At DealerCamp, Zach and Tyler had a chance to ride Intense’s new Tracer 27.5 (650B). Tyler also got a long ride in on the Carbine 27.5, the modified version of their carbon trail bike with the mid sized wheels.
Quick refresher: The Tracer 27.5 is a ground up redesign specifically made for the 650B wheel size, and the Carbine 27.5 uses new dropouts to position the rear wheel such that the slightly larger wheel fits into the 26″ frame. They move the axle location up and back slightly to keep the geometry the same as the 26″ bike.
With Intense bikes sold primarily as framesets, the demo bikes were built up to accommodate the more aggressive of Park City, Utah’s trails…including Aspen Slalom, Fire Swamp and Devo.
Both bikes we weighed were built with Fox CTD 34 forks, Fox shocks, Novatec Diablo 27.5 wheels, fatKenda Nevegal tires and Shimano XT group (including brakes) with an XTR rear derailleur. Other than the frames, the only difference was the addition of the Reverb post on the Tracer. The Carbine had an FSA SL-K post, and both had SL-K handlebars with an alloy FSA stem.
The Carbin 27.5 came in at 28lbs 2oz (above) and the Tracer at 30lb 11oz.
For glamour shots, check out the original post for nice studio pics. Tyler’s Large test bike had the KS (Kind Suspension) dropper post pulled pretty high for his 6’2″ body.
Two position lower shock mount changes travel from 5.5″ to 6″ and slightly tweaks the geometry.
The 27.5 model gets a tapered HT rather than full 1.5 like on the 26″ and adds internal routing for the Reverb Stealth. Bottom bracket is 13.3″ and a 150mm fork puts the head angle at 67°.
Swappable dropouts let you run any modern axle standard.
For me, this will qualify as a very initial impression, as my time on the Intense Tracer 27.5 was extremely limited. Due to me having to work at Dealer Camp for my other gig, I was unable to experience the incredible trails Park City has to offer until the very last day. At this point it was a scramble to get everything together, and find the right bike as everyone was starting to pack up. More often then not, I find myself most comfortable on a medium or 17.5″ frame, so snagged a medium Tracer and had it quickly dialed in – except for the seat post. With the RockShox Reverb Stealth slammed to the collar and in the full up position, the seat height was just barely too high. The difference was no more than a centimeter, but it meant that I had to drop the post slightly to make things work. After checking out some geometries at home, it turns out that while the medium Tracer actually has a shorter top tube than my current bike, the seat tube is 1.25″ longer on the Intense. I would have to ride a small to see how it fits, but the top tube would be quite a bit shorter than what I’m used to. Obviously, this applies not only to the 27.5 Tracer, but the 26″ as well. Obviously, I could just run a dropper post with less drop and be fine, though out at Park City I was happy to have as much drop as possible on a few trails.
As far as the actual riding is concerned, the trails in Park City, particularly upper Aspen Slalom almost made me question the 27.5’s. Almost. Hear me out – Upper Aspen Slalom has some pretty techy drops which all happen to be right before a tight downhill switch back. It’s the kind of thing you either have to ride full speed, or limp down with your tail between your legs, there really is not much in between. I got the feeling that with a 26 inch bike I might have been able to lift up the front end better and more quickly, to properly position myself better for the drops as typically bigger wheels mean longer chainstays. With that said, I did manage to ride everything without eating dirt but it made me wonder. Granted, with lift access to such trails you could easily get away with a longer travel bike with smaller wheels and have a blast – so it could be chalked up to trying to ride double blacks on an all mountain bike.
Once out on more open, but still very fast, twisty, and technical trails, the 27.5’s were back in their element. Coupled with the VPP suspension, the Tracer 27.5 blazed through rocks and aspen roots like a pro keeping things fun and lively the whole ride. A front double pinch flat put a damper on things for awhile, which resulted in riding it flat a mile down the mountain (a testament to the strength the Sun Ringle Inferno rim on my particular demo bike). However, thanks to a ride saving tube from Kali’s Brad Waldron, I was able to continue down the mountain with a huge smile on my face.
More than anything, this ride seemed to further cement the idea of the 27.5 being a great wheel size for trail and all mountain riding. I’m not sure I will ever want to replace the 26’s on my DH/FR bikes, but the 27.5s are still managing to offer better rolling while still keeping the fun.
My first ride was about two hours and change aboard Intense’s Scott Sharples’ personal Carbine 27.5. It was a size large, as was the Tracer 27.5 I rode. For reference, I’m 6’2″ and Zach’s 5’8″ on a good day. While I could have used an XL (sadly, not available in either frame), the 609.6mm ETT is only a hair shorter than the 615mm ETT on my Large Niner Jet 9 RDO, so the demo bikes were entirely rideable. Interestingly, the ETT is the same on the 26″ and 27.5″ frames.
Sharples’ Carbine 27.5 had a very short stem, very wide bars and a 150mm Fox 36 fork. It took me a while to learn how to weight my body on it to get front traction, and I ended up setting the fork’s air a bit lower than normal to soften it up a bit. Once all that was dialed, it got pretty fun. By the end of the ride, I was able to rail it around tight downhill switchbacks, both bermed and flat. This ride was mostly on Mid Mountain, which is fairly smooth and didn’t exactly put the VPP suspension through its paces other than to highlight its climbing prowess.
The second day, I demo’d the Tracer 27.5 and hit the black/double black diamond trails mentioned in the beginning. This is where the 27.5 wheels hit their stride for me, giving me a quick little bike to whip through the corners and toss off roots, rocks and drops. Rollability over those roots and rocks was noticeably better than with 26″ wheels, but I feel like there’s a larger jump in efficiency between 27.5 and 29er, which makes sense given the actual diameter differences. Intense’s iteration of VPP handled everything quite well, providing supple suspension and efficient pedaling. I did smack the pedals a couple of times, but all in all, the low BB and COG it provides meant the bikes handled well. Fire Swamp provided the best test as it had some major braking bumps that had grown to 12″+ since June when I was there for PressCamp. Coming in a bit hot, the massive stutters could have easily pitched me out of control, but the Tracer’s 5″ of travel and 27.5 wheels took it all in stride. All in all, the Tracer felt more dialed than the Carbine, but it also had a more “normal” build and an extra half inch of travel.
I’m primarily a 29er rider, but when it comes to lift-served, gravity fed trails the smaller wheels shine for their ability to wiggle through the tight stuff and make the bike feel more flickable. Taking both days into consideration, the faster sections showed off the larger wheels’ stability compared to 26″ bikes, but the wheelbase remained short enough to keep things feeling right over the drops.
The Intense models were the first 27.5/650B bikes I’ve ridden, so take all this with a grain of salt. Just as it took several years for 29ers to really get their geometry dialed, it’ll likely take manufacturers a few years to do the same with 27.5. That said, the benefits are apparent right out of the gate when you have the opportunity to test a good bike on the appropriate terrain. Intense is off to a good start, and I suspect for a good many riders, the 27.5 wheel size will prove quite popular.