Which Gravel Bike is for You? The Niner RLT 9 Siblings Explained

A gravel bike with drop bars and wider tires.
Niner’s first gravel bike: The RLT 9, now updated and improved

What do you mean Niner’s got three bikes called the RLT 9? How is each gravel bike model different than the other? How do I choose?

Niner brought the first member of RLT 9 family to life in 2013. The Road Less Traveled (RLT), a close cousin to Niner’s mountain bikes, became an overnight hit – literally and figuratively. As it turned out, riders wanted something other than road bikes and mountain bikes. They wanted a versatile bike that could take them far. They wanted more relaxed geometry, the ability to run larger tires, mount bags and head out for long rides on gravel roads without the heavier ride of a mountain bike or the worry that their road bike wasn’t up to the task. And so, the Niner gravel bike was born.

Fast forward a couple of years and the RLT 9 family has now grown from one bike to three. The RLT 9 Steel takes its place as the middle child. The RLT 9 RDO, just released in early 2017,  became the youngest, but definitely not the slowest, child.

SO WITH THE GROWTH OF THE FAMILY, RIDERS HAVE BEEN ASKING, “WHAT NINER RLT 9 IS RIGHT FOR ME?”

It’s a great question. Ask it around the Niner office and you’ll get a variety of answers. Some love the snappy feel of the oldest child, some like the calmness of the second child and some just want to go hard and fast so they choose the sporty, youngest child.

Below, we offer our ideas about the rider we had in mind when we developed each bike. We do recommend, before making any purchase, that you ride before you buy and put some thought into how you will use one of these adventurous bikes.

THE OLDEST CHILD WHO PAVED THE GRAVEL WAY: THE RLT 9 ALUMINUM

RIDER PROFILE: You’ve heard about this gravel bike thing and you want to give it a try. You want a bike that can introduce you to the sport without breaking the bank but you want a bike that delivers. Or, you are a commuter who wants a bike that’s stable and sturdy but allows you the flexibility to take it on rougher terrain. Or, you are primarily a mountain biker but you’d like an option that keeps you off the road but allows you to still ride and explore a different aspect of cycling, especially when the trails are muck.

The RLT 9 Aluminum broken down:

  • Intended use: The RLT 9 Aluminum offers performance in a more affordable, lightweight and efficient package. Enter a race, get lost on the back roads or load it up for overnights. The original RLT 9 can do it all.
  • Frame: Niner’s premium 6000 series aluminum and RDO Gravel fork make this bike snappy and stiff, yet comfortable due to the design of the hydroformed alloy tube shapes. (Total weight of 56 cm frame and fork based on the 56 cm size: 4.5 lbs/2.04 kg)
  • Tire options: 700 c,  1.75 inches/45 mm
  • Mounting options: Rack and fender mounts allow for packing.
  • Meets ISO design standards for mountain bikes which are more stringent than ISO standards for road bikes.
A steel gravel bike made with Reynolds 853 aluminum in showroom condition.
A gravel bike built for stability and comfort, the RLT 9 Steel is ready to go long.

THE MIDDLE CHILD THAT KEEPS  IT CALM: THE RLT 9 STEEL

RIDER PROFILE: You may come from a road bike background and are looking for a bike that you can do more with, that offers a lot of options. You may simply be tired of paved roads and fast cars. You may come from a mountain bike background and are looking for a comfortable bike that you can get lost on. You don’t always want to fight your way through obstacles. You understand the ride qualities that a Reynolds 853 steel bike offers and are not overly concerned with weight. At some point, you may have considered getting a custom steel bike.

The RLT 9 Steel broken down:

  • Intended use: The RLT Steel seeks adventure. We designed it for those who want to head out, go long and be comfortable.
  • Frame: Reynolds 853 steel and the Niner RDO Gravel fork make this bike sturdy, durable and versatile. The 853 tubeset offers a ride quality like no other. (Total weight of 56 cm frame and fork: 6.13 lbs/2.78 kg)
  • Tire options: 700 c,  1.75 inches/45 mm or 650b with up to a 47 mm tire.
  • Packable for overnight and extended day trips. Rack and fender mounts, water bottle mounts and bento box mounts allow a lot of flexibility in terms of packing this bike and getting lost.
  • A classic steel beauty with an eye towards steel bikes of yesteryear.
  • Meets ISO design standards for mountain bikes which are more stringent than ISO standards for road bikes.
A yellow and black carbon fiber gravel bike ready for action.
A gravel bike ready to race, ready to go hard, the RLT 9 RDO will get you there fast.

THE SPORTY, RACY YOUNGEST CHILD: THE RLT 9 RDO

RIDER PROFILE: If you come from a road or cross-country mountain bike background or you just love the feel of a performance-oriented bike, the RLT RDO is likely for you. You are the discerning cyclist who prefers a carbon fiber bike due to its ride qualities, its light weight and its strength.

The RLT 9 RDO broken down:

  • Intended use: The RLT 9 RDO seeks speed. A performance-oriented bike with geometry that leans more toward road biking but more stable and forgiving. You can race and train on this bike.
  • Frame: Niner’s RDO Carbon and RDO Gravel fork make this bike lightweight and strong yet very responsive. (Total weight of 56 cm frame and fork: 3.63 lbs/1.65 kg.)
  • Tire compatiblity: 700 c, 1.5 inches/40 mm
  • Faster than a steel bike and has a sportier, racier ride quality but the carbon fiber takes the edge off the bumps.
  • Road bikers looking to do some off-road training to mix up their routine will love this bike and or mountain bike racers looking for another option, especially when trails are unrideable, will find this bike to their liking.
  • Meets ISO design standards for mountain bikes which are more stringent than ISO standards for road bikes.

So get lost. Take the Road Less Traveled. And enjoy the freedom that pedal power offers you.

NOTE: As of November 14, 2017, the RLT 9 family has been updated with new build kits. Click for complete details. 

Questions? Need more details? Each product page on Niner Bikes.com dives more deeply into the three siblings. You’ll find build kit options, geometry charts, additional images and more.

If you are looking for a local bike shop that carries Niners, go here. 

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