RLT 1,000(ish) Mile Review

I’ve had the Niner RLT for about 4 months now and have got well over 1,000 miles on it now, probably closer to 1,200 if I really think about it.

RLT in it’s current state

I’ve only made a few additional changes since it’s original review.  I swapped out the stock bars for my preferred Ritchey Logic II in a 40cm width.  I prefer the reach and drop on these bars.  The stock bars had a bit too much drop for my liking.
Also needed to go with a seatpost with 30mm of setback.  This one is a Velo Orange Grand Cru, also tossed a Selle Italia Flite on it from my Salsa Fargo.  Lastly, I got a killer deal on a Sram Force 170mm crankset off ebay. 

Flite saddle and Velo Orange Grand Cru seatpost
Good eBay find, Sram Force crankset

The bulk of my riding has been commuting from work with this guy. A bit of overkill for a commuter, but for my 9+ mile commute it does a really good job.
I’ve also got a good solid group of mixed terrain rides on this guy.  The most punishing was a 45 mile jaunt from home to downtown Portland last weekend to meet Mia.  That ride had 8 miles of gravel climbing and 12 miles of Forest Park thrown in for good measure.  1 flat tire was the only trouble.

So the good news is the bike is riding really well.  As an aluminum frame with a carbon fork, it really isn’t abusive at all.  My first road race bike was a Cannondale Crit 3.0 and anything over 40 miles on that was just flat out brutal because the ride was so harsh.  Well, aluminum has come a long way in 25 years.  The hyrdoformed tubes definitely seem to be a key component to this frame.  Sure steel or carbon would probably be a bit more forgiving, but not as light or as cheap depending on which of those two materials you opted for instead.

The Shimano 105 group has really performed flawlessly.  The Avid BB5 brakes are okay.  The front still squeals like a stuck pig until the rotor heats up a bit.  BB5’s are basically obsolete now.  Looks like a lot of 2015 bikes are going to have the TRP Spyre or full on Sram or Shimano hydraulic.  I can’t see the Avid BB5 or 7 line living much longer except on lower end bikes.

The wheels have held up really well.  Still not light, but they are solid.  They will most certainly get replaced with something of the tubeless variety.  Probably Easton EA90 XD or No Tubes Grail.

My two biggest grips are as follows……

Pressfit 30 bottom bracket.  It kind of sucks.  It’s a Sram model and it’s already developed play and creaks even after two pull apart and grease jobs.  Mia’s Cannondale CAAD10 has a BB30 bottom bracket and it’s performed really well, so I do have some faith in the while BB30/Pressfit 30 concept.  I’m chalking this one up to a crappy low end bottom bracket.  I plan on replacing with a wheels manufacturing replacement and seeing how things go from there.

My other gripe is more towards all manufacturers who make bikes for short people.  The reason I needed to go with the 30mm setback seatpost is because the RLT has a 74.5 degree seat tube.  Not all of us short people have short inseams, and most bikes in this size range tend to have between 74.5 and even sometimes 75 degree seat angles.  The fact that Niner sells this with a zero setback seatpost just adds insult.  I know I have longer legs for my size.  Hovering right around a 30″ inseam at 5’4″.  Quite a few of my bike racing friends with a similar inseam are all 5’7 – 5’8′.  Their size frames have a nice 73.5 or 74 degree seat tube angle.

Couple my longer legs, with my height and it means I need a short top tube/reach.  Hence the 47cm.  Ideally I have found through my 26 years of riding is that a 51-52cm top tube is perfect.  Even the few 52cm top tubes I have had needed an 80mm stem which just felt odd.  Using my Look 555 as the gold standard for myself.  I find a 51cm top tube with a 90mm stem is pretty close to ideal.

The RLT is stable at speed.  Today’s ride topped descents close to 40 mph on gravel.  My limiting factor was the rear Schwalbe Sammy Slick.  It might be a good hardpack dirt road tire, but on gravel it just doesn’t have the grip you’d hope for.  I wore through the rear in about 900 miles, which surprised me at my hefty 140lbs.  On road tires I tend to get close to 2,000 miles out of a rear before I need to replace it.

Still search for my preferred tires for this.  Not looking too hard, just using the front Sammy Slick on the rear now and tossed a Michelin Mud2 on the front that has seen 2+ years of on and off abuse.

So to wrap it up.  Great bike, I’d totally recommend it even the stock part spec.  If you have odd fit issues like me, keep that in mind.  Otherwise it’s a great bike in what is becoming a very tight market segment.  Please note I am refraining from the “gravel grinder” nonsense.  It’s a “any road” bike.  Dirt, pavement, light singletrack, etc.

Thanks for reading,

-Pete

 

 

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