Afew weeks ago, Vital had the pleasure of joining up with Intense Cycles and Intense Factory Racing to investigate their new M29 Carbon downhill bike. Intense has been working with the idea of a 29-inch-wheeled DH bike since late 2009, but 29-inch-specific tires, forks and other crucial components were not up to the demands of downhill at the time. During the end of 2016, Jeff and his team knew that the next step forward in competitive World Cup downhill racing was the 29er and they began making the first prototypes for testing. Team riders Jack Moir, Dean Lucas and Charlie Harrison tested bikes in both 27.5 and 29-inch configurations, set up as identically as possible and unanimously the riders preferred the 29er. Intense debuted the prototype M29 at the Fort William World Cup in 2017 and Jack Moir earned a career best 2nd place finish on the hand-made machine.
Photos provided by Nathan Hughes / Intense Cycles
Throughout the season, the team tweaked and refined the aluminum prototype bike, knowing that a carbon bike was the ultimate goal. Jeff Steber, founder of Intense Cycles, stated his gratitude to the athletes for being willing to ride ever-changing, hand-built prototype bikes during their competitive season. That decision could have been disastrous to their results, but with hard work from the entire team coupled with the riders' excitement for the 29-inch platform, success was the final outcome.
Mid-2017, Jeff Steber showed up with a single carbon prototype M29 at Crankworx Whistler for Jack to race on for the rest of the season. Ultimately Jack took the prototype to a 10th place at the brutal Val di Sole World Cup finals and a 4th place finish at the pedally World Champs in Cairns, Australia.
Fast-forward a few months and Jeff and the team have their pre-production bikes ready for the 2018 World Cup season. The bikes were so fresh that Jeff painted them by hand to get them prepped for the team training camp and photo sessions. During the training camp, while specifics weren't given, the team was fine tuning suspension setup and they were experimenting with differing fork offset and trail configurations to accommodate the differing styles of each rider.
The only bike geometry information we were given was a headangle of 63.5 degrees and a chainstay length of "somewhere around 18 inches." Jack Moir and Charlie Harrison ride size large bikes while Dean Lucas prefers the size medium. A size small is in development and public availability on the frames is still to be determined.
Learn even more about the M29 development story on IntenseForLife.com and follow @IntenseFactoryRacing on Instagram. Vital MTB's The Inside Line podcast with Intense Factory Racing drops Wednesday, March 7th and you can learn more about the team and the development of the bike in our fun, but informative interview. You won't believe some of the things they had to go through to keep this bike on the track in 2017.