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Niner RLT 9 3-Star Rival 22 Hydro Complete Bike - 2015

Frame Material: aluminum
Fork: Niner RLT
Fork Material: carbon
Shifters: SRAM HRD Rival 11-spd
Front Derailleur: SRAM Rival
Rear Derailleur: SRAM Rival
Crankset: 46 / 36 t SRAM Rival
Bottom Bracket: SRAM PF30
Cassette: 11 - 32 t SRAM PG-1130 11-Sp
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The RLT in Niner's RLT 9 3-Star Rival 22 Hydro Complete Bike is an initialism for Road Less Traveled. When applied to a cycling product, this implies a reimagining of what constitutes a road and, subsequently, where it's appropriate to ride a bike designated for road use. As such, the RLT 9 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 comfortable on long road and gravel adventures. The RLT moves between disciplines with an ease that one of our reviewers describes succinctly as "stable and capable" across all terrains. It's like a multi-tool in that it does whatever you need it to do. Except that it's only one, all-purpose tool.

Okay, that metaphor doesn't hold up very well, but poetic license never really was our strong point. And anyway, the bike's component parts 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 Air9 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 Air9, 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 chainstay, 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 singletrack 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 singlespeed 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 seatpost boasts a healthy 27.2 millimeters of girth, which eats up the imperfections of riding surfaces from gravel to dirt to chip seal. 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.

The RLT 9 3-star Rival Hydro is spec'd with SRAM's durable workhorse, the Rival 11-speed group and Rival hydraulic brakes (we love the symmetry of a matching drivetrain), which is yet another indication that it's built to withstand long commuting or touring miles on all surfaces and provide a punchy platform for all of your cyclocross moonlighting needs. The HRD brake system increases braking confidence and stability on fast descents, and we happen to think that the new lever designs are pretty snazzy, too. The RLT 9 also incorporates fender mounts and a Cane Creek IS42/IS52 headset. Proprietary Niner offerings for the saddle, wheelset, bars, and stem fill out the rest of the kit.

The Niner RLT 9 3-Star Rival 22 Hydro Complete Bike is available in six sizes (47, 50, 53, 56, 59, and 62cm)and three colors: Black/Niner red, Fresh Mint, and Industry Grey. Pedals aren't included.

Average rating: 5.0
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