by Dave Anderson
July 4, 2014
What bike for the Tweedlove Enduro World Series? Richard chose the WFO 9, here's why
Released in early 2014 the Niner WFO 9 V2 was one of those bikes that amongst all the bikes on display at shows just stood out. It’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye, long travel, well equipped and most intriguingly one of the few 29er’s pushing over into the gravity arena. The WFO breaks the 29ers for short(er) travel, carbon framed, XC, marathon mold.
With the wheel size debate dying down and seemingly more manufacturers producing AM/enduro bikes around a 160mm/150mm platform in 27.5 just how would the Niner cope with one of the toughest enduro course in the world?
The WFO 9 V2 has had a pretty radical makeover, so much so, you might as well forget the original version and definitely not compare the two. The second incarnation is lighter, has a lower bottom bracket, slacker head angle and a more compact cockpit (which seems to go against the modern trends of a longer top tube). With a four star build kit – Sram’s lightweight no fuss X01 drivetrain, Shimano XT brake, WTB Frequency hoops wrapped with Maxxis High roller 2’s; it’s ready to go and looks so right, even with big wheels.
In an ever increasing world of high-end carbon frames, Niner have chosen to shape the WFO9 frame using Airformed Aluminium. This method is similar to Hydroformed but uses super heated air in place of hydraulic fluid. Airforming is slower and more precise. The WFO 9 V2 uses Niner’s patented CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) suspension design – pushing a custom tuned Rockshox Monarch Plus RC3; giving 150mm of rear travel. The CVA suspension provides an immense amount of rear wheel traction, when climbing up and over obstacles the wheel sticks to the ground as well as the Scottish mud does to your tyres.
The WFO 9 is compatible with forks lengths from 150mm to a whopping 170mm, our test bike was shod with the well renowned Pike RCT3 160mm and was just about right to take the hits being thrown its way, without slackening off the angles too much. Other features are external, and very neat, cable routing; it’s refreshing to have cables heading to the rear of the bike that are out of the way of linkages and the shock.
Our test bike just about reached that magic weight of 30 lbs, which is pretty good going for an aluminium framed long travel 29er, some much shorter travel trail bikes are struggling to get their weight down so low.
With possible only a handful of rider opting to ride bigger with bigger wheels had I made the correct bike choice?
My first ride was a cheeky one up and down stage five of round two of the UKGE in Innerleithen the weekend before the EWS; similar trails to what we’d be riding during the EWS so the perfect place to set up a bike. Sag adjusted, levers set, tyre pressure done and off we go climbing to the top of the hill.
Whilst climbing up the initial section of the push up Innerleithen the WFO9 V2 sat nicely into the travel of the shock and just got on with it’s business, the bigger wheels maintaining their rolling momentum. With the extra traction provided by the CVA it was a pleasure to climb, even more so because you’ve got the bike that should be more than capable of having a barrel of fun coming down.
On reaching the top there was the usual pause whilst you work out who’s taking the lead, being a bike I’d never ridden I was up for going first, the questions of how capable is this thing and what if it doesn’t live up to my hopes and dreams were running around my head. Oh how I was wrong to doubt this bike! Before I knew it, probably only about 200m down the trail, I was comfortable to let her go and get off the brakes.
Jump forward a week and we’re into the EWS practice. Again the WFO9 took the long climbs well and efficiently, drop your seat and rip it back down; the WFO9 is like an untrained husky pulling a sled, every opportunity you have to get off the brakes and watch it go – it really does accelerate quickly.
The relatively short chainstays keep the back end in check and handling quite lively. Cornering did take a little bit of getting used to, you need to put more weight and pressure than usual on the bars, and over the front wheel; there’s no half measures. Again in the uber steep tight trails you need to fully commit to every turn. To help with that Niner have tried to speed things up at the front end by fitting a 50mm stem as standard – thumbs up Niner!
The WFO9 comes alive most when you can release the reins a little, but when you do make sure you’re holding on, because you’re in for the ride of your life. Big wheels, fantastic fork and a good head angle eats away the roots and rocks, drops and anything you can throw it’s way. Under braking and in the steep everything holds firm and maintains traction front and rear.
In true Scottish style trail conditions changed daily; wet and gloopy followed by dry(ish) and fast. This is where I found my only disappointment – mud catchment areas! The lower linkage is a bit of a mud magnet and our test bike had a chain ring protector (the bane of my life) that had the perfect clearance for pine needle mud to get into, never to leave again. As soon as the trail dried – just a little – there wasn’t a problem but for the first day of practice mud was collecting all over the back end.
To conclude, the WFO9 V2 is a well equipped and rapid machine that likes nothing more than being let loose to go fast! With big wheels and a 30lb build it can climb well, but it’s going down where it comes alive. I had a smile after every descent (apart from day one practice) and felt fresh enough at the top of the climbs.
Nice work Niner!
Frame// Airformed Aluminium 29er w/Rock Shox Monarch Plus RC3
Fork// Rock Shox Pike RCT3 160mm
Wheels// WTB Frequency Team i23
Tyres// Maxxis High Roller Two
Chainset// SRAM XO1 34T
Front Mech// N/A
Rear Mech// Sram XO1
Shifters// SRAM XO1
Brakes// Shimano XT
Stem// Niner Trail
Bars// Niner RDO 780mm
Grips// Hope SL Grip
Seatpost// KS Lev Integra 150mm
Size Tested// Large
Sizes Available// XS/S/M/L/XL