wirider3
Anyone have thoughts on the Niner RLT9? Seems like more of a cyclocross inspired version with some wider tire clearance. The "fresh mint" color is pretty lame.
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Simpleton.
It looks pretty slick but, I think Niner missed the mark on a few thing.

-Internal cable routing is a pain in the A$$ 
-I'm not a fan of their EBB.
-and it's aluminium. I think they should have made it out of 853.

Don't get me wrong, If someone gave me one I would definitely ride it but I wouldn't buy one.
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Pattersnap
I got a firsthand look at the RLT-9 right before Interbike.

1378931188519-183tqk8vw4k7v-800-75.jpg 

I think Niner did some things really well: stellar paint schemes, hidden fender mounts and ample tire clearance. But aside from having slightly longer chainstays, the geometry is in line with North American or "New School" cyclocross geometry: lower bottom brackets and head tube angles that are slacker than their European counterparts.

In fact, the RLT-9 is not even that low or that slack when compared to popular cyclcross bikes that also make excellent gravel race bikes. E.g., the Specialized Crux.

The internal cable routing looks well executed and appears to be very easy to service. As for the PF30 bottom bracket that's a "feature" I could do without as well.

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drwelby
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lower bottom brackets and head tube angles that are slacker than their European counterparts.


I'm not sure this distinction even exists anymore. Looking at the larger sizes I ride, the Euro frames (Ridley, Bianchi, Stevens, etc) all have ~65 mm bottom bracket drops and 72 head angles. The bigger Stevens frames have a 70mm drop, which is lower than the RLT.

The RLT is basically a Cross Check for the MBA crowd, which isn't a bad thing. But it's weird that a bike advertised as a gravel grinder and which we are told is "long, slack, and low" is really barely that, with only the longer chain stays. I can't figure out if Niner just didn't do their homework, or the PM decided to play it safe and marketing decided to interpret things their own way. The press certainly bought it.

It is an aluminum bike, so it's not like they can't make a geometry change without throwing away their investment in molds. So maybe they're testing the waters with this one.

If it was me, I'd run the bottom bracket a whole lot lower, especially if the bike can take bigger tires to lift it back up for light trail duty. I hate speculating on someone else's work, but there may have been a calculation here to keep the bottom bracket at a cross-race-able height, hoping that the bike might rack up some wins and some press. I could also see liability crossing someone's mind - if they made the BB lower than anyone else on the market, and then someone clipped a pedal in a corner and sued, do they want to be the outlier in the market?

I have several other quibbles, but they're counter to what the market wants (or thinks they want) so I can't fault them for showing up on any 2014 bike.
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GRAVELBIKE
It's an interesting move when you consider that, up to this point, it's been all MTBs.

My theory is that they're aiming this bike at the MTB'er who wants to ride longer, etc, but doesn't want a "roadie brand." And if they are targeting cross-over mountain bikers, those folks are used to pedaling through stuff w/o smacking a pedal (hence the RLT's BB height).
GRAVELBIKE.com - ride everything
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Guitar Ted
@Pattersnap: Really? Euro bikes are steeper? (Look at a Focus Mares geo chart and get back to me on that [smile])

The Niner RLT was designed to reflect what employees of Niner were riding to work, made burlier, and able to deal with a fatter tire. Think about that: They made a bigger, badder CX bike. Then the "gravel thing" happened, (assuming the RLT had been in design for a year or more), and voila! Marketing says it is a "gravel bike". No surprise there, they have to actually move these units and return on their investment. However; I must say the use of the term "gravel bike" rubbed me the wrong way. Most consumers won't bat an eyelash.
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Pattersnap
Guitar Ted wrote:
@Pattersnap: Really? Euro bikes are steeper? (Look at a Focus Mares geo chart and get back to me on that [smile])


Yes. In general European cyclocross bikes trend steeper and taller — Ridley, Vitus, Orbea, et al.

There are several brands that have bucked this trend in the past five years and Focus is among them.

Niner certainly had its reasons for positioning the RLT-9 as a gravel bike. But the fact remains that a "bigger, badder CX bike" can be a very capable machine for gravel racing.

Would it be my first choice for gravel racing? I'll have no idea until I test it.
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drwelby
The Ridleys are all 72 head angle, and the Vitus is 72 in a 56 too and gets a little steeper in the 58. Same for the RLT in their larger sizes. It's hard to say exactly how the sizes correspond, though.

But that Orbea - wow, that's a steep and tall bike. It's like they wanted to keep the front center constant between the different sizes or something!! And I haven't seen a sub-60 drop since the days when we ran doubled-up Christophes on Lyotards.

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Guitar Ted
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Originally Posted by Pattersnap
Niner certainly had its reasons for positioning the RLT-9 as a gravel bike. But the fact remains that a "bigger, badder CX bike" can be a very capable machine for gravel racing.


I would never imply that the RLT 9 could not be a good gravel road bike, but it isn't designed to be the best thing for gravel road racing either. Not in my opinion.

Of course, a ride on it would temper all opinions, so I await your impressions on it.
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Pattersnap
drwelby wrote:
And I haven't seen a sub-60 drop since the days when we ran doubled-up Christophes on Lyotards.


The smaller Ridleys still have sub-60mm of BB drop. I guess they didn't get the memo that we don't race with toe clips anymore...

But yes, the RLT-9 does look to have a pretty standard CX front end grafted to a longer (5-10mm) rear end, which might be just fine.
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Pattersnap
Guitar Ted wrote:
Of course, a ride on it would temper all opinions, so I await your impressions on it.


Ditto.

You'll probably get time on it before I do.[wink]

It's a long road back from two severed ligaments. Thanks, Crankworx.
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drwelby
Pattersnap wrote:
 I guess they didn't get the memo that we don't race with toe clips anymore...

But yes, the RLT-9 does look to have a pretty standard CX front end grafted to a longer (5-10mm) rear end, which might be just fine.


I guess they also missed the memo that shorter riders are likely to run shorter cranks and have short legs so they benefit from standover. Oh well, not everything in this world has to make sense. The small frames are often totally jacked up anyway because they're trying to minimize toe overlap at the expense of actually making the bike fit.

For cross racing, if I had to pick one I'd rather have longer stays with a higher BB than the opposite. My current bike is pretty close to the RLT - 72 HA, 65 BB, 440 stays, and it worked fine for 3 seasons of cyclocross and also for Odin's Revenge.

And for the sake of generating more discussion, I don't think gravel bikes benefit from slack front ends anyway.
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Pattersnap
I'm the exact opposite.

I like my 'cross bikes (and gravel bikes) to handle like my mountain bikes: low and relatively slack, with shorter chainstays. (I prefer to get stability from a longer front center.)

For me, 70-72mm of BB drop, 70.5-71.5° HA and 425mm chainstays work quite well.

I guess it just goes to show how much variance there can be when it comes to the notion of the ideal bike for a given application.
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drwelby
Yeah, it should be fun to see what direction these bikes go - will they go MTB or rando?

The frame I'm working on now has an 82mm BB drop, stays will be ~450 (singlespeed, so depends on gear), and a 72 HA.
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bikeguru1
They were formally called "Monster Cross" bikes, now they're "Gravel Grinders" and look it's even spawned a Forum for all of us to chime in on. It's great isn't it! Discussions of BB drop and geo angles - it will be interesting to see how it all develops down the (dirt) road. Everyone knows, the best road rides are dirt road rides. Run what you brung!
Sun Summit South @ crankandcarve.com
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bikeguru1
Oh yeah, mine's on order. Replacing my Bianchi Carbon Cross Concept with, you guessed it, "Fresh Mint". Love me some celeste. 1/2 degree slacker head tube and 10mm longer chainstay (5mm longer "horizontal") and the same BB drop= comfy, plenty stable and predictable. The Bianchi, carbon and previous Scandium version, were not overly popular as full race rigs, although they really shown on the Idaho backroads! Never raced cross. Downside? No discs, so I thought that I would give my Niner RIP a stablemate. I'll get back to you on the ride come February.
Sun Summit South @ crankandcarve.com
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omspun
I really appreciate the insight about toe clips.  I never thought that would be a reason to design a cross bike with a tall bottom bracket.  But if that's not true, I can accept that in pedaling through chicanes, it's good to have the pedals safely clear the ground. 

Riding styles and course styles change, and it's just as important a rider knows how they personally ride as much as the bike they ride.  I like the thought of "Run what you brung".  That's truly the spirit of this whole gravel riding thing.  In a way, the rides are fun BECAUSE you're sorta riding the wrong bike!  To get through single track on a road bike.  To smoke some mountain bikers down a hill on your cross bike.  To kick some roadies asses up a climb on your montercross bike.  The spirit is doing something slightly insane on whatever the heck bike your on. 

One more thing, head angles aren't so meaningful in themselves, especially without knowing the fork offset to which it is paired.  I can't wait to ride it and put all the theorizing to rest.  Sorta.
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frontrangegravel
Outside Mag's Aaron Gulley highlights the RLT here:

http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-gear/gear-shed/cycle-life/Great-Looks-Greater-Performance.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=tweet

"It’s exciting to ride a bike this efficient on trails because you can hammer speed in ways a mountain bike makes impossible. The chunky carbon fork muted the blows and the Sammy Slicks held slippery corners better than larger tires. The long top tube added the necessary confidence for sharp descents, and the disc brakes made us wonder how we survived when only the rim variety existed. The sole change we’d suggest would be to switch from aluminum bars to carbon ones for additional damping comfort, though that would spike the bike’s cost.

Say what you will about “gravel bikes,” but if the trend continues to inspire companies to build bikes this good, we’re all for it."

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Jfkbike2
I've owned a RLT for about a year now and really like mine. I am running Ultegra Di2 and their hydraulic disc brakes, King hubs and Stan's Iron Cross rims with MSO tires. I am really surprised how well it rides, smoother than any other aluminum frame I have used, and better than my Rivendell All Rounder or my past Bruce Gordon rock and road. Seems plenty stable to me and very neutral handling. I mainly use it on dirt fire roads with some gravel here and there and a bit of loose sand as well. I am running their largest size. Thinking about adding a Body Float seatpost just to try one out as well.
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