NINER ROS9 Plus – Short term ride impressions: by c_g

Usually we here at twentynineinches try to have a bike for at least 1 month to ride, in order to get a really complete picture of the bike, often even with small changes to components to see if some qualities may not be worth pushing even further. In this review we had to limit ourselves due to the time constraints from Niner Bikes, resulting in a review of just 7 days actual riding time.

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The NINER ROS9+ in some rare winter sun.

Unfortunately very wintery conditions also coincided, so we had everything from muddy trails with a greasy layer of snow to full-on snow-covered trails (and deadly icy ones too) leaving us with hardly the trail conditions we would have wished for. This does not mean that the Niner ROS9 Plus has seen little use. Quite the contrary. It means that the type of use it has seen was somewhat Fat Bike-ish and less classically trail bike-ish as this bike might deserve.

21 NINER ROS9+But now the big question: How does the ROS9 Plus work out there on trail?

Summarized in only two sentences: The Niner ROS9 Plus is a FUN bike with fun in capitol letters. Although, as a rigid bike, it definitely has its limits, we truly feel it deserves to be compared to its all-mountain hard tail brother, the ROS9, which clearly has the advantage of drawing from its 120-140 mm suspension fork.

With the frame in a size Medium and a seat tube length of just 41cm, I had the 400mm seatpost extended all the way to the allowable limit, which of course also brings the weight distribution a little further back. Interestingly this just accentuated the trail/fun character of the Niner ROS9 Plus and did no harm at all. Granted, with a build weight of 13.4 kg/29.5lbs (without pedals), the bike was by no means lightweight but the big 29+ tires don’t really endorse sprinting anyway. Somehow the weight or the acceleration has never been an issue when it came down to simply have fun on the bike, because that is what it is built for. With some 29+ experience to draw from, I was not so flabbergasted by the awesome rolling properties of the 29-plus format, but it always comes as a pleasant thing to see how those 3″ tires absorb minor bumps and take off the edges on larger hits. The Niner ROS9 Plus smooths out typical chatter on trails or dirt roads like they were paved roads. It is very nice riding without those tiring vibrations passing through the bike and into arms and spine.

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Due to the winter conditions I could easily find out how the 29+ works as a ‘Semi-Fatbike’. In many cases, it behaved exactly as you would expect: a bit more happy and relaxed in the winter conditions when compared to a ‘normal’ 29er and yet not quite as efficient and ‘floaty’ as a Fatbike.

When it comes to performance on the trail, the Niner ROS9 Plus provides the same feeling of confidence as its sibling 29er with an extra helping of calmness when trails get steeper or more technical. Because of the rigid front fork, one must pay careful attention to one’s speed over rough grounds … because when the tires damping gets overwhelmed by hits or the rider simply cannot absorb things any more, the ROS9 Plus starts bouncing and behaving much like a rigid fat bike. The very compact rear end (for sure for a 29+) and the very centered seating position gives the bike an exciting playfulness and great manners when riding the bike to its limits.  Not very surprising considering their mildly knobbed tread pattern, the muddy conditions at the beginning of the test showed very early on where the Surly Knard tires’ limits lay, especially when it comes to cornering grip.  This is when the great trail manners of the ROS9 Plus came in very handy.

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Considering the slightly rearward seating position, a result of a combination of a big seat tube angle and a huge seat post extension, I expected seated climbing to suffer noticeably, but to my own surprise, such seated climbs were relaxed and easy going. As long as the trail conditions allowed and the Knard tires would provide enough straight-up traction,  there were almost no limits to what I could climb in the saddle. The ROS9 Plus does not easily give up traction, something that means a lot to single speeders in particular and with the bike coming as a 1x 11 this trait doesn’t hurt either.

25 NINER ROS9+Regarding steering behavior: I found the 3″ tires much more neutral than what I had experienced with Fatbikes on 4.0″ to 4.8″ tires. I did not get any of the typical ‘self steering’ that Fatbike tires often have (by the way, it’s one of the main reasons that, for me, a Fatbike as an all-arounder does not suit me). Of course, with 29+ it is difficult to speak of true agility in handling, because once they spin up to even low speeds, the rotating mass of those large 29+ tires simply generates a lot of stability. Nevertheless, the ROS9 Plus is a nice combo of secure handling and fun handling, something not always easy to bring together. In my opinion, Niner Bikes did a great job on this bike by combining the best of both worlds in a rather new format.

While the Surly Knard fades out quickly in deep and wet soils, otherwise they are pretty solid in all other areas – whether packed snow, ice, or roots. As noted already, we had similar results with the also very tame tread pattern of the WTB Trail Blazers. The Plus formats allow for low rolling resistance and very good traction even with such moderate tires, but not for more extreme terrain where they hit their limits as one would expect. Basically the SURLY Knard performed above my expectations, given the demanding conditions.

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When in the smallest cog there is very little room between tire and chain, but it never gave me any trouble.

A common problem area of the ROS9 Plus is the very small space between the chain and tires while in the top cog of the 11-speed cassette. In use, however, this has not been felt – no problems with a jammed chain or rubbing tires. Ultimately, it remains a potential problem area in the plus sizes, especially when trying to build shorter back ends, but one Niner got juuuust right here too.

The only real limitation of the ROS9 Plus is tied to its rigid character – due to the fact that there simply is not yet any 29+ suspension forks. If you spool up a little too much speed through more extreme terrain, you quickly realize that the big tires can only partially replace a suspension fork. However, at the rear, the ROS9 Plus is superior in every situation to the standard ROS9 which is why I have asked myself over and over again how the ROS9 Plus would be with a 100mm to 120mm fork.

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The NINER ROS9+ doesn’t mind gnarly trails at all … as long as the pace is moderate.

But that’s probably more a question of ‘when’ than ‘if at all’,  because if one reads between the lines, the ROS9 Plus is already designed for forks with 100mm to 120mm … and how such a bike would be (possibly with even more aggressive tires) I can only speculate. I for one am looking forward to THAT future test!

With all the excitement about the fun handling characteristics of the Niner ROS9 Plus, I wouldn’t want to miss out by not asking  one more profound question though: Will 29+ be able to establish itself  long-term in the ranks of legitimate bike formats, or will it quickly slip back into the exotic niche it is currently trying to rise above?  I see many of the positive properties of 29+ as being met nearly as well in B+, and with the additional advantage that the B + format will often retrofit to existing 29er frames, B+ avoids a problem 29+ surely is facing big time – it requires a special frame and fork design. No matter how convincing the performance characteristics of 29+ are, it will not be easy to establish itself as a ‘player’ in the marketplace of wheel/tire sizes, but I sure hope it pulls it off.

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Test Conclusion: In the end the Niner ROS9 Plus is a really fun bike that takes the playful qualities of the ROS9, but redefines  that in an even more good-natured, more relaxed way. It is not necessarily a bike for marathon victories or Enduro racing, but if you do not ride according to a heart rate monitor but rather for the pure fun factor, the Niner ROS9 Plus delivers that in plus sized spades…and all without needing any Fatbike specific standards. Among the few existing 29+ bikes, the ROS9 is positioning itself as a playful, fun trail bike and gets a full two thumbs up for overall fun handling.  Did we say it was fun to ride?

The only real issue here, considering the cost of the ROS9 Plus, is that you are paying quite a bit for a relatively heavy, rigid, steel framed bike.

RIDE ON,
c_g

Note: This product was sent over for test/review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches-DE. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.