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.
FRAME Custom Ultra Hi Mod carbon fibre, 125-140mm (4.9-5.5in) travel
FORK RockShox Pike RCT3 29 160mm (6.3in) travel
SHOCK Fox Float CTD TA BV
DRIVETRAIN SRAM X01
WHEELSET Novatec Flow 29 142x15mm front/12mm rear, Maxxis High Roller II Exo TR 27.5×2.3in
BRAKES SRAM X0 Trail 200/180mm rotors
BAR FSA 60mm
STEM FSA SL-K 750mm
SEATPOST RockShox Reverb Stealth
WEIGHT 12.6kg/27.8lb (without pedals)