February 13, 2017
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One Rig to Rule Them All

IntenseIntense introduced us to its new Primer on the epic Sedona landscape last spring, and the experience left us wanting more, so we decided to do a full test. Over the course of our testing we pushed the limits of the Primer to see just how far on each end of the spectrum it would go. From long cross-country rides to daunting shuttle rides, the Primer was put through its paces.


The Primer ticks a lot of different boxes when it comes to versatility. The bigger 29-inch wheels and progressive geometry will appeal to riders looking for a quick and snappy ride. “I designed the Primer to be a Swiss army knife type of bike that could be used for everyday riding, but would be edgy enough to do a marathon event or even an enduro race,” explained Intense designer Jeff Steber.

The 130 millimeters of front and rear travel put this bike into the aggressive trailbike category, but the lightweight build competes with some cross-country race bikes. Our test rig is the top-of-the-line Factory build retailing for $10,000, but Intense offers the Foundation build for $4600. The more bud- get-minded Foundation build uses a slightly heavier carbon frame but is built on the same suspension platform.


Intense-6Stiff and stable: The front end of the Primer has an oversized head tube that gave the bike a stable feel at high speeds and through technical sections. Climbing out of the saddle, the front end didn’t give our testers any unwanted flex.

Intense was originally known for its aluminum frames welded in its Southern California facility. The Primer uses a full-carbon frame and rear triangle, along with a carbon fiber upper link. The higher-end Factory and Pro builds use a lighter Primer SL carbon. Titanium hardware is used throughout the bike to shave grams. The frame is built on the capable JS Tuned suspension that is adjustable between 115 and 130 millimeters, depending on the rider’s preference.

All of the cables are routed internally, including Stealth dropper routing, and the bike has Boost spacing in the front and rear. For riders looking to run a 2x or chainguide, the front triangle will accept a direct-mount front derailleur.


Intense-5Accustomed to it: There are few drivetrains that we spent more time on than the SRAM XX1. The Primer will come stock with XX1 Eagle, but our test riders were pleased with the performance of the 11-speed.

Intense-7Light and stiff: This is the first set of redesigned Next SL cranks that we have had the chance to ride. Our test riders felt that they were stiff and were impressed with just how light they were.

The Factory build is the top-of-the-line Primer, with plenty to be admired in terms of performance and bling. The full Fox suspension package complemented the JS Tuned linkage and gave our test riders consistent performance and plenty of adjustments to dial in the ride quality. The SRAM XX1 drivetrain shifted well, and the DT Swiss XMC carbon wheels rolled fast. To top off the build, the Renthal bar/stem combo felt comfortable, and the Fabric Scoop saddle was one of the best-fitting saddles we have ridden.


Suspension setup:

Intense-3Finely tuned machine: The JS Tuned rear suspension is adjustable between 115–130 millimeters of travel. We spent most of our time riding the longer option, but some of our test riders preferred the shorter one during longer days in the saddle.

The rear suspension has a very supported feel at the top of its travel, leading our test riders to run the sag a little higher at 30 percent. To balance the rear, we started at 20 percent in the fork. After a few rides, we dropped the fork to 15 percent for more technical riding and found a solid middle ground at 25 percent in the shock.



The Primer is a rig that excels in built corners and feels playful enough to be leaned over, defying any stereotype of 29-inch wheels feeling sluggish. The combination of the wide handlebars and knobbier front tire kept the Primer planted through tight sections.

Intense-9Speaks for itself: The Primer is a seriously fast bike. Some might think that this bike leans more towards XC, but at full speed it inspires confidence even on technical trails.


With the Reverb down and our fingers off the brake levers, the Primer took control and ripped down singletrack. The Primer got up to speed quickly and exhibited a confidence-inspiring stability that encouraged our test riders to push harder than they normally would. Our test riders were amazed at just how playful the Primer felt. At high speeds the suspension felt stable and plush throughout its travel, soaking up big hits comfortably while the big wheels rolled over technical rock gardens with confidence.

We spent most our time riding the Primer with the rear travel set at 130 millimeters, but for a few rides we switched to the shorter travel. Even at 115 millimeters, the Primer felt very capable and transformed into a more efficient machine.



The JS Tuned rear linkage has plenty of support off the top of the stroke, giving the Primer a high level of efficiency when the trail pitches up and the suspension is completely open. With the shock stiffened up, the Primer felt like a pure cross-country bike. Out of the saddle the frame and rear triangle were stiff and responsive, and the geometry gave us plenty of room to get comfortable on longer grinds.


There are few bikes that are as versatile as the Primer, but depending on the types of trails you plan to ride, the rear suspension will need to be set up differently. We recommend using your local shop to help dial in the sag properly. Some of our test riders would have preferred a burlier set of tires on more aggressive trails, but the OEM tires might be just right for your local riding.



The Primer has the potential to take riders in several directions. More committed cross-country riders will be able to get a very capable rig by switching to some narrower tires and even flat bars, while aggressive trail riders will feel right at home with the current setup. The Primer is a very capable machine that will do just about anything its rider asks of it. The higher price tag of the Factory build will be a big commitment for some, but the starting price of the Foundation build will help get riders into a bike that can take them on endless epic adventures.

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