INTENSE RECLUSE TEST
A bike with “Spidey sense”
When Intense decided on a name for its all-mountain machine (designed to claw its way up nearly vertical slopes and then descend with precision that’s almost telepathic), the marketing guys were probably thinking of the brown recluse spider, the most venomous spider found in Southern California. But, a recluse is also someone who wants to shut out the world to go meditate in solitude, perhaps on a long-distance trail ride away from the hustle and bustle of the city. So whichever way you look at it, both meanings apply. We got a hold of one of these deadly spiders to test it on our own trails.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Recluse is meant to hit trailbike weight targets but still offer the geometry and suspension performance to handle things when the trails get nasty. While the Recluse isn’t the lightest XC bike, and it’s not as bike-park-friendly as a true enduro bike, it’s as close as you can come to ticking both those boxes in a single package.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Recluse is a carbon bike with almost 6 inches of travel via the JS Tuned dual-link suspension. The bike sports all the modern amenities, including high-modulus carbon fiber tubes; Boost 148-millimeter rear-axle spacing; internal routing for all shifter, brake and dropper-post cables and hoses; and custom-made downtube and chainstay protectors. The bike uses angular collet-style pivots designed to increase the surface area between the bearings connecting the front and rear triangles. The pivots keep maintenance down by staying tight for longer than a typical rocker-bolt design.
Keepin’ it clean: The internal cable routing on the Recluse is ready to accept either electronic or mechanical shifting. The system is clean and even sports internal sleeves to keep the cables from pinging the insides of the tubes, making the bike very quiet on the trail.
Short stay: The JS Tuned suspension design allows the Intense designers to keep the chainstays short and the geometry playful. The carbon tubes also sport internal cable routing to keep the aesthetics clean.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Right away the flashy paint scheme will catch your eye. If bright and colorful isn’t your style, Intense also offers the Recluse in a muted, Stealth Black color scheme.
The blacked-out Fox suspension may not be the top-of- the-line factory version with super adjustable dampers and Kashima coating, but the fork and shock provide remarkable performance. The 36 Performance fork features Fox’s new Grip damper, which is a sealed-cartridge system with a simple, three-position lever that allows the rider to select the open, medium or firm mode. It’s easy to use and feels every bit as plush and controlled as fancier versions. Similarly, the X2 Performance shock sports an easy-to-use two-position climbing switch to firm up the travel for efficient ascents.
Next, please: The Race Face NEXT crank is one we’ve been seeing more and more as original equipment, and for good reason. It’s light, it’s stiff and the installation is easy.
Guiding the trail: SRAM’s Guide brakes offer awesome stopping power and plenty of modulation. The e*Thirteen cassette in the background offers a wide gear range for the single-ring drivetrain.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
The Recluse sports an air-sprung fork and shock, which makes initial setup a relatively easy process. The fork only requires the sag to be set to about 25–30 percent via the air valve. The Grip damper switch controls the fork on the fly with an easy-to-use three-position lever. The X2 shock requires more attention once the initial sag is set up. We landed at about 30-per- cent sag, and then set the high- and low-speed rebound near the middle of their ranges. We set the high-speed compression to about 30 percent of its range. The low-speed compression is con- trolled with the hand lever as a climbing switch.
Steber Tuned: The JS Tuned suspension design is a dual-link system that is very similar to a VPP system, but is custom-tuned by Intense founder Jeff Steber. The design is built into all of Intense’s suspension bikes and has 140 millimeters of travel with the Recluse.
Foxy setup: The Fox X2 shock isn’t quite as easy to set up as the other Float shocks, due to the multiple compression and rebound knobs. Once dialed in, however, the X2 takes this bike to the next level.
The Recluse fits very true to size. Our size-large bike had a comfortable and roomy cockpit, which allowed us to keep the stock short stem and wide Renthal bars.
Rock-ready: The Recluse is ready to handle more aggressive trails than the 140 millimeters of travel would have you believe. The bike is exceptionally capable on rocky and technical trails thanks to some clever geometry choices from the Intense crew.
With 140 millimeters of travel and a lightweight chassis, the Recluse can float up nearly any climb. It sports enough travel that it can charge chunky and steep ascents and let the suspension do the work. It can also be set with the suspension in the firm setting to handle long climbs efficiently, thanks to the relatively steep seat angle and lightweight construction. The Intense-brand carbon wheels aid climbing, thanks to their low weight and wide profile. The tires feel snappy and responsive but also provide a large contact patch for improved traction.
The JS Tuned suspension is plush and active, which makes both high-speed and low-speed cornering efforts easier. It also allows for a short chainstay, which makes the bike lively, snappy and quick through turns. The geometry tucks the rear wheel close under the rider, which allows the rider to power through fast turns. Riding through tight switchbacks doesn’t feel like driving a Mack truck through a fast-food drive-through window.
The Recluse handles like a miniature enduro bike. It has slightly less travel than a typical enduro rig but has similar geometry, which makes it capable of handling gnarly terrain. Descending on the Recluse is quick and confident; it’s much stabler than a true cross-country trailbike. We’ve tested many bikes in this travel category that are twitchy. This bike strikes a balance between nimbleness and stability, making it a great all-around weapon, no matter how tight the turns are. The 140-millimeter travel is plush off the top of the stroke, meaning small-bump compliance is better than on many other bikes in this travel category. The suspension also ramps up on big hits and jumps for control when the trail is nasty. The Recluse is an exceptional all-around bike that’s a blast to rail down most any trail, and it won’t shy away from technical chutes or long shuttle-run descents, either.
Find the fun lines: The Recluse is pedal-friendly, lightweight and extremely versatile. However, what caught our attention first was its need to find the fun lines on any given trail.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The Recluse is available in many different build kits at many different price points, but the version we tested offers great bang for the buck. The Pro build forgoes top-level suspension in favor of carbon wheels and a dialed cockpit, and the good news is that you don’t give up much suspension performance for those upgrades.
The 150-millimeter Reverb dropper post may not work for every rider, as the max height may be too tall if you don’t have enough post showing. Riders who are between sizes may want to consider going with the shorter-travel, 125-millimeter Reverb to achieve proper height.
The Recluse strikes a balance between long-travel descending prowess and lightweight cross-country trailbike efficiency. It’s arguably the most versatile bike in Intense’s lineup and comes with all the features that make the lightweight Spider and enduro-styled Tracer great. The Recluse blends the best of the cross-country and enduro bike genres into a machine that’s actually capable of riding both. The lightweight chassis, coupled with JS Tuned suspension and slack geometry, delivers a platform that’s plush and capable of handling gnarly terrain, but it’s still an efficient climber and not afraid to look for the fun lines on nearly any trail.
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