OK it’s probably breaking all the rules, the designer of a bike writing the review about said bike. Not so impartial, you’d think.
So yes I did design this frame, but I’m also my own toughest critic. So let’s give it a go I’ll write the review and at the end you can decide if it’s packed full of marketing and sales bullshit…
Why design The Double9?
The European Single Champs played a big part. After a rash decision entering a Kingdom team, we decided we needed some bikes to ride. This was our point of departure for our 29er concept.
The Double9 Concept.
We wanted the bike to be at home in XC combat, capable of acceleration and holding race speed without sacrificing handling on trail days.
Having mostly been involved in 26″ MTB’s, we approached the angles with caution. How could we create a frame that was maneuverable, responsive but didn’t feel like a cruise liner especially on tight single track. Well the angles ended up being a revolution more of an evolution of current 29er geo.
The devils in the detail.
Here’s the finally geometry we settled on:
You can see from the tables that there’s a couple of interesting things happening with the geometry, an attempt at creating a split personality. With 100mm suspension the angles become a little slacker, more easy going, more trail but ridden with rigid carbon forks the Double9 takes on a more aggressive racer personality along with a significant weight reduction.
Which brings me nicely onto her weight. In ‘does my bum look fat in this’ mode (1×10, rigid fork, carbon accessories) she weighs a meager 20.5lbs. With suspension and 2×10 set up from 22.5lbs upwards.
To help handling we deliberately kept the BB low keeping the centre of gravity pinned and reducing the ‘look at me I’m up in the air’ feeling you get from 29ers. We’d much rather smack the odd crank pedaling through a low corner, than feel like I’m trying to bend a penny farthing into every corner.
We decided to make the Double9 as flexible as possibly by adding an eccentric BB into the mix. Not knowing a massive amount about EBB’s we headed straight to the current market leader and used the Niner EBB system, which is not only easy to install but also dead simple to use. Job done.
The set up.
The first Double9 proto dropped at Kingdom HQ in March so she was immediately single speeded and fully rigid to try and get some training for the upcoming SS champs.
Whilst we waited for our Kingdom Tracker 29er forks to arrive we bolted some Niner rigid carbon forks to the front end. Super nice forks but a little pricey.
The rolling stock was handled by 2 tubeless Maxxis Ardents. Up front a 2.4 for some suspension and a faster rolling 2.2 on the back. The Ardents wrapped around Stans flow rims on some Hope ProII hubs. The rear being a 4 pawl 42 engagement trails hub, a weight penalty that is more than made up for with quality of pick up and engagement. This set up has performed tirelessly (sorry) for the last 6 months without puncture or loss of traction, 10 out of 10.
A short stubby 50mm stem, mated to Kingdom Carbon 680Lunar bars and Kingdom Injection Carbon seatpost added some bling. Over the last 6 months we ran various crank set ups; SRAM XO, Profile BMX and ethirteen XC. The one that stood the test of time being the ethirteen. The main reason being the 30mm polygon spindle, this seems to work the best with the Double9′s EBB system.
Ok it’s time to play devils advocate and hand out an unbiased review of the bike. I should also add that this review also covers some of my initial experiences riding the big hoops.
My first thoughts/words on riding the Double9 as a SS fully rigid are unprintable, but in short it felt awful; like a clowns bike, too big, awkward, impossible to climb anything with one stupid gear and unforgivably rigid.
Initially the handling was the most difficult to come to terms with. On tight singletrack I found myself fighting with the bike into and out of corners, using my upper body to wrestle the bike around the trails. Oh god we’d made a monster…
I’ve now come to realise this is a normal feeling when you start to ride 29ers. A bit like the Matrix when Neo gets the choice between the red pill or the blue pill….the choice between the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue) and embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red).
There was some upside, I loved the amount of speed the Double9 could build up and maintain blowing through trail boulders and stumps like they were invisible. So I persevered, riding the beast as often as I could on as many varied trails as possible. I gradually building up strength in my whole body to take on hill climbs in that damn single gear and got more and more skilled at handling those big wheels.
I planned to switch back to a geared set up after the SS champs, but 2 months and after the race I realized I hadn’t ridden any other bike than my rigid single speed Double9. My worst nightmare I’d become a single speed 29er nerd, a laughing stock to my fully suspended long travel mates.
Handling. It now occurred to me I’d learned to ride this bike in a different way, acceleration into corners, less braking, carrying more speed around the trail, hammering out of the saddle up hills and fast acceleration mostly thanks to the rigid forks and tight frame. The Double9 feels more like how a road bike feels out the saddle.
The low BB undoubtedly helps the cornering combined with the 71 degree head angle and wide bars, a combination made in heaven.
Climbing. The Double9′s chainstays are shortish for 29ers, I’ve seen some as short as 426mm and some substantially longer than the Double9′s. How does this effect things out the back?
Well climbing traction is great, better than great in fact, losing out only to steep wet big roots, that any bike would struggle with. However making those tight last minute changes of direction on technical climbs is next to impossible so a clear idea line is needed before you tackle steep technical climbs.
Which brings me to a very interesting observation I had the other week whilst riding a cyclocross bike. The Double9 feels like a mix between a cyclocross bike and a dialed MTB racer.
The Double9′s ride is much more forgiving with gears and suspension but even with the more relaxed geometry it still has a race personality, so those long days cruising trails are not really best suited for her.
The suspension obviously takes the harshness out of the trails and thus allows you to carry even more speed through the rough stuff and this is where the big wheels really come into their own, swallowing up those melon sized rocks and fallen trees that would require evasive action on a 26er.
To me the Double9 seems to do everything a 29er should. It does everything that other 29ers do but a bit differently, maybe it’s the titanium or the angles but it has an alternate personality to the other 29ers I’ve since ridden.
Did we achieve our goals? In part, we made a great race 29er. But our goal to make a trail bike on Saturday, race bike come Sunday is slightly lacking on the trail side. The Double9 more than ticks all the race boxes and I love riding it fast on a 20km race loop but would I take it on an all day trail epic. No.
It’s a bit like an aged malt whisky, it takes getting used to, but once you do it’s hard to stop drinking it.