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.
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.
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.
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