Intense Cycles is a name that truly resonates with mountain bikers the world over, holding a unique place in the bike industry as an authentic, focused, high-end MTB brand run by enthusiasts who truly understand riders.
For over 20 years, the Temecula, California, based company has been at the forefront of the industry thanks to the brand's commitment to quality, its innovative designs and the outstanding performance of its bikes. The unquenchable passion of the Intense team, led by founder and designer Jeff Steber, has seen Intense grow from a small MTB concern into one of the sport's most famous names – and one that's still firmly rooted in the racing scene thanks to its own Intense Factory Racing Team.
The Intense story began in 1993 when founder Jeff Steber began building his first full suspension frame on his home patio in Lake Elsinore, California. The three-inch travel Spyder was designed for cross country but it was downhill riders who were taken with the design when Steber took it to Interbike.
The overwhelming reaction prompted the development of something to sate the appetite of downhillers looking for more fun and better performance. The project was catalysed by Steber teaming up with Mike Metzger and Shaun Palmer – big names in motocross and snowboarding respectively – who wanted to get into the sport and in 1994, Steber changed the MTB world forever with the launch of the M1, the first downhill-specific full-suspension mountain bike.
Shaun Palmer's 1996 World Championship silver established the brand as the most important name in downhill racing, the M1 becoming the sport's must-have bike. Such was the bike's ahead-of-its-time performance, that the M1 was regularly re-badged and ridden by several of the world's best riders, including Greg Minnaar in his 2003 worlds win; Mike King; Leigh Donovan; Gee and Dan Atherton; Andrew Shandro; Scott Sharples; Eric Carter; Mick Hannah; John Tomac; Brian Lopes and John Kirkaldie.
By 2001, Intense was in such demand that the company moved to its current home, a 20,000 square-foot facility in Temecula – a far cry from the 1,500 square-foot industrial space the brand had previously occupied. While Intense grew in size, the innovation continued with Steber teaming up with Santa Cruz to license and develop David Earl's Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) rear suspension system, a design that in 2016 has seen further improvement and innovation in its latest guise as JS tuned suspension, a proprietary Intense design.
In 2002 Chris Kovarik, who remains an Intense rider, rode the M1 to an unprecedented 14-second victory at Fort William. Meanwhile Intense continued to perfect the by then iconic M-series while also bringing innovating with new frame designs for trail and enduro. When Intense complemented its Temecula-based aluminium frame building with the carbon expertise of Asian manufacturing, the authentic Intense feel was maintained through Steber's continued development of the frames. Steber's designes gained the performance benefits of this must-have material while retaining the ride character that has made Intense so popular with mountain bikers around the world for over 20 years.
With a management restructure, Steber has been able to get back to his first love of designing better bikes with the result that the brand's newest models – the Spider 275C; ACV and Primer – have all received outstanding reviews from the worldwide mountain bike press.
In 2016, Intense restated its commitment to racing with the creation of the Intense Factory Racing Team, a new development squad including young stars of the future including Jack Moir (Australia), Luca Cometti (USA), Nik Nestoroff (USA) and Dean Lucas (Australia). The team has already built up to World Cup racing with Moir scoring a top-20 position in Lenzerheide.
Today the brand boasts a range of platforms covering light trail through to DH race and its incredible reputation as the cream of the MTB world makes Intense a perfect fit for Saddleback's elite performance portfolio.
The Primer is the latest 29er from Intense and this mid-travel trail demon is more than the sum of its parts – in fact it's one of the best bikes Intense has ever produced.
Touted by the press as a bike of the year contender from launch, the Primer's 130mm front and rear suspension and 29-inch wheels bely the bike's ferocious attitude on the trails. JS Tuned suspension is paired with short chainstays and a longer reach for a bike that offers the nimble steering response of a smaller-wheeled machine along with the composure of 29-inch wheels.
The result is a bike that loves to be ridden aggressively – squaring off turns with the best of them, but flying over craters and obstacles with big-wheeled speed. Backed up by a low-weight carbon chassis that makes the most of boost spacing, the Primer goes uphill as well as it screams down the trails.
Available in four builds: Factory, Pro, Expert and Foundation, each Primer model has been thoughtfully specced to give riders what they want right out the factory, while the top two builds feature 'SL' frames that shave around 300g in weight.
New for 2016, the Intense Spider 275C is designed to be a fast, playful, lightweight trail bike for those that like to get a little sideways. With an adjustable 115-130mm of sublime rear suspension delivered via the JS-tuned Virtual Pivot Point linkage, paired to either a 130 or 140mm travel fork, the Spider is the ideal UK trail bike.
The Spider 275C's frame is full carbon with the Factory and Pro build bikes boasting SL high modulus fibres for a 300g saving. All the Spider 275C frames have Boost 148 x 12mm dropouts to fit the latest Boost wheels, which are stiffer and more stable than their 142mm counterparts.
The JS-tuned suspension delivers either 115mm or 130mm of rear wheel travel. Moving between settings doesn't affect geometry, but running 115mm creates a more progressive suspension curve, giving the bike a little more pop and a firmer platform for pedalling-heavy rides.
While all Spider models come equipped with 1x11 set-ups and 32t chainrings hooked up to the boost hubs at the rear, the frame is also equipped to take a direct-mount front derailleur for those who prefer a double up front.
The Spider 275C features trend leading geometry with an extended reach allowing for very centralised weight on the bike and more room to manoeuvre. The Spider also features a very short 419mm chainstay making for a highly flickable and extremely fun ride.
Due to the longer reach on this new generation geometry, all Spider models come equipped with a 50mm stem and 760mm bars as standard, astute specification choices that offer riders snappy, precise steering and the extra stability provided by a wider bar.
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