When Deanne and I starting dating I was logging 70 to 100 miles a week on my mountain bike and was in the best shape of my life. After starting my new career, which quickly ate up all my time during the week with 45 plus hours of work and 15 hours of commuting, I hung the bike on the wall and walked away from mountain biking. Fast forward 3 years and my weight had increased to an all-time high and I simply didn't have the energy I once had. After sitting by and watching my beautiful fiancé’s success at healthier living I decided it was time for me to give it a go. My journey began April 1st of this year.
I knew that if I was going to be able to ride at a high level I would need to change my eating habits immediately. This started April 1st with an aggressive change in my diet. A few weeks went by and the changes were working and I started seeing results. The bike that I had hung on the wall was sold off a year earlier and I was without a bike. I knew then it was time to start researching which bike I wanted. My previous 2 bikes were hard tail 29ers with front suspension. My first one was an aluminum Motobecane Fantom 29 that served me well as I got into mountain biking. Over time I upgraded the drivetrain components and learned what I liked and did not like on the bike. After a year on that bike my skills had advanced to a more advanced level and I wanted a lighter bike. I decided that instead of buying a complete bike I would look for a lighter carbon frame and swap over all my components. After researching all the options I ended up with a slightly used Gary Fisher Superfly frame with a Fox Float 29 front fork. I used this bike for several years, logging over 3000 miles, tweaking components here and there until I was happy. The detachable fenders in the images were used for commuting to school in the rain. After I stopped riding I decided it was too nice of a bike to just hang on the wall so I sold it.
Figure 1 - Motobecane Phantom 29
Figure 2 - 2009 Gary Fisher Superfly
Now three years later there I was, wanting to ride, knowing what a difference it would make yet without a bike. So I did what I do with almost anything I spent hours upon hours online researching various bikes. I knew that I wanted a hard tail 29er bike as that fit the cross country style of riding I preferred. My criteria were as follows:
- Lightweight carbon 29er frame with a clean look
- Total build weight of 19 pounds or less
- Front suspension with remote lockout
- Lightweight tubeless ready wheels with fast rolling tires and high engagement hubs
- 2 x 10 or 1 x 11 drivetrain
I planned to buy all the components and assemble it myself in order to realize some cost savings and to be able to better customize the bike to meet my needs. Since the frame is the foundation I started there. I had always lusted after some of the Niner Bikes and really liked their reputation in the industry as a solid high performance machine. I looked at tons of options from various manufactures but kept coming back to the Air 9 RDO and AIR 9 carbon bikes. I stumbled across a great YouTube video from cyclocore that really provides great detail on the pros and cons of each frame. I decided that both are incredible bikes and either would suite my needs, but the RDO seemed like a better choice for me. I scoured the internet and local dealers looking for a deal on an RDO frame. I found that both 2013 and 2012 frames were on the market with the only difference being color schemes. While I love the white and black 2013 color scheme I pulled the trigger on a 2012 licorice black RDO frame from Jenson USA. Why did I end up with a licorice black 2012 RDO instead of the super cool white and black 2013? One word, price. I ended up saving close to $800.00 by going with the 2012 closeout. It was a no brainier, especially since I still had much to buy to finish this bike! Apparently the licorice black 2012 color scheme was not as popular as the other vivid color schemes. I would attribute this to the stealthy ghost graphics on the licorice black that don’t seem to photograph as well, but look awesome in person. I received the package in the mail soon after ordering. While unboxing the frame it was immediately apparent that the build quality was top notch and it is super lightweight. While the internal cable routing takes a little time to setup properly, the finished look is well worth the time invested. After 300 miles already logged on this bike I could not be happier with the frame. It climbs so well and handles great. Here are some additional details on the specifications of this bike.
Over time I will post more about all the components I selected, why I selected them, and let you know how they are working out. I will also post overall impressions of the bike after I log a few more miles. This bike is not just my Weekend VIP, this bike is my daily VIP! I generally ride early evening when I am home from work during the week and on the weekends in the mornings. I ride every day as weather permits and hope to get Deanne into mountain biking soon!
Figure 3 - 2012 Niner Air 9 RDO frame
Figure 4 - 2012 Niner Air 9 RDO top tube rear
Figure 5 - 2012 Niner Air 9 RDO top tube front
Figure 6 - 2012 Niner Air 9 RDO assembled
Read more about our journey here.