As the gravel movement grows, Niner finally gives us a bike with full suspension: the Magic Carpet Ride 9.
“When there’s an idea for making riding on dirt better, we at Niner pay attention,” said Zach Vestal, Niner Bikes marketing manager.
That’s why, for the past 3 years, Niner has been developing a full-suspension gravel bike. The Magic Carpet Ride (MCR) will be available for testing by late 2019 and will hit the market in early 2020.
Why a Gravel Bike With Full Suspension?
Gravel bikes are currently fully rigid and unsuspended. Sure, some have a rubber stopper-style front damper to take the jolt out of the roughest roads. But they don’t have suspension, which helps keep the wheels of a bike in contact with the ground for more control, speed, and fun, expanding the terrain where that bike can comfortably travel.
What Is the Magic Carpet Ride?
The MCR 9 puts MTB-proven technology into a bike as adept at zooming down dirt roads as skipping through mellow singletrack. Niner optimized it for long hours in the saddle. According to Niner, it doesn’t skitter and skate through corners. It doesn’t buck you out of the saddle when you pedal through washboards, ruts, and cobblestoned stream crossings. Descending rough roads at speed will no longer be a white-knuckle fear fest.
Previously, the only option for softening a gravel bike’s ride was partially deflating tires. But the MCR doesn’t rely on tire pressure and undamped frame flex for suspension. Niner says the bike will let riders pedal powerfully through chop, leaving the rider fresher, with more energy and less wasted effort, by isolating the rider from intrusive bump inputs.
Magic Carpet Ride: The Details
The Niner Bikes Magic Carpet Ride, when released, will have Niner’s RDO carbon fiber main frame and rear triangle with forged, one-piece linkages as well as 50 mm of stable yet supple suspension tuned to smooth out small bumps. An integrated rear fender will protect the suspension components from damage.
The bike will have 11 fixed mounting points for frame bags, bottles, and more. A removable front derailleur mount will let riders set it up 1x or 2x. The bike will use long-lasting Enduro Max Black Oxide pivot bearings.
It will have clearance for 700x50c tires and use a refined CVA suspension curve tuned for small bump performance. Full-sleeve internal cable guides and integrated frame protection will help it perform seamlessly, even when it’s repeatedly exposed to dirt road grit and grime.
Niner is adamant that the MCR is not a mountain bike. It’s a quick-handling, steeper-geometry gravel bike made for seated, long-distance pedaling. And when produced, it’ll have roughly half the suspension of a cross-country mountain bike.
Sounds like it’s done, right? Close. But the batter didn’t hit the home run out of the park just yet.
“The biggest challenge for us is getting gravel bike-specific suspension parts,” said Peter Field, mechanical engineer on the project. “There isn’t enough quantity to warrant the R&D for an unproven platform.”
Currently, Niner is using X-Fusion shock and fork for suspension because that’s the best available. A representative from RideFox said the company is keeping an eye on the project, and on the growth of gravel, but it doesn’t have plans for gravel-specific suspension.
Another challenge for Niner is getting the weight of the bike into gravel territory and out of MTB weight range. “We’re looking at different carbon layups,” said Field, “and we’re looking for ways to shave weight from the linkage.”
Niner is confident it can come up with solutions in the next 6 months.
And Field? He’s excited to be creating a new category. “We’re making something that doesn’t exist,” he said with a smile. “To be one of the first people to pedal it and tune it for what riders expect is awesome. I have many bikes, but when I get on this one, it just puts a smile on my face because of how unexpectedly well it handles terrain. There’s no skidding in corners, and you never feel like your teeth are going to rattle out.”
Check out the specs below.
- 68mm PF30 bb shell (adaptors required for BSA type bbs)
- NMF internal cable and housing guides for shifting and rear brake
- Front and rear rack/fender mounts
- Braze-on-mounted front derailleur
- 27.2 seat post with routing for dropper • 31.8 seat collar
- 1.125” x 1.5” tapered integrated (campy style) head tube, headset included, cane creek description: IS42/28.6 IS52/40
- Disc brake only, 30mm tall flat mount — 160mm max rotor size • 142 x 12 rear spacing, 100 x 15 front spacing
- All sizes have 2 inner triangle bottle mounts
- Can fit up to a 700x50c/650x50c tire (tire sizes vary by brand, some tires may not fit)
- Compatible with standard 1x and 2x systems