Intense are steeped in downhill racing history. Their M1, model year circa 1994, was one of the world’s first true downhill bikes. More than a decade-and-a-half later, the M9-FRO is the latest incarnation of their flagship race rocket.
The bike’s technology is a world away from that first 5in-travel M-series model, but it still retains that signature Intense styling and quest to incorporate cutting-edge technology.
The M9 spent two years in development and prototype form under some of the world’s best downhill racers. The project started with the name of M6-EVO, which would only be found under the brand’s sponsored teams and never saw production.
“We planned on offering the M6-EVO,” Craig Glaspell, Intense’s marketing manager told BikeRadar. “But then [for last year] we just really focused on the 951 and dialing it in, so we decided to keep the development process going with the M6-EVO and then it kind of took some bigger steps from what it was.”
The development bikes significantly evolved when Intense started adding new adjustability options – linkage rate curve, headset angle and travel – and this meant that the company were dealing with more than an evolution of the M6.
“We’ve had adjustable travel on all of our bikes for the longest time; the entire line has adjustable travel,” said Glaspell. “The M9-FRO now has thee travels [8.5in, 9in and 9.5in] via an adjustable chip on the lower link.”
Dipping into the 9in travel range spurred the bike's new name, M9. The shortest and longest travels use the same chip, but flipped, while the 9in travel requires a different chip.
The damper mounts to the VPP swing link via a chip, which can be reorientated or swapped to produce 8.5in, 9in or 9.5in of travel
In addition to travel, riders can also adjust the progressiveness of the bike’s suspension, without having to touch the Fox DHX RC4 damper (9.5x3in) that comes with the frame. “Some guys really want that thing to ramp up super-hard and others want it to stay flatter, and we we’re able to do that with three adjustment holes on the main frame,” said Glaspell.
“Some of the CRC (Team ChainReactionCycles-Intense) guys like Matti Lehikoinen change it for every track, but they’re leaving their [damper] tune settings alone. So, for the consumer, who doesn’t have access to shock tuning, they can kind of do their own tuning with the frame adjustment. Matti is the perfect example; he doesn’t want to take the time out of practice to go get his shock re-valved, so he uses the adjustment.”
The front shock mounts allow adjustment to the linkage rate of the bike
The travel and rate adjustment is paired with Intense’s new G3 adjustable three-position dropout, which features fully enclosed attachment for the 150x12mm axle (the previous version was a vertical open dropout), and an adjustable headset. The headset was co-developed with CaneCreek and is now available aftermarket under the name AngleSet. To facilitate its use, Intense use a pinch-bolt style 1.5in head tube.
“I don’t think the industry has caught on to what a big deal that [adjustable headset] is,” said Glaspell. “I think it’s one of the most common complaints with people's bikes – 'I wish the head angle was a little steeper' or 'a little slacker' – but now you can adjust the head angle without changing anything else; that’s a pretty big feature."
Two pinch bolts add ease of adjustment to the CaneCreek AngleSet headset
“We had our own adjustable headset,” he continued. “Jeff Steber [Intense's founder] kind of developed that headset but was like, ‘you know what, I’m not in the headset business', and showed the CaneCreek guys, and they evolved it into what it is now.”
The new adjustability of the M9-FRO is complemented by an entirely new proprietary tubeset made by Easton. The monocoque top tube is refined aesthetically, while the new formed down tube is said to be lighter and stronger than that used on the M6 or 951.
The new CNC machined lower link is fitted with Flushset grease fittings
The bike has an 83mm bottom bracket shell complete with ISCG 05 guide mounts. Newly designed linkages are fitted with threaded Flushset grease fittings and, as with all of Intense’s line, the M9 is made at their Southern California base.
The M9-FRO will be available in October for US$2,999 (£2,499) with Fox DHX RC4 shock and AngleSet headset. Standard colours offered are Intense Red, Chrome Black or Works Raw; custom colours will be available for an extra $200.
All Intense bikes are made in the USA; the masked man is Intense founder Jeff Steber