Being pioneers in the 29er wheel-size trend in the world of mountain biking, Niner certainly knows a thing or two about designing good bike geometry even for smaller-sized riders on the 29er platform. Fully committed to only 29er bikes, Niner’s complete range of mountain bikes include both hard tails and full-sussers using frame materials such as steel, aluminium and of course, carbon.
During the outdoor demo day held by Byx (the local distributor of Niner bikes), we had the privilege to speak to Brett Rosenbauer (above photo, in dark blue T-shirt), International Sales Manager at Niner Bikes to learn more about the American company and why they do what they do.
Could you tell us briefly how Niner came about?
It started with Chris Sugai, the President of Niner, who bought a Gary Fisher MTB in the early 2000s and, being 5”6, he found that the bike didn’t fit him well. So Chris thought of designing something on his own and he met Steve Domahidy, who was designing frames then and had relationships with bike manufacturing factories in Taiwan. So they came together and the very first Niner bike that was designed was a Scandium single speed.
That very first bike was unveiled in the 2005 Sea Otter Classic and it immediately gained a lot of interest, though there was no demo program. In the early years it was (even till now) MTBR.com who helped us with the brand exposure for Niner.
29er bikes-The Early years
Well, the very first foray into 29er trend was the creation of 29er tires- Mark Slate from WTB (American bicycle tire and accessories brand) made the mould for 29er tires as early as 1999.Then there was West Williams, a rather hippie guy who started building his own steel 29er bike frames and used the WTB Nano-raptor tires for the wheels. So it was only in late 2004 that Niner was born.
How did you end up working for Niner?
I have been riding a 29er since 1999 and was working at Feedback Sports (company which makes bike stands and related equipment) from 1999 to 2007. In February 2007, I was hired by Niner and began as a dealer and sales staff.
How did the “Pedal Damn It” decal on the top tubes of Niner Bikes come about?
It was quite simple; basically it served as a kind of motivator when we were riding hard.
Above: Brett (in the pedal damn it shirt) mingling with some of the Demo Day participants
What are some of the best-selling Niner models?
There’s the Air 9 RDO (a carbon hardtail), the E.M.D. (the most affordable Niner frame), the Jet 9 RDO which was released in 2012 and the RIP 9 RDO (a trail bike with 125mm travel).
I understand that the CVA rear suspension is the company’s signature and patented suspension system designed specifically for 29ers. Could you tell us more about it?
The CVA was actually Steve’s (Domahidy) idea in 2005. There were existing rear suspension platforms then, namely the Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) from Santa Cruz and also the DW link. Steve felt that the downsides of these 2 systems were that they were optimized for the middle chain ring and there was ‘bobbing’ when pedalling in the big and granny rings. The CVA tries to overcome this problem as it pedals the same way in all the 3 chain rings. The CVA system also utilises a low air volume shock so small bump compliance is good and there’s minimized bobbing effect.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions of the 29er? Is it only for tall riders?
Chris (Sugai) started Niner because of his first-hand experience with the Gary Fisher he bought and he saw a need for a proper-fitting bike that was solely based on the 29er platform. Some products which help to keep the cockpit close to the shorter riders include Niner’s Flat Top handle bar series which offer a 9 degree sweep and +/- 5mm via the Flat Top design.
Could you tell us more about the markets for Niner bikes outside of the USA?
Spain is Niner’s biggest market outside of the USA and 2nd biggest overall. I think it really depends on how distributors ‘push’ the brand. Canada is about 3-4 years behind USA in the biking scene and 29ers are starting to take off. The Mexicans have a strong Facebook presence and the Philippines is the 3rd largest market for us. We recently have a new distributor in South Korea. The Latin American market is growing fast and Asia is not far behind.
SIR: Steel Is Real!
Thanks Brett for taking time to speak to us!