Monster-trucker 29er from Temecula
When you drive the streets of Temecula, California, where Intense has its headquarters, you notice quickly the types of vehicles the locals use. They’re big. Trucks with huge lift kits loaded with souped-up four-stroke motocross bikes seem to be more common than any compact economy cars. When the engineers at Intense looked to update the already-stellar Carbine platform, they seemed to take this “Temecula mindset” to the drawing board to make a 29er trailbike that’s large and in charge and capable of going anywhere.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Carbine is a trailbike through and through, although it could also be pressed into doing some bike-park laps or long backcountry rides. We’ve done both on this machine. The wheels are big, the bike is big and the performance matches the bike’s big personality.
It has taken years to develop long-travel 29ers that offer the clearance needed for the travel without throwing handling out the window with a massively long chainstay and wonky geometry fixes. The Carbine comes to the table with a geometry that can truly handle aggressive lines but is also nimble enough for XC and trail rides.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Carbine comes in two distinct versions. The one tested here comes with a high-modulus carbon frame held together with Intense’s proprietary JS-Tuned suspension design, which is a dual-link system. The frame is built to accommodate 29er wheels with 155 millimeters of rear-wheel travel and comes with everything you need to build a sweet trailbike. The cable routing is all internal, with sleeves to ease cable swaps and to minimize noise from the cables pinging the inside of the tubes. It also comes with internal dropper-post routing, Boost 148 dropout spacing, and titanium hardware to sweeten the pot. The standard Carbine comes with identical geometry and features but uses a less fancy carbon blend and steel hardware to bring the price down. The SL frameset tested here is 200 grams lighter.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Intense has obviously done its research when it comes to component spec, because these parts do not come in a complete package from any one company. The drivetrain is SRAM. The suspension is RockShox. The wheels and cockpit are Enve, and the seatpost is Fox. It’s almost like a very knowledgeable rider went to a bike-shop boutique and got to build his dream bike.
Intense also offers the Carbine with four other build kits to bring the price down. But, one look at those spec lists will tell you the Intense crew also put the same attention to detail into the more affordable versions of this bike.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setup: Dialing in the Carbine is relatively easy with air-sprung suspension front and rear. We set the bike to the recommended 25-percent sag both front and rear. We liked the initial setup, but eventually softened the rear end to just over 30 percent to make use of the full 155 millimeters of travel. We ran the fork slightly firmer than the rear, which gave us a nice, balanced rider position.
Moving out: With a very short 40-millimeter stem and a full 150-millimeter dropper post, the contact points end up being very similar to the most current and popular long and low trailbikes we test today. The standover is impressively low, which may make this long-travel 29er an option for smaller riders.
Pedaling: The Carbine pedals exceptionally well for an aggressive trailbike, especially when those big wheels and tires are spun up to speed. The bike keeps momentum over rocky terrain, which means you don’t have to “pedal chop” your way through every rocky section. On smoother sections, the bike feels efficient, especially with the compression adjustment on the shock set to firm. There isn’t much wasted energy, since those big hoops can float over nearly any trail obstacle you
throw at them.
Climbing: Call this an enduro bike or a trailbike; either way, it has to make it to the top of the hill before enjoying the descent. The Carbine’s geometry puts the rider in a strong position, which makes the climbing easier. This is a long-travel bike, so we didn’t expect XC quickness on long climbs, but it will certainly do them, especially with the help of the compression adjustment on the shock. Where this bike really shines is on short and technical climbs; you can charge at the climbs and let the suspension and wheels do the work.
Cornering: Intense has done its homework to keep the handling of this bike quick and nimble. The wheelbase is long, thanks to the big wheels and slack head angle that kicks the front wheel far out in front of you. But, with the relatively short chainstays and super-short stem, this bike handles corners with a confident yet playful feel. On high-speed corners, there are few bikes that offer this level of stability. On tight switchbacks and in low-speed technical corners, we certainly felt the size of the wheelbase, but we loved how planted and “in the bike” we felt.
Descending: The Carbine loves to shred the descents. It’s a downhill guy’s XC bike and a cross-country guy’s DH bike. It splits the difference perfectly and delivers descending performance that’s fast and stable thanks to the slack front end. It’s also playful and comes off the ground easily.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The difference between the SL version we tested and the standard frame is only 200 grams, so if the price tag in the spec chart is too rich for you, it’s easy to shave off some weight without giving up the geometry and suspension performance.
The Carbine feels efficient enough to pedal to the top of any hill but loves the descents even more. While it only has 6 inches of travel, it feels like a monster truck with the heart of a Ferrari. It’s aggressive enough to handle the toughest enduro tracks, but is also light and nimble enough to take on your local trail ride. Intense has certainly done its homework and proven that the long-travel 29er is not just a pipe dream but a reality for mountain bikers who need a bike that can truly do it all.