Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Matt Puzel
Right as lift season started, we were lucky enough to get our hands on Intense's latest addition to the M-Series Downhill Race machines, the M16. In the evolution of arguably the most iconic line of Downhill bikes, the new M16 sees a few changes over the previous flagship M9. Most obvious is the introduction of 27.5” wheels, in addition to some minor tweaking of the suspension and geometry. Gone is the adjustable wheelbase and head-angle of the M9, but Intense kept the travel and progression options in place allowing either 8.5 or 9.5 inches of VPP travel and a high and low setting for progression. Curious to see if the new M16 delivered? We've spent the last few months bashing the bike down multiple bike parks and local trails and have the full 411 for you below.
Intense M16 Highlights
- 27.5-inch wheel size
- 215 or 240mm (8.5 or 9.5-inches) of adjustable rear travel
- Two levels of adjustable shock progression
- Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension
- Hydroformed aluminum construction
- 9.5 x 3.0-inch Cane Creek Double Barrel coil shock
- 157mm rear hub spacing
- Comes with 12x157 locking collet axle
- Threaded bottom bracket with ISCG 05 tabs
- Tapered headtube
- Serviceable pivot points featuring collet bolts and grease ports
- Molded FLK-GRD protection
- External cable routing
- Integrated fork bump stops/cable guides
- Intense Red and Black colors
- Made in the USA
- Weight: 11.5-pounds (Large frame with shock)
- MSRP $3,399 frame with shock
This bike is built: super burly looks and incredibly stiff are two of the first things we took from our introduction to the Intense M16. It's a stout bike, for sure. Our Pro Build equipped M16 weighed in at 38.19lbs, and while that may not be the lightest DH bike in the world, Intense left a few places we could have saved additional weight without spending much money. Going tubeless (which the wheels are pretty much setup for already) and swapping a few parts would easily put the M16 in the low to mid 37-pound range, if that kind of thing matters to you. Details like integrated fork bumpers // cable guides, rear fender and downtube // chainstay guards show Intense is paying attention to the small things, too.
We chose a large M16 for our 6'1” tester, which has a reach of 436mm. After adjusting the bar-roll and seat height to our liking, the cockpit length and overall feel was pretty spot-on, putting us nicely centered and inside the bike rather than on-top.
One thing we did notice during the initial parking lot fitting was the bike's turning radius, which is rather limited due to the integrated fork bumpers // cable guides. Whether or not that would be an issue on the trial is something we discuss a bit further down.
Since we've had this bike for quite some time now, we've been able to test it in a variety of settings and on multiple types of trails. From bike park flow trails to straight-up raw, steep and rowdy DH tracks. How did it stack up? Time to find out...
On The Trail
We started our test with the M16 in the 8.5” and higher-progression setting, which is how Intense set the bike up for us. After the proper spring-rate was found to yield roughly 33% sag, we set up the shock using Cane Creek's recommended M16 base-tune settings for the Double Barrel.
For the RockShox BoXXer World Cup, we set the pressure to give us a tiny bit over 20% sag, which is at the low end of what RockShox's recommends. Rebound was set to taste, and compression was set about one-third of the way in as the starting point (7-clicks from open). In the end, we only added a few clicks of compression to both the shock and fork and stuck with those settings for the duration of the test. We also slowed down the rebound (both high and low) on the Double Barrel a bit as we were getting bucked off jumps and harsh landings. Both situations were remedied after we made this adjustment.
Right off the bat we were comfortable on the M16, charging lines and jumps pretty much at speed by the end of day one. The bike handles in the rough particularly well, gobbling up the bigger hits nicely and still able to pop off the little things and play with line choice if you want. When changing the leverage to the less progressive setting, the bike lost some of that lively-ness and pop, and therefor we much preferred the higher setting. Being extremely forgiving in the rough, it's fair to say the M16 isn't picky about line choice and allows for a point and shoot style of riding. Small bumps, chatter and square-edge hits alike, the M16 stayed glued to the ground.
Further adding to that point and shoot mentality is the height of the bottom-bracket. Intense went with a 14.375” bottom bracket height for the M16, which is non-adjustable and a fair bit higher than we'd expect on a modern DH bike. We did appreciate the added clearance on trails where line choice is crucial to avoid pedal and bash-guard strikes, but it wouldn't hurt to offer some kind of adjustment for those who prefer a slammed ride. After a few months on the bike, our bash-guard had only seen a couple gouges and the ends of our cranks show substantially less damage than we typically inflict on a DH bike.
It's clear the M16 likes to be ridden fast and aggressively, and when things slowed down or got tight the bike really let us know to keep up the pace. As we mentioned above, the less than ideal turning radius of the M16 really came into play in these situations. We hit steering lock on a few trails with slow, tight corners which forced a foot out to prevent going down. We did notice some M16 riders chose to remedy this by removing the integrated bumpers in favor of standard, fork mounted ones. Since we never had any at our disposal, we hung in there with the integrated ones.
In more typical cornering situations, the bike handled extremely well, even with that higher than average BB. The bike kept up in its travel and tracked chattery corners well. Despite its plow-like tendencies, the M16 also pedals surprisingly well. Getting the bike up to speed is fast and it responded quickly to pedaling out of corners and other speed robbing sections.
The M16 was also extremely quiet, as long as we kept up in terms of maintenance. Our test bike did start making some noise from the pivots after a couple weeks of riding, but a quick application of fresh grease via the zerk fittings shut it right up. There's nothing better than a quiet DH bike.
- Frame Material: Hydroformed alloy
- Fork: RockShox BoXXer World Cup
- Shock: Cane Creek Double Barrel Coil (9.5x3.0)
- Chainguide: E13 LG1
- Rear Derailleur: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
- Shifter: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
- Crankset: SRAM X01 DH, 36T
- Cassette: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
- Chain: SRAM XX1 11-speed
- Brakes: Shimano Saint
- Headset: Cane Creek 40
- Bars: Renthal Fatbar 20mm x 780mm
- Stem: Renthal Integra 45mm/50mm
- Grips: Intense Dual Density Lock-On
- Front Hub: NO TUBES 3.30 HD, 32h 110x20mm
- Rear Hub: NO TUBES 3.30 HD, 32h 157x12mm w/ XD Driver
- Rims: NO TUBES Rapid 30 Team 27.5”
- Spokes: Sapim
- Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF 27.5x2.5
- Seatpost: Thomson Elite 31.6mm
- Saddle: WTB Volt Team
- Weight: 38.18lbs (Large frame without pedals, tubed)
- MSRP: $7,999
Intense did a stellar job of putting together a well balanced and properly sped'c build with a mix of quality parts from SRAM, Shimano, RockShox, Cane Creek, Renthal, Thomson, NO TUBES, and Maxxis. If we were to have built up a custom bike ourselves the build wouldn't be too far off from this, at all.
The RockShox BoXXer World Cup and Cane Creek Double Barrel worked well together, both recovering from successive hits quickly and giving us no real surprise moments while riding. With the BoXXer World Cup being air-sprung with an adjustable rate via RockShox's Bottomless Tokens, we were really able to dial the fork in to our exact preferences, keeping the beginning stroke nice and supple with a good, progressive ramp towards the end of travel which kept the front end tracking and prevented harsh bottom-outs and excessive wallowing.
The Maxxis Minion DHF tires have been a long-time favorite of Downhill riders and make us happy every time we see them come stock on a bike. Awesome cornering traction with a predictable and controllable break-away point. The Shimano Saint brakes with Ice-Tech pads provided solid braking and never faded or over-heated despite some long, brake-dragging descents. Shifting was handled by SRAM's X01 DH 7-speed drivetrain, which really aided in keeping the M16 DEAD SILENT in the chatter. A smooth shifting and quite bike always makes for a better ride, plus finding the right gear is made easy with proper increments on the 7-speed cassette.
The NO TUBES Rapid 30 Team rims and 3.30 HD hubs are OEM only wheels. With 30-points of engagement and a 21mm internal width, they were adequate for DH riding but we would have liked to see a wider rim and faster engaging hub. They were good in terms of stiffness and so far they've taken all the abuse we've thrown at them, requiring only some minor truing and re-tensioning after resort days.
In regards to the Renthal bars, Intense grips and WTB saddle, everything felt in place and dialed in the cockpit. Overall, a very solid build from Intense.
Things That Could Be Improved?
As we mentioned above, the turning radius of the M16 is a bit limiting. While this only came into play a couple times out on the trail, it is worth mentioning. Removing some of the mounting material for the integrated bumpers or even using thinner bumpers would remedy this. The other option is to remove the bumpers all together and run RockShox or FOX's standard ones. Besides that, we found no other real flaws in the execution of the M16.
Long Term Durability
After 100's of laps on-board the M16, the bike shows no signs of quitting. After routinely checking all the pivots after every ride and adding some fresh grease to keep it running smooth and quiet, the bike has required little else in terms of maintenance. All the parts spec'd seem to be holding up well. While the wheels have required some attention, this is pretty normal for a bike that's being ridden often and we can attest to their durability after having to ride down a couple runs on a flat: tire nuked, rim was fine. Everything is still running strong and begging for more.
What's The Bottom Line?
If you're a long-time M-Series fan, the M16 really picks up where the M9 left off and you won't be disappointed. The addition of the 27.5 wheels, slightly refined geometry and kinematics makes for a bike that loves going fast over the nastiest of terrain. The adjustable travel and progression coupled with the high range of adjustability offered by the Cane Creek Double Barrel shock make for fame capable of being dialed-in for a wide range of riders with only one limiting factor: the rider must enjoy going fast. Despite being a bit heavy when compared to some of the low 30-pound bikes we're seeing these days, the M16 still gets up to speed fast and rides a lot lighter than we'd expected. The bike runs extremely quiet and the well thought-out parts spec let the rider focus on the trail, and not the machine underneath them, making for one fast ride which is what building Downhill Race bike is all about.
For more information, visit intensecycles.com