I have never ridden a 29er bike before. There, I’ve said it. Hahahha.. Why you ask? For what? Waste money only.. hahaha.. Until one day when I was out riding with a whole group of buddies who has sinced embraced the larger wheel format. We were finishing an epic (about 40km) ride one night and we were on the stretch to go for makan when I realised that they were slowly, but surely, pulling away from me and my 26″ hardtail. Was I getting slower? Why is my bike not keeping up?? What is this?? Apa ini?!?!
I know, I know.. bigger wheels roll further. And the fact that they roll EFFORTLESSLY further makes me sick. Haiyaaa.. Time to spend money again… Eh, hang on. I heard the guys at BYX has a demo bike that they were loaning out to anyone who’s interested to try and I called them up to book a slot. I had the Plentong Epic Ride coming up and I figured it would be the best way to truly test out if a 29er was for me. The Plentong Epic Ride was a 55km ride through the palm plantation and rolling hills of Plentong in Johor and it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
About the bike
When I first saw the bike, I was smitten with the swooping top tube and the elegant overall look of the frame. I mean, it’s definitely very distinctive and you’ll instantly recognise it from far away. The model is based on the company’s existing Jet 9, but it features an all-carbon frame and receives a 20mm boost in rear travel, to 100mm. According to Niner’s info, and despite the increased travel, the frame is lighter and stiffer than the previous version. I picked it up and based on my HBWS (Hand + Brain Weighing Scale), it did felt relatively light but it had parts that was weighing it down. I figured that since this was a demo bike, it was built for long term abuse than a weight-conscious racer. It had a direct mount front derailleur, a zero stack headset and enough clearance to run a triple-ring crankset.
The bike was kitted out in the 10spd Shimano XT groupset and had a Fox Talas 120mm Kashima fork and a Fox RP23 Kashima rear shock. The finishing kit were all standard Niner parts (seatpost, stem, bars and grips) and a squishy WTB Volt saddle for general purpose comfort. It was a Medium sized frame and RDO has roomy and longer effective top tube than any other medium frames I’ve ridden. I think this is good, because the generous cockpit makes it easy to control the bike on the trail and adds stability while climbing or descending.
I had picked up the bike days before the Plentong Epic and I had some time to get accustomed to the handling and feel. I took the bike out to Bee Tee and a secret little trail to see if I’ll crash and break the carbon bike into smithereens. How did it feel? I couldn’t tell any difference from riding a 26″, EXCEPT that it was easier to pedal and I’m going ALOT faster. Wow.
Remember the constant rambling about how a 29er is harder to control when you’re doing a slow corner? Where got??? Don’t have ley… I couldn’t find a cornering or handling issues while going through a really muddy section in Butterfly and for a while, I forgot that I was riding a Niner. For the first time in a looooonnnng time, I managed to clear Butterfly effortlessly, including all of the climbs and especially through the descents. Ho sey liao.. are 29ers really that good? Well, maybe I had a “NewBike Syndrome” and was pumped to ride a carbon bike, but I wasn’t convinced yet. Time to take this baby out to Plentong and really ride a trail. I have ridden the Plentong Epic before and I know how punishing it can be for both bike and rider. I was mentally prepared for the brutal
climbs push and the hot sun and I had packed enough water, gear and some food to last me the whole way.
Rider Disclaimer: I’m middle-aged,
fat kinda heavy, a weekend warrior, and in no way a racer. So how did the bike do? I was grinning all the way 😀
Plentong has alot of gradual climbs throughout the route and I found myself happily spinning away in mid pack. I remembered some of the climbs from the previous epics and how I had
cried struggled to keep the balance of moving and controlling my muscles to prevent super painful cramps. As I spun along, keeping my cadence in check, I started to notice how stiff the frame actually was. And the rear end felt very supple, tracked wonderfully and remaining quite stable when climbing. I felt that I didn’t have to really push myself for most of the climbs. I just get into proper gear and just spin.
Descending on the RDO was a blast as well. I race downhill for kicks whenever there’s a DH event in Malaysia and I love going fast. Carrying speed with the RDO through Plentongs twisty singletrack was a joy. The suspension worked very well, soaking up the bumps and ruts and I felt balanced and confident enough to go fast on a fairly steep descent. Handling was rather twichy with the narrow bars but maybe that’s because I’m so used to riding with at least 740mm of bar width. Other than that, it felt great 😀 and fast!
Throughout the ride, the bike behaved quietly under me, working in tandem with my sore legs and keeping traction when my arms were like jelly. There wasn’t any drama and my mind was constantly on the trail rather than on the bike, and it gave me the wonderful experience of riding one of Malaysia’s most epic jamborees. I was glad that I rode the Niner for the Epic. I totally enjoyed the easy rolling and the stiff but compliant carbon frame and I am now a believer. If you’ve never ridden a 29″ bike before, you should try one. 29″ bikes are effortless to ride and are definitely here for a reason. And that reason is simple;
You get to ride more.