It begins with a beautiful, air-hardened Reynolds 853 steel frame and the all-new RDO carbon fork. This aesthetically on-point fork is made with Race Day Optimized carbon, features an internally routed brake hose (sleeved guide tube), multiple rack, cargo and fender mounts for any adventure and a 12×100mm through-axle and flat-mount disc-brake attachment. There’s also internal routeing and fitting for a hub-dynamo-powered light, should you prefer evening excursions. The RLT 9 can accommodate up to 700×50c tires and 650b wheels and tires up to 2.0. There are 26 mounting points to give you plenty of bags, bottles and rack options. The geometry basics are longer chainstay, lower bottom-bracket height and slacker head tube that Niner calls its “Fire road” geometry. Our RLT 9 was equipped with Shimano GRX 800 2x, which worked flawlessly.
Let’s get right to it. For $5,000, the Niner RLTD is a guaranteed good-time and long-lasting gravel partner. We loved it. It’s smooth, capable and flat-out fun to ride in all conditions, especially when the trails get tricky. There’s something “buttery” about the feel of this bike; and normally when we test bikes we set out on a determined loop and look for distinct characteristics of each bike. Our time on the RLTD Steel was different. It’s like we were 20 years old again and deciding to move to a tree house in Costa Rica—there were no limits, no overthinking, no analytics, no South African con man trying to sell us a baked-potato business on land he didn’t own a block from a right-point break, just pure fun and joy to be alive and riding bikes. We did our test loop three times and could have kept going. It’s possible that our increase in wine intake during these strange times and direct access (read “membership”) to three dispensaries in town has “opened” up the emotional pathways of our test crew a bit, but we prefer to think it’s the execution of this RLT 9 and the flowy feel of steel and the simplicity of the design and exceptional build. You have a lot of choices in the gravel space, put this bike at the top of your list.
20.4 lbs/ 9.3kg (size M w/o pedals or cages); $5,000; Shimano GRX800 2x mechanical, Easton EA90 47/32 crankset, Shimano 11–34 cassette; Easton EA50 AX handlebar; Stans NoTubes Grail CB7 wheels; Schwalbe G-One EVO SS 700×40 tires. Ninerbikes.com