Compared to Spider Comp’s 4.5″ to 5″ travel, the new Intense Carbine 29 gets 5″ to 5.5″ rear travel and a 160mm fork to become an aggressive enduro bomber.
On the lift ride up the mountain, Intense’s marketing man Mike Dettmers tells the story of it’s genesis: They were racing the Carbine and Tracer 275, but decided to try the Spider 29er for some of the more pedally courses. What they found was they were blowing away their own course times with the extra speed over the climbs and tamer sections and still just as fast or even faster over the rough stuff. But, when it got super chunky, they felt a bit more travel could make all the difference. Thus, a few Carbine 29 prototypes were welded together (plus a couple modified carbon Spider Comps) with the longer travel, a slacker head angle and a bit taller bottom bracket. They liked it. That was last summer and through the winter, and now it’s a production bike. Pretty quick, no?
Drop in for the details…
It’s a carbon frame using a VPP suspension design, similar to their other bikes. It has the usual features you’d expect these days -ISCG05 tabs, FLK-GRD downtube and chainstay protectors, internal cable routing and tapered head tube- plus a few extras.
It gets 5″ to 5.5″ (127mm to 140mm) rear wheel travel, with the change just one bolt away. The upper position shown here is the long travel position. Either way, geometry stays the same, it’s just a change in leverage over the shock that lets it push farther into the travel.
In the photo above this one, note how much the lower pivot drops down. Dettmers says it’s tough to go much bigger with a VPP design because longer travel would require longer linkages, which would create difficulties in getting the desired design, wheel path and chainstay length.
Compared to other models (and some other VPP bikes), it has a slightly higher BB. That lets you stand and hammer without as much risk of smacking a pedal, but because it’s a 29er, it’s still dropped below the axles so you get that good “in the bike” feeling.
The bike comes with extra cable/hose retention clips, and the bottom two bolts double as your water bottle mount. The remote dropper post cable runs externally on the downtube before tucking in just in front of the bottom bracket. Or…
…if you’re running a 1x front drivetrain and a non-stealth dropper post, you could run the remote cable into the front derailleur’s cable port (shown empty here) and it’ll pop out just behind the shock, helping keep things clean. The upper stealth cable mount is duplicated on the non-drive side, letting you run it on either side of your handlebar and still get a natural curve into the frame. Really nice to see so much thought put into the little things.
Complete bike with X01, Reverb Stealth, Pike Solo Air, FSA stem and carbon bar, Novatec Diablo 29er wheels (23mm inside width) and Maxxis High Roller II tubeless ready tires for $6,599. Frameset is $3,199 with Kashima Float CTD shock. Complete bike weight for a size Large is 28.4lbs (12.88kg), set up tubeless. Claimed frame weight is 5.8lbs w/ shock, size Medium. Mike’s bike had a Cane Creek Double Barrel Air shock, so there’s room for something more aggressive.
ONE RIDE REVIEW
Mike and I took the Carbine 29’s on some of the flowiest and chunkiest trails off of Park City’s lifts, including Homeward Bound, Twist ‘n’ Shout and Pointy Rocks.
A couple of things stood out: The frame and everything on it is very stiff. I tapped the tires on the edges of a couple mid-sized rocks and the entire bike deflected quickly – no sign of flex. The upside was that it also went exactly where it was pointed, you just need to be strong enough to handle the bumps and knocks and it’ll reward you with the line you want. In the turns, the slack 67º head angle worked well on the steeper stuff, and the 51mm offset fork and long top tube helped it feel very stable at speed, but it definitely handled better when the front end was weighted a bit and driven into the corners.
All of this suggests Intense’s goals with the bike were met: It’s meant to go fast, and it’s meant to be ridden aggressively. Push it a little and it’ll deliver.
Another highlight: You don’t really need the CTD much. I kept the shock in Descend mode for the entire ride, with the fork wide open, and it still climbed and powered through pedally sections with nary a mushy feeling. The VPP system works great for making a fast, supple bike.
Anytime we get just one ride on a bike, we’re inevitably tinkering along the way. I played with the suspension’s air pressure and settings a bit, but it wasn’t until the very end of the ride that tire pressure came up on the list. They were run tubeless, but they were pumped pretty high, which likely exaggerated the bouncing off the rocks. Lower (normal) pressure would have made a very good ride even better. That said, it’s also the only bike I rode that day that didn’t get flats (yes, plural).