Combining the big wheels with Intense's VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) back end makes the new Spider float across lumpy terrain as though it has more suspension travel than the regular 26in wheeled version - which costs £50 less. Although travel is the same (4in), the big wheels and different frame geometry produce a ride that feels like a totally different bike at times.
To back their commitment to the big wheel approach, Intense has a 5.5in travel model on the way, and we've even heard rumours of a 29er downhill rig in the pipeline. With the much-touted easier rolling ride of bigger wheels, this all makes perfect sense and, it has to be said, having a highly regarded company like Intense pushing the advantages of 29ers adds much credibility to what's still seen by many as a niche area.
The frame is made from Easton's EA.6X custom taperwalled tubes, made specially for Intense. Manitou's Swinger three-way shock comes as standard but there's an optional Fox RP23 upgrade for £70 extra. The recommended fork travel is 80 or 100mm but most riders will ?nd the head angle too steep with an 80mm fork fitted.
On the trail, the Spider 29er exhibits a little more tail wag than the 26er version when you pedal aggressively through rough terrain, but this hardly detracts from the super soft ride feel. Building a steep head angle into a big-wheeled frame is a good way of animating the handling - combined with the long top tube, it's the fast steering that makes the Spider 29er feel like a race bike. The 6lb(ish) frame weight helps too, although it's not easy to find very light 29er wheels and tyres to take full advantage of that and our test bike weighed 27.5lb.
Like all 29ers, the Spider's a fast roller once you've got it up to speed, but it doesn't have the kick of a 26er. The smooth rolling ride and extra traction allows you to flow through the turns better though, and it takes descents with massive confidence. We really like it, but at £1449 for just the frame, it is on the expensive side.