Back in 1994, when everyone else was just figuring out how suspension worked, Intense Cycles were making the celebrated M1 DH frame. With Shaun Palmer on the team, Intense Cycles very quickly earned an incredible reputation in the make-or-break days of DH racing. Ironic really, if you consider that Intense main man Jeff Steber is a XC rider…
With a design past in building hang gliders, Jeff has everything made in-house at the factory in Temecula, California. Over the years, Jeff has worked with many amazing riders but it was undoubtedly Shaun Palmer that flew the Intense flag the loudest. When Palmer came on to the scene from snowboarding, he showed the top pros a thing or two about the will to win…
Intense got it right the first time round, while other brands’ bikes were hugely inferior. The M1 was so good that Brian Lopes, Leigh Donovan and John Tomac rode them stickered up with their own sponsors’ logos…
Since then, Intense have successfully launched the M3 – a VPP actuated DH frame in keeping with the original M1 monocoque design. But this wasn’t enough – the M3 is an out-and-out DH thoroughbred, capable of the gnarliest riding in the world, but with 10in of travel and a 42lb build, it’s not suitable for every race track now that winning margins are getting closer.
Weighing in 2lbs lighter as a frame, the 8in travel Socom is completely different to the M3. Steber’s penchant for a clean looking bike is obvious here. The monocoque top tube, 1.5in head tube and the boom-like down-tube show the frame means business without losing its grace, while 135 and 150mm options are available for the slender rear end. A low 14.1in BB height, 66.5 degree head angle and
17.25in chainstay length combined with a lengthy wheelbase mimics the M3, but the 73mm bottom bracket width nods to the nimble riding the Socom demands, rather than the M3’s rock-ploughing 83mm.
Looking at the geometry, you could be lured into thinking the Socom is just a lighter M3 with less travel, but it’s much more than that. It doesn’t sit quite as low to the ground as an M3 once you’ve set up the sag, as it has 2in less travel. This, combined with the lightweight construction and the Virtual Pivot Point system, propels the bike forward in a way the M3 simply can’t. The Socom requires finesse and effort to get the best out of it, although a few riders have commented on the VPP’s ability to carry speed over rough stuff, especially when running most the way in to the stroke through g-outs. You don’t notice this half as much on the M3 as momentum and greater travel add to the equation.
You could compare the M3’s point and shoot nature to a Challenger tank – any line will do as long as it’s straight. The Socom is more like a rally car; equally able to travel off-road, but can weave around trees and skip over the rough stuff at speed. Make no mistake; riding the Socom will keep you on your toes.
It would be sacrilegious speccing a frame of this calibre with a mediocre build, so you should take advantage of the lightweight frame. You may not need a twin crown fork so try a 1.5 head tube.
Tubeless wheels should also be top of the list as should running a compact drive-train and dropping some weight off the shock with a Ti-spring. In fact, you could really go over the top with the Socom but that’s exactly what it’s for – it’s going to be a firm favourite on the domestic race scene. It’s a bike worthy of the name Intense. Oh, and we’re sure you’ll want to know that our Intense Socom weighs just 37.5lbs.
What makes this bike a Super Bike?
– With race-proven geometry, the Socom is the perfect UK DH bike
– Chris Kovarik raced this frame at Willingen World Cup last year with a single crown fork
– VPP technology ensures it goes when you want it to
1. Virtual Pivot Point
This is the key to the amazing pedalling abilities of the Socom. With plenty of sag you sit in the sweet spot that stops the suspension moving to rider motion, but allows bump force to activate the suspension. Another benefit of this system is that it pushes the bike forward over square hits. This is especially noticeable when sitting well into the travel. The E13 LG1 chain guide that’s visible here is using a custom ‘Taco’, which is essentially a cut down Supercharger bash ring that’s been bolted on to act as a skid plate.
Ti-Tuned There’s no point bogging a heavy weight frame down with a steel spring, so we opted for a super-light Nuke Proof titanium spring. Like Steve Peat, we opted to have the Fox DHX 5.0 shock Push Tuned for an even slicker action. Push Tuning specialist Neil Cousins at TF Tuned Shox amped up our shock on a next day service.
2. Fit for ploughing
One of the most important things for a bike in the UK is its ability to not get clogged up with mud. Things are tighter down by the linkage, which is to be expected, but there’s lots of clearance for big tyres. The rear end is available in 135mm for lighter weight, and 150mm for a sturdier rear end. The choice is yours…
3. Minimal brakes
A bike that travels as fast as the Socom needs good brakes. Formula Oro Bianco brakes are good enough for Greg Minnaar and are very lightweight. The power is astonishing for the small size, they look neat and overheating isn’t an issue.
5. Lightweight front end
The Socom has a 7in travel Rockshox Totem Solo Air spinning in a Cane Creek headset, clamped in with a slick Thomson stem. Azonic B52 handlebars made from Scandium maintain the lightweight theme without skimping on ride feel. The tidy Rockshox Maxle system clamps down on a Burgtec Snow Camo hub, and the neat Formula Oro Bianco completes the smooth looking front end.