In 2017, Moir took the 2nd podium spot at the World Cup in Fort William, and kept it close to, or inside, the top 10 in the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup — except for in Andorra. When he’s close enough to a round of the Enduro World Series, and his schedule allows, he’ll throw himself into the mix there, too, and he’ll finish in the top 10.
“Well, I’m always working on constantly everything. I never take the approach that I’m doing as well as I possibly can…” – Kelly Slater
Watch him on the bike, though, and the tall Aussie’s style makes it look like he isn’t really forcing the issue, almost like he’s out for a warm-up lap. It’s a look, maybe even a stigma, that many tall riders share, and Moir is quick to point that out. Look a bit closer at Jack’s style, though, and you might be able to see an influence from surfing — which makes sense when you consider that the Intense Factory Racing rider has been riding waves on one form of board or another since he was old enough to walk out into the water by himself.
Ask him about his moniker “Shark Attack Jack” and he’ll nonchalantly tell you a story about being bitten in the leg a decade ago. It was an injury that required roughly 500 stitches but did little to keep him from getting back in the water and on the board.
When injury derailed his 2015 season, Jack persevered, fighting back in 2016 to take one World Cup top 10 and the Crankworx DH overall title
Moir won the opening round of the Crankworx DH Series in Rotorua, New Zealand, and seemed poised for the repeat. That win, plus an 8th at Crankworx Les Gets and a 3rd at Crankworx Innsbruck meant he held the series lead going into the final round at Crankworx Whistler.
Sometimes, though, the best you can do comes up short of the win. And short of the championship. And that’s racing.
Jack is decidedly pragmatic about the whole thing. In his eyes, when you’re healthy, you need to take advantage of it and race. And ride. And remember why you started doing all of this in the first place.
In Whistler, for example, even before the dust had settled completely, Jack was off for a few more laps with his mates. Sometimes the shark gets you, but you never quit.
Video by: Mind Spark Cinema
Photos by: Adrian Marcoux & Sven Martin
Words by: Joe Parkin
Regardless of where a customer purchases a new Intense they can enjoy the same high-end, world-cup proven mountain bikes Intense has always offered for substantially reduced pricing.
“Our bikes are the best they’ve ever been.” says Founder/Designer, Jeff Steber. “But the high pricing was keeping them out of reach for a large majority of riders. We felt like we needed to find a way to bring the prices down so that more riders could experience our bikes first-hand”.
The new website intensecycles.com.au, is loaded with all the information you need to choose the right bike for you, get technical support, find answers to your questions, and learn more about our company’s rich heritage.
Australia-based customer service team
Got a question? Want some advice? You can rest assured that you can contact our Intense Cycles Aussie based customer service team for all your enquiries. Our experts are here to help.
Whichever Intense bike you choose, it will be delivered to your door 95% ready to ride, with just some small assembly required. Each bike comes with a free custom accessory box that includes all the speciality tools needed to finalise assembly (RRP $200). There is also a “how to” video on the website where Intense Factory Racing technical director, Chappy Fiene will guide you through each step of the process.
“The bike industry has changed,” says Intense CEO, Andrew Herrick “And the way we shop has changed. This new program is our plan to bridge the gap that can sometimes separate great riders from great bikes, and make it easier for riders everywhere to own a world-class bike brand like Intense.”
We’re very excited to see a new Tracer from Intense, after having a ton of fun on their Spider trail bike in both 27.5″ and 29″ iterations last year. Hopefully we’ll be able to get our hands on one soon, the geometry and suspension tweaks sound like real winners on paper. Read on for the official word from Intense.
Three years in the making, the new Tracer has big shoes to fill. Its predecessor was one of the brand’s most acclaimed, best-selling models to date and won the “Interbike Bike of the Year Award” in 2014.
For 2017, the new bike offers up a modern trail geometry, with longer reach and a full extra inch of wheelbase, for a more stable ride.
The JS Tuned suspension platform has been refined and offers an updated carbon top link, providing a stiffer package and more efficient pedaling platform.
The Tracer is available in five builds, and is also offered as a frame-only.
ELITE BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Carbon upper link / Sram X01 Eagle / Fabric Saddle / RoxkShox Reverb Stealth Seatpost / Sram Guide Brakes
PRO BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Carbon upper link / Sram X1, 11-speed / Fabric Saddle, RockShox Reverb Stealth Dropper Post / Sram Guide Brakes
EXPERT BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Alloy Upper Link / Shimano XT, 11 Speed / WTB Saddle / RockShox Reverb Dropper Post / Shimano XT Brakes
FOUNDATION BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Alloy upper link / RockSox Lyric RC 160mm fork / RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock / Shimano XT, 11-speed / WTB Saddle / Shimano XT Brakes
Get all the details, including full specifications, geometry, photo gallery and more at:
“Last year, we had some really good results and good times. Jack finished 10th at Worlds, Dean was 14th at Lenzerheide and Nik finished 3rd at Lourdes and 5th overall for the year. We’re looking to stay healthy and strong this year and maximize our potential,” – Team Manager, Bernat Guardia.
Charlie Harrison will add to the that potential. Last year, his first year in the Elite category, he finished in 14th place at both Andorra and World Champs. He is as happy to be on board as the team is to have him. “I honestly couldn’t be more excited and grateful about being a part of IFR. The team’s family feel is exactly what I need in order to be successful. I’m really looking forward to all the amazing memories and laughs in the next couple of years.”
Also joining the team as Technical Director/Lead Mechanic is long-time Intense crew member, Chappy Fiene. Chappy is a former pro motocross racer, and talented mountain bike rider in his own right. He has a deep understanding of the inner workings of bike mechanics, and will work closely with Ernest Adalid, who has worked with IFR for several years as team mechanic.
Bonus members of the IFR crew for this year are Nathan Hughes, team photographer, and Jenn Gabrielli, who will be handling PR, sponsorship and media relations.
In addition to the incredible riders and crew, IFR welcomes with open arms its new sponsors for 2017. “We are incredibly happy to be working with the very best companies in each category”, says Intense CEO, Andrew Herrick.
SRAM, Rock Shox, Maxxis Tires, Troy Lee Designs, Enve Composites, Fabric Saddles, Von Zipper, E*13, Crank Brothers, Cane Creek, ODI, Ti Springs and Pedros round out the program’s “dream team” of sponsors.
“It’s great to have such a cohesive team and amazing list of supporters. It will make for a deadly combination and provide us with some unbeatable R&D opportunities to develop what’s next,” says Intense Founder, Jeff Steber.
Hometown: Morisset Park, Australia
10th place Andorra
10th place World Champs
Favorite track: Mont Sainte Anne
“This year’s setup is going to be dialed, with a new teammate and some rad new sponsors, so I’m super excited to get the whole team together and go racing!”
Hometown: Wooragee, Australia
2016 Hightlights: 14th at Lenzerheide
Favorite track: Lourdes
“I feel like a big slice of butter melting over a big old stack of flap jacks. Very happy to be on board with such a positive, supportive team!”
Hometown: Mission Viejo, CA
2016 Highlights: 14th at both Andorra and World Championships
Favorite track- Mount Sainte Anne
“I honestly couldn’t be more excited and grateful about being a part of IFR. I’m really looking forward to all the amazing memories and laughs in the next couple years with the team.”
2016 Highlights: 3rd at Lourdes, 5th Overall (Junior Men)
Favorite track: Val Di Sole
“My goal for this year is to do my best, have fun, and win some races!”
Intense Cycles have a new toy coming our way soon. The ACV (Air Cushioned Vehicle) is the first Plus-format bike from the Californian crew, combining big rubber and trail bike numbers.
We’ve got high expectations for this bike; we were blown away by the Spider 275C (read our full review here) and we’ve more generally been stoked on the new Plus format too. So we’ve got a feeling that bringing the Spider’s smooth confidence together with 2.8″ rubber is going to be a winning mix.
Intense: “The new ACV ( Air Cushioned Vehicle ) is Intense’s adventure trail bike. In the US Military, the ACV is a tactical transport vehicle or hovercraft that transitions through various terrain seamlessly. This is where 275+ trail bikes exceed. The larger volume tires allow the bike to transition from hard pack to loose, rocky, rooty terrain at a much more comfortable pace.”
It seems that the ACV shares a lot of construction similarities with the Spider, including a monocoque carbon frame, Boost rear hub spacing, and adjustable travel (115-130mm). It’s also appears to be single-ring only, which should allow Intense to widen the pivots and make it all very stiff. The ACV will be available in two build kits options, both with a 150mm Pike; a Pro kit for $9499 and a Foundation kit for $6699. Full geometry is below.
We’ll be trying to get one of these guys in our hands once they hit our shores.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Spider 275c comes in two frame variants and in four build kit options, ranging from $6499 up to a lavish $16499, yikes!
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.
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.
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.
Factory – $16,499
Pro – $9,999
Expert – $8,499
Foundation – $6,499
Frame Only – $4,999
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
What keeps you busy these days, what mountain biking are you enjoying the most.
Cycling & family, having a 3 year old is a lot of fun, but it is also challenging to get certain things done as quickly as i’d like. I’m also training Cole Seely, a pro motocross racer for Honda. So between juggling about 15 personal sponsors, working with Cole, and spending time with my wife and kid, it’s tough to find free time.
How’s the riding scene at home, good crew of riders?
Yes, there’s some fast local riders around here that i ride with socially and I also spend some time training on the road where there are a ton of fast guys. But as far as names people may know I sometimes ride with Hans Rey, Richie Schley a bit, Joe Lawwill from time to time and of course Cole Seely probably the most.
Has your focus shifted over the last few years?
Absolutely, I use to care mainly about racing and being as prepared as I could be for every race now i’m not really training for racing. I still ride a lot, but I ride for fun, for bike and product testing, for photo and video shoots. The only training schedule i kind of follow really is the one i make for Cole. I try to do most of the gym workouts and pedalling workouts with him.
Where will we see you travelling or racing to this year?
I’ll do a few enduro races in the us, plus I’ll be at Crankworks and probably do a few different disciplines there. I’ll be going where my sponsors want me to be, at dealer presentations, media launches, shooting for whatever projects they need me for, basically being a content provider which could have me going anywhere.
I’m looking forward to going to Australia this year for a GoPro camp, not bike related, but it’s possible I’ll go over a bit early and try to incorporate some sort of bike production there.
What’s your role in the mentoring of motocross athletes, how is that going?
It’s really rewarding and exciting to see them improve and become stronger, fitter, and successful. I’m busy training Cole Seely right now and also a 15 year old amateur who rides for Suzuki on the east coast. I did train guys like Jessy Nelson, Christian Craig, and Shane Mcelrath in the past, but wasn’t able to commit to doing this full time for them. I really enjoy helping these younger guys achieve their goals.
What mountain bike racing do you enjoy following the most?
I follow it all a bit, but i enjoy the DH and XC the most I’d say.
Brian’s custom Intense Spider 275c
Intense have recently unveiled their latest trail bike, it’s a super-progressive trail bike with 130mm travel, slack angles and a short rear centre.
Watch the video of Brian shredding the Spider here:
You’ve got yourself the new Spider, how are you finding it?
This is my new Intense Spider 275 Carbon, the latest bike out of Intense and recently the bike I spend the most time out on the trails riding. I found this to be a great all around bike with angles, pedalling characteristics, and a weight that allows me to ride everything at a fun pace. Sure I could pedal my full xc bike up the hill faster, but going down the trails I enjoy wouldn’t be fun at all. And my Tracer 275 would potentially go faster down super rough trails, but the climbs require way more effort. This is where this new Spider 275 Carbon fits nicely, a happy medium giving me an all around more enjoyable ride.
Set up with 130mm in the rear and 140mm travel up front, I’ve found that depending on how you set this bike up, it can be more capable than you may think.
Lightweight build: On this build I tried to keep the weight off where I thought I could save a few grams, so going with parts like Magura MT8 single piston brakes and the X-fusion inline O2 shock were really the areas.
Normally I run Magura MT5 four piston brakes with 180mm rotors F&R and either a X-fusion Vector Air or Vector Coil shock for more tune ability and performance, but the inline shock was a little lighter and also allows me to get a bottle in the cage easier.
Cockpit: I use Renthal Carbon Lite bars at 740mm wide with 20mm of rise, prototype compound ODI Elite Motion lock-on grips and the stem is a Renthal at 50mm length.
Seatpost: I use a KS LEV dropper post, 150mm travel with the southpaw lever and a WTB carbon rail Silverado saddle make up my cockpit.
Suspension: For the suspension I’m running the X-fusion Sweep fork with 75psi, it uses the HLR damper system which has independent high & low compression and rebound control. In the rear X-fusion O2 inline shock I’m running between 110-140 psi depending on terrain.
Wheels: Factor Carbon wheels with a High Roller 2 EXO/TR/3c at 25psi up front and usually I’m running a Maxxis Ardent 2.25 EXO/TR at 28psi in the rear, although at this time I was testing the Maxxis Minion SS.
Drivetrain: I’m using Shimano XTR 175mm cranks with a Wolftooth 34t chain ring, Shimano XTR RD, Shimano XTR rear 11-40 cassette, Shimano XTR shifter, a KMC DLC 11sp red chain.
Pedals and headset: HT clipless pedals, and a Chris King BB & headset.
A Pro Mount Billet stem cap to mount my computer to, an MRP upper chainguide and King Cage Ti water bottle cage round out my build.
The story has been told, after narrowly missing out on the gold in Cairns at the World Champs by the narrowest of margins – 0.15 seconds to Nico Vouilloz he got angry and hungry, it was only going to be first place for Palmer.
What followed that big event in the Northern QLD were a few short and intense (scuse the pun) years that the sport took a turn of change, with such influence and popularity Palmer brought a new style into the mainstream. Inspired by motocross and snowboard fashion and armed with his trademark brash attitude, mountain biking got a whole lot cooler.
But out of the bike and the person, what had a bigger impact on the sport today? What is so special about this bike is that when it was built most of Palmer’s competitors were racing downhill on modified cross country bikes. Whilst this bike was a dedicated downhill race bike through and through.
Handmade in California by Intense founder Jeff Steber, the monocoque aluminium frame was one of the first M1 prototypes, formed in two halves over a timber die and welded down the centre. Hand painted by Troy Lee himself with a spectacular three dimensional image of an American flag in the wind.
The weren’t many downhill specific components around back in the mid-nineties, let alone anything that was particularly effective or strong. But there were some brands seen on this bike that were moving fast enough to keep up; Ringle, RockShox, MRP, FOX, Azonic, IRC.
Palmer’s M1 was one of the lucky few to have a RockShox BoXXer fork, with a massive six inches of coil travel and a bolt-up axle they were a prize piece. Check out the wear on the stanchions.
Brakes came from Germany, the Magura Raceline D. Their distinct flouro yellow colour were a message to others that you were serious about braking, hydraulic rim brakes never really took off, with disc brakes coming online in popularity in the late nineties.
A custom-made Intense brake booster bridged the two brake mounts adding stiffness to the seat stays when the powerful brakes were applied. Another product that has been lost in time, bikes of today don’t have such a challenge.
Ringlé hubs were a pretty trick piece of kit back in the day, and one of few brands to accept the 20mm fork axle of the RockShox BoXXer. The Super Duper Eight rear hub was touted as one of the fastest engaging and most user-serviceable freehubs in its day.
The Super Duper Bubba front hub would be released one year later in 1997 as the Ringlé BoXXer hub, aimed to be stiff enough to help both fork legs track evenly, how about that eh.
Chainguides were in their infancy, MRP from Grand Junction Colorado were some of the most reliable but incredibly expensive and heavy options out there. Their guides would sandwich the chain with two thick aluminium plates and two rollers would leave nowhere for the chain to go, so unless you did serious damage to one of these things your chain was secure.
Dropped chains were a race-ending reality, MRP also made security quiet, in comparison to many other brands these ran silently.
Take a trip down memory lane all the way back to Cairns in 1996, thanks to the internet
And what’s Palmer up to now? Back on board with Intense, with the launch of The Palmer Project junior development downhill team.
Palmer went on to ride for Specialized, and was rumoured to be the highest paid mountain biker for years. We checked out his original Specialized bikes in an older feature here, there’s so many great quotes from Kirt Voreis and the original crew.
Fast forward to today, and Intense have gone all-out with a limited release of their latest downhill bike with a custom hand painted M16 with parts chosen by the man himself, the M16 Palmer. With only 200 made, one made it to Australia but we’ve been told there is still a handful of bikes available from Intense, all yours for a cool $16499.
Then there’s the regular Intense M16A in the Pro Spec for $11999. Check out all the details on these made rigs here: Intense M16A.
Then the number one, the latest from the brand, the M16C made from the magic stuff, carbon. The frame that the Palmer Project and Intense Factory Racing teams will be riding is a real stunner. Lighter, stiffer and more lively to ride than the aluminium version, but you’ll need around $12999 for the base model and $15999 for the Factory Spec.The new Intense Factory Racing Team which includes young Aussie riders Dean Lucas and Jack Moir will be riding the one pictured below.
As colourful as a pair of new school shoes, the Spider is a very black and understated frame when viewed a distance, but give it a closer look and you’ll see fine attention to detail and a classy finish that you’d expect from this high end boutique brand. There is another colour option though if you prefer a little more colour to your ride; blue, silver, black.
The all-carbon frame uses the JS Tuned suspension design, named after the company founder Jeff Steber who is behind the kinematics and geometry of the frames. There’s no V.P.P. sticker on this 2016 Spider 29c, we’ll be seeing a departure from the V.P.P. floating suspension linkage system which for many years has been shared by Intense and Santa Cruz, with the time up on the V.P.P. patent.
Travel is adjustable between 115mm and 130mm with a switch between the two lower shock mounts, we left in the longer travel during our test but it’s a great feature that widens the bike’s versatility. Drop it down in suspension travel for smoother terrain or even the odd marathon race and you’ll benefit from a firmer and more efficient ride.
There’s also provisions for a front derailleur if you wish to load up with more gears for steeper climbs.
A mixture of internal and externally routed cables the Spider is a clean looking bike, and there’s also options for running the cables on either side of the head tube if your brakes are ‘backwards’ to how the Americans and Europeans do.
There’s some pretty nice kit to play with here, the SRAM XO/X1 drivetrain and SRAM Guide RS brakes need no introduction and they worked a treat the whole time, the little 30T chainring was amazing when tackling rocky climbs the low range really suited this bike’s go anywhere attitude.
The FOX suspension is superb, the new EVOL rear shock and FIT 4 damper in the fork have taken FOX’s suspension to the next level. The 34mm legged fork really helped the 29er steer through rough stuff and we could feel how stiff it was when dropping down rocky ledges with the brakes on, where the older 32mm version would squirm and flex.
With a great range of adjustability in the fork and shock, we were able to really dial the bike’s feel during each ride. Especially the slow speed compression, it would transform the bike into a supple and plush magic carpet ride into a firm and efficient pedalling bike with a flick of the lever.
The DT M1700 Spline wheels feel very light but also a little soft when pushed hard, perhaps only heavier riders would notice. A wrap of tubeless rim tape would turn then into tubeless wheels too, the tyres are good to go.
You wouldn’t usually associate the words Intense and value, and this is no exception, this bike costs a whole lot of coin at $9999 but you can bet that all the parts are up to scratch and have a bit of a hand picked feel more than the bigger brands.
Flow’s home trails are the ultimate testing ground for bikes like this, rocky, ledgy and unforgiving. Each ride on the Spider we couldn’t help but compare it to bigger travel 27.5″ bikes we’ve been testing lately, it really holds its own against bikes with bigger travel but smaller wheels. The Spider 29c is a rolling dream, munching its way through rocky trails, skipping across the top of holes and undulations instead of falling in them.
Descending: The riding position is quite high, you really feel above the bike, a common feeling with trail oriented 29ers. There was still room to go lower with the stem on the steer tube, but we loved how it felt when descending that we just got used to sitting up high and when it got steep we felt safe and confident.
Pointing the Spider down was quite relaxing, while it might isolate you from the terrain with the wide cockpit, supple suspension and big wheels it gives the rider a real confidence boost.
On our familiar trails we found ourselves descending the biggest ledges in a calm and confident manner.
As we mentioned before the wheels feel both light and a little soft, their low weight narrow rim profile would get a bit wobbly when things got real rowdy, so keep that in mind if you’re a heavy descender.
Geometry: Looking at the frame geometry it’s quite a classic mid-travel 29er, long out the back and short up front, with a relatively sharp steering angle. So it’s no surprise that we weren’t jumping around or popping off objects on the trail as much, instead we were hammering over them pedalling easily as the suspension worked away furiously below us.
Floating linkage: The JS Tuned floating link suspension really did feel great. Not promising to break any records on the cross country race track, it’s more of a supple and plush ride as it gets through all of its travel throughout the ride. We relished in the active suspension when pedalling with the shock in descend mode, you could put power down on the cranks whilst still riding over rocks or steps, forward momentum was uninterrupted and there was little tugging on the chain as the rear suspension compressed.
The trade off for this is be a slightly wallowing feel when mashing about on the cranks on smoother tracks, so we’d be quickly flicking the rear shock lever into trail mode with great results. The rear shock is close to the rider, easy to reach so we really found it easy to use.
Climbing: The Spider 29 is a handy climber too, with the low gear range, grippy tyres and a long rear end it would grind up to the top very well. Out of the saddle it did feel tall, so it was key to get those elbows out and let the bars come up to your chest when lifting up ledges.
It’s super light too, at 11.9kg so that’s always going to make it feel like a good climber!
Cornering: It’s a big bike to get around the slower and tighter turns, to be expected with something that climbs and descends so easily. The Maxxis Ardent tyres are a great all-rounder but for a little more bite on drier trails perhaps swap the front tyre out for something with taller side knobs.
The Spider 29c will make a calm type of trail rider very happy, it’s not an aggressive or rapid handling weapon, it is more about confidence and control and in a comfortable package that’s a pleasure to ride all day long.
There’s the smaller wheel Spider 275 for those looking to play around on the trails and get a little more wild if you wish, but you’ll miss out on the excellent traits of the bigger wheels.
Intense Cycles announced its 2016 Factory Race Team last night at an exclusive event they hosted for select members of the media, industry, friends and family at the Hotel Laguna in Laguna Beach, CA.
The new roster includes returning team members, Jack Moir (Australia) and Luca Cometti (USA) and adds former Palmer Project junior phenom, Nik Nestoroff (USA) and Dean Lucas (Australia).
In addition, former world cup downhiller and Intense Factory Racing team member, Bernat Guardia heads up the program as Team Director, and longtime IFR manager, Ivan Jimenez takes over as Technical Manager.
“We are extremely excited about the team’s potential,: says Intense Cycles CEO, Andrew Herrick. “Our riders are all very young and incredibly talented. We look forward to continuing to build our Factory program with them in the years to come.”
Jack Moir (22) is back on the bike after a run of bad luck and injuries kept him out of the circuit last year. Jack is currently leading the Australian National series after having won both races so far this season. He first made his mark in 2014 when he took 10th place at Worlds at the young age of 19.
Luca Cometti (21) returns to Intense for his fourth year with the brand. After taking his 2nd National DS Championship last year, Luca stepped it up on the world stage, and took 26th at World Champs. Luca’s outstanding improvement and dedication has earned him his return to the Factory program.
Nik Nestoroff, who recently celebrated his 16th birthday, will race the Junior World Cup series this year. Nik dominated the junior American scene last year during his time with the Palmer Project, when he took the Junior National DH title and came in 3rd junior overall in the Pro GRT series.
Rounding out the rider roster is Australian Dean Lucas (20) jwho joins Intense for his first year with the brand. Dean is best known for his 3rd place finish in Lenzerheide last year, his 12th overall finish in the World Cup in 2015 and his success as a Junior on the world cup circuit in 2013.
“Intense’s heritage is world cup racing,” says founder Jeff Steber.
“We built our brand and developed our bikes on race courses throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s.”
Steber explains there came a time when he had to step away from racing, to re-direct resources toward carbon fiber development. Now, with a complete line of carbon fiber bikes, including the brand new M16c, the brand makes its return to the world cup. And Steber speaks for everyone at Intense when he says:
“It feels amazing to be back.”
INTENSE CYCLES IS SUPPORTED BY SRAM, ROCK SHOX, MAXXIS, RENTHAL, POC.
We’ve seen more and more carbon frames recently and the Spider 29c is their latest trail bike offering.
Let’s take a look at this black on black travel adjustable 29er, ahead of the upcoming review.
The Spider 29C is a carbon framed 29er with adjustable rear travel and VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) suspension.
Adjustable between 130mm and 115mm via the lower shock mount, the Spider 29C could serve as a trail bike one day, and a leaner cross country ride the next.
Geometry wise, it’s all very nice and relaxed and add in the 29″ wheels and this is looking to be a great all rounder, we’ll be putting it to test on the rocky singletrack around Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Nothing beats a 29er when it comes to rolling over stuff, and when they are built around a frame with relaxed geometry less aimed at racing, you have a seriously capable bike in your hands.
The Spider 29C is available in three build kit options; the Factory, Pro and Expert. We’ve chosen the mid-range Pro Build with FOX suspension, SRAM drivetrain and SRAM brakes.
Factory – $16,499
Pro – $9,999 (on test)
Expert – $8,799
We’ve got Maxxis Ardent tyres, a low range 11-speed drivetrain and a low stack cockpit, so we’ll be right as rain when it comes to climbing steep trails. And with the burly 34mm forks the descents should be great too.
Chris grew up a huge fan of the Mad Max movies, so we decided to shoot a feature in Utah.
Cast and crew all met up in Vegas for the lengthy road trip to the middle of nowhere. After arriving, meeting the local sheriff, and some serious arts and crafts time (those flags didn’t make themselves), Chris got busy with a shovel and pickaxe to build a racecourse from top to bottom.
An added bonus? We learned that Chris is very handy with a blowtorch–a great skill to have for end times.
Everything about the Intense Carbine 29 is big. Large tyres wrap big diameter 29″ wheels, a tall 160mm travel fork up front leads the way for a generous 140mm of travel out the back. Who would need such a big bike, and what type of trails will such a unique monster feel at home on? We found out.
The Carbine has been around in various incarnations over the last few years, it’s well-known as quite an adaptable bike with the 27.5″ Carbine and older 26″ Carbine using special dropouts that would let you adapt between two wheel sizes, we tested one in 2013. For 2015 the Carbine 29 receives a sleek new carbon rear end dedicated to the use of 29″ wheels.
With Intense now offering complete bikes rather than just frames, the components are carefully selected to play to the strength of the bike’s unique intended use.
The Carbine is all about carbon and the VPP suspension linkage, carbon is the lustrous material that gives the frame its light weight and responsive stiff frame, and the Virtual Pivot Point delivers Intense’s trademark pedal efficiency. VPP suspension is found on both Santa Cruz and Intense, and also many other ‘non-patent infringing versions’ of the design can also found on a Giant, Pivot, BMC, Ibis and many more. In short the rear suspension gets its efficiency from the way that the rear end of the bike moves away from the bike’s front end when the rear suspension compresses, adding tension to the chain. So when you’re pedalling and applying your own tension to the chain, the suspension has a firmer feel and allows your pedalling effort to not get lost in unwanted compression of the suspension.
Two CNCd aluminium linkages make up the VPP, and you’ll find nifty grease ports on the lower linkage to make maintenance a snack, with the bearings so close to the dirt and in direct firing line of any debris shooting off the front tyre, it’s well worth keeping the moving parts full of fresh and clean grease.
Rear travel is adjustable between 125 and 140mm by swapping the mounting of the lower shock mount to the other hole. It’s a big jump in travel, and we’d only imagine that running the bike in 125mm with the fork still at 160 would make for an awkward and unbalanced ride with such a difference in travel amount, so we left it at 140mm. Perhaps with a 140mm fork setting you’d effectively have two bikes in one.
Intense have run most of the cables internally through the frame, it’s only the seatpost that runs outside the frame. Love it or hate it, the use of internal cables sure does make for a tidy and neat frame, but when it comes to maintenance directing the cables in one end and out the other can more painful than picking a lock with a piece of cooked spaghetti. We would have voted for externalyl routed cables done right.
But most importantly, how GOOD does this frame look? Intense have taken a bit of a risk with this fairly unconventional frame paint job, and we bloody love it. The red, orange, black and white colours combine to make a bike look like nothing we’ve seen before. All the decals and graphics are also so nice to look at, neatly finished and cleverly placed to highlight the creative shapes of the lovely carbon frame.
In recent times Intense made a move to offer their delicious frames to consumers as complete bikes, whereas for many years you were predominantly faced with a daunting and costly process of building one up from a bare frame. Each Intense is available in a few different build kits, and we tested the Carbine $7799 Expert model. The $7999 Pro build and a top shelf $11999 Factory build are also available here in Oz. Frame only price is $4199 with a Cane Creek Inline rear shock, so no, these bikes aren’t cheap. A real mixture of parts made their way onto this Carbine 29; with Renthal bars, a Thompson stem, a KS seatpost, Stans wheels and a Shimano drivetrain and brakes. We appreciate the way smaller boutique brands like Intense can pick on-trend parts that we rarely see come stock on bikes, it adds to the fact that you’re buying something different and a little bit exotic.
Front to back all the spec worked a treat during our test duration. The wheels with meaty Maxxis High Roller II tyres felt light enough to get rolling – especially considering their size – and can easily be set up tubeless with a couple valves and a good squirt of sealant. The cockpit suited the bike nicely, but we’d love to try the bike with a flatter handlebar to help counteract the tall feeling front end a 160mm travel fork gives you.
The drivetrain is a classic Shimano 2×10 setup, with two small chainrings up the front. This may not please those riders who are falling over themselves to simplify their bikes with a single-ring drivetrain conversion or SRAM setup, but the gear range that you have on offer here is fantastic. Nothing beats that feeling of dropping down to the small ring and spinning lightly on the cranks to get you back up to the top of the trails. A burly 29er like this one takes a lot more to get moving, so a low and wide range of gears is nothing but a blessing in this instance.
Brakes from Shimano are a real Flow favourite, and we aren’t the only ones who call the Shimano XT brakes the best out there, we’d just like to have seen the Shimano i-Spec system used to combine the brake lever and shifter into one handlebar clamp in the name of neatness.
Do we need to comment on the RockShox Pike? What more can be said about this magically smooth, supportive and controlled fork that we haven’t already? Although, to match the adjustable rear end travel amount the Carbine could have benefited from the Dual Position Pike (travel adjustable on the fly) version. This would have widened the bike’s abilities, especially as a more general trail bike with less travel. The RockShox Monarch Plus on the other hand is a fairly simple version with only air pressure and rebound speed adjustments, it is factory set with a fairly firm compression tune. The plushness is there, but at times we wished for a more supple ride when the speeds turned up, and the three position version of the Monarch Plus would have been sweet.
We knew the Carbine 29 was going to ride like a monster truck, and we weren’t at all surprised when we took it to the trails when started running over stuff. It’s a real point and shoot type of bike, it’s all about finding hard terrain and mowing it down with reckless abandon. Line choices became less important, ledges on the trail felt smaller and steep roll-downs were significantly less intimidating. But is that what you really want from a bike? Did it just make things too easy?
There is always going to be a tradeoff of a bike with this much confidence in the rough, but in this case, the Carbine as been able to minimise two particular drawbacks that would normally come with such a burly ride; weight and efficiency. The high end parts build and lightweight carbon frame help keep the weight down, and the firm rear shock tune combined with the VPP makes sure the 140mm of travel doesn’t bog you down when you need to get moving.
But take a look at some of the numbers in the geometry chart. The chainstays are 451mm in length, that makes for a lot of bike trailing behind the bottom bracket. What comes with a long rear end is a bike that is less flickable in tighter terrain, and also a chore to lift the front end on when climbing up steps and ledges. Add to the fact that as the rear suspension compresses the rear end moves away from the bottom bracket to a degree, lengthening the bike even further. It takes some getting used to, but even after a few good rides we found it a hard task to duck and weave through tight singletrack. We even battled to pop a wheelie, or manual the Carbine, it’s really quite long.
Of course on the positive flip side of all this is there advantage to having a long rear end? Yes, of course. You just need to let the brakes off and seek out more open terrain to ride. We took the Carbine to a rough old fire road littered with ruts and loose rock, and it was time for it to shine, in its element the Carbine was as stable and confident as your average downhill bike. With a big 29″ wheel, a short and wide cockpit and the venerable RockShox Pike leading the way, you felt unstoppable.
The 67 degree head angle is on the slack side of things, and with such a tall fork the whole front end felt tall and a little sluggish at slower speeds, so climbing out of the saddle the bars feel quite high. We’d love to try the Carbine 29 with a travel adjustable fork to drop the front end down with the flick of a switch when climbing, and even a flatter handlebar if you’re not over 6 foot in height could be a good option.
Laterally the Carbine isn’t the stiffest of frames we’ve ridden lately, the rear end doesn’t quite match the front end stiffness, and when pushed hard the rear wheel can chatter sideways. And it didn’t get the best marks in the classic carpark rear wheel flex test, the tradeoff for low frame weight.
The VPP suspension does a great job of keeping your hard pedal power from getting lost in translation, the pedal efficiency is right on the money. In the small chainring you’ll feel the rear chain tugging on the pedals as the rear shock compresses, it’s a bit lumpy but something that you eventually forget about after a few rides.
The Carbine 29 is a very specific bike that is best suited for a specific type of trail. If you’re a rider who cares less for choosing the smoothest lines, and don’t mind lugging a bigger bike through the slower trails in search of the toughest technical trails around, the Carbine 29 is your guy. But if you’re a lighter rider and under 175cm the height and length of the bike might be a bit much to handle unless you’re lucky enough to have massive mountains within range.
It’d even make for a fast enduro race bike if you don’t mind a 29″ wheel beneath you.
Introducing the Spider 275, the newest addition to the Intense line.
This is a do-it all trail bike. Engineered with modern trail geometry, it features a slack head angle, a long front-center, super short chain stays and adjustable rear travel (115mm – 130mm). If there is just one bike in your quiver this is it. Available in Flat Flo Red and Silver Flake. With three different build options, the new Spider can fit any budget.
115 – 130mm travel trail bike
67 deg head angle
13.25” bottom bracket height
16.5” chain stays
23.5” top tube length (med)
2 colours – Matte Flo Red, Gloss silver
4 sizes, S,M,L,XL
Alloy – Made in the Intense facility at Temecula, CA, USA.
What do you get if you combine 29″ wheels and 140mm of suspension travel? Momentum.
Add to that a big set of tyres, wide bars, a dropper post and a RockShox Pike and you’ve got a lot of bike in your hands, the Carbine 29 aint messing about. It’s not often we see 29″ wheels with this amount of suspension, as it can make for a cumbersome and isolating bike that is hard to manoeuvre around tight trails, but some brands have been doing it well lately with the development of carbon frames giving designers more freedom. Big travel 29ers are a blast to ride, and especially capable when the trails are mighty rough, or you are a rider with some height.
The benchmark of long travel 29ers could well be the Specialized Enduro 29 with its ridiculously short chain stay length and lack of weight, but the Carbine 29 comes with an air of Californian classic prestige and looks to die for, so let’s see how it goes.
Flow received the 2015 Carbine 29 Expert which retails for $7799, it’s positioned snugly below the Pro ($7999) and Factory ($11999) versions using the same frame with different kit. The Factory model is one seriously intense Intense! Check out the range of options here: http://intensecycles.com/portfolio-item/carbine-29-2015/
Intense’s have been frame-only options for quite some time, so we welcome complete bike options all the way over here, Down Under. It’s plain to see that the parts have been chosen carefully to give the rider the best possible experience, with compatibility and model specific choices paramount, with feedback from guys like Chris Kovarik and Brian Lopes lending their experience with spec choice input.
The Carbine is an all carbon frame with machined aluminium linkages that make up the VPP – Virtual Pivot Point suspension design. Intense use VPP across their wide range of suspension frames which gives the rear wheel a specific amount of vertical and rearward travel, all in an attempt to garner a terrain devouring machine that maintains pedal efficiency.
For 2015 a new carbon rear end makes its way on to the Carbine, with a very attractive and burly set of dropouts. The new rear section is said to be stiffer and more streamlined than the previous one, so far we certainly agree with the streamline call, it’s a real looker.
The Expert level build kit is pretty tidy, with a Shimano drivetrain and brakes, but an odd omission is the absence is an on-the-fly compression adjustment on the rear shock but we’ll see if we miss it.
It has to be said, that the colour matching is real class, accentuated by the striking pairing of orange and red, not often seen in the mountain bike world.
The lush, loamy green of the Squamish Valley is in its prime right now – come for a rip with two of Intense’s Cycles North American shredders, Bryden Rigets and Dexter Robson.
From the video’s creator: “Dense understory environments blanket the mountainsides of the Squamish valley. These environments harbor a multitude of life and a vestige of trails nestled neatly around Alice Lake. Rolling fog, sporadic rain, and reoccurring cloud cover create opportune moments in time to capture on film.
Fall has crept into view, allowing Dexter Robson and Bryden Rigets a chance to experience arguably the best seasonal conditions for mountain biking in the Pacific Northwest.”
Shaun Palmer and Intense Cycles join forces once again, but this time his role isn’t focussed on his wild presence on the race track, rather hand picking and mentoring new and upcoming downhill racers.
With a new downhill bike from Intense due soon and a deep talent pool to choose from, Shaun’s expertise is sure to put Intense back up the top of the international racing scene.
Legendary Californian frame manufacturer, Intense, have been busy, with a bunch of new carbon frames popping up lately. Now they are fast making inroads into the world of 650B. This was to be our first full test experience aboard a 650B (27.5”) bike, with real trail time booked in for this glossy red stunner.
Our Carbine is about as expensive as mountain bikes get, at $10,999, but is also adorned with some of the sweetest components available too. Intense bikes are well known for having the dialed geometry that appeals to the experienced pilot, and their VPP suspension system has always attracted much attention from those looking for a supple yet efficient ride.
But after our testing term at Flow we felt divided; both positive and disappointed, stoked and frustrated. Were we able to see past the stellar components and the ride characteristic of the wheel size to see what the frame offered us in terms of construction and geometry? Did we expect too much for the money, or just more from such a highly regarded manufacturer? This was a tricky one to test. [private]
Firstly, it was too hard to go past the fact that this bike is rolling on the new wheel size. We could bang on about wheel sizes for yonks, but in short having a bigger diameter wheel helps you roll over rough terrain with better momentum. Apply 29” wheels to a bike with more suspension travel and it becomes too much of a challenge to retain snappy handling and the whole wheelbase becomes too long. That is where the whole idea of the 650B wheel comes into play, with the theory that a 650B wheel does not compromise a bikes geometry but benefits from added rolling performance and traction. Mumbo jumbo? No, absolutely not, trust us on this one.
We took the Carbine 275 on our third magazine road trip, down the south coast of NSW to the singletrack haven of Tathra. And our first ride was just behind town in lovingly constructed trails oozing flow and speed. Through turn after turn we found ourselves well adapted and comfortable in no time. That is exactly what we have been hearing from those who try 650B for the first time – it doesn’t really feel that much different, certainly not like it does when you jump from a 26” to a 29” bike.
Rolling momentum aside, what we found out quickly was how damn hard you could push the front tyre through a turn. It became almost a challenge to wash the front end out! The added contact patch of the 650B wheel in unison with our most beloved all mountain tyre – the venerable Schwalbe Hans Dampf – made for more traction than we have seen on a bike as light and agile. This translated to cornering speed like nothing else!
So what did we think of the wheel diameter? We liked it a lot but it didn’t blow us away. It definitely did roll better over the terrain than a 26” bike of comparable nature, but rarely did it feel top heavy, long or cumbersome like some 29ers can. In corners, you could feel that the slightly bigger wheel required a little more exaggerated body language to really tip the bike underneath you to have the side knobs of the tyres biting the trail. Also, when we applied the brakes in a long turn, the bike wanted to ‘stand up’ more than a 26 might. Lucky the Enve wheels are ridiculously light, we feel that a heavier wheel will portray that more. But, all said the benefits of rolling and traction certainly do outweigh any adverse experiences.
On to the frame now, and there is a lot to say about this. The heart of the bike’s performance lies in both the supple VPP suspension system and the smooth and quiet carbon feel. VPP (virtual pivot point) is a patented design used by both Intense and Santa Cruz. VPP was the first really successful application of the dual link concept, where the aim is to have greater control of the rear axle path as it travels through the suspension travel. It has gone under many modifications over the years, but it has to be said that the birth of the VPP concept spurred a flurry of frame designers from other brands looking to create a suspension design that offered similar traits but not infringing on any existing patents. Many brands have similar designs on the market today, a testament to the design’s effectiveness and ability to transcend suspension trends.
The Carbine is one of very few bikes that can be converted to accommodate 26” and 650B wheels. In this case, Intense’s G1 replaceable dropouts that let you fit a bigger wheel and also adapt the geometry to suit. So effectively, with wheels, tyres, forks and dropouts you could have two bikes, but that would be pretty crazy.
There is so much to love about how the Carbine feels on the trail, but we were not impressed with the lateral rigidity and stiffness of this bike. The lower VPP linkage was the location of the flex, and over the first few rides it developed more side-to-side play and a knocking sound that we could not pinpoint or eradicate. In comparison to Intense frames of years past, a few construction modifications have been made to boost the stiffness (like creating a wider lower link), so the Carbine is stiffer than some of its predecessors, but the flex is still worth noting.
Why is this a problem? Well, at times we lacked the confidence to really push the bike hard through banked turns, or hold high speeds through heavy g-out compressions like a gully. Also when you put power into the pedals we felt like we were losing power through frame flex. This won’t be a deal breaker for everyone though, and could simply be a trade off for the efficient VPP suspension and one of the lightest frames in its class.
The bike rides very well in regards to the rear suspension. When mashing down hard on the pedals the bike resists wallowing nicely, and that feeling of stability was there with us on the climbs too. It’s a different feeling suspension action to, say, a Specalized FSR or the Lapierre Zesty we’ve been riding a lot; when you push down on the suspension when stationary it feels firm under hand, and not too supple, even when bouncing around in the car park the same firm feeling is obvious. But let it roll through the trails and it can do no wrong, maintaining great composure, soaking up hard knocks to keep you moving forward, or conforming to the terrain helping your tyres staying in contact with the dirt. The Carbine also exhibits that supple feeling of carbon that we have all grown to love when compared to aluminium frames, dampening the vibrations of the ride and exhibiting springiness and shock absorption.
Intense bikes are offered in Australia as frames and build kits, this one was about as premium as it gets, with a full dose of flashy ENVE kit, a reliable SRAM X0 drivetrain and the Avid X0 Trail brakes we have grown very fond of. The Rockshox Reverb adjustable seat post confirmed our love of the product and with tubeless ready Schwalbe tyres we hit the trails in confidence with no fuss.
All said and done we enjoyed the ride, the beautiful appearance and fast rolling 650B aspect of the Carbine 275. We did however feel a little let down by the knocking and flexing linkage, especially for the high price of the frame alone. But with such a low frame weight and efficient suspension this bike could well be the ‘quiver killer’. Sell your marathon race bike and all mountain bike to own just one high-dollar trail blaster. You’d need to sell two bikes to buy this one, that’s for sure.