Intense Primer Shootout

Intense Primer Shootout

The trail bike category in Intense Cycle’s lineup has been simplified to just one model name that features three separate wheel-size options. Fans of the popular Southern California brand will find bikes such as the ACV, the Recluse and the Spider have all been dropped for the 2020 model year to be replaced by the all-new Primer family. The family consists of three wheel-size options: 27.5, 27.5/29 (aka 279) and 29.

Most riders are familiar with the handling differences between 27.5-inch and 29er wheels, but once a third option is tossed into the mix, the choice can become mix a difficult one to make. As always, the wrecking crew is here to help. We spent months riding back-to-back laps on these three unique machines to bring you a proper evaluation of each model. Here’s how the three nearly identical bikes fared in our three-bike shootout.

The wrecking crew put all three Primers through their paces.


Among the three-wheel sizes, two frames are used; however, the 279 model receives a unique frame color, as well as 279 brandings, on the back of the seat tube. Essentially, the 279 is identical to the 29er frame, while the 27.5 bike stands on its own.

Across the line, each Primer features 140mm of travel, along with a 150mm-travel fork, adding 10mm of travel over last year’s Primer models.

The new fleet was redesigned from the ground up with a new JS Trail Link, along with modern geometry updates. Intense reworked the rear triangle to add torsional stiffness and topped off these bikes with high-end titanium hardware.

After performance needs were met, the team over at Intense focused on aesthetics. Designers pulled inspiration from race cars, giving each colorway a standout paint job with bold graphics that highlight the commitment and passion Intense has for racing. The cables are neatly routed throughout the frames, and armor was added for protection. Intense offers fine-tune geometry adjustments, thanks fine adjustments to Flip Chips located on the upper links. The two settings are labeled as low and lower, since both settings offer modern, long, slack and low geometries. Riders will want to experiment with both settings to see which one fits their style and terrain best.

All Primer models are offered in carbon only, with a frame and shock available for $2999. Meanwhile, complete bikes range in price from $3799–$6999.


Intense offers the Primer bikes in three build kit options, including Expert, Pro and Elite. The Primer S (279) on the other hand, is offered only at the Expert or Pro level. This means a carbon wheel version is not available for the Primer 279. The Expert 275 and 29 models fall in the sub-$4000 range and feature a SRAM NX, 12-speed drivetrain along with Fox Performance level suspension, Shimano brakes and e∗thirteen wheels. This package uses an alloy cockpit and a house-brand dropper post.

Stepping up to the Pro build brings Fox Factory suspension to the table, along with Shimano XT brakes and SRAM’s XO1 Eagle drivetrain. A carbon cockpit is also added to the Pro and Elite build kits. Riders looking for the ultimate advantage will find the Elite model comes ready to rip with carbon wheels, as well as a few other minor upgrades.

The Primer 275 brings a playful attitude to the trails.

The 279 model adds $100 per build kit compared to the other bikes. This additional cash gets you a Fox 36 fork compared to the 34 forks seen on the 275 and 29 Primers. When it comes to the wheelset, the 279 is unique as well. While the other models come with 30mm inner width wheels from e∗thirteen, the 279 uses a wider back rim with a 35mm inner width. This allows Intense to run a plus-sized 2.8-inch tire in the back.

Across the board, the Primer models put performance first. Even at the Expert level, riders will still reap the benefits of a Fox DPX2 shock, along with a wide-ratio, 12-speed drivetrain; however, in our opinion, the Pro model offers the best bang for the buck.


All three bikes use the new JS Trail Link and share 140mm of travel. The goal behind this design was to increase pedaling efficiency while simultaneously improving small bump compliance. This was accomplished by adding a high leverage curve towards the beginning of the stroke and then allowing to ramp up towards the middle of the stroke to add support.

We opted to run our test bikes with 30-percent sag and found that setting worked well for the majority of our testers. The ability to adjust low-speed compression on our shocks allowed us to fine-tune our bikes for different trails and riding styles. Riders looking for a plush setting that hugs the trails could achieve that while our more aggressive riders who slam hard into every berm were able to adjust for added support and reduced bottom out.


After numerous laps aboard each machine, the testers decided which bike they would like to take home, but first, let us dive deep into the nitty-gritty of each bike to point out where each model shines.

The Primer 275 is a trail ninja looking to slash turns and blow up berms. Its agile attitude makes this bike a blast to ride down any trail. Keep in mind the smaller wheels require careful line choice through rowdier sections of trail, but this bike’s ability to wiggle its way down makes it the ultimate choice for playful riders.

On the climbs, the 275 charges ahead with a supported feel and a planted front end. The bike holds its own on climbs and allows riders to quickly spin the wheels up to speed when attacking technical features. The short, 170mm crankarms seen across the model lineup provide clearance when needed, and when that clearance runs out, the added frame protection is there to help. Suspension-wise, our bike felt dialed and provided a supportive platform that encouraged our wrecking crew to ride hard lap after lap.

As the trails pointed down, our small-wheeled bike was always on the hunt for bonus lines. The 275 lives for trail features and loves to be tossed around. If we had to say which bike was purely the most fun, the 275 would likely take the cake.


The Primer S—with a 29-inch front wheel and a 27.5-inch rear—otherwise known as the staggered-wheel-size Primer 279, was the wild card in our lineup. Built from the same frame as the 29er and featuring a beefed-up fork and tire combo, the 279 was the bike the wrecking crew was most excited to ride. We went into the test with an open mind, not knowing what to expect from this mixed-wheel-size machine.

Our first impression aboard the Primer 279 was that it’s a bike built to handle fast and steep descents, thanks to its rearward rider position. The smaller 27.5-inch tire in back lowers the rear end, and in doing so slackens the head tube and seat tube angle while also dropping the bottom-bracket height. Due to the bike having a more rearward bias, we ran more air pressure in the shock to add support to the rear end. We also found the bike rode best in the “low” geometry setting compared to the “lower” setting. On climbs, the front end felt lighter than our other bikes, causing it to lift on steep, punchy sections. As far as suspension support was concerned, our wrecking crew felt it was spot-on, but the riding position on the bike during climbs felt less neutral than on the other Primer models.

As we charged down the trails, however, our opinion of the Primer S began to change. It took a few rides to get used to the mixed-wheel-size feel, but once we did, we found ourselves hunting for personal bests. Some wrecking crew members questioned if the beefed-up fork and tires contributed to its downhill prowess, or if the mixed-wheel-size combo was responsible. In the end, the Primer 279 proved to be a ripper on the descents but lacked the climbing performance of the other models.

The Primer S lives for fast descents.


The Primer 29 quickly became t the go-to bike in this lineup, balancing the needs of our wrecking crew testers. It offered a neutral seated position on the climbs, tackled descents with authority and boosted rider confidence over a variety of trails.

The modern wave of 29er bikes are more nimble and fun to ride than ever before, all while retaining the rollover ability 29ers are known for. The Primer 29 is one of those bikes that allows you to ignore line choices and barrel down the roughest parts of the trail without a second thought. While the 29er feels bigger than the 27.5 model, its capacity for playfulness on the trails isn’t far off. When compared to the Primer 279, the 29er runs circles around it on the climbs and feels more predictable on the descents. The 279 can be slapped into corners while the 29er takes an “on rails” approach.

For all-round trail riding, the Primer 29 is the ideal weapon.


Across the lineup, these Primers offered a solid list of components; however, we were often jealous of the 279 model due to the stout Fox 36 fork. Ideally, we would have liked to have seen Fox 36 forks across the board, but considering these bikes fall into the trail bike category, we understand why Intense opted for Fox 34 forks. The Primer 279 uses a plus-sized rear tire, which we found sluggish in comparison to the other models. While the Primer S rolls on a 2.8-inch rear tire, the Primer 27.5 and 29 have a much narrower 2.3-inch rear tire. Due to the wide rim on the back of the Primer S and the fact that the bike is already quite low, we wouldn’t recommend running a narrower tire, as it would be more likely to hinder the bike’s performance than improve it.


The wrecking crew was faced with a tough decision. The fact is, all three bikes are great; however, we can only pick one winner. On one hand, the 27.5 bike best suits riders looking to style it out on the trails. The 279 takes an innovative approach and proved to be fast and capable. The 29 offers the most well-rounded feel and boosted confidence due to its more predictable ride. If we had to thin our fleet down to just one bike, we’d spend our money on the 29er model. With that said, some wrecking crew members thought the smart choice would be to purchase a 29er back wheel for the 279 model due to the upgraded fork. In the long run, this could save a rider money and allow him or her to experiment with a staggered wheel setup. All things considered, you can’t go wrong with any one of these three bikes.


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