Intense’s flagship Tracer 275 Carbon rolled out amid a media blitz unlike anything I can recall seeing online. And while the campaign had its share of detractors, it’s obvious that Intense put everything it had into developing this new platform. For this reason, it’s understandable if you’ve been put off by the expensive advertising campaign. But if you’re not quite sure why you’d want to buy an Intense, it’s time to let you in on a secret — this bike absolutely rips.
The carbon frame, which was engineered by German composites firm SEED, isn’t built in the US, but the links and hardware are machined in-house in Temecula, California. This gives it a touch of American soul that respects Intense’s hand-built heritage. Between the VPP suspension, and relatively generous travel, it immediately draws comparisons to Santa Cruz’s Bronson, another one of my favorites.
However, the reach is a fair bit longer, the seat angle steeper, and the head angle a touch slacker — all traits that add to its killer handling. The longer reach also means that it’s one of the only bikes that I’ve ridden where I haven’t felt the need to size up.
Plus, you’re able to choose between either 140mm or 160mm travel settings. Almost all of my time was spent in the 140mm setting, since the reduced travel didn’t hinder the ride in rough terrain, and it kept the handling a bit more responsive.
The short version is that it jumps like a gazelle, it rails turns, descends like you wouldn’t believe, and it climbs pretty well. Keep an even cadence, and it’ll motor right up just about anything, although it gets unsettled if you lose your rhythm while climbing through chunky rocks. Head down a hill, though, and this bike just makes sense. First, its cornering manners are essentially perfect. Get it leaned over and the suspension settles in — keeping it planted and gripping hard.
So long as you remain leaned into a turn, there’s a touch of over-steer when it breaks free, which has saved me more than a couple of times. It tracks smooth over bombed-out rock sections, while still having tons of pop when you want to get it airborne.
I’ve ridden it on everything from five-hour XC rides to the biggest jump lines at the Canyons bike park, and other than stiffening the suspension and airing up the tires for chairlift days, I’ve had no desire to change a thing. Sure, it’s fast and controlled, but what you really notice is how damn fun it is.
The upper-link needed to be retightened a few times to address some creaking, although using medium-strength thread lock kept service intervals pretty manageable. But really, after 50-or-so days of riding, a little linkage service is to be expected.
As with most VPP bikes, the lower-link can catch debris, and it won’t self-clear either, so a homemade fender is a good idea for riding in wet conditions. And while the cable routing itself is quite nice, I personally don’t dig internal cable stops.
In addition to this, I found that the external bolt-on guides aren’t as refined as some other options. And as long as I’m at it, although it hasn’t been a problem yet, the PressFit bottom bracket is going to make future service more of a headache than with a threaded option.
While it’s not an XC bike, I’d race the Tracer for any mountain discipline, short of an actual downhill race, without changing a thing. It felt completely natural on the first ride, and that feeling has only grown with more hours on the bike.
It’s fast, it’s inspiring, and frankly, I love it. Truth be told, though, it’s not for everyone. But if you tend to push your bike past its comfort zone, and you need something that’s ready to keep up, then damn, it doesn’t get much better than this.