Intense ACV Pro first ride review£5,399.00

Intense’s latest trail bike gets the plus size treatment

Slowly but surely it seems most manufacturers are offering at least one plus-sized bike in their lineup. Intense is the latest to back the fat-rubber trend with its new ACV trail bike.

Intense ACV Pro highlights

  • The new, full carbon frame is designed around 2.8in plus tyres
  • 115-130mm of rear wheel travel
  • S Tuned twin link suspension platform
  • Full internal cable routing
  • Single ring only
  • Built around big rubber

Intense was keen to point out that the new ACV (that's Air Cushioned Vehicle) is built specifically around plus tyres. Though you can slot a set of 29in wheels into the frame (in fact, the creator and man behind the brand, Jeff Steber regularly does this) it’s not something Intense is pushing as an added feature or benefit.

The new Intense ACV uses 2.8in plus tyres and offers up 115-130mm of rear wheel travel, with a 150mm travel fork up front
The new Intense ACV uses 2.8in plus tyres and offers up 115-130mm of rear wheel travel, with a 150mm travel fork up front

The ACV’s 115-130mm of suspension (switched via the lowermost shock mount) is delivered via Intense’s JS (Jeff Steber) Tuned, twin-link suspension system. Since the VPP patent held by Santa Cruz has expired, Intense no longer needs to licenses it. 

The JS Tuned system features the i-Box lower link, which attaches to the main frame just above the bottom bracket, sitting neatly inside a hollow in the base of the seat tube. Intense claims this new lower link – which still features a handy grease port – allows for a shorter chainstay to be used as well as offering the bearings better protection from the elements.

Intense has also sleeved the bottom bracket, upper pivot and head tube to ensure things fit more precisely, which in turn, it's claimed, should help elevate durability. To bolster the stiffness of the Boost rear triangle further, Steber has added a driveside bracing strut between the chain- and seatstay.

The ACV gets an additional bracing strut between the seat and chain stay to help bolster rear end stiffness
The ACV gets an additional bracing strut between the seat and chain stay to help bolster rear end stiffness

Cable routing is all internal and thankfully, doesn’t rattle about in the frame, speaking of which there’s also integrated chainstay protection in a bid to quieten any chain slap down.

Frame sizes range from small through to extra-large. Our medium test sample had 599mm top tube, 438mm chainstays and a reach of 416mm. The effective seat tube angle is 73.8 degrees while the head angle sits at a slack 66.25 degrees.

Tried and tested, SRAM-heavy spec

After testing a variety of different rim and tyre combos, Intense settled on using 2.8in Maxxis Ikon+ tyres mounted to DT Swiss M1600 Spline Two 40mm rims.

Suspension duties are taken care of by a 150mm travel RockShox Pike RCT3 up front and a RockShox Monarch RT3 DebonAir shock at the rear. The brakes also come from the SRAM stable in the shape of the mid-range Guide RS, while the transmission uses a mix of SRAM’s 11-speed components, including an X01 rear derailleur and an X1 shifter.

Out back, the RockShox Monarch RT3 DebonAir does an admirable job of sucking up the hits
Out back, the RockShox Monarch RT3 DebonAir does an admirable job of sucking up the hits

Intense opted to use the high end Race Face Next crankset, which has always done well with us here at BikeRadar. Interestingly though, our test bike had issues with the driveside crank failing to clear the chainstay. According to Intense, the brand is now speccing the same crank with a slightly wider Q-Factor to avoid this issue.

While there are two ACVs on offer, including the Foundation build, which will set you back £4,099 / $4,599, we hit the trails aboard the top-line ACV Pro. This costs a good chunk more at £5,399 / $6,499 (US prices do not include local sales tax; Australian pricing was TBC at time of publication but we'll add when we have it).

Ride impressions: lively with plenty of traction

From the sprightly eagerness of the first pedal stroke, to the relative ease with which the ACV likes to be popped and placed with reckless abandon just about anywhere on the trail, you’d be hard pressed not to enjoy this bike from the get-go.

Get settled on the right tyre pressures (I ran 16psi up front, 18psi in the rear) and rattle into rough, rooty, rock strewn trails and you’ll be surprised with what you can get away when it comes to line choice. The big tyres do a great job of smoothing out nadgery, speed-sapping bumps and chunder, offering impressive traction, especially on looser, dry trails or on really technical climbs.

In the dry, we really got on well with the low profile 2.8in Maxxis Ikon+ tyres – but as soon as the trails got wet, they really struggled for traction
In the dry, we really got on well with the low profile 2.8in Maxxis Ikon+ tyres – but as soon as the trails got wet, they really struggled for traction

Sizing on our medium felt roomy enough for this 5ft 8in / 173cm test pilot, though I’d have preferred a shorter seat tube as stumpier legs will struggle with the post at full extension.

The supple rear suspension helps here too, and when you do get a little carried away, it’ll ramp up enough to avoid any kind of harsh bottom out. Push it hard and, providing you can keep air in the tyres, you’re rewarded with a lively, playful ride that feels confident and flickable in a wide range of terrains.

I found that I needed to increase the rebound damping by a couple of clicks in both the fork and shock to compensate the bigger, undamped tyres though. With my usual go-to rebound setting on the Pike, when I bowled into a particularly awkward rough section of trail where the rocks are firmly embedded in the soil, protruding enough to easily push you off-line, the front of the bike was harder to control, lacking the precision needed to get through the section with momentum intact. Adding more rebound thankfully restored steering accuracy and it was back to business as usual.

That is, until it rains.

Due to the super low-profile Maxxis Ikon+ treads, if the weather does take a turn for the worse, any traction advantages are soon washed away, and things can get pretty dicey. Thankfully Intense is already talking about shipping the ACV with the more aggressive Rekon tyres in the near future.

One of the coolest head badges out there?
One of the coolest head badges out there?

Aside from the less aggressive tyre choice, our only other niggle lies with the KS dropper post, which even after a good few rides feels pretty sticky, to the point that it needs a hand to extend from time to time. When it does work its fine; we’re just not the biggest fan of the flex in the remote lever. Intense is aware of this and all ACVs will now be shipped with stealth-routed RockShox Reverb dropper posts, which will no doubt remedy the problem.

In the right conditions though, the ACV is a seriously fun bike, especially in technical terrain. With the right tyres in place, this bike will be a great trail all-rounder.

Rob Weaver

Technical Editor-in-Chief, Tech Hub, UK
Rob started riding mountain bikes seriously in 1993 racing cross-country, though he quickly moved to downhill where he competed all over the world. He now spends most of his time riding trail bikes up and down hills. Occasionally he'll jump into an enduro race.
  • Age: 36
  • Height: 172cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Natural trails where the loam fills my shoes on each and every turn
  • Beer of Choice: Guinness

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