Whilst testing Intense’s new ACV+ we have also been riding this new Intense Primer 29 alongside it. But out of the two models, this was the bike that had got certain folks a little hot under the collar!

Along with its looks, gorgeous colour scheme and fantastic ‘new skool’ geometry, there was a bit of an undercurrent of excitement within the MTB press about the performance of this new bike. During testing many journalists claimed to be leaving their big hitting 650b enduro bikes in the shed, favouring this new Primer 29 model for any ride; could it really be that good?

Intense Primer 29 Review Image 1
The Primer just exudes trail presence! This build comes in at a whopping € 9,559… But cheaper builds are available starting from € 4,898.
Intense Primer 29 Review Image 2
The very-recognisable Intense emblem, style and pedigree at its best.
The Fox Factory 34 Float forks sport some of the best adjustment controls on the market.
The Fox Factory 34 Float forks sport some of the best adjustment controls on the market.
The rear axle, very stiff and clean looking on the bike, but a bit overkill and awkward for a quick trail-side puncture fix.
The rear axle, very stiff and clean looking on the bike, but a bit overkill and awkward for a quick trail-side puncture fix.
Intense Primer 29 Review Image 3
Boost hubs making for extra stiffness up front and on the rear of the Primer 29.

What models of the Intense Primer 29 will be available?

With the Primer 29 being the second of several rumoured new Intense models, redesigned from the ground up, we were very pleased to see the US brand coming in with a short travel 29er, their focus seemingly aimed more at the ‘trail riding’ market. Some of the new features on this (now called) ‘JS-Tuned suspension platform’ Primer 29 include oversized bearings and integrated chainstay/seatstay protectors. There are four builds available for your bucks, from the € 4,898 Foundation build to this (no expense spared) Factory model, coming in at a whopping € 9,559. This bike is so tricked-out we didn’t know whether to ride it or hang it on the wall; the only thing missing from the Factory build being the SRAM Eagle drivetrain, as this was unavailable at the time of Intense building the bikes for testing, but will available on the stock bikes.

Intense Primer 29 Review Image 4
The Renthal Carbon Fatbar and 50 mm Apex stem make for a very nice cockpit centrepiece.
Intense Primer 29 Review Image 5
It’s great to see that Intense weren’t afraid to mix up the brands here, as Shimano and SRAM sit side by side to deliver some high-end goods together.
Intense Primer 29 Review Image 6
The Primer 29’s colour scheme is a real eye catcher.
Intense Primer 29 Review Image 7
Flick the switch to climb on the Fox Factory Float and this thing almost turns into a hardtail!

Specification of the Intense Primer 29 (Factory Model)

As we mentioned there really are no half measures on the Factory build, as this list of beauties will confirm! Starting at the cockpit, we are straight in with some high-end bling. Shimano XTR brakes look after the stopping, with their beautifully light and powerful brakes using 180 mm (front) and 160 mm (rear) rotors. These sit upon the ever-popular, lightweight and great looking Renthal 760 mm (20 mm rise) Fatbar carbon with short 50 mm Renthal Apex stem. The cockpit also sports the latest SRAM Eagle 1 x 12 shifter on the right and a RockShox Reverb 125 mm Stealth dropper post remote on the left. Sit all this between Intense’s own mega-soft lock-on grips and we have a great starter for sure. Look under the cockpit and we are down to Fox’s 130 mm travel Factory 34 Float boost forks. To match Fox’s top scoring 34 forks is their own 200 x 50 mm Factory Float air shock on the rear to smooth out the Primer’s easily switchable 130 mm or 115 mm of rear travel.

Intense Primer 29 Review Image 8
Clean lines and improved integrated pivot bolts, makes for a very smooth looking frame finish.
Intense Primer 29 Review Image 9
Front mech ready, but we did loose the chain a couple of times on the same rough rooty corner, maybe a small chain guide would be an idea.
Intense Primer 29 Review Image 10
The comfort, waterproof material and matching colour of the Fabric Scoop Radius Pro saddle really do the bike justice.
Intense Primer 29 Review Image 11
We like the very well fitted integrated chainstay/seatstay protection.

The wheels are just pure lush, DT Swiss’s very new and lightweight deep-dished XMC 1200 carbon rims matched with bright orange logos to the frame’s paint scheme, laced to DT Swiss 240 Boost hubs with the ultra-strong flat-blade spokes. This makes for a very stiff feeling wheelset indeed. Sat upon the Rockshox Reverb post is the very comfortable colour-matched Fabric Scoop Radius Pro saddle, making for a great finishing touch when it comes to the looks. The frame itself boasts fully internal cable routing with very tidy rubber entry points and an extremely lightweight carbon top link, even sporting Titanium bolts for the extra weight loss geeks! The only part of this build our tester changed from the get-go was that of the Schwalbe Hans Dampf Snakeskin tyres. With the bike being tested in the rougher, rockier and muddier conditions of the UK, we chose Maxxis’ more puncture-resistant EXO protection High Roller 2 (front) and Minion SS (rear). The Primer 29 weighs in at a very impressive 11.79 kg (26 lbs)

Intense Primer 29 Review Image 12
Boost rear hub, XTR brakes, how trick is this thing going to look with the SRAM Eagle fitted!
Intense Primer 29 Review Image 13
Climbing on the Primer 29 really is a joy, not a chore!

Geometry of the Intense Primer 29

Size S M L XL
Wheelbase 1130 mm 1156 mm 1181 mm 1207 mm
Top Tube 572 mm 597 mm 622 mm 648 mm
Chainstay 438 mm 438 mm 438 mm 438 mm
Head Tube 92 mm 102 mm 114 mm 119 mm
Heat Tube Angle 67.5° 67.5° 67.5° 67.5°
Reach 408 mm 431 mm 453 mm 477 mm
Standover 800 mm 803 mm 809 mm 811 mm
BB Height 337 mm 337 mm 337 mm 337 mm
Seat Tube Angle 75° 75° 75° 75°
Seat tube Length 408 mm 431 mm 453mm 477 mm
Intense Primer 29 Review Image 14
Point the Primer 29 at any lip and it pops like a balloon in a pin factory!

Feel of the Intense Primer 29

Our 178 cm tester immediately felt at home on this large sized Primer 29, with a good reach of 453 mm. With this bike being built with deep dish carbon wheels, low slung and short travel, it really needs a second glance to realise it’s not a 27.5″ sized machine. Even from the get-go of swinging a leg over and riding off on this bike, it is probably the most agile 29er we have ever ridden! As soon as one pedal stroke is put down the acceleration on this lightweight bike is so noticeable it had our tester wondering exactly whether it was sugar or something stronger he had put on his cereal that morning!

Intense Primer 29 Review Image 15
Holding your line on the trail is a joy with the great suspension and larger wheels.

Climbing on the Intense Primer 29

That lightweight feel of the Primer 29’s ultra-light frame mixed with its DT Swiss XMC 1200 carbon rims makes for a feel of cheating when added to the very noticeable lock-out capability of the Fox Factory Float shock and Fox Factory Float 34 forks; with the climb switch engaged this thing locks out to a near rigid feel. The platform of the shock on climb is so effective that when ascending on loose stones or rocks, we found it lacked traction and needed to be switched down a notch to trail mode, where it’s still a lot stiffer than when fully open, but gave enough suspension to create traction over the loose bumps. Turn this bike up the steepest of ascents and it just eats them up like a fat guy in a pie eating competition! When climbing with other riders upon their heavier more ‘duro’ 160 mm machines, the climbing capability of this bike is noticed by everybody, not just the rider! Sometimes it can be said that certain 29ers can feel a bit like a tall gate to get up and over the rougher stuff whilst climbing, but with this bike seeming to sit lower by some kind of black magic it’s climbing stance and comfort really does offer up bags of comfort to tackle the toughest of climbs.

Descending on the Intense Primer 29

Reach down and unlock the suspension, assume the aggressive position of a downhill demon and you are immediately rewarded by a feeling of blissful speed, most befitting of a smaller-wheeled and longer travel bike. We could honestly say that if a rider hadn’t noticed the Primer was a 29er, they would never dream they were on big wheels once riding this bike; this thing really is a rocket ship. We tended to find ourselves wanting to push the boundaries of this bike way past it’s ‘trail bike’ domain till it was kicking and bucking as the front and rear were pinged from left to right, totally on the verge of being out of control. Just as we seemed to be about to get kicked off the Primer 29, the larger wheels and plush feel of the Fox suspension would reel the bike back into its correct forward pointing position, with our test rider attacking more and more, clipped in and not giving a rat’s ass about how out of control things nearly got!

This bike turns like a psychopath on acid, so much fun!
This bike turns like a psychopath on acid, so much fun!

Obviously take the Primer down the more ‘bike park’ or ‘trail centre’ type terrain and you feel faster than a lurcher chasing a hare, as it comes alive just the same as in the loose loamy soil. Also worth noting is the Primer 29’s ability to jump, only occasionally feeling a bit under suspended on the front when landing off some of the bigger drops, as the 130 mm forks can occasionally struggle to dampen the big landing hits.

Intense Primer 29 Review Image 18
Our tester loved this bike so much, he wants it back for long term testing!

Improvements we’d like on the Intense Primer 29

We would maybe like to try this bike with an angleset to lower the head angle to around 66° just to see if it would maybe calm the liveliness down a couple of notches, but to be honest, we may then not quite enjoy the experience as much! Also, this bike could be a tad more sturdy feeling at speed if fitted with a set of 140 mm forks to the front, but then maybe we need to remember here this is, after all, a trail bike! The rear axle is a four piece system, using four separate parts and needing a 5 mm and 6 mm Allen wrench to fit. Although this definitely adds to the clean lines and incredible stiffness of the rear end, we find it a bit complicated and unnecessary. With the bike sporting a single front ring and no chain guide, our tester has experienced two chain-loss moments during testing, we would fit a small top guide for chain security. The grips, although very comfortable and grippy, were pretty much worn out from our tester’s hands after the third ride!

Should I buy the Intense Primer 29

Well, this ‘Factory’ build of the Primer 29 is certainly the jewel in the Primer’s crown, but it also will cost you an arm and a leg, however, other much more affordable options are out there for this model; so that choice is yours. Certainly when it comes to the Factory version, if you wanted to spend a lot of your hard earned on a bike which you could literally do most riding on (except full-on DH) and wanted one of the coolest looking bikes we have ever seen, then look no further. This thing is lightning-fast, super-light, very nimble, launches like a jump bike and has looks to die for!

Intense Primer 29 Review Image 21
Expect to see the Primer 29 at a trail near you soon.

Bottom Line of the Intense Primer 29

In our tester’s opinion, this bike has ‘bike of the year’ written all over it when it comes to feel and performance, although we cannot ignore that massive price tag of the Factory build. With the beauty of the new ACV+ and this Primer 29, Intense certainly are back rocking their reputation as building some of the best-looking bikes out there. As for long-term durability, we just may be getting one of these little weapons on full Long Term Test, so watch this space!

For more information visit the Intense Cycles Website.

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Words: Photos: Doc Ward