3 hours is comfortable. If you're hauling down some loose gravel you have to watch that rear tire. I don't race cx yet, but the wheelbase is reported to be a bit longer. I don't see why it wouldn't work.
Zane helped me get this set up. Everything my wife and I own is SRAM, so we did a CC custom build. The process was smooth, and the price was within budget. Would definitely go with a competitive cyclist build again. We included a Syntace carbon seatpost, zipp cockpit, Mercury wheels, Force cx1 groupo, mavic tires (orange seal is my go to sealant), and a Stages power meter.
After 2.5 months of summer/fall abuse, I highly recommend this frame. The build above looks awesome, and there is also a SRAM Apex build available as well. I'm a 1x guy, hence the custom build. Either way, custom or pre-built, give this bike some serious consideration!
Are these rims tubeless compatible?
Hey Michael - The Niner CX Carbon Rims have Stan’s BST rim profile for an easy tubeless set-up. I can have our Bike Shop set the rims up tubeless before shipping. Feel free to contact me directly and I will get you set-up with your next bike. - Kyle L. - Expert Gearhead - firstname.lastname@example.org - 801-736-4337