Niner RLT Maiden Voyage

When it comes down to it, I love riding bikes.  I enjoy riding my mountain bike, I love riding my road bike, and I like exploring new routes.  The Salsa Fargo allowed me to mix all sorts of terrain for some truly epic routes.  However, it’s not exactly a “fast” bike and extended pavement sections could be a slog on the thing.  My road bike a Look 555, is great for long road rides and hilly adventures.  It’s light, nimble and probably my favorite bike (don’t tell the others).  Taking my cyclocross bike out on mixed terrain rides was a choice, but the Kona Jake The Snake I have is setup more for racing cross with a single ring.  So when I saw the news last Fall about the Niner Bikes RLT, I was pretty much smitten.

I placed an order with my good friend Eric of Chainline Cycles in like October 2013 and was told they would be available by April 2014……so it was time to WAIT.

Well finally the bike arrived and Eric built it up.  Eric is one of the best mechanics I know and his attention to detail is superb.  If you need a bike fixed, go to him.  He has that magic touch.

Niner RLT 47cm

Being a short guy, I went with the 47cm. The top tube is a 51cm like my Look 555 and I am running a 90mm stem.  Bike is basically Shimano 105 with low end Sram cranks 36×46 rings, a 12-30 10 speed cassette and Avid BB5 brakes.  Not a bad bike.  I’ll most certainly be upgrading it as parts wear out.  With the annoucement of 105 going 11 speed next year and having hydraulic brakes, I think that is the route I will eventually take.

The only thing I changed so far is the seatpost and seat.  I’m short, but I have long legs for my size.  I need a seatpost with 25mm setback and I tossed on my trusty and beat to heck San Marco ERA saddle.  I only stopped once during the ride to raise the seatpost a smidge.  I may eventually swap out the bars for some Ritchey Logic II bars (my preferred road drop bars).  Otherwise the thing fits really nice.

sitting on the line over dirt road and pavement

So the above picture is a tad crappy.  It was rainy and a touch humid, so the lens had some fog on it from sitting in my jersey pocket.  Anyways……here it is with the setback post and my saddle of choice.  I road up Dorland Road to Skyline and then down Dixie Mountain Road which is a 4-5 mile dirt road descent .  This is where this bike was made to go.  The “Road Less Traveled”.  It sits lower than my Kona and has a slightly longer wheel base.  It is closer to my road bike for handling with stopping power similar to my mountain bike.  While BB5 bakes will stop you better than cantilevers, they squeal when wet (so far) and have okay modulation.  A nice set of hydraulics down the road will cure that.

The wheelset is a bit portly, but the hubs spin smooth and the rim offers a nice wide footprint for the tire.  They have an internal width of 17.5mm. Schwalbe Sammy Slick tires offer enough speed on pavement and sufficient grip and width on the dirt.  I’ve never ridden these tires before, but initial impressions are positive.

The 105 shifters work well.  Nice and crisp, quiet and typical Shimano quality.  Yeah, Ultegra or Dura Ace would be sweet, but for the beating this bike is going to take, it is better off to start with the 105 stuff.

The chainrings pick up and drop down really well on the cranks.  No complaints at all.

Paul has a Niner mountain bike and now his own RLT too.  I myself now know the humor of looking down and reading the below during rides.

a command, not a request!

So, one ride down, and many more to go.  I’ll post some updates after a couple hundred miles to review the longer term impressions.

Thanks for reading


4 Comments Add yours

  1. 51jjm says:

    hey there. thanks for the review on this bike. i am looking to get back on a bike after a very long time. what’s your opinion about setting this bike up strictly as a road bike? i am looking for a safe, yet fun road bike and this interests me. i am thinking of just getting the frame and building the bike up; 700cc wheels and tires for example. i like that i can go a little wider ‘real’ road bikes wheels/tires yet still put true road wheels/tires on. is the geometry too lax for the road? i will be doing a lot of hills on very well-paved roads. any thoughts/advice would be great. again, looking to get back in the saddle. just want to be able to ride safe! thnx! john

    1. onrhodes says:

      It’s a good bike, and would make a good road bike….IF….you want disc brakes. My road bike is a Look 555 and the RLT is a bit longer and more stable. The Look is a nice fast bike. If disc brakes don’t bother you, I think it is a great bike for long rides. It will more sweep turns than carve them. I personally think it is quite comfortable for an aluminum frame. If you wanted steel, and a bit lower price, the Soma double cross disc might be something that I would recommend too. My former Soma double cross (canti brakes) was unlike most cross bike. A bit longer and a bit smoother compared to my current Kona JTS.
      Anyways. I would recommend test riding one if you can. Just saw that Cannondale CAAD10 are going to be disc options for 2015, and my wife’s CAAD10 is pretty awesome. More racy than the RLT though.

      1. 51jjm says:

        thnx so much for true response. i appreciate it. one of the main reasons i like the bike is the disc brakes. just a little concerned about the aluminum and geometry. still, i think i will go for this frame. thanks again. john

  2. 51jjm says:

    not sure it got thru? sorry if i triple posted!

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