Intense Primer Expert (2019) first ride review

Boutique US brand aims high with its trail 29er

GBP £3,999.00 RRP | USD $3,799.00
Intense Primer Expert
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Better value for money has put Intense’s bikes within reach of many more riders, thanks to the US boutique brand moving to a direct-sales model, with impressive UK back-up. But does the Primer deliver on the trail?

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Intense Primer Expert frame

The carbon fibre mainframe and rear triangle are connected via two short links (the upper of which is alloy), to deliver 130mm of rear wheel travel.

You get all the mod-cons, including internal cable routing and integrated frame protection – although I did experience some cable rattle during testing.

A flip-chip allows you to reduce the travel to 115mm, but I kept it in 130mm mode to keep up with the 140mm fork.

Intense Primer Expert
You get internal cable routing, frame guards and even a front mech mount.
Russell Burton

Intense Primer Expert kit

A RockShox Monarch RL shock tames the back end, while a Revelation RC fork keeps the front wheel controlled. This has the older Motion Control damper, rather than the fancier Charger RC, but still gives you compression damping adjustment.

SRAM provides its GX Eagle 12-speed transmission, which is rounded out with an alloy Truvativ Stylo crankset fitted with a chunky 34t ring. This propels the DT Swiss M 1900 Spline wheels, which hold a pair of fast-rolling Maxxis Forekaster tyres. Shimano’s twin-pot XT brakes bring it all to a halt.

Finishing kit includes a Renthal bar, Fox Transfer dropper post and WTB saddle.

Intense Primer Expert first ride impressions

Looking at the Primer, you might expect it to be quite a hard-charger, but out on the trail the bike has a more ‘head down’, cross-country style ride feel.

This is partly due to the rear suspension, which sits fairly high in its travel until you push through this initial ‘propped up’ feel. I ended up running the Monarch RL shock with more sag than I normally might, in order to get it to sit into its suppler mid-stroke.

Another contributing factor is the Forekaster tyres, which ride fast, but shirk responsibility when pushed hard in more technical terrain – especially in soft conditions, where their low-cut tread lacks bite.

Intense Primer Expert
It may look like a playbike, but under those lairy colours lies a mileage machine.
Russell Burton

Treat the Intense as a machine to cover decent tracts of ground on, and you’ll likely come away more impressed.

The twin-link JS Tuned suspension feels efficient under pedalling, and the relatively upright shape of the bike – with a long-ish seat tube, a fairly short reach by modern standards (453mm, large) and a not-particularly-slack 67.5-degree head angle – will suit those looking to get the miles in, rather than carve turns in the woods.

A shorter seat tube and slacker head angle would do wonders to the bike’s handling on technical trails, though, without taking away much – if any – of that cross-country pace.

While value for money is subjective, I’d like to have seen a higher quality fork than the Revelation on this bike – its damping is relatively unrefined, leaving it feeling a touch wooden and quite prone to spiking.

That said, Intense UK will set the bike up for you and provide a tool kit along with it, which definitely aids its value proposition.

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Intense Primer Expert early verdict

Purebred trail bike with an efficient, mile-munching ride, but some of the spec holds it back.

Product Specifications


Price br_price, 5, 3, Price, GBP £3999.00USD $3799.00
Weight br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 13.14kg (L), Array, kg
Brand br_brand, 5, 10, Brand, Intense cycles


Brakes br_brakes, 11, 0, Brakes, Shimano Deore XT, 180mm rotors
Cranks br_cranks, 11, 0, Cranks, Truvativ Stylo with e*thirteen chain guide
Fork br_fork, 11, 0, Fork, RockShox Revelation RC, 140mm (5.5in) travel
Frame br_frame, 11, 0, Frame, Monocoque, unidirectional carbon fibre, 130mm (5.1in) travel
Handlebar br_handlebar, 11, 0, Handlebar, Renthal Fatbar, 760mm
Rear derailleur br_rearDerailleur, 11, 0, Rear derailleur, SRAM GX Eagle
Rear shock br_rearShock, 11, 0, Rear shock, RockShox Monarch RL
Saddle br_saddle, 11, 0, Saddle, WTB Silverado Race
Seatpost br_seatpost, 11, 0, Seatpost, Fox Transfer dropper
Shifter br_shifter, 11, 0, Shifter, SRAM GX Eagle
Stem br_stem, 11, 0, Stem, Intense Recon Elite, 50mm
Tyres br_tyres, 11, 0, Tyres, Maxxis Forekaster EXO TR Dual 29x2.35in
Wheels br_wheels, 11, 0, Wheels, DT Swiss M 1900 Spline wheels