Inspired by the “road less traveled” and perhaps an unlikely leader in the gravel bike trend is Niner’s RLT9. There’s a lot to admire about the fresh-looking bike, even without pedaling it: three great available color schemes, designed for 29-inch or 700c wheels, plenty of tire clearance, carbon fork, internal cable routing, similar tubing to the AIR9 mountain bike, singlespeed or geared options, integrated fender mounts, rear rack mounts, relaxed geometry and disc brakes all make for an extremely attractive package.
There are a lot of bikes out there these days with carbon forks and disc brakes. So what’s so special about this one? Well have you looked at it? There aren’t many bikes on the market that simply look as good as this one. But really, the big difference between the RLT9 and other modern CX bikes is the geometry. The Niner has a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket and a slacker headtube angle compared to a CX race bike, meaning stability and confidence when it gets rough.
The bike encourages gravel road and multi-surface adventures. After several rides I think it’s just as capable on singletrack as it is in the city. Anything in-between those two extremes it devours. You can fit up to a 1.75” tire w/o fenders but the stock Schwalbe Sammy Slicks are a fair hybrid tread—decently fast on the road, but with solid cornering traction on trails. Obviously there’s some utility to the bike as well because of the rack and fender mounts. If you want to ride to the office and get rowdy after work, the RLT9 won’t let you down. This model with the 2-star build kit retails for $1,999.
Watch for my full, long-term review in and upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe today and you’ll be sure not to miss it.