Niner AIR 9 RDO 2-Star Complete Bike - $3,299.00

Like a crowded rush-hour elevator, there's little elbow room in the 29er hardtail market, as it's quickly being packed with carbon-suited strangers hoping to catch a ride. Unfortunately for the me-too'ers, Niner's already looking down from the top floor with its no-compromises, AIR 9 RDO. And with the smartly spec'd, 2-Star Complete Bike build, this RDO is ready to rock on a stagehand's budget. The Air 9 name is shared with Niner's versatile carbon and aluminum hardtails, but the Air 9 RDO is an entirely different animal. The RDO designation, an acronym for 'Race Day Optimized,' clearly states this 29er's purpose -- to place you on the podium. Niner eliminated all excess on this frame and focused solely on making it as light as possible. For example, the rear brake mounts are now cleanly located inside the stays. This reduces the amount of required hydraulic line, while simultaneously making the Air 9 RDO look lean and mean. Also, this frame doesn't use Niner's CYA bottom bracket system. While the CYA is renowned for its versatility, it would add complexity and heft to this purpose-built race machine. So, Niner went with the lighter PressFit30 interface instead. However, the RDO does retain the clean internal cable routing and titanium chain-slap protectors found on the Air 9 Carbon. The Air 9 RDO isn't just cosmetically and physically different, it's structurally different, too. At the core of every Niner frame is extensive, computer-based finite element analysis, and here, it's used to develop a high modulus carbon fiber structure with optimized weaves, lay ups, and tube shapes. Effectively, this process has produced the lightest Niner to date. The RDO's fluid form is no accident. In fact, it's been designed to dampen chatter and guide impact forces to the stronger parts of the frame. Now, chain torque goes directly to the rear wheel via the large bottom bracket shell and shapely chainstays, yet trail vibrations are quelled by the swooping seatstays. - $3,299.00