An air cushioned vehicle, more commonly referred to as a hovercraft, can travel over various types of terrain with ease, much like the latest creation from Intense Cycles. Yes, back at the lab Jeff Steber (founder of Intense) and his crew have been working hard to conjure up a new bike, utilizing a few of Intense’s favorite features and combining them with the most rapidly growing tire trend in the industry. The all-new Intense ACV is the first-ever plus-size bike to roll out of the Intense factory in Temecula, California—and if this popular trend continues, we doubt it will be their last. We hopped aboard Intense’s new mid-fat machine and gave it the full shakedown, MBA-style.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
It has been said that plus-sized tires are for beginners, but the ACV was built with an aggressive geometry to satisfy the needs of riders at any and all skill levels. Everyone from novices to pros will find the ACV offers a fun and playful feel thanks to its well-tuned suspension and large air-volume tires. Beginners will enjoy more confidence around tight turns and down steep chutes, while advanced riders will appreciate the smooth and predictable ride. The all-new Intense ACV aims to please any rider who is looking to experience the new plus-size tire trend.
The ACV: The all-new Intense ACV was not called the Air Cushioned Vehicle by accident. This bike is seriously fast and super plush out on the trails.
Nice and tidy: The Intense ACV uses internally routed cables to give the bike a clean and attractive look. Rubber grommets also play a large role in keeping cable noise at bay.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
Intense came out of the gate swinging with the all-new ACV by constructing it with a carbon frame and including all of the current amenities available to modern trailbikes. Boost hub spacing allows the bike to clear the wider plus-size tires, and SRAM’s 11-speed drivetrain offers a smooth and user-friendly feel. A Race Face Next carbon crank keeps the ACV’s weight at a minimum, and fully internal routing gives the ACV an attractive cable-free look. The gold paint scheme made the bike look like a trophy sitting in our garage. Best of all, the ACV has a travel-adjustment option similar to many of Intense’s other models, allowing the ACV to accommodate either 115 or 130 millimeters of rear-wheel travel.
Crank it up: The Race Face Next SL crankset is ultra light, super stiff and, best of all, looks really cool.
It simply works: Our testers have grown fond of SRAM’s 11-speed drivetrain, not only for its simplicity but also for its smooth and precise shifting.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Intense offers the ACV in two options: a pro build for $6500 and a foundation build for $4600. Both sport the same carbon frame and offer great bang for your buck. The ACV in either build kit has plenty of standout features; however, the key to the ACV is its plush, air cushioned tires. These plus-sized tires provide great traction and increased confidence while flowing down the trails. Give this bike a try and you’ll know what we mean.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Air cushion: Along with the high-volume, air-cushioning tires is a RockShox Monarch Debonair. This plush shock and the combination of plus-sized tires do wonders over chattery terrain.
The ACV, like most other plus-sized bikes we’ve ridden, required a little more attention than a standard trailbike. Tire pressure is critical. Too much pressure creates a bouncy ride, while too little creates a squirmy feel. The ACV performed well with tire pressures ranging from 15–17 psi. The suspension worked well with 30-percent sag front and rear.
The ACV combined 150/130 millimeters of travel, along with a slack head angle and short chainstays, and provided test riders with a comfortable yet aggressive feel. The ACV can conquer any trail with confidence. It can even turn a slightly blown- out trail into one filled with hero dirt. We can’t say that about many other rigs.
The modern trailbike is designed to balance uphill capabilities with downhill prowess, and the ACV, even with its plus- sized tires, does that really well. It’s unlikely that the ACV will ever be able to compete against a cross-country bike, but its efficient suspension and lightweight feel make it a great contender against many traditional trailbikes. The ACV performed well on a variety of climbs, ranging from rocky and technical sections to long, winding fire roads.
Hookin’ up: The Intense ACV hooks up great, even on the most blown-out corners. The ACV has the ability to turn loose sections into traction-filled hero dirt.
Plus-sized tires offer a unique feel when it comes to cornering. Standard tires have a snappy feel when they hook up, while plus-sized tires have a smooth and consistent feel in the corners. So, as we expected, the ACV was easy to control throughout the twists and turns of our favorite trails.
Let it rip: The ACV provides riders with tons of traction and a long, slack and low geometry. Combining these features encourages riders to push their limits out on the trails.
They don’t call it the Air Cushioned Vehicle for nothing. With its active suspension and large air-volume tires, the ACV gave our testers a sensation of floating down the trails. They also noticed they could take more chances with fewer consequences thanks to the additional traction. The ACV handles everything—from rocks to roots to ruts and drops—without a second thought.
Intense style: Back when Intense decided to develop a plus-sized bike, they made it a goal to have it be just as fun and playful as the rest of their lineup. The all-new ACV is an aggressive plus bike with Intense’s signature attitude.
The ACV’s large footprint and plush suspension did wonders for delivering braking forces to the ground. When our test riders squeezed the SRAM Guide RS brakes, our bike came to an immediate and controlled stop with little to no skidding or unwanted suspension movement. The Guide RS brakes have a handy reach-adjust knob, as well as a sleek and slim look that keeps weight down and performance up. We really couldn’t have asked for more.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Our ACV came spec’d with Intense’s Pro build kit, which leaves very little to be desired. Right out of the box this bike will satisfy, if not thrill, most riders. One tip, however, is to play around with your air pressure and your suspension settings in order to dial in the best ride for your local trails. We noticed when our air pressure was too high or too low almost immediately, so we recommend you bring a small hand pump and a pressure gauge to the trails to experiment with what works best for you.
As the plus-sized trend continues to grow, more and more bike options are becoming available, and it’s becoming harder to pick the bike that is right for you. The ACV maintains Intense’s reputation for fun and aggressive bikes that love to be tossed around by some of the world’s best riders, but it will also fit nicely in a novice’s quiver. The ACV handles climbs well and descends like nobody’s business. If you’re taking a serious look at plus-sized tires, then the Intense ACV should be on your list of bikes to try.
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