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Without the International Mountain Bicycling Association, exploring trails and honing two-wheel skills would involve shotgun-wielding landowners and ticket-issuing Rangers. Thankfully, IMBA's existence encourages teamwork among diverse trail-user groups, preserving and expanding access for off-road cyclists. And what better way to enjoy those trails then on a Limited Edition Niner R.I.P. 9 RDO / IMBA SRAM XX1 Complete Mountain Bike?

A monocoque RDO chassis with five-inches of CVA suspension, adorned with a fork-matched, limited-edition Rally Blue finish, paints a pretty picture. Add SRAM XX1, Stans No-Tubes, and Rock Shox to the trail-bike canvas, and this R.I.P 9 RDO approaches singletrack perfection. Boosting this package into the realm of mountain-biking righteousness, however, is an IMBA membership kicked down by Niner.

Being a non-profit, IMBA needs funding to sustain itself on all of our behalf. Aside from corporate partnerships and bicycle clubs, a major contributor to IMBA's backing is a group of over 35,000 individual members. IMBA memberships not only support work towards building and preserving trail access, but it also provides a bounty of swag. Including; IMBA's Dirty Video and Trail News, a year subscription to one of multiple 'zines, and discount cards.

If that doesn't seal the deal, let's look at this package again. The R.I.P 9 RDO is a revolutionary monocoque frame. Using the latest computer modeling to explore every conceivable option, the RDO's structure has a massive bottom bracket area with a direct-mount front-derailleur interface, 142mm rear spacing, titanium frame guards, and carbon linkages to boot. But, those attributes are worthless without a proven geometry, and luckily, Niner's already sorted its mid-travel geometry with the alloy RIP 9.

And while the RDO's angles are based on its alloy stable mate, it is, for lack of a better term, no carbon copy. The RDO treatment includes a redesigned rear triangle and suspension links, where the use of carbon allowed engineers to add 10mm of travel without compromising tire clearance. More impressively, however, is that Niner was able to knock 5mm off of the chainstay length. What this means is that the Niner's no-compromise approach resulted in an overall chassis that's, not only significantly lighter with more travel, but it also feels sprightlier and pulls up easier due to a shorter wheelbase. So, to say that the RIP 9 RDO checks all of the right boxes is an understatement.

Another key feature to all Niners is the Constantly Varying Arc (CVA) suspension design. Niner placed extra stiff links in positions that isolated pedaling forces, while remaining fully-active under all conditions. Notice that the lower link sits below the bottom bracket. This places the CVA's instant center in a virtual position located ahead of the drivetrain, causing chain tension at the rear axle to pull the two linkages in opposite directions in order to effectively isolate the drivetrain from the rear triangle. When you press on the pedals, nothing's lost to suspension compression, and you won't suffer any kickback from chainstay growth when pedaling through rock gardens.

To complement the CVA's smooth nature is a full set of sealed angular contact cartridge bearings for minimal maintenance and incredibly high tolerances. Controlling suspension motion is a FOX FLOAT CTD with Kashima coating. Up front you'll find a custom-painted RockShox revelation RCT3 Solo Air with 130mm of travel. This limited-edition R.I.P. 9 RDO also rolls on a Stan's No Tubes Wheelset with 3.30 hubs and ZTR Flow EX rims.

What maybe the most significant component to this package's drool factor, however, is the SRAM XX1 drivetrain. It provides one-by simplicity with a 29er-optimized gear range, which, in turn, provides a spread similar to more complicated options. And given that this comes without the added weight, we view XX1 as music to our ears. It's pretty obvious that this ride is spec'd for speed, gratefully, keeping that in check is a set of four-piston XO Trail brakes.

The brake levers hang off wide alloy Niner handlebars that're supported by an alloy Niner stem. Completing the component tour is a carbon Niner seatpost, WTB Volt Team saddle, and Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35in wide tires.

The Niner R.I.P. 9 RDO/IMBA Limited Edition XX1 Complete Mountain Bike is available in four sizes from Small to X-Large and in the limited color Rally Blue that commemorates the included IMBA membership.

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The Renaissance 29er

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I have ridden this bike now for a few hundred miles now since April and can honestly say it is the best bike I have ever ridden. I demo'ed about 20 bikes last year, including the venerable Bronson, but I felt this was a great fit for me. With the sag dialed in (20-25% depending on your preference) it climbs really well. Downhill, it floats over everything, and I have yet to push this bike to it's limits before it scared me and I backed off. Recenlty I was racing friends who normally drop me down Porcupine Rim in Moab, and I had to stop several times and wait on them. I honestly thought one of them had a mechanical. No, this bike just eats chunder like I eat ice cream. Compared to the the Jet 9 RDO and even the 2012 RIP is night and day. Super stiff. Takes hits very well. Nimble in the air. Plush over bumps. Good mid-stroke compliance. Surprisingly maneuverable through the techy bits (for any wheel size). The XX1 is awesome. There are a few drawbacks: it still has a longish wheelbase, which requires me to use more body english in tight switchbacks. And, it takes a little getting used to because it sits high if you have a longer fork. I recommend upgrading to the Fox 34 140mm is SO much better than the RS 32 130mm fork. I also recommend the KS LEV seatpost, which you can now internally route with the XX1. I opted for a shorter 50mm stem...and this bike is good to go. One more suggestion: lose the Nobby Nics. The front has poor traction (I recommend a Hans Dampf), and although it is perfect on the rear, it will wear out in 12-15 rides. Not cool. I would go with a Conti Mountain King or Maxxis High Roller II if you don't mind the weight. I would STRONGLY recommend this bike..but if you are smaller rider or don't like 29ers...choose the SC 5010. I'm keeping mine though...

The Renaissance 29er