Bike Test: Intense Carbine 275

Yep, that’s better: While the larger wheels would kill the handling of a normal bike, the Carbine is ripe for the change. We were skeptical when we heard about it, but were impressed with the changes the new hoops make. 

Intense takes a lot of pride in being an American company. Their production has always been in-house—from the design to the machining, welding and finishing; everything has been under one roof. The mad scientists at Intense have always put building race- inspired dream bikes first, and in today’s world, that probably means carbon. When they decided to go carbon, they brought in carbon experts from the German company SEEDS. While the carbon process does not happen at Intense’s facility in Temecula, California, this is still very much an American bike.

The Carbine is a lightweight trailbike, so it’s built for the one-bike rider. It will do anything well—from epic-length cross-country and all-mountain rides to technical descents and chutes. This bike has tons of versatility.

We reviewed the Carbine 26 in our May 2012 issue. While we were impressed with the potential of Intense’s first venture into the carbon world, there was room for improvement. The Carbine 26 had geometry traits that were unbecoming of a 6-inch-travel bike. The bottom bracket was very low and the head angle was relatively steep.

Made in the USA: The dropouts are custom machined in the factory in Temecula, California. They place the wheel slightly higher and back to accommodate the larger wheel size.  

Most bikes would simply not work with a bolt-on 27-inch upgrade package. However, given the handling characteristics of the previous-generation Carbine, we felt the bigger hoops were just the cure the bike needed.

The Carbine features full-carbon construction, except for a few bits. The custom G1 dropouts, rocker and mounting hardware are CNC-machined from aluminum at the factory in Temecula. The VPP Generation 2 suspension rides on cartridge bearings and features a BB92 bottom bracket, 12×142-millimeter rear axle and an internal bearing, tapered head tube.

Fox is finally on board with the 27.5-inch trend. This wheel size is not going away, especially when it comes to 5- and 6-inch-travel trailbikes. The 34 CTD fork that the Carbine comes equipped with feels like a perfect fit.

Versatility first: The 27.5-inch version of the Carbine proves that the larger wheel size will be a perfect fit for many trail riders. 

Moving out: When we tested the Carbine 26, we compared it to our perennial favorite, the Tracer 2. We noted that the Carbine sported a lower front end, steeper angles and a lower bottom bracket. While those changes made the Carbine sportier, they also detracted from its descending prowess. With the 27-inch wheels, the geometry much more closely resembles our Tracer, with a slightly higher bottom bracket and slacker, more stable geometry. We’re all about that.

Pedaling: The Carbine pedals well, just like a multiipivot suspension bike should. While the VPP suspension design does not exhibit the anti-squat characteristics of other bikes, the ProPedal lever offers adequate control to keep the back end from bobbing. When you’re climbing, sprinting or putting down a hard effort, plan to use the ProPedal. The Carbine would also be a great candidate for Fox’s CTD system, which offers a wider damping range and firmer pedaling platform.

Climbing: The lightweight nature of the Carbine allows it to scamper up climbs quickly and easily. With the VPP Generation 2 suspension active when climbing, the 6 inches of travel allow the rider to blast into and up steep technical sections. The best technique is to use the ProPedal lever to keep the suspension firm on long, seated climbs and hammer through the short and rough sections with the suspension open. The Carbine will do the rest.

Cornering: The taller front end of the Carbine 275 gives it a bit more stability than its 26-inch counterpart. The bottom bracket height and head angle were a bit too low and steep on the previous version, which makes us sure that this bike is the perfect candidate for a larger wheel. If the geometry were slacker or taller from the start, the larger wheels would be too big of a change to accommodate without serious handling problems.

The larger wheels of the Carbine 275 allow it to “plow through” more than “pick lines carefully” compared to the 26er version. This bike has serious descending chops, whether it’s rough-and- tumble baby heads, high-speed corners or tight switchbacks. The larger wheels blend the best of 26- and 29-inch-wheel formats without giving up much. While naysayers will want the ultimate in maneuverability or efficiency, the 27-inch wheels will make just about every trail rider happy. 

While the 27-inch wheels add versatility, traction control and several geometry benefits to the Carbine, they also add weight. Physics dictates that any 27-inch wheel will be heavier than its 26-inch counterpart, but these wheels felt noticeably more so. The Carbine 275 would be better served if the Nevegal 2.35-inch tires were swapped for something lighter and snappier. Thankfully, that’s a small upgrade to make.

The externally routed cables make for a no-fuss, easy-to-use cable system, but the flat black paint job mars easily from cable rub. Be sure to add a few stick-on cable rub protectors before your first ride.

The Carbine is a great all-around trailbike that truly benefits from the larger wheels. After our test of the Carbine 26, we were lukewarm about the low and steep cross-country nature of the 6-inch-travel trailbike. The taller front end and increase in bottom bracket would kill the handling of most bikes. However, on the Carbine, the larger wheels improve the geometry dramatically. Add Intense’s finely tuned VPP Generation 2 suspension and a smart build kit and you’ve got a trailbike that’s welcome in the wrecking crews’ long-term test fleet any time. 


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