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The future of gravel bikes or a step too far? It’s the new Niner MCR 9 RDO full-suspension gravel

We get our first look at Niner's suspension gravel bike for the very first time

Gravel bikes have come a long way in a few short years but the new Niner Magic Carpet Ride, or MCR for short, brings full-suspension into the mix for the first time. The MCR 9 RDO made its very first appearance in the UK this week at the annual Core Bike Show, a gathering of top brands showing the newest 2020 product that will be in shops very soon.

The brand new Niner MCR 9 RDO brings the company’s expertise designing full-suspension mountain bikes to a gravel bike, with a dual linkage suspension layout providing a pert 50mm of rear-wheel travel. That’s paired in this case with the Fox AX suspension fork, offering 40mm of travel, that sister site off.road.cc has previously reviewed.

Niner’s Phillip Lucas tells has its CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) suspension is designed to be very linear and designed to soak up all the small ripples and bumps that typify a gravel track, not for dealing with big impacts from "sending" it off big drops like those rad mountain bikers do. The intention is mainly to provide more comfort for the rider when riding fast over long-distance gravel tracks.

Here's the suspension in action:

There’s a handlebar remote lever to lockout the shock, and 1x bikes will use the newest Shimano GRX levers to activate the optional dropper post on this bike. Because the X-Fusion shock is located between the rear wheel and the mainframe, Niner has integrated a mudguard into the swingarm to stop mud and stones being flung into the shock. There’s also integrated frame protection as well.

The mainframe and swingarm are made from carbon fibre with forged aluminium one-piece linkages. There are obviously a few bearings on this bike but they are Enduro Max Black Oxide bearings which are claimed to be durable and long-lasting. Bearings on modern mountain bikes generally last a very long time so there’s no reason why the bearings on this bike should pose any real issues, but long-term testing will be the rear test of them.

Mounts are abundant for attaching bottles and bags, those bolts inside the top of the mainframe are designed to work with the company’s frame pack which uses a metal frame to bolt directly to the frame and do away with the more common velcro straps that are used to attach bikepacking bags to frames.

Tyre clearance is generous, with 700x50 and 650bx60 being accommodated, though the Fox fork is limited to 40mm tyres.

All cables and hoses are internally routed with full-sleeved internal guides so building the bike should be easy.

Pictured here is a Shimano GRX 1x build but you can opt for 2x with space for a front derailleur mount. This model costs £5,750 or you can get the frame for £2,800 and build it your way. You’re looking at about 11.6kg for the pictured bike, but builds closer to 10kg are possible.

But do we really need full-suspension on gravel bikes? Niner says that mountain bikes have evolved from fully rigid to full suspension, and since nearly all mountain bike technologies have been adopted by the gravel market, why not full suspension as well?

We have seen some attempts to bring suspension to a drop bar gravel bike, from the Lauf fork to Specialized’s Future Shock on the Diverge, Cannondale’s new Topstone Carbon and suspension stems and seat posts are making a comeback, so is it about time proper full suspension came to gravel bikes?

To try and answer that question we’ll hopefully be getting a chance to ride the new bike, so stay tuned for that.

I’ll just leave you to read some of the reactions to my Twitter post on the new bike yesterday...

More info at https://ninerbikes.com/

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

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