Yesterday at Bike Press Camp in Park City, Utah, Niner Bikes launched a fully revised edition of it's venerable S.I.R. 9 mountain bike. That's Steel Is Real for you acronym-impaired. This bike has been a fixture in the big-wheel specialist's line for ages, but the 2012 edition is certainly the most refined version ever.
Eschewing the perception that steel is obsolete as a bike-building material, the S.I.R. 9 pairs the lightest tubing out there (Reynolds 853 DZB) with every modern detailing available. "Steel tends to get overlooked these days, but it has a very particular ride characteristic," says Carla Huckee, Niner's brand manager. "We wanted to build a production bike that you could only otherwise get from a custom frame builder."
That entailed working directly with Reynolds to figure out a way to bend the down tube for better suspension fork clearance—not an easy process given how hard steel tubing is. It also meant incorporating multiple types and diameters of steel. In addition, Niner developed a graceful new eccentric bottom bracket, Biometric 2, so the SIR 9 can run single speed; built in a 142x12 Maxle in the back; included an oversize head tube for tapered forks; and, for the retro-mod stalwarts, offers their rigid carbon fork in a 15mm thru-axle configuration. This is one steel bike that pairs just fine with top-shelf carbon components.
The S.I.R. 9 won't be available for another 12 weeks—except for six special edition bikes. For the third time since 2008, Niner is auctioning bikes on eBay to benefit the International Mountain Bike Association. The company is offering six special edition SIR 9s, with 100 percent of proceeds going to IMBA. That means not only can you own a brand new S.I.R. 9 before anyone else, but yours will be one of only six in the world like it and you'll be doing a service to the mountain bike community every time you ride.
Who said that steel—or philanthropy—was passé?