A lot has changed since 2016. Some of which actually relates to mountain biking. For example, in June of that year, Niner updated its RIP 9 RDO, bringing its rear travel from 125 up to 150 millimeters. At the time, long-travel 29ers were finally gaining wide acceptance, but they tended to have a narrow focus. They worked great on trails that were rocky, fast and straight. But it would be another year or two before bikes like the Orbea Rallon, the Ibis Ripmo and Evil Offering showed us how versatile this emerging category could be.

It’s that kind of niner.

With the bar set intimidatingly high, Niner introduces a new RIP 9. The travel was dialed down a bit, to 140 millimeters in the rear and 150 out front. But the geometry was dialed up. Depending on where you positioned Niner’s first-ever flip chip, the new RIP is as much as 14 millimeters lower in the bottom bracket, five millimeters shorter in the chainstays, 30 millimeters lower in standover, a degree and a half slacker in the head tube and some fraction of a degree steeper in the seat tube than its predecessor. It’s even got a reduced-offset fork, a threaded bottom bracket, full internally-tubed cable routing and clearance for 2.6-inch tires. But none of those are the most remarkable update made to the new RIP 9 RDO. That would be the 27.5-inch wheels.

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Of course, there’s also a RIP 9 with good ol’ 29-inch wheels in sizes small through extra large. But in sizes small thru large, there’s actually an honest-to-goodness 27.5-inch configuration. That doesn’t mean 27.5+, and it doesn’t mean Niner just flipped the chip and pressed in a taller lower headset cup. The small-wheeled RIP gets its own unique front triangle, rear triangle and fork. It’s essentially another bike, but with the same travel and the same soul. And Lordy Lordy, does this bike have soul. The aggressive but reasonable geometry and taut but sensitive suspension make it an intuitive thrashing machine. The rear suspension’s naturally supportive mid-stroke means you get a remarkably supple top end and a gentile, predictable progressivity before bottom-out. Not only does that mean the new RIP makes quick and comfortable work of the climbs, but it makes a merciless shredder on the descents. It seems to work better and better the harder you hit it. That’s as true when straightlining through knee-deep rockgardens as it is seeking out   Instead of being just another step down the narrow path of more travel = more capability, the new RIP 9 is here to seek a higher purpose. It’s here to have fun.