Featured Bike: Gary Mendenhall’s Niner RLT 9 Steel

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-1Steel is real as they say – steel isn’t always the flavour of the month, and while other frame materials fall in and out of vogue, steel framesets have always stood the test of time. Modern steel tubing drawn for the manufacture of bicycles is lightweight and delivers a ride quality renown for smoothing out the rough road surfaces of your average dirt and gravel road.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-2We’ve featured Niner’s carbon BSB 9 RDO on GravelCyclist.com in the past; that bike is a favourite with Amanda Nauman (back to back Dirty Kanza 200 winner – 2015 and 2016) and Gravel Cyclist’s own Pfaff Daddy. But this is the first opportunity we’ve had to get up close with Niner’s steel RLT 9.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-3This example of the Niner RLT 9 in Forge Grey / Safety Orange belongs to Gary Mendenhall, founder and promoter of the 4G (Great Gator Gravel Grinder – event link HERE), the southern-most, but most unsouthern-like gravel race in the United States.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-29Starting at the front of the bike, the unique off-road drop handlebars are designed by Gary Mendenhall himself. The Gary Ergo Sweep OS offers a 21º flared drop and work with all shifter types, including bar end shifters.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-27Handlebars like saddles and so much else related to bicycles are a personal choice, so the the Gary Ergo Sweep OS (also available in non-ergo and the Gary-2 bar) may not be for everyone. But, Gary feels the bar offers improvements in the area of comfort, control and ergonomics.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-18A Niner bike is incomplete without the Y.A.W.Y.D. top cap (you are what you drink).

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-12Gary prefers a more upright and relaxed position and flips a -17 / 73 degree Origin8 stem.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-11Grippy Lizard Skins handlebar tape.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-15Reynolds Steel 853 tubing was introduced in 1995 as the world’s first air hardening steel for bicycle tubing. It has featured on many high-end bikes, including USA Cycling’s Olympic team bikes at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, as well as kitting out several European pro team bikes during the mid to late 1990’s

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-5Gary’s well-used SRAM Rival crankset is fitted with 46 / 36 chainrings, which are the perfect size for most riders.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-6Crank Brothers pedals, loved by some.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-24The oversized PF30 bottom bracket and shell keeps everything stiff with minimal flex.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-21SRAM’s Rival front derailleur handles the duties of shifting between chainrings. The Niner RLT 9 is ready to roll a wired electronic drivetrain, as indicated by the port located below the front derailleur clamp.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-7Rear shifting is handled by the SRAM Rival mid-cage rear derailleur. As a little FYI, JOM has successfully mated a Campagnolo 10-speed Ergo shifter to a SRAM Rival rear derailleur… SRAMagnolo.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-8An 11-32 cassette may sound like overkill for use in Florida… but if you encounter sand or sludge, the low gears come in very handy for turning the legs over and the bike moving forward. Momentum is everything!

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-16“Pedal Damn It” – the well known Mantra of Niner Bikes.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-28Some folks love externally routed cables and some loath them. No matter you thoughts on the matter, they make working on the bike a snap.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-26Rear brake and derailleur cables run along the length of the downtube, unless you happen to shift with Shimano Di2. In that case, your wiring is hidden inside the frame – see cable port in above photo.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-22Niner’s house brand wheels with 15mm thru-axle front and 142mm x 12mm rear feature on Gary’s bike.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-14The Maxxis Rambler is a superb tyre for crushing gravel roads and a favourite among the Gravel Cyclist crew. See our review HERE.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-25SRAM’s Rival brakes offer superb braking power along with modulation and great feel at the brake lever. Note the fender mounts. The Niner RLT 9 frameset is well kitted out.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-23160mm Avid disc brake rotors front and rear.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-4WTB’s Volt saddle and Niner zero degree aluminum seatpost.

GaryMendenhallNiner2016-17In addition to Gary’s bike, we interviewed him on camera. Expect to see that interview soon!


  • Frame: Niner RLT 9 steel, 142 x 12mm thru-axle rear.
  • Fork: Niner tapered full carbon fork with 15mm thru-axle.
  • Headset: Niner 1 1/8″ to 1 1/4″.
  • Stem: Origin 8 ProFit Series, -17 flipped, 90mm x 31.8mm clamp.
  • Handlebar: Origin 8 Gary Ergo Sweep OS
  • Handlebar Tape: Lizard Skins.
  • Front brake: SRAM Rival hydraulic.
  • Rear brake: SRAM Rival hydraulic.
  • Shift / Brake Shift levers: SRAM Rival mechanical 11-speed / hydraulic brake.
  • Front derailleur: SRAM Rival.
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM Rival 11-speed mid-cage.
  • Cassette: SRAM PG1170 11-32 11-speed.
  • Chain: SRAM 11-speed.
  • Crankset: SRAM Rival 172.5mm fitted with 46 / 36 chainrings.
  • Bottom bracket: Shimano PF30.
  • Pedals: Crank Brothers egg beater.
  • Wheelset: Niner aluminum clincher.
  • Front tyre: Maxxis Rambler 700c x 40mm (with tubes).
  • Rear tyre: Maxxis Rambler 700c x 40mm (with tubes).
  • Saddle: WTB Volt.
  • Seatpost: Niner aluminum.
  • Bottle cages: Delta stainless steel.
  • Computer: N/A

Niner Bikes


  1. Avatar Rado Bonk

    Hi guys, thanks for the nice bike description. I am new to gravel grinding. I am thinking to obtain RLT 9 steel. However, I am not sure about the frame size. Niner’s geometry page suggests to go for 59″. I am riding 56″ frames on carbon road bikes, top tube = 56-57cm, with 12cm stem. I am 185cm tall, 89cm inseam length. Which frame should I go for? 56″ or 59″? Thanks a lot indeed. Rado

    • JOM JOM

      Hi Rado,

      I am not a bike fit expert, but looking at Niner’s geometry chart for the Niner RLT9 steel, I would choose the size 56 bike. The top tube measures 56.5cm – I always choose a bike by top tube length.

      Good luck!

      • Avatar Rado Bonk

        Thanks JOM, some other guys with my height and inseam length parameters prefer 59″. I would prefer smaller frame and increase it by longer stem. Longer stem also add some stability in steering as well – in my opinion. Rado

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