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Bike Test: Intense Spider 29er Carbon Comp

November 18, 2013
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The Spider Comp is the fourth bike in Intense’s line of carbon bikes, and while it’s designed mainly for cross-country and lightweight trail riding, it’s packing some surprises for riders who prefer to ride the whole mountain rather than stick to tame and smooth terrain. 

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
While it shares its name with the aluminum Spider, the Spider Carbon Comp is a completely different bike built to be highly versatile. It sports more travel and a much slacker geometry that’s capable of tackling steeper and rockier trails. With a claimed 5.5-pound frame weight, this bike could be built as a very fast cross-country racer, but clearly it was designed for more.



WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The Spider sports full-carbon construction that was designed with the help of SEED, the German carbon special- ists who have helped with all of Intense’s carbon projects. The frame also sports a VPP Generation 2 suspension system with 4.5 or 5 inches of travel that’s easily adjusted by moving the shock mount position. The frame is held together with aluminum rockers and hardware that’s entirely designed, machined and assembled at Intense’s world headquarters in Temecula, California. The frame also uses Intense’s G1 dropouts with a 12×142-millimeter rear axle, tapered head tube, PressFit bottom bracket and ISCG tabs, should you choose to use them.




WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Intense puts together a smart package that’s full of trail-proven components. The Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes are workhorses that have yet to give us issues. We also applaud Intense’s decision to go with a non-travel-adjustable fork, such as the Fox Float CTD; we never felt the front end wander, even on the steepest of climbs.

The icing on the cake is the vastly improved cable routing compared to Intense’s first few carbon projects. The internal routing is well thought out and virtually eliminates the cable-rub issues we experienced while testing the Carbine 26 and 27.5 bikes.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: Like most 29ers, the Spider’s sizing tends to run big compared to its smaller-wheeled brethren. With most of the wrecking crew standing over 6 feet tall, we almost always test large-sized frames, but with the Spider, we were perfectly comfortable on a medium. Be sure to look carefully at the measurements to determine the right size for you.

Setup on the Spider is remarkably simple, thanks to the single air-pressure adjustments on the Fox Float suspension. We simply set the fork and shock to 30-percent sag and hit the trails.

Pedaling: With a relatively steep 73-degree seat angle, the Spider is clearly designed to knife through turns and pedal to the top of any hill. This bike puts the rider in a strong position right over the pedals. The rear suspension is efficient, and we rarely found ourselves reaching for the CTD lever for a firmer pedaling platform. If you’re pedaling on pavement to the trailhead, though, you will appreciate that this lever is easy to reach.

Climbing: This bike isn’t the lightest, which might make climbing purists cringe; however, it hides its weight well and feels svelte on the trail. Of course, if light weight is your ultimate goal, the Spider Comp could easily be put on an inexpensive diet to shave weight and improve its already-snappy climbing feel.

Cornering: Here’s where the Spider really shines. Whereas other 5-inch-travel 29er bikes can feel like you’re driving a school bus down the trail, the Spider hides its big wheels and feels much more nimble than a long-travel 29er should. The VPP suspension allows Intense to tuck the rear wheel in closer than other suspension designs and keeps the chainstay length very short. This means the Spider can rally switchbacks with ease.

While the dual-link design exhibits a tiny bit of flex in the corners, it’s all but covered up by the incredible stiffness of the carbon chassis. Simply put, this bike rails corners.

Descending: The short chainstays and lively feel of the Spider mean that Intense didn’t have to steepen the head angle to keep this bike in check. Instead, the designers were free to keep the front end slack and stable. We found ourselves floating over obstacles with ease, especially at speed. Striking a solid balance with adequate travel, big wheels and dialed geometry is a very elusive goal, but Intense has done it with this bike.

Suspension feel: The VPP suspension on the Spider has a very controlled feel that will satisfy just about any trail rider. While the top end of the stroke has just a bit of pedaling support, the middle of the stroke is extremely active and effective at leveling trail chatter. The end of the stroke also offers just enough bottom-out control to keep the gravity junkie in all of us happy on small- to medium-sized drops. 

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
While Shimano’s triple drivetrain certainly still has a place, there is no reason why a 2×10 or even a 1×11 drivetrain wouldn’t complement the Spider Comp perfectly.

FSA’s SL-K flat bar is excellent if you’re looking for a very stiff and lightweight carbon bar; however, it transmits plenty of chatter that may have contributed to some armpump issues we had. If you’re racing the Spider, enjoy the stiffness and put creature comforts second. If you’re trail riding, swap this bar out for one of FSA’s riser bars that offers more compliance.

The Kenda Nevegal tires offer tons of traction and are very versatile. If the Spider is feeling a little sluggish, though, it might have something to do with the tire choice. We’ve had excellent luck with Kenda’s Honey Badger 29er tires, which would certainly drop ounces from the rotating weight and liven up the pedaling and climbing manners.

BUYING ADVICE
We’ve sifted through a mountain of 29er full-suspension trailbikes, and while many of them had traits we loved, most of them also had flaws we deemed incurable without either downsizing the wheel size or travel. The Spider has broken this paradigm. Intense has done an excellent job building a nimble 29er with enough travel to tackle tough trails with confidence. 

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