I’m very lucky to get to test all these different bikes out for our mag; different weights, materials, wheel sizes and designs, but I have to admit, after seeing the first promotional video of this bike, I was really excited about the prospect of testing it. Intense has always been a bit of a dream bike of mine, stemming back to the old-skool days of DH, when the M1 came out and just seemed years ahead of it’s time. I never got to own or even have a go on one in those older days, much to my dismay. Earlier this year I tried out the Spider 29 carbon, but as this was a shop test bike, it came with poxy xc rims and tyres, so wasn’t really a true test of it’s ability and maybe a bit too xc for Enduro racing, I had it for a race and just ended up puncturing, a lot!
On watching Intense’s promo vid on the Carbine 29 and reading about it’s specs, I realised this was the Spider’s gnarlier big hitting brother, sporting a slacker head angle (67 degrees) and still being light as a feather, made with good old US carbon, ‘could this bike have it all?’ I thought!
I almost jumped for joy when Will from Blazing Bikes (one of my local shops) rang me and asked if I fancied testing one of their two demo bikes, which will both be built “dripping with bling” as he explained it. It was only one month prior to this, that I had done an event on a borrowed Tall Boy, which was also tricked out, I wondered if the Intense could be as good as the Santa Cruz?
On collection of the bike I was astounded at it’s beauty, it really is (in mine and many of my mates opinions) the finest looking frame out there. The frame’s bright orange matched with the dark matt carbon just looks awesome, and as a complete bike with all the trick kit, including the SRAM 1×11 and the stealthy looking black Pikes, this bike just commands attention from the word go.
The first time I rode it, I went to Coed Y Brenin around the infamous 36.5 k Beast loop, I have taken many bikes here, so it’s great for a comparison. After a bit of fettling, getting the sag and rebound correct, we were off, the usual group, me, riding mostly up-front with my mate Bicks, who’s usually a tad faster on the downs and way stronger on the ups. The bike felt amazing straight out of the car park, with the first section being quite flat, but very rocky, the 29 wheels just eating up the rocks like they weren’t there. This is one of those bikes you get on and feel completely at home, it really doesn’t feel like a 29er, you feel more like you are ‘in it’ than ‘on it’. Next up was a big climb up the fire-road, to the first downhill, this was done with ease with the XX1 combined with the astonishing 28 1/4lbs built up (with pedals and tyre goo) although this one really is a light build, with the new SRAM wheel-set and carbon Jerome Clementz bars.
Downhill next, and the roughest one of the whole trail to start, all I can say is “it ripped” I mean it’s such a confidence booster, sailing over the drops and rocky sections and nailing the corners with pure stability, as if on rails! The big and very plush 160mm Rockshox Pike RCT3 forks effortlessly taking all that was thrown at them. On the rear the Fox float CTD really complimented the Pike, working well together perfectly like a fully rehearsed team from two different factories. I have to say I ran the bike at 150mm rear travel, not the larger 155mm, just as I hadn’t realised it was adjustable till cleaning it later that eve, on the 155mm it’s even better. I got to the bottom of the decent with the same face I had for the rest of the day and the following ride too, a massive cheesy grin, I had done it, I had found the ultimate UK all-round Enduro racing, trail riding beast, it just felt perfect, I knew I had to own one of these weapons.
I did the trail with my mates, actually feeling like I had to shut up in the end, as I was going on about just how amazing this bike was a little too much, probably doing their heads in. As for my mate Bicks, who was on the search for a new bike, I just left him on every trail, he simply couldn’t keep up, he loved it so much he only went and bought it the following week! Some of the photos on this test are taken in the following week, with Bicks proud as punch riding his new bike, and me on the other demo with the 150mm Pike. This too a serious trail machine, those forks being more suited to the 150mm setting on the rear. After two weekends on these bikes, Bicks and I clocked up about 30 personal records on the dreaded Strava, with Bicks taking a Llandegla KOM on one of the DH sections, the proof is in the pudding. I have now had to give the second demo back, as it too has sold straight away, as I’m sure many of these will go to buyers who want to pay out for a top of the range carbon frame; watch out Tall Boy, there’s competition in town, you may share the same VPP link, but when it comes to looks (in my opinion) the Carbine wins hands down.
The frame comes with Internal cable routing for gears and a stealth dropper post, bottom linkage has grease ports, rear hub is 142×12 and the frame weighs 5.8lbs. The only thing I can knock about this bike is that it shares the VPP linkage suspension with the Santa Cruz, it also shares the same very exposed bottom linkage, that really needs a guard (check out my home made one!) Rockguardz are however on the case, and I’m sure there will be some state-side too.
To sum up this bike, I get to ride loads of different bikes all the time and you’d be surprised how many have offered me a ride for racing, this frame is what I have chosen for myself, the frame is ordered and I am very exited, if I don’t get a UKGE podium on one of these next season, you can take me out back (like a lame horse) and shoot me!
Words: Jim Buchanan Pics: Doc Ward & Jim Buchanan
Big thanks to Intense Cycles, Blazing Bikes and Coed Llandegla