Niner Carbon RLT 9 RDO Gravel Bike: Review
Niner bikes are known to us riders as a brand that offers off-road cycles such as gravel bikes. One of the brand’s new bikes hitting the roads…eh…trails…and mud, is the new Niner RLT 9 RDO. The RDO is the full carbon version of their RLT (road less traveled) gravel bike.
Niner Carbon RLT 9 RDO
- Stop easily with it’s WHOPPING 140mm rotors and 2 pot calipers
- It’s insanely efficient
- Smooth, well geared and much more comfortable
- It looks pretty awesome
Type/Model: 2017 RLT 9 RDO
The RLT 9 RDO is a carbon fiber, gravel endurance speed machine. Not only does it look gorgeous in design, but it is clear that the frame is quality. Built with carbon compaction process with functionality geared towards stability without sacrificing power transfer, the new 2017 RDO is a beautiful gravel racer that we can’t wait to get muddy.
Technical Specifications and Features:
- Frame: Full Carbon Fiber
- Super Thin Profile Seat Stays and Top Tube Offer Comfort
- Brakes: Flat Mount Disc
- Mounts: Rack, Fender, and Mid Mounts (Rear end accepts fenders and racks for adventures)
- Tire Clearance: Up to 40mm (ships with 35mm tires)
- Stealth Axles: 12x142mm rear / 15x100mm front
- NMF Internal Cable/Housing Guides — with easy access at BB Shell
- BB (Bottom Bracket) Shell: PF30
- 1x and 2x Compatibility / Di2 Compatibility
- Massive Down Tube and Chainstays to Keep Power Transfer in Check
- Bottle and Rack Mounts throughout — including on carbon fork
Niner’s 2017 Carbon RDO model has finally been made after it’s alloy and steel siblings were made years previously — but with the popularity of carbon fiber and the huge riding benefits of this type of frame, Niner knew it was only a matter of time before they perfected their Carbon RLT 9 RDO.
With a frame of full carbon fiber, Niner’s RDO Carbon Compaction frame technology offers both dependability, strength, and comfort. The geometry of the frame and bike components was designed for competition riding in all conditions as well as multi-day adventures on gravel, the trail, and anything in between.
While the geometry is not too different than the steel and alloy RLT, the stack and the reach are slightly taller and shorter on the 56cm RTL 9 RDO carbon — and they all share a 71.5 degree head angle. The largest difference seen in this carbon fiber model is the rear end. The RDO is an entire centimeter shorter, which means it shortens the entire wheel base. Because of this, Niner has done what other gravel and cyclocross bikes have done for greater stability and control — dropped the bottom bracket a full centimeter to 65mm.As far as the axles go, the 12x142mm rear and 15/100mm front spacing resists twisting of the frame/fork and maintains a precise disc brake adjustment. The RDO runs dual through-axles.and uses a new RDO 27.2mm setback seatpost.
So, what’s the goal here? For Niner, it has been a combination of dropping significant weight using carbon fiber for the frame, as well as shortening the bike for improved reactivity while still allowing stability with a low BB.
The frame of the new RDO weighs just under 1,100 grams.
The RDO uses NMF internal cable and housing guides. You can easily access the cables at the BB shell. Compatible with both electronic and mechanical systems, you can simply thread the cable in the correct hole and it pops out at the desired location — you don’t have to fish around — Niner definitely took care of that problem.
This new internal guide tube system is a huge plus for those who don’t typically like internal cable routing because it is difficult to maintain — it won’t be a problem with the RDO.
Front and Rear
Up in front of of the bike, the headtube is similar in shape wo the AIR 9 RDO, which means that torsionally it is stiff enough to take on rough terrain. Another first is of course the full length internal guide tubes for the cable housing.
With routing for both the front and rear derailleurs and rear brake hose, the RDO’s front brake hose runs outside the fork leg.
With flat mount brakes designed around a 140mm rear rotor, this bike’s rotor mount is slightly recessed for a nice, clean look. The Maxle front and rear thru axles also tidy up the sides.
The PFBB30 bottom bracket shell is EBB compatible which allows you to set it up as a single speed with the Biocentric 30 if you wish.
This bike was built for comfort, stability, and speed. It is also fully capable of light touring and multi-day rides. You can pack some stuff on through the dedicated rack mounts on the inside of the seatstays since there is no bridge. It also comes with a rear fender adapter for the mount just behind the bottom bracket shell.
The geometry is definitely targeted towards performance and endurance gravel riders overall.
Whether you are a hardcore gravel rider or a roadie who wants to race gravel, the RDO’s carbon frame, lightweight design, internal routing, more than capable components, and huge tire options are up for the task.
It is also a great bike for mountain riders that want a comfortable, all-day/multi-day ride
At the front and the rear, the RDO offers 40mm of tire clearance. The bike ships with 35mm tires but this option is perfect for gravel rides. It also has the same fork as on the metal bikes.
The ENVE AR rims push the tires out fairly wide — and even then there is adequate clearance. Even though they offer 40mm of clearance, if your rims are a bit narrower, you could probably fit some 42mm tires on this RDO (at your own risk!). It will also take 650B x 40mm wheels and tires, but again, comes stock with 700c (35mm) wheels.
One of the best parts about this incredible gravel bike is that it is unisex — but actually, functionally unisex. Women have tested this bike and have loved the comfort it offers for all-day riding. The ride is already comfortable for men and women riders and there is no need to shift around to get comfortable or move around on the handlebars. This in itself is a feat that this fast and solid bike by Niner has accomplished.
Sizes and Colors
Along with the sizes, builds, and prices seen below, the color options are simple but still awesome: Carbon Blaze (with day-glow yellow) and Carbon Silver (with red accents).
Sizes available: 42cm, 50cm, 53cm, 56cm, 59cm, and 62cm.
Niner offers four different builds of the RLT 9 RDO — starting with what they call the “Five Star” build. This is a full Ultegra Di2 with ENVE SES AR Disc carbon clinchers, Easton’s EC70 AX bars, Niner saddle, Niner RDO stem, and Schwalbe G-One tires. Only 50 “Five Star” builds will be produced and each will cost $8,800. The 59cm Five Star with no pedals or cages – weighs in around 8.4kg/18.5lbs.
The “Four Star” build uses Ultegra mechanical and costs $5,000, the “Three Star” is SRAM Rival Hydro and costs $3,800, and the “Two Star is Apex 1×11 and will only set you back $3,000.
From the first time I rode it, the RLT 9 RDO was different than any other bike I’d been on before; no matter if the surface was smooth or uneven. The term “Race Day Optimized” led me to believe that it would be more of a difficult ride because aggressive geometry is generally associated with fatigue-inducing qualities. Surprisingly, that wasn’t true for this bike at all.
Because the bike compelled me to continue, most of my RLT 9 RDO trips were over 25 miles long. The low pebble tread on the wide Schwalbe G-One tires made me feel like I wasn’t restricted by road surface; they rolled easily on road, felt stable on fast paved descents, and gave plenty of grip on gravel.
Though I kept my speed in the low 20mph range on the road, I was able to spin out and continue my journey when I slowed to a crawl on gravel. When the roads evened out, I pulled ahead of my friends on climbs because of all the energy I had saved.
When I think of going on an adventure, I think of getting lost, so when I did get lost, I was certain the bike would be able to withstand whatever came next. If I wanted to continue for a long time, I knew that I would be comfortable. And if I wanted to go fast, there was also that option.