2015 Niner WFO 9

2015 Niner WFO 9 4-Star XO1

Build: 4-Star XO1

Wheels: 29”

Travel: R: 150mm F: 160mm

Geometry: See last page

MSRP: $5299.00

Size Tested: Medium

Location Tested: Boulder City, NV

Tester Info: 5’8” 160 lbs.

Tom Collier reviews the Niner WFO 9 for Blister Gear Review

Niner WFO 9 4-Star XO1

The Niner WFO was one of the first long-travel 29er trail bikes on the market (back in 2009), and its combination of big wheels + lots of travel certainly seemed to promise a tremendous capacity to roll over extremely rough terrain.

Niner updated the WFO 9 in 2014 and their product description pushes riders to stretch their thinking about the new version: “With trail bikes becoming more and more capable, we’ve shoved the new WFO 9 off the “all mountain” fence firmly into gravity territory. Lower. Slacker. More Travel. So, grab your music, Leatt and full-face before you roll out the door.”

We’d spent a bit of time on the Specialized Enduro 29, a similar long-travel, big-wheeled bike. And true to expectations, the Enduro plundered over roughness with ease, but it was a bit of a handful when things got twisty and slow. So with that in mind, we took the WFO 9 out for a ride, assuming we’d find similar characteristics.

But surprisingly, the WFO 9 showed that the long travel + big wheels formula doesn’t have to amount to a one trick pony, and that Niner was able to create a bike that differentiated itself from others in the class…

Initial Impressions

So yeah, looking at the Niner WFO, I was certain it would be a bit of a plow bike—with 160mm of travel on the front, 150mm on the back and 29” wheels, it looks like a very tall bike.

The chainstay length isn’t especially short relative to a bike like Specialized Enduro 29 (443mm / 17.4” vs. 430mm / 16.93”) and the head angle is pretty slack at 66.5 degrees. I was eager to take it out and over the roughest terrain I could find, and hoping to avoid tight, twisty bits—or anything that would require maneuverability.

The Build

The bike I rode had Niner’s 4-Star XO1 Build, with Stans Flow EX wheels, Rockshox Monarch Plus rear shock, Rockshox Pike RCT3, Schwalbe Nobby Nic Tires, Rockshox Reverb dropper post, and Niner 780mm bar and stem. Notably, the kit includes Shimano XT brakes, but I rode one with Avid Elixir Brakes. We’ve ridden all these parts before and they are all solid. The 780mm bars are appreciated on a bike with this much travel. After all, they can always be cut down.

The Fit

I found the WFO 9 to be pretty average length for a medium. The reach is 418mm or 16.5”, but paired with a short 50mm stem. The moderate length helps to make it an easy bike to toss around despite the large wheels. The headtube is reasonably short at 100mm or 3.9”, helping to keep stack down to 624mm or 24.6”. The bottom bracket drop is 29mm or 1.1”, this felt moderately low, but not so low that I was clipping pedals with great frequency. The wheelbase is also moderate at 1164mm or 45.8”.

The Ride

Riding the WFO 9 really surprised me. When I stood up, the ‘average’ medium fit started to feel a bit like a ‘shorter-than-average’ medium fit. That was unexpected, since the listed height range for a medium is 5’8” – 6’0″ and the reach isn’t so short.

However, that body positioning made the bike shockingly nimble and flickable. Manuals were simple, and airing small rolls was fun.

Tom Collier reviews the Niner WFO 9 4-Star XO1 for Blister Gear Review

Tom Collier on the Niner WFO 9.

It was more playful than a size medium Specialized Enduro 29, a bike known for its short chainstays.

The WFO 9’s big wheels and CVA suspension smoothed out rough sections of trail really well, but the moderate wheelbase meant that the bike didn’t exhibit exceptional stability. It was reasonably stable, but not the plow bike I expected.

The CVA suspension was smooth, and didn’t have a tendency to hang on square-edged hits, however I’m sure some of that was really the responsibility of the 29” wheels. There was just a bit of lateral flex in the rear end. Some came from the frame and some from the wheel. It wasn’t bothersome, but it was noticeable relative to something like the Specialized Enduro 29 or Intense Carbine 29.

On the efficiency front, the WFO 9 bobbed a little with the shock set to ‘Descend’, but not too much. And throwing the compression switch to ‘Pedal’ solved the problem. It was better than the Specialized Enduro, but not as good as the VPP of the Carbine. That same suppleness, though, meant that it had awesome grip on steeper and / or looser climbs.

Overall, I felt that the WFO 9 was a bit more playful than either the Specialized Enduro 29 or the Intense Carbine 29. I’d grab the Intense if I wanted to put in more miles, and the Specialized if I wanted to race Enduros. But if I just wanted to have the most fun, I’d definitely reach for the Niner WFO 9.

Bottom Line

If you like the smooth, fast ride that 29” wheels can provide, but you also enjoy dancing through rougher terrain more than crushing lots of miles, you will probably love this bike.

NEXT: Niner WFO 9 Sizing Chart & Geometry

5 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    Andrew August 18, 2015 Reply

    I’ve spent the last 10 years or so focused on road riding but just demo’d this bike’s little brother, the RIP 9, on the trails around Canmore AB and thought it was very good. I thought it climbed really well and really enjoyed the 29 inch wheels. I wonder though if the WFO 9 would also do that but with better downhill performance? If not, I’m looking for any ideas you folks may have re: bikes to check out that climb really well but also have a good bit of beef on them for hairy descents. Please let me know when you have a moment.

    Thank you,

    Andrew

    • Tom Collier August 19, 2015 Reply

      Andrew,

      I haven’t spent time on the RIP 9 so I can’t speak specifically to how that bike compares, but I can share some general thoughts. The WFO 9 is a much slacker bike with more travel. This will definitely improve performance on downhills( if performance = faster and smoother over rough terrain).

      As for climbing, my opinion depends on whether I’m doing short, punchy climbs or long, seated climbs. On the former, I find that extra travel can make a bike feel sluggish. For the latter, as long as the tires and wheels aren’t too heavy or slow, I don’t mind carrying around extra travel.

      -Tom

    • Blister Member
      Andrew August 20, 2015 Reply

      So I answered my own questions with a demo of a Large 2-star build WFO 9 today. It was awesome. I found that it climbed exceptionally well and that I was able to push myself to climb things I would’ve navigated around on other bikes I’ve been on (I note that except for the RIP 9, these are all old bikes but still)… climbing became really fun on this thing and I ended-up riding way more than I thought I would. I had a ton of confidence on descents (way more than I ever remember having back in the day and given my prolonged absence from the sport) – way more than I would’ve expected from a bike that climbs that well! I’m fairly shattered (but smiling!) at this point as a result of all this but when I recover, I’m going to set about finding a 3 or 4 star build of one of these babies as another bike topping my experience today is going to be all kinds of tough!

      • Blister Member
        Andrew August 20, 2015 Reply

        Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed descending on the WFO 9 more than on the RIP 9. Turns out the WFO I demo’d was lighter than the RIP 9 I took out so I also felt it climbed better too. On truly comparable models, I suspect the climbing gap would be narrowed or eliminated / reversed but the down on the WFO was sufficiently better that I think that’s the bike for me. Thanks for your reply, Tom (I somehow missed it / it didn’t load when I was posting my second set of comments).

        Andrew

        • Tom Collier August 21, 2015 Reply

          Glad you like the bike! I was certainly impressed by the WFO 9 when I took one out.

          -Tom

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