Intense Cycles Tracer 275C long-term

2lb lighter than the alloy Tracer, still enduro tough

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Billed as the "definitive carbon enduro bike," Intense's new 27.5in-wheeled Tracer 275C certainly seems to have faithfully translated the essence of the discipline into its sleek and svelte chassis. It's a capable climber and impressively lightweight with its sub-6lb frame but just like with enduro races, the point is to get to the top in a reasonable amount of time without killing yourself. Once you hit the start gate, though, it's the Tracer 275C's longer and slacker geometry and 160mm of suspension that really comes to life on the downhills.

  • Highs: Excellent downhill manners, spot-on geometry, superb build kit, service-friendly internal cable routing, impressively lightweight chassis
  • Lows: So-so pedaling performance, rear-end stiffness doesn't match the front

Ride and handling: Confidently planted, gets better with abuse

As with the aluminum Tracer 275, the new Tracer 275C is at its best when pointed downhill with a decidedly up-and-back rear axle path that gobbles up square-edged bumps, especially at speed. Coupled with the 160mm of available wheel travel, the strong ramp-up at the end of the spring curve, and the immensely tunable Cane Creek DBair CS optional rear shock upgrade on our tester, the Tracer 275C begs you to go faster and hit features harder with a planted and confident demeanor that keeps the wheels on the ground where they should be.

The rear end isn't quite as content when moving at slower speeds or when climbing, however. The climb switch on the fantastic Cane Creek rear shock helps a lot but the Intense still doesn't feel especially spritely on climbs, especially on technical sections that require a lot of big power moves. There, that rearward axle path that's so good on bumpy descents yields a somewhat mushy feel under power.

Frame stiffness is excellent through the main triangle and contributes to the bike's confident feel. We were consistently able to aggressively drive the front end through rocky sections of trail without being bounced off-line. Things are a little different out back, though, as the rear end's lateral rigidity can't quite keep up. We noticed some wag on more demanding trails, especially when loading up out of a bermed corner.

Nevertheless, Intense has nailed the frame geometry with slightly modified numbers relative to the aluminum version. Head angle has been slackened a bit to 66.5 degrees while the bottom bracket creeps up to 13.5in, all while maintaining a short rear end. Add in the rear suspension's tendency to squat into the meat of its travel and what you get is a deceptively low and slack machine. It's a beast for carving up fast downhills, a perfect fit for short stems and wide bars, and yet is still surprisingly manageable on steep climbs and switchbacks.

Potential buyers should keep in mind, too, the immense tuning potential of the optional Cane Creek DBair CS rear shock that came on our test sample. We ended up going a tad firmer on the low-speed compression valving for more of a platform when springing out of bermed corners or loading up on the frontside of a jump. Backing off of the low-speed rebound damping, on the other hand, helped sit the bike a little higher in its travel.

No amount of knob twiddling will change some of the Tracer's inherent characteristics (such as the axle path and the rear end's tendency to hang out in the midstroke) but it's quite amazing what can be done with a methodical approach to the adjustments.

Frame: German engineering with USA-made finishing bits

View the carbon and aluminum Tracers side-by-side and it's tough to tell the silhouettes apart as Intense has done an excellent job carrying over the model's characteristic design features. The new 275C once again features a low-slung profile with lots of clearance over the top tube, Intense's distinctively flared front end, an enormous down tube, and the one-piece rear triangle with a single reinforcing strut tying the stays together.

ISCG05 mounts are once again built into the bottom bracket shell, there's a high direct-mount tab for the front derailleur, a tapered head tube, and the same CNC-machined upper and lower suspension links as on the alloy bike.

Cable routing has moved inside the frame, however, with fully guided paths through the main triangle for easy servicing. Stealth routing is included for dropper seatposts, too, although it's primarily run across the top of the down tube (Intense says a full internal path would produce too tight a bend at the bottom bracket for cable actuated posts). Provided you aren't running a shock with a piggyback reservoir, the new routing also leaves enough room inside the main triangle for a single water bottle.

Intense has also moved to a fixed 142x12mm thru-axle rear dropout layout in contrast to the standard Tracer's convertible G1 design, plus an extra-wide PF92 bottom bracket shell instead of the aluminum bike's threaded setup.

Actual weight for our medium frame was 2.91kg (6.42lb) with the optional Cane Creek DBair CS rear shock, rear derailleur hanger, seatpost collar and cable routing hardware – almost exactly inline with company claims and an impressive figure for a bike with this much travel and capability. Riders on current Tracer 275 aluminum bikes should note, too, that this new carbon version is roughly a full kilogram (2.2lb) lighter.

Equipment: Flawless built kit for all-mountain, all-day riding

We found virtually zero faults on our top-end Factory-spec tester – but then again, that's how it should be given the exorbitant US$9,999 price tag. That also doesn't include the Cane Creek shock upgrade that replaces the stock RockShox Monarch Plus.

The laundry list of flagship parts includes SRAM's awesome XX1 drivetrain (but with a functionally identical X01 cassette), fantastic Shimano XTR Trail brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear, Enve Composites AM 27.5 carbon wheels built around DT Swiss 240s hubs, RockShox's awesome 160mm-travel Pike RCT3 fork, a Renthal cockpit, Maxxis High Roller 2 tires and a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper seatpost.

As equipped, our complete medium-sized test bike weighed just 12.34kg (27.21lb) without pedals.

We've said much in the past about most of the items listed and it should suffice to say that many of us at BikeRadar would make similar choices for our own bikes (assuming a healthy budget, of course). SRAM's XX1 drivetrain has proven to be a quick-shifting and reliable performer, the XTR Trail brakes consistently offer outstanding power and control with unflappable reliability, and the RockShox Pike remains a staff favorite.

We did, however, wish for the faster-engaging DT Swiss 36-tooth ratchet rings as the stock 18-tooth ones on our test wheels yield a disappointingly languid pick-up on technical climbs. Buyers paying this kind of money should also get a nicer saddle than the steel-railed house-brand Intense Sacred Heart included here.

Potential buyers with more realistic bank accounts should keep in mind that Intense will offer the Tracer 275C with two less expensive builds, too. The Pro build will cost US$6,599 with the same RockShox suspension bits and dropper seatpost but a SRAM XO1 drivetrain, Shimano Deore XT brakes and Stan's NoTubes ZTR Flow EX wheels.

The US$5,999 Expert build switches to Fox Float CTD Evolution suspension, a Shimano Deore XT 2x10 drivetrain and brakes, and a house-brand cockpit.

The bottom line

Intense's latest enduro machine is unquestionably capable and confident for the task at hand. While it's not the best climber and has a few suspensions quirks, it's still a hoot when the trail points downward. It's heaps lighter than the aluminum version, looks fantastic, and handles brilliantly, too. As always, do your best to score a test ride before plunking down the cash (Intense plans a rather ambitious demo tour) but we recommend going with the Cane Creek DBair CS shock upgrade regardless.

Complete bike specifications

  • Frame: Intense Tracer 275C
  • Rear shock: Cane Creek DBair CS
  • Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3, 160mm travel
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40 ZS, 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in tapered
  • Stem: Renthal Duo
  • Handlebars: Renthal Fatbar Lite Carbon, 740mm
  • Grips: Intense dual density lock-on
  • Front brake: Shimano XTR Trail BR-M985 w/ 180mm rotor
  • Rear brake: Shimano XTR Trail BR-M985 w/ 180mm rotor
  • Brake levers: Shimano XTR Trail BL-M985
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM XX1
  • Shift levers: SRAM XX1 trigger
  • Cassette: SRAM XG-1195, 10-42T
  • Chain: SRAM XX1
  • Crankset: SRAM XX1 GXP, 30T
  • Bottom bracket: SRAM PressFit GXP
  • Pedals: n/a
  • Rims: Enve Composites AM 27.5
  • Front hub: DT Swiss 240s 100x15mm thru-axle
  • Rear hub: DT Swiss 240s 142x12mm thru-axle
  • Front tire: Maxxis High Roller 2, 27.5x2.35in
  • Rear tyre: Maxxis High Roller 2, 27.5x2.35in
  • Saddle: Intense Sacred Heart
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth
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