Early this year Intense invited us to their Southern California home for a sneak peak at a brand new bike. While there we had the opportunity to tour the factory, where they build each aluminum frame and linkage and hand assemble every bike, and meet with the creative minds that helped spearhead the new product.
For those unfamiliar with the brand, Intense Bikes is one of the last true American manufacturers. They’re something of a boutique brand with strong ties to the local riding culture. In the early years they helped popularize the sport of mountain biking by sponsoring the likes of Shaun Palmer, but in recent times they had seen a drop off in aluminum sales. That’s when a new trend in mountain biking emerged and due to the company’s unique home sourced ethos, they were able to deliver big in short order by offering 27.5″ dropout adapter kits and bikes designed from the ground up . This was huge boon to the small manufacturer and revenue surged by 40% last year!
Having capitalized on the trend early, given the wheelsize it’s popular “27.5” nickname, and it’s past history as a move maker – it was only a matter of time before Intense revealed an amazing new bike that capitalizes on the company’s storied history and introduces a new chapter…
UPDATE regarding sizing now at bottom of post.
Every brand has their hallmark bike. For Santa Cruz it’s the Bronson, for Yeti it’s the SB, and for Intense it’s the all new 160mm Tracer T275 Carbon. Everything about this bikes looks and screams brawler, but every nuance reveals the attention to detail of a surgeon. Throughout the frame you’ll find all the standard features you’ve come to expect from a modern wonder bike, like a tapered head tube and 142mm rear axle spacing, but it’s the little things that set this bike apart.
A flip chip on the shock mount enables you to adjust the travel between 160 and 145mm
Starting at the head tube junction, you’ll notice the brand-defining hammerhead shaping at the top tube. This feature may look ornamental, but it allows the designers to build in better stand over clearance without sacrificing strength.
Moving further around the frame, you’ll spot external and internal routing. Whether you demand the sleek look that only internal routing can provide, or require the ease of serviceability that external routing offers, Intense has you covered. They’ve also gone one step further and made internal routing easy to setup by routing a little tube through the frame. You won’t need thread, an earth magnet, flashlights, a dental pick, and three beers to set this bike up.
Click on the image to enlarge
The new Tracer will be available in four different sizes – Small, Medium and Large. Numbers to note are the 66.5 HA, 13.5″ BB Height, and 17″ chain stays.
The Intense Tracer will be available in three different build kits ranging in price from the $5,999 Expert Build we tested, to the ultra Gucci $9,999 Factory Build. All the builds share the same frame, which comes standard with a Monarch RC3 shock, and will retail separately for $3,199.
The Expert Build will come equipped with evolution level 160mm Fox Float 34 and CTD shock, but an optional upgrade to the CCDB Air is also available. A Shimano XT group provides 2×10 drivetrain and braking duties and the bike rolls on Stan’s hubs laced to Flow EX rims. A Reverb Stealth post and Intense branded cockpit components round out the rest of the bike.
Moving up to the Pro Level will add another ~$600 to the pricetag, but the $6,599 price tag seems to offer the best bang for your buck, with the fork and shock being upgraded to the impressive Pike and more aggressive Monarch Plus RC3 shock. The company smartly chose to again spec Shimano XT Brakes, but swapped out the double for an X01 drivetrain. Wheels remain the same, and Intense components still round out most of the “murdered out” build, but a Renthal Stem and Fatbar Lite handlebar are now standard.
The no holds barred, midlife crisis Factory level build punches in at 10k and offers unparalleled performance you don’t need to be a dentist to appreciate. Featuring the same Pike/Monarch RC3 plus suspension package as the Pro level build, the Factory level bike ups the ante by upgrading the drivetrain to XX1 and stoppers to XTR. Then the company sprinkled a little plastic voodoo on top in the form of a Renthal Fatbar Lite Carbon handlebar and lust inducing Enve Wheels laced to DT Swiss 240 hubs.
The size small carbon Tracer T275 with the Expert Build weighed 29 lbs 2 oz.
The size large Tracer T275 with the Pro Build weighed 28 lbs flats.
The size Large Tracer T275 with Factory Build weighed 26 lbs 11 oz.
Note that Intense didn’t cut any corners with tire selection. The HighRoller II tires are heavy by weight weenie standards, and lighter less aggressive tires could have shaved half a pound, but they chose not to compromise the fun factor with wimpy rubber. We wish more manufacturers would follow suit.
Video from media launch
Our first ride on the new Tracer took place on the San Juan Trail, the same loop that Intense founder Jeff Steber started riding when he first began mountain biking. The top of the trail is high speed and shrouded in trees, but punctuated by short exposed sections of shale rock and several root sections. Somewhere around the middle, things take a turn uphill, and a fifteen minute calf burner that would put the hurt on a mountain goat spits you out on unsteady legs at a lookout known as Cocktail Rock. From there down, it’s pucker up and let loose on winding desert single track. It’s one of the best trails we’ve ridden in the area and the mixture of natural berms, rocks, and techy climbs made for a great first date.
Initial setup for the ride took place on the universally acclaimed test track known the world over as the parking lot. It was on that blistering tarmac where I scientifically tuned the rear suspension to about 10 psi below my riding weight, which is usually a nice ball park for bikes equipped with VPP suspension. Upon initiating testing maneuvers to determine if rebound and sag where within the ballpark, it became obvious that under aggressive pumping it was fairly easy to bottom the rear end of the bike out. After consulting with one of the product techs, I cast aside my doubts about air pressure and focused on enjoying the ride.
Before we arrived at the venue, none of the media was aware of what bike was going to be unveiled, so I asked Intense to size me at their discretion based on my height and preferred reach. For this first ride, they set me up on a small frame, but I asked afterwards to be shipped a medium frame for long term evaluation. A few years ago, I would have been content to ride a small frame because “bro, did you see that whip?”, but now that I earn my turns, I prefer a frame with a little longer reach. That said, whether it was the frame size or just the bike, the Tracer T275 was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a VPP trail bike.
Don’t take our word for it, let Chris Kovarik show you what the new Tracer is capable of
On the trail, the bike offers all the performance you’ve come to expect from a modern high end mountain bike. It’s an extremely capable all-rounder with ride characteristics that lean towards the more playful side of the shred scale. Riders who favor a bike in this travel range will be interested to hear how it descends and won’t be disappointed with the results. The Tracer is well balanced and corners easily and predictably. Even when leaning the bike over hard enough to induce a slide, the monster tires managed to find traction and snap out of turns. Even better than feeling like a poor imitation of Danny Hart slaying berms on his way to a World Champs win was finding bonus lines to boost. It didn’t take too much trail time before it became apparent how stable and confident this bike is in the air. Compared to the Bronson, it was noticeably easier to get the front wheel off the ground and manual over obstacles.
Now Intense calls this an “Enduro” bike, so that means it’s important to make a few comments about the frames climbing prowess. So here it is – it climbs great. I’m the kind of rider who cares more about drinking a beer at the the top then KOM’n the climb,so that means I usually take full advantage of all the pedaling assistance wizardry a manufacturer can install. Yet, there was never once I felt the need to reach down and switch the shock out of descend mode while climbing. On the fire road, hitting the easy button did make a slightl difference, but wasn’t worth the effort.
Since my desert sojourn, we’ve spent two months rallying the Intense Tracer under a variety of different test riders on our home trails. That long term review will be posted next week, but for now we leave you with this – The Tracer is a robust bike with beautiful sharp lines and an aggressive stance. Behind the good looks is a well mannered steed that’s easy to ride and loves to get airborne. We heartily recommend taking one for a test ride and will miss it in our test stable.
UPDATE “We WILL be offering an XL but won’t be available until December…. We are pretty excited about it and think others will be too (at least the tall people!)” – Intense
For more info, visit Intense Cycles