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There are a few cardinal rules of bike racing that you try to never break in the lead-up to a race: Never mess with your nutrition or try something new on race day and, if at all possible, never race a bike without test riding it. Well, at Colorado’s SBT GRVL, I adhered to the first rule, but not the second.
Niner’s 2020 RLT 9 RDO is a really sweet bike; I know, because I’ve logged a few thousand miles on last year’s model, in everything from chunky/sharp gravel in the Flint Hills of Kansas to the relatively buffed-out dirt roads of Steamboat Springs. And I couldn’t be happier. If you have to race a bike right out of the box, which is exactly what I did at SBT GRVL, fingers crossed, it’s Niner’s 2020 RLT 9 RDO.
Not only is the frame lighter and stiffer than last year’s but there’s also clearance for 50c tires, which is great for the bikepacking/adventure crowd. The RDO carbon fork has internal-sleeved brake-hose routing, internal dynamo-wire routing, three-pack cargo-cage mounts on each leg, and rack and fender mounts. This versatile bike is just as comfortable, fast and stable railing gravel racecourses as it is exploring Colorado back roads fully loaded with packs and bags. If you had to have one bike in your quiver that could cover a lot of your cycling bases, the 2020 RLT 9 RDO is it.
So how did I end up at Niner? Turns out the cycling industry is a small, tight-knit group of passionate folks, and the fact that I’ve been pedaling bikes for 20-plus years means that I’ve established familial bonds with many of the brands I’ve been lucky enough to work with. And when it comes to working with brands, it always helps to have a solid personal relationship—which is one of the reasons I love riding for Niner bikes. See, my relationship with Niner’s marketing manager Zach Vestal began years ago when we raced NORBAs [National Off Road Bicycle Associtation] in the [now extinct] semi-pro category, and it has continued through our respective journeys in the bike industry to where we find ourselves today.
Niner’s tagline, “We feel like kids when we ride bikes on dirt,” really resonates with this big kid, and it inspires me to want to continue pedaling toward the horizon seeking my next two-wheeled adventure.