Is full suspension gravel grinder the next big thing?

Check out this Niner RKT 9 RDO with 100mm fork, 90mm of rear travel

Gravel Sea Otter Classic

2017 Sea Otter Classic

Niner Gravel Grinder Full Suspension

This Niner RKT 9 RDO has an 100mm fork and 90mm of rear travel.

When does a road bike become a mountain bike? As we wandered around the Sea Otter Classic this year, it’s a question that kept popping up. On several occasions we saw sleek road steeds sporting WTBs new tubby rubber and/or short travel suspension forks.

Niner Gravel Grinder

Drop bars and skinny tires.

But Niner took the concept one big step further with this full suspension drop bar project bike. Built around a 90mm travel RKT 9 RDO XC MTB frame, Niner added drop bars, a wide-range drivetrain, and CX rubber. The left hand shifter was also modified to work as a lockout remote for the shock. This was accomplished via a 3D printed reducer, which is stuffed inside the frame and changes the lever pull.

Niner Gravel Grinder

A 3D printed reducer hidden in the frame allows the left shifter to cycle the lock between locked out and open.

The project is a test platform that’s being used to gauge viability and rider interest. The bike probably won’t appeal to racers, but riders who don’t mind pedaling around an extra two pounds will feel a tremendous increase in stability and comfort.

Niner Gravel Grinder

Unlike some bikes we’ve seen sporting the new Fox, the RLT9 did not require any spacers under the headset to clear the fork crowns.

For a more conventional take on the suspension road bike, Niner also had a RLT9 on display with a Fox Adventure fork. They don’t have any plans of offering this as an option next year, but might consider it based on consumer demand.

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This article is part of RoadBikeReview’s coverage of the 2017 Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California. For more from Sea Otter CLICK HERE.

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  • dddd says:

    I have one of those full-suspension “Paris Roubaix” road bikes from back in the mid-1990’s, and so with this Niner I will say that their convenient lockout lever is pretty much a necessity for road riding to prevent pedal strike. Shorter cranks would also help here, so the bike and rider can still have a lower center of gravity and without pedal strike in the corners on the road. I had to set my simple air suspension very stiff to make even mild cornering safe on the road while pedaling.

    Also, with these new gravel bikes, it’s really too bad that there still are no auxiliary “interrupter”-style brake levers available to work with the hydraulic brakes, since using a longer-reach bar then allows use of a shorter stem for descending more safely while still being able to use the brakes!
    Shimano, SRAM, are you listening?

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