California-based Intense Cycles have been busy once again producing their latest pedigree downhill bike, the M9 FRO. With help from some of the fastest riders in the world – Intense claim that their M-series, of which this is the latest incarnation, has been ridden by more pro athletes than any other downhill bike ever – the M9 FRO should be one of the best bikes out there. It’s a real racer’s bike, with masses of adjustment and speed. But the suspension feel won’t suit everyone.
Ride & handling: Plenty of speed but a harsh rear end
An uplift day back in the UK helped with bike setup before we headed to Europe’s downhill capital, Morzine in France, to really give it some. Unfortunately, the day on the bike in the UK raised some setup issues. The Cane Creek Double Barrel shock’s compression damping, even when turned to minimum, created a harsh feeling after about 70 per cent of the travel.
This was especially true when hitting high-speed compressions hard – and this was with the bike set to its most linear suspension ratio curve. It wasn’t enough to blow your feet off the pedals but it was enough to really put some force up through them. In the end we settled on using a softer spring and still using minimal damping. We did try the M9 with a stock Fox shock for a short amount of time, which helped with reducing how harsh the rear end felt.
We ended up running the bike in its longest wheelbase and slackest head angle options while out in the Alps. In those settings, the 1,205mm (47.4in) wheelbase is super-stable, but not so long that corners become a chore. We also found that in the two shorter chainstays settings the rear wheel would buzz the saddle, which wasn’t ideal.
Out in the rough stuff, we got used to the M9’s harsh feel, but it did mean we were getting pretty beaten up on the long alpine descents. What really does stand out is the speed at which the M9 picks up, and if you can deal with the slightly harsh ride, you can definitely be rewarded with some serious speed potential.
Frame & equipment: Neat chassis adjustments and durable, high-end build
The M9 FRO is one the most adjustable downhill bikes on the market. It has three travel options, adjustable shock progression, three chainstay length adjustments and a Cane Creek AngleSet that offers head angles from 62.5 to 65.5 degrees. The frame is constructed from 6061 T6 aluminium and as well as the neat adjustment features, it also has a bolt-in top headset cup which allows for easy removal and angle changes.
Our test bike had a durable but high-end build, with a RockShox Boxxer Team fork and Cane Creek Double Barrel shock taking care of the suspension, while Truvativ’s Holzfeller OCT cranks, MRP G2 chainguide and SRAM X9 made up the running gear. Formula’s powerful The One brakes take up the job of slowing the M9 down, the wheelset is Easton Havoc and the finishing kit all is all supplied by Easton.