By Colin Dennis
Sizes: XS S M L XL
Size tested: L
YouTube video: coming soon
Is there another mountain bike company out there as dedicated to the cause of 29’s as Niner? Proof is in the name, I guess.
The fast-flowing Niner EMD 9 alloy hardtail is great fun on the singletrack, but just as important, it opens up this niche brand to budget-conscious riders looking to get on board with the Niner ethos.
Famed for their lovely lightweight carbon mountain and cyclocross bikes, Niner have launched the alloy framed EMD 9 mountain bike allowing us under-paid mortals to enjoy the brand’s willingness to share the love that's normally found on bikes that if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.
Luckily, the EMD 9 punches way above its price ticket, and thanks to its balance of tight frame geometry and thoughtfully-specced components, is pure joy on tight singletrack.
At 13kg, the EMD 9 sits in the weltereight corner rather than the flyweight division, but this adds to the appeal of the alloy Niner as gluing itself to the trails is what the EMD 9 does best.
Between them, the EMD 9 alloy frame and matching Rock Shox Recon forks feel bomb-proof. Although the frame geometry is tweaked to accomadate 120mm forks too, 100mm air-plushness is what you get as standard.
The EMD 9 is an XC bike through and through, and aside from the racy profile of the WTB Nine Line 2.0 tyres being a little too rounded at times for our mud-splattered trails, the EMD 9 was well balanced and easily chuckable when the trail surface hardens and the corners tighten up.
Our test bike came in a large size, but as a rider standing 5’ 11” tall, a medium frame would have been a good fit too. But the slightly longer wheelbase on our test bike proved to be a real boon when it came to sticking to the trails while riding hard and fast.
Time in the air is fine, but you can lose time and possibly control unless you know what you’re doing. The ride quality of the EMD 9 is both forgiving and exciting at the same time, the wide 710mm handlebars and 90mm stem enables you to move around the cockpit, get your weight forward and rail around the berms with ease.
Although designed as an XC bike, Niner have built into the EMD 9 the option to fit a dropper seatpost if you fancy pushing yourself and bike just that little bit further.
The top and down tubes of the 7005 series alloy frame are flattened along their whole length. The look is very pleasing and certainly helps provide a stiff and responsive ride.
The chainstays leave ample room for heel clearance of even the clumsiest of feet, while up front the short, tapered headtube stiffens up the steering to provide responsive steering with the 100mm travel provided by the Recon Solo Air forks. The forks have a lockout option on the right side, but there's no remote switch fitted.
Maybe I'm a bit old-school in my thinking because I'm ok with this, I like my handlebars un-clutterd on an xc bike. Imagine if you fitted a dropper post too!
The full Shimano Deore groupset on the EMD 9 includes: 2 x 10 cranks with 38x24 teeth linked via a HG54 chain to the 11x36t cassette. This set prooved more than ample for our local, southern trails, but the spread of gears would no doubt work just as well on longer northern ascents.
The BB70 bottom bracket remained creak-free throughout the few month of use that has predominantly seen action when wet, cold and otherwise, very British riding conditions.
Our sandy local trails were fine for the WTB Nine Line tyres, but where the red, clay-type mud lay on the surface, traction needed a little coaxing.
The Deore Hydraulic discs are quoted as 160 on the rear and 180 on the Niner website, but our test bike came with a set of 160 discs. Not that this is detrimental in performance in anyway as the 160mm discs supplied more than enough controllable stopping power in both wet and dry conditions.
You can’t really go wrong with Shimano Deore disc brakes – they’re fit and forget kind of kit that’s easy to set up, maintain, and for the do-it-yourself, home maintenance rider, the pads are blissfully simple to replace.
There's plenty of modulation on hand with the Deore brakes too. This helps provide stress-free and reliable,and controllabl braking under all ride conditions. For those who like to play with setting up their brakes, the lever reach is easy to adjust via the tiny grub-screw behind each lever.
It also has to be said that the finishing kit on the Niner EMD 9 is excellent.
The finishing kit also leaves you without any shadow of a doubt the name about the brand of bike you’re riding – and then it screams up at you ‘Pedal Dam it!’ from the toptube. All very American, but fun nonetheless.
Wheels are own brand, they’re unobtrusively styled with hard-wearing Niner graphics. They look good, perform well with no loosening of any spokes, and come with sealed bearings front and rear. Plus the 15mm quick release skewer and front hub are plenty stiff for everyday XC use.
The grips are Niner’s own brand too and remain remarkably well adhered to the bars. After so much wet weather riding this winter and spring I would have expected some movement, but there’s absolutely none with the EMD 9’s grips. Little details matter, and for once I don’t feel the instant need to go out and replace push-on grips for lock-on ones – nice touch!
In summary: Ride it fast, ride it hard, or simply ride it to work, for riders looking to get on board a more affordable Niner mountain bike, the alloy framed EMD 9 is a great platform on which to show off and have some fun.
An excellent range of own brand components, wheels and Rock Shox Recon forks are backed up by a bomb-proof build and ride quality, plus a full Shimano Deore groupset that provides durability, reliability and performance come rain or shine – what’s there not to like?