29ers, heard of them? Unless you’ve been living under a pile of discarded 26” Panaracer Fire XC Pros for the last while, you will have noticed that wagon-wheel equipped downhill bikes have been making a bit of a splash in recent months.
Intense Factory Racing has always tried to remain at the forefront of the downhill racing scene, releasing a number of memorable prototype bikes throughout the years, alongside its unique run of limited FRO (for race only) frames, so it should come as no surprise that the Temecula based brand is now dabbling with bigger wheels.
For the 2017 edition of the Fort William World Cup, Intense has revived the FRO moniker for its seriously lush looking and polished 29er prototype.
This prototype 29er from Intense has only been seen ‘naked’ in raw alloy until now Jack Luke / Immediate Media
To start, Intense was keen to point out that the bike has been developed from the ground up — there are no “band-aided” solutions here, with everything designed specifically to work best with the 29er platform.
The split seat tube allowed Intense to move the shock approximately two inches further forward than on the M16 Jack Luke / Immediate Media
The swingarm linkage now spins concentrically around the bottom bracket Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Visually, the key differences to the longstanding M16 are the adoption of a split seat-tube and a new lower swing arm rocker that rotates concentrically around the bottom bracket.
These changes allowed Intense to keep the chainstays “acceptably short” despite using the bigger wheels.
Rockshox supplied both the 29er specific fork and one of its new coil shocks Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Like a lot of early 29er downhill bikes we’re seeing, this prototype bike is designed around just 180/200mm of travel. Intense claims it was able to do this because the larger wheels hold enough speed to negate the need for more travel.
Unsurprisingly, the prototype frame is made of alloy. Few brands will be willing, or financially able, to commit to producing new carbon moulds until the bikes have proven themselves on the racetrack and Intense is no exception.
Dean Lucas had just come off a timed practice run before I shot the bike. As such, plenty of Aonach Mor was still stuck to the bike Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Sponsored riders Jack Moir and Dean Lucas are said to be loving the new bike, with the big wheels especially suited to the brutal track that cuts its way down the slopes of Aonach Mor.
We’re looking forward to seeing whether the bike will be raced this Sunday, and if it is, how it will fare among the increasingly crowded 29er gang.
Keep your eyes peeled for more coverage from Fort William over the next few days.
This new 29er is a prototype… for now Jack Luke / Immediate Media
I was oddly attracted to these simple yet highly effective cable stops. No internal faff here! Jack Luke / Immediate Media
That’s quite an impressive pile of bicycles Jack Luke / Immediate Media