Intense Carbine C29 - first ride review£2,799.99

Controlled yet blisteringly quick

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Intense's new long-travel 29er is a hot product for the brand. We were the first to test it at Interbike 2013.

Ride and handling: stiff and stable

The slacker, lower stance gives  you confidence straight away but the amount of rock and chunder that can disappear under the Intense before it even notices is almost frightening in terms of resetting your sense of speed.

Thankfully the stiffness and stable geometry of the frame mean that when you hit a corner carrying way more speed than you should be, it'll carve or slide with impeccable precision rather than the tall, floppy fear that used to blight big-wheeled bikes.

The VPP2 helps you keep  more connected to what's going on than most suspension systems, with enough chain reaction to let you feel the ground through your shoes and temper torque or turning force accordingly.

The flipside is a rougher ride and more suspension movement under power than more neutral rides, but both these traits are reduced if you run a single chainring like our sample bike. Even with chunky rubber on, it's not afraid to haul ass uphill and it pulled up the old railroad grade from the Hoover Dam with a whole lot less steam and puffing than we expected.

Frame and handling: just feels right

The Carbine 29 is a bike that immediately feels 'right', as soon as you've screwed the pedals in and grabbed the bars. The fact that Intense share their VPP2 suspension platform with Santa Cruz draws inevitable comparisons with the benchmark-setting Tallboy LTc.

The linkage details and shock tune have been subtly improved, and with its slacker head angle, longer fork compatibility (the bike we tested was running a 160mm Pike), internal cable routing for gears and 'Stealth' style dropper post, this is effectively a modernised and more muscular version of one of our favourite bikes of all time.

At under 28lb with an enduro rather than cross-country spec, there's obvious potential to make it a really versatile all-day trail or even marathon race bike. You even get grease ports on the serviceable bearings to cope with high-mileage use, while ISCG mounts and belly armour mean it'll build up as butch as you like.

While we expect most Carbines will be custom-built, the build kits Intense offer are spot on with short stems and wide bars offering optimum control of this outrageously confident, chaos-proof trail weapon.

Cost is on par with similar state-of-the-art carbon frame and shock options too. The only real downside is that any bike using a 160mm 29er fork is bound to have a tall front end whatever you do with the stem and bars. That's fine if you're tall, but shorter riders will struggle to get enough weight over the front end, making them feel more like a passenger than a pilot.

Tested spec:

FRAME Custom Ultra Hi Mod carbon fibre, 125-140mm (4.9-5.5in) travel

FORKRockShox Pike RCT3 29 160mm (6.3in) travel



WHEELSET Novatec Flow 29 142x15mm front/12mm rear, Maxxis High Roller II Exo TR 27.5x2.3in

BRAKES SRAM X0 Trail 200/180mm rotors

BAR FSA 60mm

STEM FSA SL-K  750mm

SEATPOST RockShox Reverb Stealth

SADDLE Intense

WEIGHT 12.6kg/27.8lb (without pedals)

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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