Jeff Steber and crew are known for building frames their own way. Just about everything on their creations is designed and built from the ground up in their facility in Temecula, California. By controlling the process from start to finish, they have power over the smallest details, ensuring that they turn out bikes that they like to ride. The 2012 Intense Tracer 2 is a product of their unique method. It’s a trailbike that’s not for everyone, but riders who can use this bike to its fullest potential will love it.
I expected the Rocky Mountains to be a little rockier than this: The Tracer 2 is most at home on technical trails where the suspension can level the ground for you.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
This bike’s made for riders who love pushing every corner and don’t mind carrying a little more to get there first. The Tracer is an aggressive trailbike, and it’s readily apparent in the design. The 6.3 inches of rear travel, coupled with the tried-and-true performance of the Fox TALAS 150, makes for a bike that’s just as much at home on tough technical trails as it is carving tight singletrack. It’s not one of Intense’s FRO frames (For Racing Only), but the influence of lessons learned by turning out bikes for World Cup racers can be felt.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
It’s made from metal, and a lot of it. The Tracer 2 is machined and welded from aluminum through and through. The tubes have a slightly overbuilt look to them, which is confidence-inspiring if you’re planning to ride this bike hard. The second-generation VPP suspension design rides on cartridge bearings with built-in grease ports for quick maintenance. Our large frame weighed in at 8 pounds with the shock, 142-millimeter dropouts and seatpost collar.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The built-in grease fittings are an excellent feature. Multi-pivot bikes like the Tracer can be notorious for developing creaks, and these fittings allow the rider to freshen the grease in the pivots with a grease gun. However, after numerous stream crossings, early season muddy rides and several pressure washes, the pivots still ran whisper quiet.
The Renthal cockpit and Continental X-King tires also perform exceptionally well. The Shimano Dynasys drivetrain and newest version of Shimano XT brakes finish off a well-spec’ed trailbike.
Inspired to fly: The Tracer 2 has a lively feel with enough travel to back it up. It inspires the rider to look for different lines on the trail.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Ergonomics: The Tracer’s geometry is spot on for trailbike riding. The sizing, head angle and bottom bracket height are a perfect mix of raciness, quick-handling and confidence-inspiring stability.
Cornering: The cornering prowess of the Tracer 2 can be compared to a well-tuned surfboard. Dive it into a corner and the frame will flex a little, giving the rider a sensation that the bike is loading the springs. Exit the corner and the bike snaps back to propel the rider forward with more momentum than he went into the corner with. The Tracer’s unique feel in the corners is not for everyone, but we certainly looked forward to every drop-knee turn.
Climbing: The shock’s ProPedal feature definitely helps the Tracer up the hill. It is best to use the shock in its firmest setting for hard efforts, both in and out of the saddle. Our test bike was lightweight (for a 6-inch trailbike) as a result of the build kit, but the frame is not. We would expect the climbing to suffer significantly without the smart build kit.
Descending: Descending with the Tracer 2 is a joy. Our test bike came equipped with a 5.9-inch-travel fork, which kept the front end low and the handling sharp. The geometry feels quick for whipping in and out of switchbacks yet does not give up the high-speed stability a 6-inch-travel bike should have.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Our first few rides on the Tracer proved that the oversized aluminum tubes do a great job transmitting noise. This is a loud bike if ridden without chainstay and seatstay protection. Do yourself a favor and make sure they’re covered before your first ride.
Our only issue with the Shimano 3x10 drivetrain is on the roughest of terrain. When descending through chatter, we dropped the chain to the inside a couple of times. This isn’t a bike designed for the abuses of downhill riding, but we experimented with an ISCG-mounted, taco-style MRP guide to run a single ring. We found that while running a front derailleur is the best setup for most trail riding, the single chainring with a guide is more reliable for keeping the chain on.
Our test bike was set up with Shimano’s metal ICE Tech brake pads. These pads deliver more power than the resin versions that come stock on most new XT brakes and are a great upgrade.
The fork’s TALAS travel-adjustment system is rarely used on this bike and is an unnecessary addition. The handling is sharp enough at full extension, and we would recommend going with the lighter and simpler Float version.
We love this no-nonsense trailbike from the mad scientists in Temecula. Its terrific handling manners make it a great candidate for any rider who likes to ride on the aggressive end of the spectrum. It’s not easy to get this bike into the ultra-lightweight category, but with a smart and purpose-built all-mountain parts kit, you’re sure to have a bike that’s snappy and tons of fun to rail singletrack on.
Country of origin
Bottom bracket height
Top tube length
Head tube angle
Seat tube angle
| $2149 (frame only)
Fox TALAS 150 RLC FIT
FOX RP23 AdaptiveLogic
Shimano XT (26")
Continental X-King (2.4")
Renthal Fatbar (30 inches wide)
Shimano XT Rapidfire
Shimano XT (11-36)
27.2 feet (per crank rotation)
4.5 feet (per crank rotation)
Weighed with Shimano XT Trail
| Durable and light: Shimano’s XT group provides ample gear choices, the G1 dropout is machined and bolted to a 12X142-millimeter axle for stiffness, and Shimano’s XT brakes are best in their class.