When developing the new Tracer, Intense have clearly followed the instructions of the “modern enduro bike” handbook: super-low shock, integrated storage compartment in the downtube and mullet wheel setup. However, what’s particularly striking about the latest iteration of the Tracer, is that it’s significantly cheaper than its predecessor. Can it still convince on the trail?
The last time the Tracer underwent a complete overhaul was back in 2017. At the time, Intense were already considered a premium brand and caused a real stir with the eye-watering price tag of the Tracer flagship model. Countless pictures of prototypes have been floating around the internet over the past few years and in August 2021, we had the exclusive opportunity to test one of the 3 available prototypes. The new Intense Tracer was redesigned from the ground up and offers 170 mm travel, which is 5 mm more than its predecessor. For 2022, Intense are jumping on the mullet wagon, releasing the new Tracer 279 in only one version with a 29″ wheel at the front and smaller 27.5″ wheel at the rear.
The Intense Tracer 279 – 2022 Expert in detail
All cables are routed internally and run through the frame from the head tube to the upper shock mount, where they reappear briefly only to disappear into the seat stays again. A generously-sized seat and chainstays protector prevents scratches and chainslap and extends all the way up to the transition to the main frame, ensuring a tidy look and quiet ride.
A huge shuttle guard protects the downtube and merges seamlessly into a storage compartment in the bottom bracket area, which is accessible from below. Intense’s proprietary “Chad Storage System” offers enough room to stow all trail essentials such as a spare inner tube, tools, snacks and other small items. All of this can be stored safely and securely without rattling thanks to a pouch provided for this purpose. Since the opening of the compartment is facing the ground, it’s constantly exposed to mud and dirt. However, losing your contents isn’t as easy as with other systems, because the access is at the lowest point of the downtube. Moreover, the contents are stored deep down in the downtube, ensuring a low center of gravity and thus improving handling. The main triangle offers enough room for a water bottle while a big fender protects the lower link and shock from flying mud and debris.
Intense Tracer 279 – 2022: Specs, models and availability
Intense offer the new Tracer 279 as a frameset and two complete bikes, the Expert and S models. All three rely on a carbon frame and MX wheel setup. The frame-only version retails for € 3,199 and features an Öhlins coil shock. The Expert model in this test costs € 4,999 while the S flagship model retails for € 6,499 and comes equipped with Öhlins suspension, Magura brakes and Maxxis tires with MaxxGrip rubber compound and DH casing. SRAM supply the drivetrain, which is a mix of X01, GX and XX1 components. All three options should be available from mid-May 2022 and can already be pre-ordered.
The spec of our Intense Tracer 279 Expert 2022 test bike
For this test, Intense hooked us up with the 16.6 kg Expert model. The suspension consists of a FOX 38 Performance fork and matching FOX Performance Elite DHX2 coil shock. The GRIP damper isn’t as supple off-the-top as its high-end GRIP2 counterpart and only offers low-speed compression and rebound damping adjustments. Moreover, The labeling with “OPEN ” and “FIRM” can be misleading. We recommend running the dial in the middle for more support to prevent the fork from sinking into the travel. The DHX2 shock offers high- and low-speed control of both the rebound and compression circuit, allowing you to fine-tune your rear suspension to suit your riding style and terrain. Moreover, the shock features a lockout lever. Intense deliver each frame size with a predetermined spring rate with the lowest spring rate being 350 lbs/in on the smallest S size and the rate increasing by 50 lb/in with each frame size. If your weight is below or above the standard for your height, or if you have a particular riding style, you’ll have to buy a separate spring.
The cockpit consists of 800 mm E*thirteen alloy handlebars and matching 40 mm stem. SRAM supply the Code R brakes, which, as the R-suffix suggests, feature a tool-free reach adjust. Unlike its high-end RSC counterpart, the CODE R forgoes both the Contact Point Adjust and SwingLink Technology, which minimises deadband thanks to a special cam shape. Since both the RSC and R model share the same calliper, you can upgrade your brakes by upgrading just the levers. These cost under €200 and will noticeably improve braking performance.
Depending on the frame size, Intense’s own-brand Recon dropper post has between 125 mm and 200 mm travel. That’s something you want to keep in mind if you decide to downsize for more playful handling, especially considering that the 170 mm dropper post on our test bike in size L is already pretty short. Moreover, you’ll have to crank the seat clamp bolt to prevent the dropper post from moving. Shifting is taken care of by a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain. This features a steel cassette, which is significantly heavier than the next model up, the SRAM GX. The NX-Eagle has a gear range of about 454%. While this is significantly less than the GX’s 520% gear range, Intense compensate for this by running a smaller 30 t chainring instead of the conventional 32 t. As a result, the highest gears will be a bit lighter, but that’s not a problem on the trail – unless you’re a pro! On top of that, you’ll have a much better time on steep climbs – smart move!
The new Intense Tracer rolls on an E*thirteen LG1 EN alloy wheelset. On our bike, we had to tighten the spokes already after 1000 meters of descent, repeating the process several times during this test. For the tires, Intense rely on Taiwanese rubber giant MAXXIS, combining a DHF at the front and DHR II at the rear, both in the hard MaxxTerra rubber compound and puncture-prone EXO+ casing. Unfortunately, the tires don’t do justice to the potential of the bike. We recommend running a softer rubber compound at the front ( e.g Maxxis MaxxGrip) and more robust casing at the rear ((Double Down). This combination will get you more traction upfront and protect your rear rim against nasty impacts.
Intense Tracer Expert 2022
Fork FOX 38 Performance GRIP 170 mm
Rear Shock FOX Performance Elite DHX2 170 mm
Seatpost Intense Recon 170 mm
Brakes SRAM Code R 200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM NX Eagle 1x12
Stem E*thirteen Base 40 mm
Handlebar E*thirteen Base 800 mm
Wheelset E*thirteen LG1 Plus EN 29"/27.5"
Tires MAXXIS DHF MaxxTerra EXO+/Minion DHRll MaxxTerra EXO+ 2.5"/2.4"
Size S M L XL
The geometry of the Intense Tracer 279 – 2022
The Intense Tracer 279 is available in 4 sizes, S to XL. A flip chip in the lower shock mount allows you to switch between a low and high setting and adjust the geometry of the bike. Not only does this change the seat and head angle by 0.5° but also affects the reach, stack height and chainstay length. We rode the Intense in both settings and highly recommend the slacker low mode for maximum fun – nothing new there! Our test bike in size L has 475 mm reach and a rather generous 640 mm stack height. Moreover, Intense pair a 64° head angle and relatively short 440 mm seat tube, which ensures sufficient freedom of movement on descents. The table shows the geometry in the low mode.
|Top tube||559 mm||591 mm||619 mm||646 mm|
|Seat tube||385 mm||418 mm||440 mm||465 mm|
|Head tube||90 mm||100 mm||110 mm||120 mm|
|BB Drop||12 mm||12 mm||12 mm||12 mm|
|Chainstay||439 mm||439 mm||439 mm||439 mm|
|Wheelbase||1195 mm||1229 mm||1258 mm||1287 mm|
|Reach||420 mm||450 mm||475 mm||500 mm|
|Stack||622 mm||631 mm||640 mm||649 mm|
The Intense Tracer 279 Expert 2022 on the trail
As soon as you swing your leg over the saddle of the Intense Tracer 279, the riding position is pleasantly comfortable. When riding uphill, tall riders are positioned a touch further back over the rear wheel. The effective seat tube angle slackens out significantly as the dropper post extends, pushing the saddle back over the rear wheel. As a result, you’ll have to actively weight the front wheel to prevent it from lifting off the ground. The rear suspension is relatively drive-neutral, making the lockout lever superfluous.
Even downhill, you’ll have to actively weight the front wheel to keep it tracking. A grippier front tire with softer rubber compound and more sensitive damper would already make a huge difference. Once you get used to the riding position, the Tracer 279 inspires huge amounts of confidence with its intuitive handling and high front.
The weight is evenly distributed between the front and rear and yet the Tracer is keen to go on its rear wheel, encouraging you to pull manuals. Moreover, the Tracer is as quiet as a mouse on the trail, even with all your trail essentials in the storage compartment. The rear suspension is well balanced and supple off the top, generating plenty of traction on daring high-lines and under braking. At the same time, it offers enough support for a rowdy riding style and plenty of pop for jumps. The fork feels a little harsh off-the-top and creates a slight traction imbalance between the front and rear. Nevertheless, the new Tracer is extremely composed and comes to life at high speeds, encouraging you to keep your fingers off the brakes just a little longer and to shred your way into the valley at mach-10. Nevertheless, the Tracer is also easy to ride in slower and narrow trail sections, where it requires slightly more physical effort due to the heavy weight but is still predictable and easy to ride.
The Intense Tracer 279 features several clever and well-thought-out detail solutions such as the storage compartment. The rear suspension combines excellent traction, good support and reserves and delivers a tremendous performance on the trail. Unfortunately, individual components such as the wheels, brakes and fork, don’t do justice to the potential of the bike. That being said, in view of the intuitive handling, impressive high-speed capabilities and very reasonable price tag, these are only minor drawbacks. All in all, Intense offer a well-rounded package at a fair price.
- excellent rear suspension generates plenty of traction, good support and tons of reserves
- Chad System storage compartment well implemented
- conveys huge amounts of confidence
- wheelset quality
- the tires and fork limit the bike
For more information about the new Intense Tracer 279 Expert 2022 please visit the Intense webpage.
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Words: Simon Kohler Photos: Peter Walker