Steel is real as they say – steel isn’t always the flavour of the month, and while other frame materials fall in and out of vogue, steel framesets have always stood the test of time. Modern steel tubing drawn for the manufacture of bicycles is lightweight and delivers a ride quality renown for smoothing out the rough road surfaces of your average dirt and gravel road.
We’ve featured Niner’s carbon BSB 9 RDO on GravelCyclist.com in the past; that bike is a favourite with Amanda Nauman (back to back Dirty Kanza 200 winner – 2015 and 2016) and Gravel Cyclist’s own Pfaff Daddy. But this is the first opportunity we’ve had to get up close with Niner’s steel RLT 9.
This example of the Niner RLT 9 in Forge Grey / Safety Orange belongs to Gary Mendenhall, founder and promoter of the 4G (Great Gator Gravel Grinder – event link HERE), the southern-most, but most unsouthern-like gravel race in the United States.
Starting at the front of the bike, the unique off-road drop handlebars are designed by Gary Mendenhall himself. The Gary Ergo Sweep OS offers a 21º flared drop and work with all shifter types, including bar end shifters.
Handlebars like saddles and so much else related to bicycles are a personal choice, so the the Gary Ergo Sweep OS (also available in non-ergo and the Gary-2 bar) may not be for everyone. But, Gary feels the bar offers improvements in the area of comfort, control and ergonomics.
Reynolds Steel 853 tubing was introduced in 1995 as the world’s first air hardening steel for bicycle tubing. It has featured on many high-end bikes, including USA Cycling’s Olympic team bikes at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, as well as kitting out several European pro team bikes during the mid to late 1990’s
SRAM’s Rival front derailleur handles the duties of shifting between chainrings. The Niner RLT 9 is ready to roll a wired electronic drivetrain, as indicated by the port located below the front derailleur clamp.
An 11-32 cassette may sound like overkill for use in Florida… but if you encounter sand or sludge, the low gears come in very handy for turning the legs over and the bike moving forward. Momentum is everything!
Rear brake and derailleur cables run along the length of the downtube, unless you happen to shift with Shimano Di2. In that case, your wiring is hidden inside the frame – see cable port in above photo.
The Maxxis Rambler is a superb tyre for crushing gravel roads and a favourite among the Gravel Cyclist crew. See our review HERE.
- Frame: Niner RLT 9 steel, 142 x 12mm thru-axle rear.
- Fork: Niner tapered full carbon fork with 15mm thru-axle.
- Headset: Niner 1 1/8″ to 1 1/4″.
- Stem: Origin 8 ProFit Series, -17 flipped, 90mm x 31.8mm clamp.
- Handlebar: Origin 8 Gary Ergo Sweep OS
- Handlebar Tape: Lizard Skins.
- Front brake: SRAM Rival hydraulic.
- Rear brake: SRAM Rival hydraulic.
- Shift / Brake Shift levers: SRAM Rival mechanical 11-speed / hydraulic brake.
- Front derailleur: SRAM Rival.
- Rear derailleur: SRAM Rival 11-speed mid-cage.
- Cassette: SRAM PG1170 11-32 11-speed.
- Chain: SRAM 11-speed.
- Crankset: SRAM Rival 172.5mm fitted with 46 / 36 chainrings.
- Bottom bracket: Shimano PF30.
- Pedals: Crank Brothers egg beater.
- Wheelset: Niner aluminum clincher.
- Front tyre: Maxxis Rambler 700c x 40mm (with tubes).
- Rear tyre: Maxxis Rambler 700c x 40mm (with tubes).
- Saddle: WTB Volt.
- Seatpost: Niner aluminum.
- Bottle cages: Delta stainless steel.
- Computer: N/A