Two Roads Diverged in a Wood: I Took the Niner Road Less Traveled Steel. Some reviews are easy; some not so much.  This one about my experiences with the Niner RLT 9 Steel is both. After several months on this bike, it’s easy to say I love it.  It’s much harder to find many faults. Niner RLT 9 Steel Long Term ReviewThe Niner RLT 9 Steel was designed for more extensive days and heavier hauls than their aluminum RLT.  Both bikes will take you well off the paved path, but the Steel is made to both keep you comfortable on longer jaunts and carry the gear you need for extending those rides to multi-day adventures. I have spent many a long day aboard the RLT 9 Steel.  I did make some minor tweaks to the cockpit. I initially found the stock cockpit a bit short and low.  I swapped the stem for one that was longer and with more rise.  I also swapped the bars out in favor of the shallower drop and more flare of the Cowbell 2.  With these changes, the bike is now dialed perfectly for all-day comfort and then some.
As I mentioned in my short-term review of this bike, I also swapped the supplied Sammy Slick 35c tires for the Nano 40c.  I will admit, I have yet to put any miles on the stock tires and have exclusively ran the Nano’s.  Again, this is an adventure oriented bike so I really wanted to go bigger on the tires.  I think 40-41 is perfect for maximizing the tire size while still allowing for mud clearance. How much does it weigh? is one of the most common questions with regards to any bike.  Admitting that the RLT 9 Steel with my changes to the tires and cockpit comes in around 23-24 pounds sometimes elicits scoffs from the more weight-conscience.  But I assure them not to knock it until they try it.  The bike disappears under you and the weight is hardly noticed.  The bike often surprises me when I pick it up because during the ride it feels like a substantially lighter bike than it is.  Stick with me here, but perhaps the extra weight actually makes it seem lighter.  The steel and its extra heft definitely smooth out the ride.  This also works to keep the tires planted over choppy gravel and results in less spin-outs and directional corrections.  Short sprinter hills are the only terrain where I notice the weight.  This bike is more for settling in than it is for quick bursts. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA For bikepacking or ultra-long rides, I am a big fan of frame and saddle packs.  So all of my bikepacking and big rides with the Niner have been with those rather than going with the rack/pannier option the frame allows.  The RLT 9 Steel is a great bikepacking bike.  The bike carries the weight well and feels nearly as nimble and secure with a weekend bikepacking set-up as it does empty.  The large triangle space makes is great for not only large full-frame bags, but also lets you still use the bottle cages when running half-bags. Niner RLT 9 Steel Long Term ReviewThe bike really defies categorization.  If you must, it’s probably best described as a long-adventure bike.  However, that is a disservice, because it’s also great for pavement commutes and pub runs. With the more aggressive tires, it’s a blast on single track, assuming you don’t do like me and forget your gloves.  The hoods are not comfortable over extended periods of rocky and rooty singletrack without some padding there. The Niner RLT 9 Steel is a great all-around bike, and it’s a fantastic bike for long days of gravel and multi-day gravel adventures.  As of today, Niner has announced updates to the RLT line to make it even better.  I love this bike more after 6 months than I did after the first one.  I always look forward to my next ride on this an amazingly capable and comfortable bike.

Learn more about the RLT updates including a 142×12 rear axle and an bikepacking friendly upgrade to the fork.


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