The Intense Recluse Elite is the latest in a flurry of new bikes introduced this year by California-based brand and it’s a hard beast to tame.
Intense’s top ‘SL’ lay-up and titanium fixtures save 250g over the standard carbon frame, but it’s still a tough and practical chassis with bottle, front mech and ISCG mounts, and user serviceable, grease injected bearings. The internal cables rattle badly though and the rubber belly ‘armour’ soon started peeling off.
Intense’s new wide carbon rims keep wheel weight on par with narrower alloy hoops. The triple-compound Maxxis tyres, Thomson stem and Renthal bar create a rock-solid cockpit. Race Face carbon cranks are a visual highlight and the e*thirteen cassette gives a very wide, if slightly rumbling, gear range.
The DT Swiss hubs have a slow-reacting freehub, though, and the 160mm rear disc reduces braking power. Mid-range Performance Fox suspension units are disappointing for a bike at this price too.
Unfortunately the fork’s relatively basic damping is obvious in either a lack of small-bump compliance or inconsistent support under cornering loads if you try to run lower pressures to counter that. Despite hours spent adjusting the rear shock, we couldn’t escape similar issues there either.
The back end also slaps hard into square-edged bumps. Add a high 445mm bottom bracket height, steep seat angle and very short chainstays, and we were regularly rattled off line across roots and rocks, and struggled to get the big-hit speed sustain and control we were expecting from a long, relatively slack, piggyback-shock equipped bike. Considering the frame claims and price, it’s not actually that light either.
It’s a real shame too, because the Recluse is potentially a great shape (460mm reach on the large) and the chassis is super-stiff. The ground clearance and direct power connection mean it drives and pumps really well on swoopy and groomed trails too, but that’s really the remit of the lighter, shorter-travel Primer 29er and Spider 275.