Second in our series of 'Sunday morning with your coffee' features on discipline / rider specific race bikes is Scott Cornish's Niner Jet 9 RDO. Read on as Scott takes us on a tour of his bike!
"The array of tech we get to chose from these days to make riding smoother, faster and more fun is mind blowing compared to when many of us started riding mtbs over 20 years ago. Back then the Girvin flexstem was the pinnacle of suspension know how until Rockshox introduced their RS1; a revelation in mtbing even if it was a bit noodly. Fully rigid bikes were used in world cup downhill races and John Tomac ripped it up with a set of drops on his Yeti. Early fullys appeared from Girvin, Manitou, Specialized and Moots (softail), but it was all a bit not quite right. Saddles were saddles and they just hurt most of the time, grips were nothing but round. 28lb (nearly 13kg) was light for a hardtail. The choice of bike and kit these days and the evolution of the fully is exceptional. The humble bike and what was once a fairly simple choice has become a complex machine with an almost unfathomable choice of suspension types, frame materials, components, wheel size and now 1x11, 2x10, 2x11……….
Niner lured me in with their tango Air 9 carbon some 4 years ago, many sniggering at my big wheels. Now I am one of the crowd as opposed to standing out from it. The 29er hoops were somewhat of a revelation, just as Shimano SPDs and suspension forks were. I felt right at home with the Niner’s handling, sharp yet agile and far from the slack handling big wheels were accused of being. With their 29er know how, there was every reason to stay with them for their full suspension race rig, the Jet 9 RDO.
Fullys are certainly heavier than hardtails, cost more and require more maintenance, but being forced into using one full time this season due to long standing degenerative spinal disc issues, has actually been a positive move. I ride faster and more efficiently, being able to stay seated and pedaling over choppy terrain. For my preferred discipline of stage and endurance racing/rides, fatigue from the constant pounding is significantly reduced, leaving more energy to turn the pedals and a pain free, lower back.
The most important aspect for me is a bike which climbs well (legs dependent) and the Jet 9 RDO doesn’t disappoint. It climbs like a goat and descends well beyond its 100mm capabilities. Don’t let the geo numbers fool you into thinking that the handling will be off, quite the opposite, those numbers just work. The head angle at 71.5 appears steep on paper, but I have thrown this bike down some steep, rocky trails at the Transpyr for example. Handling is spot on going down and is nimble going up, even through tight switchback turns. There is nothing slow about this bike. The stays may appear long, but they are an integral part of the overall bike’s geo design, only adding to the Jet 9 RDO’s capabilities, both climbing and descending.
I have had some pretty good results in the 40+ category aboard the Jet 9 RDO this season. 2nd at Whinlatter 50km, 2nd at the local Bristol Bike Fest 6 hour, 6th at the tough 3 day BeMC in the Ardennes, Belgium, 3rd GC at Transpyr pairs, 1st at the Manx100 miler, (that’s a great race to do for all you endurance types, with 5000+m of climbing) and 6th at the Grand Raid Cristalp. The Andalucia Bike Race
(pairs) was a great way to start the year racing on some cracking trails.
The Jet 9 RDO’s smooth lines look great and are functional to the frame’s design. The frame isn’t the lightest out there, but reliability (as with all my gear) and stiffness is more important to me, especially for multi day stage races. The rear is the standard 142x12 and the BB is a PF30 unit.
Longevity of PF30 bearings which sit flush with the frame has been really poor, so I run aRace Face Cinch PF30 unit where the bearings sit outboard. This gives much better support for the 30mm axle as the bearings sit as far apart as possible. Consequently they last A LOT longer.
Having suffered all manner of soreness everywhere, from a pained derrière and knees, to having to literally peel my fingers off the grips after 12 hour solo races, product choice for the contact points was based around the best ergonomic products for comfort. I am in the vets category now afterall.
I am a convert to Rotor Q rings and the 3D+ (now Rex2) crank. Reminiscent of Shimano’s biopace, but an elliptical design which actually works. Orientation of the ovalisation is adaptable to personal preference via the 3 options. Pedaling is more efficient, power output is increased and there is less fatigue in the legs. The ovalisation also helps getting up and over techy sections at slow speeds. The 30mm axle crank is super light too. Set up is 27/38 rings with an 11-36 cassette. If I can’t ride up in the lowest gear, I might as well walk.
Ergon grips just made sense, a soft, winged section to spread the load across the hand. From the first ride on a pair of GS1s 3 years ago I was hooked. No more shaking out the hands on long rides/races! The orientation of the grip is key though. They end up being flatter than you would think. Too much of a slope downwards and the wrists will ache. You don’t slide off them on steep descents either. Weight weenies look away now though, at 155g they are portly, but improved hand comfort is valued over the added grammage. A non padded glove (such as Ergon’s HX2 or HP2) work better with them too.
I get asked alot about which saddle to recommend from Bike Fit clients. After years of abusing my derrière using saddles with and without cut outs I was lucky enough to try an Ergon SM3. Not superlight, no cutout, but a really well thought out shape, even if a little unconventional. The carbon rails on the Pro Carbon SM3 keep the weight down, but this saddle is all about the shape and built-in micro suspension keeping the derriere super happy.
Having ridden a number of forks, Fox suspension is preferred, again choosing performance over weight. Forks are their 2015 Float CTD remote 100mm model. The 2015 forks have improved small bump compliance whilst keeping that renowned, Fox, smooth, linear movement through the rest of the travel. The fork settles so smoothly into its sag, it keeps the front wheel glued to the ground.
Courtesy of Mojo suspension, the supplied CTD rear shock was swapped out for a remote CTD version and linked up with the fork via a single bar mounted lever. The lever is mounted upside down compared to the norm, but I find this much easier to use. This set up makes the Niner so versatile and more efficient for changing terrain. Open it up and the Niner rips down the descents like its a DH bike. Trail setting is used most of the time, staying on for rough climbs, maintaining better wheel traction. I’ve been amazed at the trails I have been able to climb like this. Climb mode is reserved for the smoothest of trails and tarmac.
Wheel wise, Stans No Tubes (Crest and Gold) are simply reliable and I can use normal spokes, invaluable when stage racing and bikepacking when a self fix is required. Mounting tyres (tubeless and non tubeless ready) has always been straight forward using just a floor pump.
Continental Race and X-Kings have been reliable companions for over 2 years. No issues with the 2.2 Protection Black Chilli versions. They may be a bit heavier than some, but their tough sidewalls have saved me from being sidelined. Their reduced rolling resistance is instantly noticeable too when coming off other brands. The Black Chilli adds grip, especially in the wet and when cornering.
Gearing is Shimano XTR. It’s reliable and works. 2x10 for now. Stem, bars and seatpost are Ritchey WCS, reliable, lightweight kit, which has proved its worth having had heavy bikepacking gear attached to it for trips across Morocco and France.
Some parts have been swapped out for lightweight trinkets from Mt Zoom; the alloy headset cap, floating rotors at 74g a piece and Ti rotor bolts. Mt Zoom’s handy straps are, er, handy for attaching all manner of stuff to the bike, such as spare tubes or a jacket.
For routes, training and GPS events such as the Transpyr, I use a Garmin 800 mounted on aK-edge mount.
Bike weight? Not sure. Never weighed it. It could no doubt be lighter, but it’s a reliable setup which works well."
Scott rides for Bikesoup.com/GoreBikeWear