With roots in gravity racing, Intense doesn’t really do out-and-out cross-country bikes in the traditional sense. The Sniper still targets ruthless pedalling efficiency but sports more ‘aggro’ geometry, especially on the 20mm-longer-travel Trail version here.
Intense’s short-travel rig may not feel like an old-school XC machine in terms of shape, but it goes like stink when you drop the hammer, with addictive bursts of speed that rival the most potent race-ready rigs.
Made from unidirectional carbon fibre, the Sniper has a low-slung shape with good standover room and a low bottom bracket. The short head-tube lets you position the bar lower for more XC attitude. While the 73-degree effective seat angle isn’t super-steep, it worked okay everywhere with the saddle pushed forwards.
The two ‘JS Tuned’ links rotate in opposite directions, so the suspension is essentially a ‘virtual pivot point’ set-up. This design lets engineers manipulate the axle path, link velocities and leverage rates within a compact layout.
The Sniper is tuned to burst forward under hard efforts, and you can feel the suspension ‘tighten’ when you stomp on the pedals. A reinforcing strut on the non-driveside of the asymmetric back-end helps keep things stiff.
While the dearer Sniper Trail Pro gets a magnesium lower link, even with this alloy version, the Expert is super-light. The frame alone is £2,500, highlighting the value of this full build.
Intense’s twin-link JS Tuned suspension works very similarly to its old VPP layout, licensed from Santa Cruz. Mick Kirkman
Intense Sniper Trail Expert kit
Performance Elite-level Fox suspension performs seamlessly and it suits the Sniper perfectly. Maxxis Forekaster tyres with a supple 120 TPI casing are just about perfect UK fast-trail rubber too. Great in the wet, and with rapid mud-clearing, they aren’t sketchy over roots or rocks.
The 12-speed SRAM Eagle drivetrain uses the GX cassette, which is much lighter than the NX version, meaning more suspension reactiveness. It drives DT Swiss M 1900 wheels with fast-rolling hubs and dent-resistant rims.
It’s relatively long reach compared to the competition enables use of the short stem (50mm), paired with a quality, 760mm-wide Renthal bar for reactive steering.
While the KS dropper only has 125mm of travel, it’s the pricey carbon version, saving considerable weight. The remote lever is awkward to use though, and the Kevlar activation cable (usually braided steel) snapped in testing.
Intense Sniper Trail Expert ride impressions
From your first trail loop, the Sniper Trail hits between the eyes with personality and zest. Agile and dynamic, its steering, acceleration and responsiveness are immediate, and the more stretched-out shape feels natural and intuitive at all speeds.
The asymmetric back-end can verge on too twisty if you really rag it hard in turns, but this adds smoothness and grip that lets you truck on down scary-fast, beaten-up bridleways without ever feeling sketchy or too jiggled around.
Standover clearance is so good that the Intense never cramps your style. Mick Kirkman
Paired with the smooth rear suspension, which tracks even small bumps accurately, the wide (30mm internal) DT rims stabilise the tyres and boost the bike’s balance, creating a sense of security and surefootedness that eggs you on to get more rowdy than you really ought to on a 120mm bike.
It’s awesome that the Sniper’s slacker geometry doesn’t take anything away from its urgency or nimbleness either, and it powers up the steepest punches and handles rapid accelerations out of the saddle with an almost ‘locked out’ energy.
If you crave a tighter feel, it’s easy to reach down and flip the shock lever, and the Intense’s light weight compared to similar bikes helps it overcome small suspension shortcomings.
Its trump card is having so much energy and personality that you not only go fast, but you’re itching to play on every little bump and turn along the way.
Intense Sniper Trail Expert geometry
Seat angle: 73 degrees
Head angle: 66.5 degrees
Chainstay: 43.9cm / 17.28in
Seat tube: 48.8cm / 19.21in
Top tube: 63.5cm / 25in
Bottom bracket height: 33.8cm / 13.31in
Wheelbase: 1,195mm / 47.05in
Reach: 46.8cm / 18.43in