All about hauling in direct lines straight down the biggest mountains
The all new Intense Carbine 29C is a 155mm travel enduro weapon rolling on 29-er wheels. We had a thrash of the top-end Factory model.
Intense Carbine review
Intense was one of the first brands to really push big wheels and long travel. In the beginning it was American-welded aluminium frames, but a few seasons ago the brand switched production to the Far East and went carbon. The resulting frames dropped significant weight and the lightest, top-tier SL chassis here uses high modulus fibres, a carbon rocker arm and titanium hardware to form the backbone of a 30lb machine.
Depending on travel, Intense uses three different JS-Tuned suspension configurations, with the Carbine using medium-length links on what’s essentially a VPP design, to deliver a smooth, progressive suspension curve. The rear end feels deep and plush and offers the most travel in test.
The metric-sized RockShox Super Deluxe shock is smooth off the top and calm under repeated hits. It’s also a breeze to set up. The JS-Tuned suspension feels tight and efficient when pedalling hard too, and offers good support for pumping and stabilising the bike in turns. Up front, the RockShox Lyrik RCT3 suspension fork is superior to its rivals in terms of smoothing out chatter and delivering composure.
Enve’s older generation M70 wheels offer a super precise ride quality that can define a bike’s character, so we also used more compliant carbon wheels to get a broader overview. We kept the Minion DHR II tyres though, as they offer excellent cornering and braking traction.
The Fox Transfer dropper post is snappy and solid and the gold chain and cassette on the SRAM Eagle drivetrain is smooth while offering flawless shifting. Shimano’s XTR disc brakes only have two piston calipers and use 180mm rotors, and we’re not convinced that’s enough stopping power on a 29er of this pedigree, especially for heavier riders on the longest descents. Bigger rotors are an easy swap for Alpine adventures.
The Carbine has the smoothest suspension on test and holds pace well on beat up trails and jagged rocks. So if you live for pure speed and finding the most direct route down the mountain, the Carbine’s got your back. The taller BB helps keeps the crank-arms and pedals out of harm’s way and potential rock strikes, but experienced riders may crave a lower geometry setting for ultimate downhill speed.
With minimal flex, the SL chassis holds a line through harsh compressions, big hits and g-outs without getting deflected or thrown off line – provided you’re strong enough to hold on. Ignoring the super direct Enve wheels, the front end of the Carbine feels very rigid, resulting in a slightly jarring ride on the roughest trails but this doesn’t appear to affect its potential for beating the clock.
This muscular, solid feel to the Carbine means it rides more like a racer’s rig than one for just mucking about in the woods on. Many of us won’t have the luxury of local trails where the straight-line speed of the Carbine comes into its own either.
Winding through tighter trails, you feel a little perched on top of the Carbine, with hips and core shifted subtly forwards by the higher bottom bracket and longer chainstays. This, combined with the slack head angle, big wheels and longer 51mm fork offset, means the steering feels a little floppy at slow to medium speeds. So getting the bar height right is critical.
We found higher was better as it helps shift your weight more rearward.
The Intense Carbine is all about hauling in direct lines straight down the biggest mountains. The RockShox suspension is best on test, with the Lyrik fork and Super Deluxe shock really isolating bumps, remaining smooth and fluid. With a high BB and longer offset fork, the steering and cornering poise of the Intense isn’t as intuitive as the Santa Cruz Hightower LT or Ibis Ripmo, which can make it feel a bit hesitant at slower speeds. Also, you need to be strong to ride this bike, as the stiff chassis and cockpit makes the Carbine a more physical ride on harsher terrain.