Intense Primer Factory first ride review

Intense unveil their latest 29in wheel trail bike

Intense has clearly been busy lately. The US brand has delivered us not one, but two bikes in the space of a month. First it was the plus tyre equipped ACV and now it’s the Spider 29 replacement, the Primer.

Intense Primer Factory highlights

  • The Primer Factory uses Intense’s new Super Light (SL) carbon frameset
  • 115-130mm of rear wheel travel
  • Carbon link and titanium hardware help to reduce weight further
  • JS Tuned twin link suspension platform
  • Full internal cable routing
  • Provision for a front derailleur
  • Boost axle standard front and rear

Intense Primer Factory spec overview

  • Frame: Primer 29 SL monocoque UD carbon, 115-130mm (4.5-5.1in) of travel
  • Fork: Fox 34 Float Factory FIT4 Boost, 130mm travel
  • Shock: Fox Float DPS EVOL
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 Eagle 1x12
  • Wheelset: DT Swiss XMC1200 Spline Boost with Schwalbe Nobby Nic 29x2.35in TrailStar (f), Schwalbe Nobby Nic 29x2.25in PaceStar (r)
  • Brakes: Shimano XTR
  • Bar/stem: Renthal Fatbar Carbon, 760mm/Renthal Apex, 50mm
  • Seatpost/saddle: RockShox Reverb Stealth/Fabric Scoop Radius Pro
  • Weight: 12.05kg (with pedals)
  • Head angle: 67.5 degrees
  • Seat angle: 75 degrees
  • Reach: 431mm
  • Effective top tube: 597mm (medium)
  • Chainstay length: 438mm

Rob Weaver doing his best to dispel the myth that 29ers aren't fun
Rob Weaver doing his best to dispel the myth that 29ers aren't fun

Intense Primer Factory frame and equipment

The new Primer is a 29in trail bike, which Intense claims has more “up to date geometry” than the Spider 29 it replaces. We’ll come onto the geometry in just a minute, but first we need to cover off the new frame in a little more detail.

While the Primer is available in four different build options, its two top-end offerings – the Factory and Pro builds – use Intense’s new Super Light (SL) carbon lay-up, while the two cheaper builds are only offered in the standard, slightly weightier lay-up. What does this mean for me we hear you cry? In short, the SL frame should save you a claimed 300g in weight in total, some of which comes courtesy of the SL’s carbon upper link and titanium hardware, alongside the higher grade carbon used.

Just like the recently released ACV, the Primer can be adjusted between 115-130mm of travel. To make the change it’s just a case of switching around which of the two holes in the upper link the rear shock is mounted on. According to Intense, geometry remains unchanged no matter what travel setting you’re in but you will obviously need to tweak shock pressure to compensate for the change in leverage.

The head angle is reasonably slack for a 130mm travel 29er at 67.5 degrees and the 75 degree seat tube angle is certainly welcome for those super steep, technical climbs

Since Intense no longer licenses the VPP suspension system (there’s no need now the VPP patent held by Santa Cruz has expired), the rear wheel travel is delivered using Intense’s JS (Jeff Steber) Tuned, twin link design. Key to this design is the lower i-Box link which, thanks in part to its neatly packaged positioning, attaches just above the bottom bracket (sitting inside a hollow at the base of the frame's seat tube), and enables Intense to use shorter chainstays. Thankfully the i-Box link retains the grease port of old, which is handy for those of us that ride in grottier conditions on a regular basis.

To help keep things looking nice and neat, the Primer gets full internal cable routing
To help keep things looking nice and neat, the Primer gets full internal cable routing

Intense is well aware that these bikes aren’t cheap and have been mindful in not just how they behave on the trail, but also how they handle all of that abuse on the trail. By sleeving the upper pivot, head tube and bottom bracket, Intense claims this will not only help things fit more precisely, but will also bolster durability too. On top of that, all extra-large diameter pivot bearings are housed inside the links and not in the frame, which should make replacing them far easier and lessen the risk of damaging the pricey carbon bit everything is actually bolted to.

Other details include Boost axles front and rear, internal cable routing, integrated chainstay protection and, interestingly, the Primer includes provision for a front mech. Although all complete bikes come with 1x transmissions only, as the Primer is also available as a frame, Intense wanted to ensure they were “keeping options open” for everyone.

Sizes range from small to extra-large, meaning most riders should be covered. Our medium test bike offered up a decent reach of 431mm, 438mm chainstays, an effective top tube of 597mm and a wheelbase of 1,156mm.

Up front sits Fox’s 34 Float fork and its impressive FIT4 damper, while at the rear there’s the equally impressive DPS rear shock

The head angle is reasonably slack for a 130mm travel 29er at 67.5 degrees and the 75 degree seat tube angle is certainly welcome for those super steep, technical climbs. A big focus here was also to lower standover height as much as possible, which it feels — especially for our stump 5ft 8in test pilot – they’ve certainly achieved.

Although this particular Primer Factory build doesn’t feature it due to early availability issues, when the production bikes do ship they’ll feature SRAM’s latest wide 1x12 top tier XX1 Eagle transmission.

DT Swiss’s highly revered XMC1200 Spline Boost wheels add a sprightly zip to the Primer off the line and are wrapped in Schwalbe’s fast rolling, but reasonably grippy, Nobby Nic tyres.

All things suspension-wise come with a gold Kashima coating and Fox logos plastered all over them. Up front sits Fox’s 34 Float fork and its impressive FIT4 damper, while at the rear there’s the equally impressive DPS rear shock, complete with the EVOL air can taking care of business. 

As you’d expect at this sort of price, there’s no scrimping when it comes to the rest of the kit either, including Shimano XTR brakes, a full Renthal cockpit and a RockShox Reverb dropper post.

It’s no real surprise then to hear our test bike, complete with pedals, weighed in at a scant 12.05kg.

Both ends of the Primer get the Boost treatment (15x110mm axle up front, 12x148mm axle at the back) to boost stiffness where it counts
Both ends of the Primer get the Boost treatment (15x110mm axle up front, 12x148mm axle at the back) to boost stiffness where it counts

Intense Primer Factory ride impression

Getting the Primer up to speed is a rapid, almost effortless affair. Power delivery is effective and efficient. Get cranking and things feel taut and stiff, and even when pedalling hard out of the saddle there’s little movement through the rear suspension, even with the shock fully open. Those light wheels and tyres certainly help here, too.

Hit a series of successive turns and you’ll be surprised at just how hard you can load the Primer down through the pedals, really pumping it through the corner. The punchy, supportive nature of the rear suspension coupled with the Primer’s ludicrously low weight means you can pump, pop and launch this bike just about anywhere you want it to go, and it’s progressive enough to take a serious thump out back without feeling harsh when you do exhaust all 130mm of travel.

It may not feel quite as plush as some other platforms out there, but running a little more sag seemed to help when things did get really rough, and we had no issues when it came to maintaining momentum on flatter, speed-sapping root and rock riddled trails.

It loves carving corners too, and at times I wished for some tackier tyres with a heavier casing to see just how hard this bike could be pushed.

A RockShox Reverb post and Fabric Scoop saddle help to ensure flow on the trail without getting uncomfortable
A RockShox Reverb post and Fabric Scoop saddle help to ensure flow on the trail without getting uncomfortable

Point the Primer back up the hill and it’ll tackle just about anything your lung capacity will let you try. I found the medium frame well-portioned with a decent amount of room when seated, which let me feel really comfortable on long drags, and thanks in part to that steep seat tube angle it felt more than capable when scrabbling up particularly awkward, technical climbs.

The story was the same out of the saddle too, where I felt well-positioned and neutral on the bike. This meant things felt confident and balanced when tackling steeper trails, further highlighting just how capable this bike is.

Overall it seems Intense has delivered another impressive bike into what is becoming one of the most exciting segments of the trail bike market. We can’t wait to properly pit this against the 140mm travel YT Jeffsy to see which is best.

Intense Primer Factory price and availability

Full bike: £8,000 / US$9,500 / AU$13,794

We'll be bringing you Tom's full review soon, but for now he talks you through the bike and how he got on riding it

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