Niner W.F.O. 9
Price: Available as a frame for $2,100 with Fox RP23
Weight: 33.5 lbs, frame 7.5 lbs with shock
+ Edge Composites rims
+ Chris King hubs
+ Niner Flat Top 9 handlebar
An all-mountain bike with 29-inch wheels? No, they didn't.... Yup, they did. But in a time of carbon downhill bikes and McDonald's Espresso, nothing is taboo. And more than a few testers had their values shaken to their 26-inch roots by some of the big-wheel offerings. These days, anything is possible.
Niner spared on the WFO test bike. It came adorned with a Joplin seatpost, Thomson stem, XT drivetrain, and some ultra-light, ultra-stiff and ultra-expensive Edge carbon wheels. But since Niner only sells frames, riders can build up the WFO however they want.
The WFO has the makings of a burly all-mountain bike. From the tapered, headtube to the 150-millimeter rear wheel spacing, the only thing missing was about an inch of travel--at 140 millimeters front and rear, the WFO nearly falls in the trail category.
But there was no compromise while climbing. The WFO seems bred for rooty, rocky ascents. The big wheels and Niner's CVA linkage made this the best technical climber in the category. The descents stood out as well--trail hazards disappeared and otherwise too-rough lines became ripe for the picking.
The big wheels' stability wasn't quite able to make up for the bike's steep head angle, however. At 70 degrees, scary-steep lines felt even steeper.
At the end of the day, our testers had mixed feelings about the bike. The traditionalists didn't see enough gains to make up for a loss in maneuverability; the believers wondered why it hadn't been done before.
Bottom line: Best climber of the bunch, and one of the few long-travel 29ers available