Intense have always made some of the most sought after suspension designs available. The EVP 5.5 is even more suitable for UK conditions now, but its take-no-prisoners character isn't for everyone.
Like Rocky Mountain, Intense have their own custom tubing created by experts in the field Easton. They've really gone to town on the 5.5 too - round, rectangular, diamond, triangular, oval, curved, tapered, externally machined... there's every shape of tube imaginable, and they're joined together with chunky, pocketed, machine-cut junction sections and plates.
There's also a conventional throat gusset and unconventional two-piece clamshell gusset wrapping over the top tube, head tube and down tube to create a solid front end for long travel forks.
Significantly for UK riders, the seatstays have lost the big CNC'd bridge that used to clog easily in mud, and now there's plenty of room for both fat tyres and filth. There's a little bit more sway in the back end, but it's not hugely noticeable, and not much of a negative compared to the advantages of more mud clearance.
We're not sure that the totally naked - not even lacquered - 'Works' finish will react well when exposed to winter wet and road salt though. It looks fantastic, but a painted finish makes more sense. Choose your frame size carefully too - get a demo ride if possible. Although the 5.5 is relatively compact in terms of cockpit reach and wheelbase, the upswept end to the top tube means a very long seat tube and correspondingly short seatpost extension, even on the Medium frame we tested.
Our Intense came from the North West Mountain Bike Centre built up using their X9 Pro kit (but with Avid Juicy 5 brakes rather than Juicy 7 and steel-bead tyres instead of the usual folders).
As you might expect from a shop run by Steve Peat's long-term mechanic (Andy Kyffi n), it's the burliest build here, with heavy-duty Mavic/Hadley wheels and a bolt-through axle RockShox Pike fork that really suit the bike's aggressive character. The Truvativ cockpit kit is perfectly judged to give a hardcore handling feel too. Such parts do add a lot of weight to a bike that could otherwise be reasonably light (frame weight is just over 2.9kg/6.5lb and our build was 13.8kg/30.5lb complete) though, and the fork top caps got caught on the frame gusset during a crash.
With its relatively compact dimensions and super responsive handling, the 5.5 screams at you to go faster and harder as soon as you climb on. The VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) suspension - offering 140mm (5.5in) of rear travel - is equally communicative as it flows back and forward beneath you in time with the trail. This is certainly no wallowy mess though; stamp on the pedals and the suspension stiffens and lifts out of the bike's usual ride position for solid power transfer and dig-in traction. But hit a big square block at speed and the suspension just opens up like a trapdoor, swallowing the impact whole.
Not everyone likes this overemphasised action and the constant sensation of pedal feedback, but it really suits more aggressive riders who push their bikes hard through, rather than floating over, terrain.
Add the chunky wheel build to the suspension system and the 5.5 is the natural big-hitter of this test line-up. The short wheelbase and rapid handling mean you really need your wits about you on descents though. You'll also have to watch out for the fork tucking under occasionally on loose, slow terrain if you turn in tight, and it won't hesitate to slam you into the floor hard if you foul up.
The addictive flipside is that when you're on form, the 5.5 is a phenomenally fun bike to hammer super hard. Very communicative suspension, great tracking accuracy and a punch through- anything attitude meant we were ripping our test trails apart. Even some novice riders with very little suspension experience immediately turned into psychos on the 5.5.
Even if you tried really hard, you couldn't pick a better name for this bike than Intense. If you work hard and concentrate, nothing can touch it over seriously aggressive technical single track. Slip up though, and it won't show you any forgiveness.