Review: Niner’s Electrified RLT E9 RDO

New electric gravel bike is an overland adventure vehicle for daily commutes and weekend exploring

Gravel Pro Review
Niner RLT E9 RDO

The Niner RLT e9 RDO is an electric gravel bike for daily commutes and weekend exploring. Photo by Justin Van Alstyne

Niner is launching an electrified version of its carbon gravel bike. The Niner RLT e9 RDO builds on the versatility of the carbon, steel and aluminum bikes in Niner’s RLT family with pedal-powered assistance to help riders minimize daily commutes and maximize time spent exploring backroads and trails.

Related: Niner E9 ebikes, Rip 9 and 180mm WFO

Niner RLT e9 RDO Highlights

  • Bosch Motor with a 500wh extended range battery
  • 28mph maximum assisted speed (25kph in the EU)
  • Carbon frame and fork tested to ISO mountain bike standards
  • Full complement of mounts for racks, fenders, and frame bags
  • Optional front and rear cargo racks (sold separately)
  • 700c x 50mm maximum tire clearance
  • Suspension-corrected geometry
  • 38.2-pounds
  • Price as tested: $5,695

 

Ready for adventure and daily routines

Niner RLT e9 RDO

A bit of extra assistance can provide the motivation needed for new adventures. Photo by Justin Van Alstyne

Niner’s take on an e-gravel bike blends adventurous aspirations of overlanding with a fast commuter for daily driving. The RLT e9 RDO is powered by a fourth-generation Bosch Performance Line CX motor that is 40-percent smaller and 700g lighter than the previous version.

The maximum assisted speed in the US market is 28mph. The European model makes do with a maximum assisted speed of 25kph. Power is supplied by the new Bosch 500wh PowerTube battery.

Depending on the level of motorized assistance and terrain, this is enough battery to keep you riding for considerably longer than many competitors’ e-gravel bikes. From my testing, I think an 80-mile ride is achievable, so long as you’re not gassing it in turbo mode. (Full disclosure: I spent a lot of time gassing it in turbo mode.)

Niner RLT e9 RDO

The Bosch head unit offers four levels of assistance: Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo. Photo by Justin Van Alstyne

Launching alongside this sparkly-green gravel monster are front and rear cargo racks that expand the bike’s carrying capacity.

Niner RLT e9 RDO

Niner is launching a pair of racks to accompany this e-bike. Photo by Justin Van Alstyne

The frame also features all the mounting points used throughout Niner’s RLT gravel line on the fork, top tube, and inside the front triangle. Niner makes a line of bolt-on cargo bags for strapless mounting. The result is a clean and capable-looking machine.

Niner RLT e9 RDO

The RLT e9 RDO is designed with versatility in mind. Photo by Justin Van Alstyne

 

Niner RLT e9 RDO Review

Niner RLT e9 RDO

Bosch provides power and range in an intuitive drive system. Photo by Justin Van Alstyne

During my time aboard the Niner RLT e9 RDO I covered a variety of terrains including pavement, a lot of gravel and even singletrack. Oftentimes, I would link all three substrates into a single loop. Even as a product tester, there are times when I’m pressed for time, so having the ability to hit fast-forward on the pavement to get to the good stuff was appreciated.

Initially, when hitting gravel and singletrack, I found the ride was stiffer than I expected, but maybe not surprising. After all, the carbon chassis is built to support a motor and battery. Thankfully, there’s ample clearance for high volume tires, and reducing tire pressures does help to counter harshness.

Niner RLT e9 RDO

The Niner RLT e9 RDO has geometry is long, low and stable.

The e9’s slow but deliberate handling skews more toward the drop-bar mountain bike end of the gravel bike spectrum. This will appeal to some riders and turn others off, but given the bike’s 38.2-pound heft, the last thing I wanted it to be was twitchy. The long wheelbase and planted feel lend themselves to riding with cargo—be it a weekend’s worth of camping gear or a fresh load of produce from the farmer’s market.

Niner appears to have considered the myriad ways owners might customize this platform, and designed it accordingly.

Want to run a short-travel gravel fork? The frame can accommodate a 50mm suspension fork. For now, at least, you would have to use a different front wheel. The RLT e9 RDO’s fork uses the 110x15mm mountain bike standard Most gravel suspension forks are designed around the 100x12mm road thru-axle standard. A sign of a changing trend in gravel standards? Who knows.

Want to swap out the drop bar? The RLT e9 RDO frame uses the post-mount brake standard with a flat mount adapter. This makes it easy to exchange road brakes for mountain brake calipers if you want to run a flat handlebar.

Niner RLT e9 RDO

The RLT e9 RDO’s handling is slow but deliberate. Photo by Justin Van Alstyne

This bike’s emphasis on adventure as well as errands means riders are likely to customize it to suit their particular needs. Many of my criticisms of the RLT e9 RDO focus on finding the right balance for how I tested it.

For example, the stock Schwalbe G1 Speed tires are nearly treadless and felt like a miss for how I was using the bike. I would have preferred a tire like WTB’s excellent 700×50 Venture. (If you’ve got the extra wattage in the tank, why not run a knobbier tire?) On the flipside, if your focus is on commuting and pavement, then they’re a spot-on spec choice.

The RLT e9 RDO can be a gravel grinder or a grocery getter.

The RLT e9 RDO can be a gravel grinder or a grocery getter. Photo by Justin Van Alstyne

One oversight that I came across in testing the RLT e9 RDO was the lack of an integrated lighting system. This is becoming increasingly common on performance e-road bikes and is standard on e-commuter bikes. Given the many ways in which this bike is likely to be used, front and rear lights would have been a welcome addition.

Related: 5 Reasons You Should Always Ride With a Bike Light

Verdict

Niner RLT e9 RDO

The RLT e9 RDO may be the most versatile bike in Niner’s line. Photo by Justin Van Alstyne

Niner isn’t the only company exploring the e-gravel segment, but this bike is clearly a breed apart from e-gravel bikes such as Specialized’s Turbo Creo SL Expert Evo and Look’s E-765 Gravel. This interpretation of the e-gravel bike places more emphasis on increased power, greater range and versatility.

Niner has never been afraid to carve out new niches, in fact, it was born from one. The Niner RLT e9 RDO targets the rider looking to refine their quiver around a single bike that can meet the daily demands of commuting and grocery-getting and venture further afield on weekends in search of seldom-traveled roads and remote campsites.

If you find this combination of utilitarianism and wanderlust appealing, the RLT e9 RDO is worth a try.

What do you think?

Niner RLT e9 RDO

Do e-bikes have a place in gravel? Sound off with your thoughts. Photo by Justin Van Alstyne

Share your thoughts in our Gravel Bikes Forum.

About the author: Josh Patterson

Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998, and has been writing about mountain biking and cyclocross since 2006. He was also at the forefront of the gravel cycling movement, and is a multi-time finisher of Dirty Kanza. These days, Josh spends most of this time riding the rocky trails and exploring the lonely gravel roads around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.


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