FORT COLLINS, Colo.
Many BikeRadar readers may be familiar with Push Industries as one of the leading mountain bike suspension tuning outfits. Today, the Loveland, Colorado-based company is broadening its offerings with the launch of its first production shock, the Elevensix. This American-made coil shock comes with a hefty US$1,200 price tag, but seeks to back it up through the use of high-end materials, precision manufacturing, and class-leading customer service.
Darren Murphy, the founder and owner of Push Industries, wants to make it very clear that the Elevensix isnâ€™t a production shock in the traditional sense; itâ€™s a bespoke unit manufactured by Push.
Customers will follow a process similar to the one Push uses to tune its customersâ€™ Fox and RockShox forks and shocks. The process starts by having a discussion with a Push suspension tuner and letting them know your make, model, rider weight, riding style, the type of terrain you frequently ride and how you generally want your suspension to perform. Using this data, Push will then build an Elevensix specifically for you. Following that, your shock will arrive with contact information for the tuner who built it, should you have any setup questions.
â€œWe know this isnâ€™t going be to a shock for everyone,â€ said Murphy.
To that end, Push doesnâ€™t plan to attempt to design the Elevensix to fit every make and model out there, but rather, to target popular models in the 140-160mm category.
Push currently offers the Elevensix shock for the Santa Cruz Nomad and Bronson, the Yeti SB66 and SB6, the Niner WFO 9, the Pivot Mach 6, and the Ibis Mojo HD. Other bikes are currently in the pipeline, including the Banshee Rune and Specialized Enduro 29.
You can read more at BikeRadar.com
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (BRAIN) — Niner Bikes is now sponsoring racer Rebecca Rusch, known for her wins at endurance mountain bike events and gravel races. Rusch has been sponsored by Specialized since 2003.
At the end of October I was invited as a guest of Shimano to a very remote area of the world – Margaret River – 277km south of Perth. The invite was to attend the Cape to Cape mountain bike race and put the new 11-speed Shimano XTR to the test.
The brief from Shimano was a simple one: “Provide your choice of frame, fork and tyres, and we’ll provide the rest.” Deal.
Given the cross-country marathon nature of the event, I wanted a frame that was going to be efficient, but still with enough trail attitude to put the Shimano components to the test. There were many suitable options on the market, but it was the recently updated Niner Jet 9 RDO that caught my eye.
I was in no doubt that this top-tier full carbon frame was deserving of Shimano’s best gear and while a 2380g frame weight (medium frame) wasn’t winning any awards, the solid reputation, versatility and distinctive aesthetic decided it.
In Australia, Niner is distributed by Rowney Sports, the owner being former pro-mountain biker Paul Rowney. If this name rings a bell, it’s because Rowney is a former Olympian and rode for the Cannondale/Sobe team among others. Rowney recommended putting a 120mm fork on the front, something that slackens the head angle and gives a little more trail confidence. Despite it not being an exact match for the 100mm rear, I took the advice.
A 120mm fork on a 29er marathon bike makes for a comparatively tall front end
With the frame sorted, I went about finding a suitable cross-country orientated fork with 120mm of travel. Given the Fox shock on the back, a 2015 Float 29 120mm Factory with Kashima coat was the natural match.
For 2015, the fork received updates in the form of refined Kashima coating, different oil and improvements to the seal head and damper cartridge tune – all changes to seek reduced friction and improve small bump compliance and plushness. As with the frame, the 1.8kg weight (including thru-axle) isn’t amazingly light, but I was optimistic about its ability to deliver the goods reliably.?
Lastly, rubber was needed. Of course when it comes to a cross-country tread there are a plethora of options from nearly every brand. Specifying tubeless, 29in, lightweight and fast rolling didn’t reduce these options either. In the end, I went with a pair of 2015 Specialized Fast Trak Controls. It had been a few years since I last used these, and I wanted to see how far they had come.
Having handed over our part-kitted steed to Shimano’s people, they finished off the build with a complete XTR M9000 XC race group (including wheels) and new Tharsis XC components from in-house component brand PRO. The result – a respectable, but not superlight 10.83kg total build before pedals.
Although the Cape to Cape race is a four stage event that covers some 220km, our invite was for the 57km third stage, one that includes much of the event’s singletrack and has the reputation as being the day with the most fun. In addition to this, the invitational ‘elite only’ RedBull Showdown would take place the evening before, offering time bonuses for those competing – as well as great potential for embarrassment among the rarely participating media types.
There were certainly a few nerves leading into the weekend and, mainly because a hip injury had kept me from doing any form of distance training for a frustrating length of time, to say I was prepared for this event would be an outright lie.
That wasn’t the only factor preying on the mind either. Speak to any experienced rider about doing an event, and the advice will always be the same – ride what you know. Wear your favourite shorts, be confident in your equipment, and never use anything brand new. Well, I had none of those luxuries.?
Having received the bike just hours before the RedBull showdown, there was plenty to go through in terms of setup. Unfortunately the brand new, unseen nature of everything meant that things were far from ideal – and I quickly became a painful sight to the Shimano employees.
With a false start, further testing is still to come with the new PRO Tharsis XC stem
One of the main setup quirks was with the PRO Tharsis XC stem that, by not using a traditional star-nut and topcap to preload the headset, leaves the steerer tube open for a Di2 battery. Instead, it uses a threaded collar on the outside that’s adjusted with an old headset spanner to preload the bearings.
In theory the design is clean, but it was quickly obvious that the system doesn’t allow for removing spacers from beneath the headset, as that would lead to a raw steerer tube unsafely poking out the top. Another major issue was that without the topcap present, the stem constantly would rock itself just enough off the steerer that the headset would become completely loose. With little more than a hammer and a screwdriver, a star-nut was installed and a much-needed lower handlebar height was achieved and the weird self-loosening headset disappeared. More testing on this will follow.
With just over an hour to get used to the jumps and berms that made up the Showdown course, every short lap resulted in a different mechanical. Whether it was the rear tyre leaking pressure so it burped from the rim, the dropped chain from a poorly set limit screw or the headset that worked itself loose on three separate occasions, my issues seemed endless. Thankfully, with time up, the final test lap resulted in a problem free ride and I was ready to race.
While my fitness was clearly lacking, the bike was not. Jumping on the pedals at the start was met with respectable acceleration, with the relatively lightweight wheels and tyres being a key advantage here.
Being covered in Western Australia’s infamous pea gravel, the surface wasn’t ideally suited to the Fast Trak’s low-profile tread – but few other tyre choices would have been much of an improvement. The corners caused an immediate drift beneath, but berms eagerly awaited every tyre slide, which took some getting used to.
Short and sweet – that’s exactly what the RedBull Showdown course was
The consecutive jumps, braking bumps and gravel covered terrain immediately put the suspension to the test. It proved confident on landing while still offering a respectable level of small bump compliance to keep the front from washing out – the subtle improvements to the fork’s initial stiction were noticeable.
The view from our accomodation, a 30 minute drive from the race start
The following morning was the main event, 57km accompanied by some 1,800 other riders on a course that makes its way from a winery to a brewery through twisting pine forests. Tough gig, hey?
Having dialled the bike in the night before, I was disheartened to see the ‘tubeless-ready’ rear tyre had lost substantial pressure overnight. After a quick top-up and a serious shake to move the tubeless sealant in the tyre, I was hopeful it would just seal on the move. Thankfully it did the trick, but after the race I got these tyres properly sorted – replacing the leaking valve stem and resting the wheel flat on a bucket fixed the pressure loss.
Efforts to ignore the early groans from my hip occupied the opening kilometres of the day’s riding, a combination of road and firetrails geared to enable gaps form before we hit the custom-built singletrack trails – and offering a chance to fully test this horse.
The first corners were met with reasonable confidence, learning the bike’s capability the night before. The 120mm front fork shrugged off any embedded rock or root, with the 100mm out back following suit.
I certainly seemed to have an equipment advantage among the group I was riding with, with changes in pace from the terrain not proving too energy intensive. Where competitors spun out on loose climbs, the Niner just effortlessly kept traction – technique was a factor for sure, but the bike still climbed with impressive poise.
Helping to provide confident steering precision were the M9000 wheels. While they don’t scream ‘race’ on the scales, they spun so freely that I needed the brakes more than expected. I’d never before seen a well serviced mountain bike wheel spin so smoothly.
At the 24km mark, not too long after reaching the beautifully manicured and flowing pine forest trails, I hit trouble. I shifted for the big ring and waited once again for the XTR’s swiftness… instead I was rudely interrupted by a sudden noisy jamming of the crank.
Shfiting was working perfectly until the derailleur slipped from its position
Had I just dropped a chain on the new XTR (after setting it up properly the day before)? No, unfortunately that would be too simple.
Instead, the E-type front derailleur hadn’t been tightened fully and the shifting had pulled the entire derailleur downward and into the crank. Without being able to remove the crank to access these bolts, there was nothing more I could do than pull the derailleur up by hand and try to remember not to use the left shifter again. Bugger.
The next 30km or so were done in the 26t chainring – a potential race killer for many, but perhaps a blessing in disguise for me given my injury and general lack of preparation.
Up until this point, the new XTR had been working near-flawlessly and with perfect precision. The rear gears at least continued to work in this manner, requiring the lightest twist of the shifter-mounted barrel adjuster to keep the shifting crisp following a little settling of the new cables.
Something that I and a few other media counterparts experienced was creaking in the 11-40t cassette. While many noted that this all but disappeared as the riding went on, mine got noisier. It’s because of these kinds of niggles that we keep our hands on groupsets – and bikes – for longer term testing, and we’ll be actively looking into a fix for the noise issue.
The Niner’s suspension design provides an unwanted shelf for muck from the rear wheel
The rain had begun to fall by the end of the stage, creating a gloopy peanut butter-like surface that plugged the tread in the tyres, although there was still plenty of space in the frame and fork to handle it. The conditions highlighted a negative to the Niner’s suspension linkage layout, with grass and muck collecting in the bottom linkage.
After I finished the race in a time definitely not worth gloating about, the guys from Shimano jokingly asked if I had any more troubles following the mishaps from the evening before. They were clearly sad to have asked.
The new nickname for BikeRadar’s Australian editor
Following those past two days of mechanical issues with the new ride, they presented me with my bike case… decorated with a fresh nickname – ‘Dave the wrecker’.
While I was apparently the only rider to have issues, given that I hadn’t assembled my ride this didn’t seem entirely fair. But I later found that I’d also managed to hole a brand new pair of socks in just 57km – so perhaps the nickname was appropriate after all.
A steel frame at this price might seem outrageous, but we’d open our wallets without hesitation for Niner’s unbelievably smooth yet full-gas, grinfest-fast trail terror.
Part of the price justification comes from some truly beautiful bits of workmanship on the ROS 9. The custom double-butted main tubes are subtly curved to manipulate ride character while the seat tube curves back over the wheel from the adjustable Biocentric II eccentric bottom bracket block.
The double-butted (with identical wall thickness) and gusseted top and down tube are strong enough to handle up to a 140mm fork
A machined chainstay yoke still means tons of clearance and stealth dropper post routing, optional front derailleur hanger, 140mm tapered fork capability and 142×12mm axle boxes are all ticked.
What would make us buy a frame that costs this much, however, has little to do with features and cosmetics – it’s the ride. Thanks to what we can only describe as chromoly steel alchemy the rear stays give an incredibly – in the true sense – supple and smooth ride. In fact traction and ground connection are more like a short-travel suspension frame in ‘pedal’ mode than a hardtail. We lost count of the number of times we checked the Mavic CrossMark rubber under our back end because we presumed it was punctured but no, it really does melt the trail and glue the tread to the ground.
RockShox’ Revelation fork is twinned with a 67-degree head angle
That crazy level of traction and go-with-the-flow smoothness is the same at the end of the Revelation fork too. Add a super-slack 67-degree head angle and potentially belly scraping centre of gravity and you can pile the ROS 9 into sketchy corners or straight line rocky, rooty carnage like a fully-sprung enduro bike and come out still inflated and elated.
Despite the impact shrugging insolence it still instinctively puts the front end exactly where it needs to go. As the front end grabs grip it then chops or slides the short back end through to exit way tighter and faster than you’d believe. The tight rear lets it pop the front wheel up without hesitation whether you’re sending a drop or manualling a treacherous wet root spread. The only time it gets caught out is trying to sneak it down super-steep switchbacks where the front end can be too long and not quite stiff enough to get round every time. Somehow there’s no obvious softness or spongy loss of pedal power though.
The ROS 9’s ride is incredibly supple, smooth and planted
As a fairly hefty machine we’re not saying this is a fire road climb dragster, but it holds its own surprisingly well on more techy climbs. In fact, the fluid rear end and unholy grip saw us first-time clean and then nonchalantly multi-repeat a super-ugly stepped climb we’ve been trying to bag for 20 years. While the Niner bars and stem are spot on and the SRAM X01 11-speed kit is perfect for the ROS 9, it rides this well with distinctly ordinary WTB wheels – so an upgrade to a proper pair of premium hoops is likely to unleash even more superlative adulation.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
FT. COLLINS, Colo.
DENVER (BRAIN) — Niner co-founder Steve Domahidy is launching his own company with the crowdfunding site Kickstarter . Domahidy Designs is offering two 29er hardtail models: an $899 Reynolds 853 frame and a $1,799 titanium version. If his Kickstarter launch is successful, Domahidy will ship those bikes in July and be off and running his own company
FORT COLLINS, CO (BRAIN) — Niner Bikes will be the presenting sponsor of Dirt Fest 2014, a three-day mountain bike festival produced by Dirt Rag magazine in Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania. The event is May 16-18. Our staff is already fighting over who gets to go and we are hoping to see a huge Niner rider turnout,” said Niner global marketing manager Carla Hukee, “We’d love it if this turned into an East Coast Niner-rider pilgrimage.” Maurice Tierney, Dirt Rag’s publisher, said, “I am super stoked to have Niner Bikes as presenting sponsor of Dirt Fest. They won’t just be a name on a banner, no, they are going to ‘Bring it’ to the best Dirt Fest ever! Our two companies both support and promote IMBA-built, new-school, sustainably built trail systems like Allegrippis
FORT COLLINS, CO (BRAIN) — Niner Bikes, which introduced its first drop-bar bike this fall , will be the official bike sponsor of the 2014 Crusher in the Tusher, a tough dirt road endurance race in Utah. The July 12 race is promoted by former road racing pro Burke Swindlehurst .