Earlier this year, we visited the Intense bikes factory, and got to take a look inside the extensive Intense archive. Among the archive, was the Intense M1 that Shaun Palmer raced the 1996 World Champs on.
The bike has been well looked-after, although some of the incredible hand paintwork, done by Troy Lee, had started to crack. It didn't take away from how incredible it looked though:
Video: Shaun Palmer's 1996 World Champs Intense M1
This is a bike that's steeped in mountain bike history.
Shaun Palmer was one of the most influential mountain bikers of the 90s. Downhill racing was still finding its feet when he burst onto the scene. With his tattooed arms, motocross clothing, in-your-face stars 'n' bars custom paintjobs, he brought with him a superstar attittude that the sport really needed.
At the same time, master frame builder Jeff Steber was developing a dedicated downhill race bike, which was pretty wild at the time, considering most riders were using modified cross-country mountain bikes, and Steber's new bike was more than worthy of its Intense brand name. Jeff got a small team going to help him develop the frames in the mid-90s. That team was made up of Randy Lawrence and Mike Metzger from the motocross world, and their friend, Shaun Palmer.
Palmer transformed the image of downhill mountain biking overnight by refusing to wear the customary lycra skinsuits and body armour over clothing, instead donning full-on motocross clothing.
To get an idea of the impact that Palmer had, check out this clip from the film Chainsmoke. It was the film that introduced him to the mountain biking world, and it went down a storm with its rap-metal sound track and bold styling. If this was before your time, imagine seeing this when people were riding 'downhill' races on a hardtail with with a 150mm stem and 470mm handlebars. Wearing Lycra.
Shaun Palmer in Chainsmoke
It was Palmer's work with Jeff Steber though that really changed things though. The combination of Jeff's master craftsmanship and Palmer's brilliant understanding of how the bike should feel and sit on the trail helped them get the M1 up to speed and into the form that was soon heavily imitated by other brands – for a very long time.
Magura HS33 brakes, Azonic bars and a Club Roost cross brace– just part of Palmer's cockpit setup
Recently we saw the Cairns round of the Downhill World Cup, which took place on a track that used as few of the same elements as the World Championships from 1996. Check out this video clip those very championships in 1996, and watch how much Palmer goes for it – he really wants the win and throws his goggles down in frustration when he misses out.
The MTB world was shocked; it was Palmer's first real year racing and he nearly took the ultimate title. He was certainly the only rider to make the reigning champion Nico Vouilloz sweat for some time!
Palmer at the 1996 World Champs