The N9 is pitched as Polygon’s Enduro machine, and it has performed admirably on the Enduro World Series under the UR Team, so a three-hour descent with new challenges around every corner was the ideal way to get re-acquanted with the N9. We say re-acquainted because we’ve ridden the N9 before (read our review here) but the bike has been given a freshen up since, including a tangerine paint job that we dig: a bike with frame shapes this wild is always going to attract attention, so embrace it!
It truly is one of the most spectacularly outlandish frame designs going, big scimitars of carbon out back, a collection of tube profiles that comes together in great style, a real demonstration of what’s possible with carbon and creativity. In an era of increasingly similar frame designs, it’s one of the few frames that look like they were approached with a truly blank slate. It’s easy to be struck by the bold colour and shape, but when you inspect more closely you see all kinds of batik inspired graphic details hidden in the most unlikely nooks and crannies too. That attention to detail continues with other design features, like the smart cable ports and bonded chain slap protection.
Travel is 160mm at both ends, and the rear suspension layout is a variant of the FS03 system found throughout the Polygon dual suspension range (excluding the Siskiu – reviewed here). A FOX Float X shock right is sandwiched right in the centre of the frame (no water bottle, sorry), compressed between a stout lower link that curves over the bottom bracket, and short upper link that also has very wide bearing placement and is driven by the dramatic, long, sweeping seat stay. The challenge of this particular design is maintaining rear-end stiffness, hence the huge pivot axles found on the upper and lower links to try and remove unwanted wavering.
On the subject of stiffness, one of the key improvements with this new N9 is the addition of a FOX 36 TALAS fork, which gives the front end plenty of menace. The 36 saved our bacon on more than a few occasions when we blindly screamed over a crest only to be presented with a mass of motorcycle ruts. There’s so much support and stiffness, that finessing the front end is nonsense – lean on the bars and traction just appears like magic, whereas a lesser fork would dive and twist. The chunky Schwalbe Hans Dampf rubber helps too, of course!
The FOX 36 is just one highlight in a truly stacked spec sheet though. Polygon bikes are always incredibly well equipped, and when you consider the price tag, we can’t think of another bike which even comes close to matching the N9’s component offering. A full SRAM XX1 drivetrain, E13 TRS race wheels, XT brakes, a RockShox Reverb dropper… If you’re more of a Shimano fan, you can get a the N9 with an XTR double-ring drivetrain and XTR brakes for the same price! Ridiculous.
The pricing is made possible through a direct sales model, so your bike is shipped to you in a box. If the idea of buying a bike unseen irks you, it’s worth noting that distributor Bicycles Online offer a 14-day test ride period during which you can return the bike for a full refund if you’re not happy. That’s pretty good peace of mind we feel.
Playfulness and pedalling performance are two of the elements which stand out for us. This isn’t a 160mm bike that hugs the ground like a mini downhill bike. Rather it gives you the engagement you’d normally expect from a 140mm-travel bike, but with some more forgiveness when you need it. You’re not isolated from the trail, and even when already pushed deep into its travel, the N9 can be flicked to a new line easily.
This responsiveness is in part due to the supportive suspension which has a firm mid-stroke, and the responsive E13 wheels, but it’s also a product of the bike’s geometry. When you compare a medium-sized N9 to other medium-sized 160mm bikes, you’ll notice the wheelbase is shorter. The head angle is 66.3 degrees (which is pretty standard for this category of bike) and the stays are 430mm (again, pretty much the norm) but the top-tube/reach measurements are 15-20mm shorter than is common. This makes it an easier bike to flick about, at the expense of stability when it’s really steep and fast. The option is of course to ride a size up if you want more stability, but make sure the seat tube isn’t too long if this is your plan.
Pedalling performance is excellent, and while the N9 has all the usual compression adjustments you’ll find on FOX shock and a travel-adjustable fork, we didn’t utilise them. Admittedly, most of our ride was spent descending, but having the ability to drop the front end for long climbs is a bonus (the fork drops from 160-130mm). There’s just the right amount of anti-squat in the FS03 suspension design, giving the N9 very stable pedalling and snappy acceleration without too much intrusive pedal feedback when on the gas over rough terrain. It’s the kind of bike that won’t rob you of energy unnecessarily over a long day in the saddle, which again feeds back into the N9’s abilities as a trail bike, rather than just a full-blown Enduro descender.
Getting back on the N9 was a real pleasure, and the end of an incredibly varied ride, we were reminded again just what a fun bike it really is. The addition of a FOX 36 is certainly welcomed, adding a bit more aggression on the descents, and making an incredibly good value-for-money bike even more impressive. If you’re hoping to use your N9 for Enduro racing, we’d encourage you to consider ‘up-sizing’ to get more length in the front end. If you’re a trail rider looking for a bike that’ll give you the ability to descend harder, but without too many handling or performance compromises usually associated with a longer-travel bike, then make sure the N9 is on your shortlist.