Riding All-Mountain on Niner’s XC Race Bike, the Air 9
Review & Photos by: Randy King
Video by: Randy Lewis
Climbing toward the sharp, steep switchback, I grinned in anticipation. With only 20-minutes of saddle time on the Niner Air 9, I already knew that I had a shot at making this challenge – one of those hiking trail switchbacks that cut back on themselves like barely-open scissors. This bike was made for just this type of momentum- and traction-defying situation.
I rode straight at the dirt bank that signaled the end of my current wheel path, running wide at the outside edge of the trail. At the last second, I let off the power and the bike slowed almost to a stop. Now! I turned the bars just as the front wheel contacted the steep benched bank, cranking once to power the front wheel in a nearly 90° slice across the bank. Pivoting with the front wheel, I was almost pointed back down the trail before I could straighten out enough to apply real power. Now the bike threatened to go off the inside corner of the switchback. I spun away at the pedals, rolling the front tire right along the edge of the trail and back on track as I climbed through the eroded heart of the switchback. The Niner Air 9 straightened out and I climbed onward.
The Niner Air 9 rewards riders who have the vision and the ability to leverage its considerable powers. Its Easton GX2 Scandium/Aluminum frame is responsive and lightweight. Although the Air 9 I rode had been kitted out with a mediocre parts spec, its race breeding shone through.
Out for a Niner field day, Randy Lewis (on his Niner E.M.D. 9) and I covered much of the varied terrain of Roanoke, VA’s huge Carvin’s Cove trail system. Temps surged past 90 and then cooled later as a big T-storm rumbled threateningly and stacked up against the nearby Blue Ridge. We ended the day racing the impending rain back to the parking lot.
Here the Niner Air 9 showed off the racing genes of its stiff frame and aggressive, forward-leaning cockpit set-up. Although at low speeds I could really feel the drag of the heavy wheel set, once I powered up the Air 9, I found myself pushing the big chain ring uphill, going faster and faster. What a joy to climb on this bike!
©2010 Big Mountain Riding
This review is sponsored by Just the Right Gear
bike shop, Salem, VA.