At a glance
Intense is one of those bikes companies that have long had a reputation for quality and the hand made in the USA frameset on the Tracer had us drooling and eager to get it built and out onto the trails.Buy Enduro Bikes on
The bulge in the top tube as it meets the head tube hinted at a stiff front end and the ability to go large but our test bike was kitted in the bikes more fast trail oriented guise but that is only half the story.
A beautiful frame with top draw kit dripping off it, it is fair to say that there was no way this bike was going to be sat in the office for very long.
We are back to that buzz word again… versatility.
The Tracer frameset has a travel adjuster on the top link which switches the travel from 140mm to 152mm and makes a significant change to the head tube angle by slackening it by 1.5º, it also drops the bottom bracket by 7.5mm.
The Tracer comes in hand made Easton Intense EA6 6061 aluminum and features a custom monocoque top tube that together with the 1.5 head tube gives a stiff front end. There are grease ports to make servicing easier and the 2nd generation VPP suspension design is an improvement over the original.
Our test bike is a medium which has an effective top tube length of 584mm and the wheelbase is 1092mm or 1105mm depending on what setting you have.
Head tube angles are 67.5º at 152mm of travel or 69º at 140mm of travel and the seat post angle 71.5º at 152mm or 73º at 140mm of travel.
Our bike was set in 140mm and came with the excellent Fox RP23 out back and a Fox Float 32 RLC QR 140mm fork.
Drivetrain is top end Shimano XTR and Shimano XT Servo wave brakes take care of slowing things down.
A reasonably long 90mm Easton stem keeps a firm grip on Easton Monkeylite bars that are 685mm wide and have a lo rise. Easton provide the seat post too and the ever-popular Fizik Gobi XM saddle gives you a comfortable perch.
Wheels are lightweight Easton XC One, which are shod with Hutchinson tyres, an Enduro 2.35 up front and a XC 2.1 on the back.
Our medium bike weighed in at 27.5lbs on our scales without pedals.
On the trail 140mm
There are a lot of numbers and angles to get your head around with the Tracer but what really matters is how it rides!
Our bike came specced very much with light weight in mind and at 27.5lbs for a 140mm trail bike it is certainly light.
In this guise it is a fast bike that has an aggressive stance that encourages you to attack the trail, almost like it is a 140mm XC whippet. Beware though as things can get skittery if you shove it hard into turns but once you get used to that and start to adjust to it you will find that you can put this bike through the tight stuff at speed, the QR fork was noticeable though so make sure you get the 15mm thru version if you go for one of these in 140mm trim.
On the ups there is much less chop than the original VPP system though this bike is best pedalled smoothly. That said the light weight allows you to carry momentum over the rough stuff and leaves you plenty of energy to enjoy the downs.
Once hitting the downward trail the bike soaks up the trail well which lets you build and carry speed. Handling is a compromise between a steep sharp head tube angle and an overlong stem, it just about works and the short wheelbase and top tube means it feels nimble so you can almost pick it up and point it where you want to go.
On the trail 152mm
We stripped out the Fox Float 32 and slotted a Talas R 36 in at the front, we then switched the rear travel to 152mm and took the bike back out.
It still had lightweight wheels and tyres on and the XTR drivetrain so perhaps not the spec you would run if building this bike up in 152mm mode but we only had a couple of days left and we were keen to get a feel for the Tracer in its longer travel setting.
The transformation is surprising and we felt that this is where the bike really shines. The angles are better and the bike felt surefooted and eager to please. We did swap the stem out for a 60mm which gave us a better control once heading downhill fast and that is what you find yourself doing as the Tracer rails berms and turns and challenges you to go faster.
With the Talas up front at 140mm the Tracer climbs pretty well and is quick through the trees through it is in its 160mm setting and heading downwards that the bike lights up.
What you get with the Tracer built up light in 140mm is a fast, flickable ride that can handle the rough stuff better than most.
This is not its strength however; the real ace in the hole is the fact that you can have two bikes for the price of one.
Set in its longer travel setting with the travel adjustable fork up front the Tracer is a cracking bike that will take you on to the next level.
The versatility of the Tracer is a plus point but it could also be its downfall, a middle of the road spec that will allow you to run this bike in either setting will by its very nature compromise its performance in both settings.
We would like to see replaceable rear dropouts so that you have the option to fit whatever axle system best suits the way you set the bike up.
The Tracer is expensive at £1900 for a frame only.
As a frameset the Tracer represents high quality and there is no doubt that it works as both lightweight trail hack and all mountain bomber depending in which guise you build it.
To get the best from the frame you need to decide which is going to be your default riding type and spec the bike accordingly, compromising one way or the other will compromise the performance and we feel if you are going to invest in a frameset of this cost and quality you really need to ensure you do it justice.Buy Enduro Bikes on
This review was in Issue 4 of IMB.For more information visit Intense Cycles
By Nigel GarroodNigel Garrood was one of the instigators of the IMB project and has been with us since the very beginning. This loveable rogue has more stories than the Bible and is known to enjoy a beer or two. On the bike, he’s fast and loose and often puts younger riders to shame. Equally he’s been known to suffer from the odd crash and carries the scars to prove it. He was once referred to as being a robot sent from the future to save us all!