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The 29er craze these days that have swept North America and is currently sweeping Europe never really got me all that excited. Something about big cumbersome wheels was just a turnoff. I had dibble-dabbled in some other 29ers that seemed cool. You could really move the wheels over larger debris easier and they rolled significantly faster while still being quite light – on par with any 26 inch wheeled bike. However, they all seemed so race oriented and tall. I am more on the trail bike end of things and I like a low and wide cockpit with lots of leverage on the wheels. Most of the 29ers I rode came with a stock setup that included a long stem and narrow bars, neither of which helps you negotiate the larger wheels through tight turns. And as modern bike fits put the rider more upright with a wider stance it seems acceptable that more 29ers would come that way but I just wasn’t seeing it.
So I continued on with my trusty 26 inch wheels in the hopes that one day I’ll be inspired to swing my legs over another 29er.

This fall I had the opportunity to hit up Outerbike in the beautiful Moab, UT and got my hands on the 2013 Intense Spider 29 Comp. There new gleaming carbon frame was sleek and gorgeous, congruent with their aluminum frames, but a whole lot lighter. Being 5’11’’ I shamelessly chose a large. The Spider 29 Comp has two travel settings, one at 4.25 inches and 4.75. I rode it in the shorter travel mode, mostly due to the fact that the Intense booth was very busy and I felt like I was taking up a lot of time as it is. The new (and very dialed) Fox CTD suspension front and rear felt plush and efficient and the bike had a sleek look complimented with a batch of fresh 2013 XT brakes and drivetrain components. But it was the handlebars and stem that really had me excited. Not only was the Gravity stem practically slammed but the Gravity bars were flat as well as wide! Now I was stoked.

The Outerbike venue was situated close to the Moab Brands Area Trail Network. Not a whole lot of climbing to be done but the trails were miles of techy single-track, steep rocky corners, and some seemingly endless slick rock. It was the perfect environment to put the Intense Spider 29 Comp to the test. And it performed wonderfully.

The VPP suspension really takes the cake in my book. The very efficient system utilizes a swing link to isolate pedaling forces from suspension and braking forces. What this means is efficient pedaling, especially when paired with the nicely tuned CTD Fox rear shock. No brake jack was ever felt, the entire suspension operation was very well designed. Props to the Intense engineers.

And maneuvering the Spider 29 was awesome. I will say that 29 inch wheels still feel slow and they aren’t much fun when in the air. But the simplicity of the of the XT Dynasis drivetrain and the wide bars and shorter stem really allowed you to power up tight and technical corners with ease. I was super pumped on this. It made the bike so much more lively being able to control it like a trail bike.

The descending was just as good. The wide bars give plenty of confidence inspiring control and stability while the big wheels rolled over just about anything in the form of rocks, ledges, and logs.

But enough of this glorification. What’s a good review without some gripes? I only have two and I think they are worth bitching about. The Fox Fork up front was just a 32. With a more aggressive bike like the Spider 29 Comp at least a 34 mm stanchion is essential. The CTD 32, while feeling very good, had bad bushing slop which was unnerving while descending. And the wide Kenda tires were both heavy and cumbersome, making for a not so smooth ride across the slick rock.

Other than that the bike performed flawlessly. The mechanics with the demo truck did a phenomenal job of keeping the bikes tuned for multiple test riders during the entire event. I was a mechanic for a long time and I can’t say that that job is very easy. The Intense Spider 29 Comp is a great bike for those who are a bit more trail oriented but with a couple easy part swaps, it could be an XC racing machine. A few highlights are the always great riding VPP suspension and a more modern cockpit setup. Check out the Spider 29 Comp online at Intensecycles.com or stop by your local retailer to check it here to learn more.

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