The striking Intense 27.5” Tracer is a proper enduro-beast as RUDOLF ZUIDEMA found out. Not only does it look awesome with its eye-catching paint job it also shreds the trails like its on rails!
Coming from testing a whole host of super capable mid travel bikes that do just about everything that most of us weekend warriors can throw at them, it’s been quite interesting riding a bike with a more dedicated purpose. Intense is a niche brand, mostly as a result of only producing carbon bikes and pricing them at a level where only those with private bankers can afford them, but also because they are clearly targeting more aggressive riders with their shortest travel bike coming in at 130mm.
The model we tested was the Pro Build with the local price suggested at R110 000, a top notch build with all the lightweight carbon goodness you can imagine. It features their SL carbon frame with carbon rocker link saving 200g over the standard frame. The frame is beautifully finished and features guided internal cable routing with full cable outers, custom rubber chainstay & downtube shields. The Tracer is the first bike we’ve tested running full outer cables in a guided channel that doesn’t constantly rattle in the frame and paired with the frame protection makes for a very quiet ride.
Our only gripe, as we’ve had with a couple of niche brands, is the proprietary rear skewer/axle which on the Intense requires both 5 and 6mm Hex keys to remove the rear wheel so all the weight saved in the frame gets made up by the extra multitool you need to carry to remove the wheel. The top tube is purposefully long for a long travel bike and features a custom stem that could be labelled as a 0mm. The net effect is a bike that handles superbly on the descents aided by the beefy FOX 36 forks and very chunky frame design. It is super agile and responds to steering inputs almost instantaneously without feeling twitchy.
However, as we mentioned earlier the Tracer is most definitely a bike with a dedicated purpose and that dedication is definitely descending and not ascending. Although punted as an enduro bike that can climb well, we struggled getting the Tracer going on the climbs. If you’re happy just twiddling up the climbs looking at the scenery no problem, but as soon as you attempt laying down the watts I found it sluggish. To be fair we weren’t convinced that we had the setup on the Fox X2 shock completely dialled in and there is a helluva lot of very aggressive rubber on the bike that doesn’t like to be rushed – great for the downs but be prepared to chill on the trip up.
There’s no doubt the Tracer is fast on the descents and will certainly kill on the growing enduro scene, but running this set-up, you may want to hitch a lift to the top before smashing the trails at high speed. The one thing that the Tracer has highlighted is that there is definitely still a place for bikes with a dedicated purpose in the market. As good as the mid travel bikes have gotten over the last couple of years they don’t come close to giving the same sheer speed and confidence of a dedicated descender like the Tracer. As a +1 bike for playing around 110k+ might be a bit steep for most of us mortals, but a long travel bike definitely does put a smile on the dial and given the relatively low demand locally for these types of bikes there are always some bargains to be had!