Our time on the Spider 29c re-invigorated our love of 29ers, and with such descending confidence we took it to the rockiest trails we could find.
Don’t miss our review of the Intense Carbine 29 too, longer travel and seriously burly. Intense Carbine 29 review.
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.