Words by Flow | Images by Flow

The not-so-minor details

Product

Intense Spider 275C

Contact

Monza Bicycle Imports
www.intensecycles.com

Price

AUD16,499.00

Weight

11.25kg

Positives

Ferrari of mountain bikes.
Progressive frame geometry.
Super fun and agile.
Cornering weapon.

Negatives

Poor value.

Intense are on a carbon charge right now, with new bikes materialising out of nowhere. The classic Californian brand appears to be making the most of their relatively small size and high end focus by moving pretty quickly with the changing times and emerging trends, and the result is this – the new Spider 275C.

From the raw and steep hills of Laguna Beach, California, all the way back to our rocky and fast trails back at Flow HQ, we’ve spent many heavenly hours flogging this thing, it’s been a legitimate dream ride.

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Sizzling!

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Dodging spiders on the Spider.


What is it, who is it for?

The Spider 275 Carbon Boost is Intense’s all-new all-carbon trail bike using 130mm of travel and 27.5″ wheels, it’s a lively ride, lightweight and remarkably ‘poppy’. There’s a carbon Spider 29er too with the bigger wheels which we reviewed recently. Click here for the 29er review.

The Spider represents a growing trend of shorter travel trail bikes that shred hard. This rapidly growing segment of the market sees trail bikes with aggressive geometry and specced with parts that you’d typically expect a bigger bike to have. You don’t necessarily need loads of bounce to let you ride hard, it’s now becoming a case of quality over quantity. The ideal scenario is a bike that is engaging to ride, responds quickly to rider input, and feels alive on the trail.

That head badge…

After a good couple months aboard the new trail bike from Intense, we’ll happily say this new rig is about as good as it gets.


The frame

The new Spider is one of the finest frames we’ve ever laid eyes on, the lustrous glossy black and red finish looks a million bucks, it’s just one of those bikes we just can’t stop staring at.

JS Tuned: The Spider represents a slight shift in direction for Intense, the Spider uses a new suspension design that signals a departure from VPP (Virtual Pivot Point), ending the Intense and Santa Cruz patent partnership. The Spider 275 Carbon Boost is the first frame that uses their new design – JS Tuned – the name taken from the original founder and current frame designer, Jeff Steber. JS Tuned is a fresh take on the counter rotating link suspension design. It’s still similar to VPP in a way, and achieves what we all love and know about the proven design. But Intense were keen to stress that it’s more than just a linkage, it encompasses all elements of the bike to fit its purpose.

We spoke to Intense’s Chief Operating Officer Chad Peterson about the new arrangement: “JS Tuned takes things a step further by balancing the suspension kinematics, geometry, ergonomics and component spec for the segment the bike is designed for. JS tuned incorporates three different configurations of the linkage for the three main segments. XC / light trail, Trail /Enduro, Freeride / park / DH”

With that long-standing patent now expired, bike designers will now have more freedom to work without the confinements of the VPP patent, surely we’ll see more brands making the most of this.

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The swooping shapes of the one-piece rear end with a flush rear axle.

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The lower link of the new JS Tuned Suspension System, rotating on two 15mm axles tucked away above the bottom bracket.

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The rear wheel removed to get a better look at the I-BOX link with its grease ports and rubber extension bumper.

There are two versions of the Spider 275c frame, SL and Normal. SL is available as the frame only option, plus the Pro and Factory build options, and scores the premium high modulus carbon construction, titanium hardware and a carbon upper link saving 300 grams.

The rear hub spacing is of the new Boost standard at 148mm, 5mm wider than the older standard to allow for a Boost rear wheel with wider hub flanges, all in the aid of a stiffer, lighter and shorter rear end.

A rubber shield protects the underside of the frame from debris impacts, but it’s not really that long and sits right low in comparison to most bikes leaving much of the downtube exposed – keep an eye on that one, or add some aftermarket protection to guard against rock strikes.

Jeff Steber and his latest creation.

Intense Founder Jeff Steber is mighty proud of their latest creation.

Travel adjustment: You have a choice between 130mm and 115mm of rear suspension travel by selecting one of the two mounts for the shock on the link. We tried both modes, swapping to the shorter travel mode doesn’t change frame geometry at all, it just reduces travel and provides a firmer feeling suspension rate. It’s handy if you’re keen to dabble in the odd cross country or marathon event, and takes very little time to swap over and re-adjust suspension sag.

Recommendation from Intense is that fitting a shorter travel fork in conjunction with swapping to short travel mode would compromise the optimum head angle and bottom bracket height too much, so it’s best to keep the fork at 130mm.

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The Factory spec version of the Spider uses the SL version frame with titanium hardware and carbon upper link, saving 300g over the regular Spider frame. Note the two shock positions –  providing 130mm and 115mm travel options.

Intense have done a fine job of routing the cables internally through the frame, all the ports are positioned well to let them enter and exit the frame in a natural direction creating a tidy cockpit with no rubbing or rattling at all. As we run our rear brake on the left we swapped the rear brake hose across to exit the right side of the head tube, a quick job made easy by the provisions for a front derailleur cable with an extra hole available. Keep an eye on the rubber ports on the first few rides though, ours migrated out of their seating early on, but once re-set they stayed put just fine.

While all Spider models are specced with a single ring drivetrain there’s still a tab for a side swing front derailleur if you’re in need of the extra gear range. The flat tab of the derailleur mount might seem to be a bit of an eyesore, interrupting the clean lines of the frame, but it can still serve a purpose as one of two chain guide mounting options. ISCG mounts are there also ready for a bigger chainguide and/or bashguard if you’re keen to really get rowdy.

The rear end of this bike is quite neat too, with no quick release lever it’s an allen key only affair to remove the wheel, but the added clearance on the trail and clean look without a clunky quick release skewer is a nice finishing touch.

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Beautifully finished to match the mighty price tag.

Frame weight for the SL version is a paltry 2655g for a size large frame including all the titanium hardware – pretty good considering that when we rode it hard we never felt it to be shaky or insubstantial in the slightest.


Geometry

Get the geometry right, and we’re all yours.

The new Spider 275c has some very progressive geometry – it is short in length out the back, long through the front, raked out and low to the ground, keeping in theme of the emerging trend of trail bikes that are fun to ride, yet shred hard.

There’s certainly more to how a bike handles than a bunch of numbers, we know that, but when drawing comparisons to similar bikes we found the Spider to be closest to the likes of the Santa Cruz 5010, Yeti SB5 and Specialized Camber 650b.

But it’s the 419mm chainstays that had our attention when we first met the Spider, that is shorter than any of the aforementioned bikes, and not commonly seen with a ‘floating link’ joining the chainstays to the front end.

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Head angle is 67 degrees, raking the fork out in front of you for boatloads of stability, and there’s also plenty of standover height to let you get extra rowdy with your body language when flicking it about the trails.


The Spec

The Spider 275c comes in two frame variants and in four build kit options, ranging from $6499 up to a lavish $16499, yikes!

FOX 34 Factory forks, DT Swiss XMC 1200 Spline wheels, XTR, XX1... Nice.

FOX 34 Factory forks, DT Swiss XMC 1200 Spline wheels, Renthal Carbon, XTR, XX1… Need to sit down now?

This has to be the most expensive bike we’ve ever reviewed here at Flow. The Factory Spec which we have here is an absolutely extravagant no-expense spared model with premium parts. If we could have designed the spec ourselves we’d not be far off what comes out of the box from Intense. All four build kits are a sign that the parts are chosen with upmost care and on the basis that they are hand picked by the staff who have designed and tested the bike.

Brakes: The only Shimano parts in the Factory Spec come in the form of the incredibly powerful and consistent XTR Trail brakes, these guys have been a real highlight of the bike contributing to the Spider’s controlled descending ability. We took the Spider to some seriously steep trails out the back of Laguna Beach, after dragging the brakes for minutes we could still rely on the brakes for extra bite, they resist fading from heat, adding confidence to the whole bike.

Drivetrain: SRAM’x sublime XX1 single-ring drivetrain was a real treat, shifting so well every time and certainly responsible for helping the whole bike to ride silently in the rough trails. Cranking along through mud, dust and anything in between the drivetrain never made a sound.

The RaceFace Next SL cranks with their Cinch Bolt bearing adjustment and narrow/wide chainring are a nice addition to this spec, not only are they lighter than anything from SRAM or Shimano (475g plus BB) they are simple and easy to install and adjust. The bottom bracket is of the press fit PF92 variety, quick and easy to manage.

Wheels: During testing we had to remind ourselves that part of the fact we love this bike so much can be put down to its overall weight, and you can thank these superior wheels for a lot of that, let alone the price! The DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheels are the flashy all-mountain/trail carbon wheels from the high end brand. Using DT Swiss bladed Aero Lite and Aero Comp spokes, their 36 tooth Star Ratchet freehub and a 24mm wide (internal) hookless carbon rim they do more than just give a premium appearance, they add serious performance to the bike. With such a light and stiff set of wheels the Spider’s agility is next level.

Suspension: FOX’s finest Factory level fork and shock handle the impeccable suspension on this bike. The FOX 34 fork is our favourite trail fork going, we gave it a glowing review when we first got our hands on a pair and the EVOL rear shock is as supple and supportive as they come. Aside from the stictionless Kashima coating, the Factory level FOX kit has a huge range of compression adjustment on hand, especially the slow speed compression. Dial the little black adjusters in on both fork and shock to really get the ride quality you’re after with very little compromise in bump sensitivity.

When the descents got super rough and steep and we were wishing for more than 130mm of travel up the front, dialling in the slow speed compression helped the fork remain composed and resist diving.

The best - FOX 34.

The best – FOX 34.

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FOX Float shock with all the adjustments and EVOL extra volume air can. Primo!

Cockpit: Renthal are doing great things and scoring plenty of spec on smaller boutique brands like Intense, and for good reason. With their super light 180g carbon bars (740mm wide) and the super-stiff 50mm stem, the Renthal cockpit adds real muscle to the front end. 740mm might seem a little on the narrow side, but it added to the Spider’s quick-handling action through the tighter singletrack.

Rubber: Schwalbe’s new Nobby Nic is a real winner, and with the tacky Trail Star compound on the front tyre paired to a harder compound and narrower tyre out the back it’s a winning combo. Under brakes the big centre blocks really hold on tight, another tick in the box for great bike control.

Saddle: Charge’s new saddles are seriously nice, this one even has fancy carbon rails to add to the price and shave off the grams.


Spider choices

While we reviewed the ultimate spec and SL frame version of the Spider, there’s more options with more accessible price points. Pricing in Australian dollars.


The Ride

This thing is peppy!

The Spider is a lively little bugger, with the magical combination of super-short 419mm chain stays, a slack 67 degree head angle, roomy 445mm reach and a tiny 50mm stem we found ourselves throwing it around the trail with remarkable ease. Flicking around the tight turns with a spritely pop the Spider is a heap of fun to ride, we’ve enjoyed it so very much.

When a bike is agile and manoeuvrable like this you can really take charge and put the wheels where you want to. It relishes in the tight stuff, where quick direction changes mean you can pick your way through tight spots or slot between a rock and a hard place, the Spider rapidly darts its way through and readies itself for the next move.

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Not too much, or too little, the Spider strikes a great balance for fun trail riding.

Descending: It’s all good and well to have an agile bike, but a typically negative tradeoff will become obvious at higher speed, though not in this case – it’s still remarkably stable thanks to the excellent suspension and slack head angle. You won’t find many bikes with 67 degree head angles until you get much longer in length and travel, the Spider bucks that trend.

The JS Tuned suspension has a sweet portion of rearward and vertical axle path travel, you can really feel the benefits of the design on square edge impacts, and when you slam the rear wheel into a rock, momentum is maintained and the speed stays high.

Picking the front wheel up and holding it there over a rock or hole is a snack, the short stem and close rear wheel really promotes manualling through the rocks. And it pops a wheelie like we’d learnt them properly years ago!

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The Spider isn’t afraid to go beserk, it somehow promotes it.

Climbing: Climbing an 11kg bike will always be a pleasure, the low weight lets you hop up rocks and pick your line up convoluted climbs with low rider input.

Out of the saddle the roomy top tube gives us enough space to really get up and over the bars without banging our knees, and flicking the FOX compression lever to the firmer trail or climb mode is always within reach just under the top tube. In terms of suspension efficiency the Spider has it in spades, never did we feel that it was too plush or soggy when on the gas, there’s a nice amount of chain toque from the suspension to stop unwanted compression but not too much either.

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Plenty of space for heaving on the bars out of the saddle, the Spider is a great climber.

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Unreal cornering performance.

Cornering: Yes! This is where it really comes to life, it’s brilliant in the bends. There’s something about the Spider that wants you to throw it down onto the side knobs and get the bars down low through a turn.

Here’s where we mention that the Spider’s short 419mm chain stays again! With the rear wheel tucked in close to the centre of the bike in this way the Spider really pivots around a corner quickly without you having to slide it around or take a wider line the way you’re forced to with longer frames. The 27.5″ wheels are a perfect paring to the Spider’s nimble feel.

The whole frame feels super-stiff laterally too, pushing it sideways into a rut exhibits real solidarity, and little flex.


The price

It’s the elephant in the room: we can’t forget that this bike is astronomically expensive. Granted it is specced with the duck’s nuts components, including a $3k+ set of carbon wheels, but $16499 is still hard to justify. When we look at comparable brands designed in USA and manufactured in Asia like Yeti, Santa Cruz, Specialized we struggle to see where the value is, even the Expert and Pro models are a bit too much for our liking.

The Australian dollar will have a lot to do with it, the prices of Intense bikes here have been creeping up over the last three years, the smaller boutique brands seem to get hit harder than the big ones. Is the iconic head badge and Californian heritage worth the dollars?

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Wishing we could afford it too!


Verdict

If you like to ride hard, shred turns, jump over things on the trail and pump and manual along throwing up roost then this is your bag. It’s hard to hide our love for riding this bike, and we can vouch that if you can manage the cost it’ll give you the same feeling on the trail.

Unless your local trails are on massive mountains, or you’re an enduro racer head there’s not always the need for big travel bikes. Get the geometry right, make it grippy and controllable and you’ll have a ball.

The new Spider 275 Carbon Boost is a lively and enjoyable ride that does what only the finest bikes can, combine agility and stability in an efficient and stable manner. It’s a real winner.

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