Friday, April 07, 2006

"Ted-terview": Chris & Steve of Niner Bikes: Part II

Today I am posting the rest of the text from the Interview of Chris and Steve of Niner Bikes. Once again, I thank them for participating in this and for being class guys.

1. The new full suspension model had to be one of the more difficult models in your line to develop and get it right. Tell us why you made the choices you made and some of the challenges involved in getting a full suspension 29”er right.

Chris – Yes the r.i.p. 9 is the most difficult bike we have made so far. Steve has been working on this design for quite sometime now. We have made 3 generations of prototypes so far and are refining our final production version. Steve and I have had the luxury of riding many different suspension designs over the years so we both know what we like and dislike in suspension design. The trick is getting as many of those features in a workable design.

Steve – full suspension is TOUGH! Especially with a 29er. Chris and I have definite geometry parameters we want all Niner’s to have, and putting that into a full suspension frame and getting everything to clear is really, really difficult. Front derailleurs, tire clearance, short chainstays, shock mounting and MOST importantly, linkage angles and locations to insure that the suspension movement is dialed is really challenging. I’ve been developing this frame since we started Niner, and that might sound like a long time, but the stakes are high, and we won’t be happy until the bike is perfect. The bike we’re showing at Sea Otter should be our last prototype.

2. Tell us how you envision the future of 29 inch bicycles and how Niner fits into that.

Chris- I have ridden bikes for almost my whole life and really believe that the 29er wheel is the best thing to come to the mountain bike market in a long time. I think the market will flip and 29er’s will be the more common wheel size vs 26 wheels. Niner plans on building the best possible 29er bikes we know how and giving the consumer and bike shops the best service we can provide. There will always be a place for a company like that.

Steve – I just want to make sure Niner is on the cutting edge, always pushing the envelope in design. I want Niner to be the leaders of the 29er industry and I want our customers to know that we are there for them. It gives me great pleasure to hear firsthand how much somebody enjoys riding one of our products.

3. On your welcome page for the Niner Bikes website it says, “Our goal is to build a complete line of 29er mountain bikes and parts and everything we do is dedicated to this end”. You have almost completed your line of bikes, but do you have any plans for more 29 inch specific parts?

Chris- We have not completed our line of bikes. There will be more models to come. Steve and I are also looking at where we can make 29er parts that are beneficial to the 29er rider. We have some designs in place and are deciding if we should move forward with them or not.

Steve – Like we said, we’re never done, and we’ll never just sit back and relax. Chris and I are always asking each other “what can be done better?”

4. Several objections are raised concerning 29 inch wheeled bikes, but I’d like to focus on the sizing for smaller riders. Chris, you are a shorter rider. Does the shorter mountain bike rider need to look elsewhere for a mountain bike? Are there some changes that could be made, in your opinion, for the 29”er to better accommodate the shorter riders out there?

Chris- Yes being 5’ 6” is a little challenging to build a 29er bike around. I think riders down to 5’ 3” can still benefit from a 29er wheel. Below that a 26 inch wheel will probably be better. Some will dispute this and hey if you still want to ride a 29er more power to ya!

Steve – There is a definite cut off point to height for a 29er. Right now I would say it’s about 5’4”. If you build a dedicated frame around a non suspension corrected rigid front fork, you could probably get that height down a bit, but it’s pushing it. Everybody talks about fork rake and getting a longer rake would allow for a slacker head tube angle which would allow for shorter top tubes without having toe overlap, but the handlebar height is still an issue, and the shorter you go the worse this gets. At some point, a 26” wheel just makes more sense.

9. There are some folks who say that there are not enough choices in tires, forks, and wheels for 29”ers, so they are not interested. Do you see this changing soon? What types of products are on the horizon for those that are waiting for more choices?

Chris- There are lots of tire choices now and even more in the very near future. The tire manufactures have started to climb on board and get behind the 29er revolution. WTB and Kenda are leading the charge and have some great tires coming. There are now more companies that offer a 29er tire than those who don’t which is a big change from just 2 years ago. Forks are a big investment for the manufactures and most are busy with the big hit market at the moment. Rock Shox Reba and WB forks are as good or better than anything the others can produce so I don’t see a problem with fork selection now. We would like to see a 5 and 6 inch fork being made.

Steve – This is really turning around and as far as tires go, there are really a lot of choices. I think more fork manufactures will be climbing on board as they see this market rapidly rising. Nobody wants to be caught off the back. We aren’t really at liberty to say what’s coming down the pipeline, but let’s just say a lot of companies are approaching us about the market.

That's it for the interview! Look for some pics and my take on the R.I.P.9 in a post this weekend!

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