Intense has a long history of building race-winning bikes and carries on that legacy with the Intense Factory Race team and Tracer 279. With one win under its belt and second place overall in the U21 EWS beneath Seth Sherlock, the Tracer 279 is a very promising platform from Intense and has proven competitive on track. Stepping away from the VPP designs of the past, the newest Tracer uses Intense's own JS link.
- 29/27.5-inch wheels
- 170mm (6.7-inches) rear travel // 170mm (6.7-inches) fork travel
- Full carbon fiber frame
- Carbon fiber upper link
- 64.5 degree head tube angle (high) 64 degree (low)
- 77.9 degree seat tube angle (high) 77.4 (low)
- 505mm reach (size XL high) 500mm (low)
- 437mm chainstay length across all sizes
- JS-link suspension
- Internal downtube storage
- Internal cable routing
- Molded full-length downtube protection
- Molded chainstay protection
- Integrated rear fender
- 12x148mm Boost rear hub spacing
- SRAM UDH and T-Type compatibility
- 73mm BSA threaded bottom bracket with ISCG05 tabs
- Price: $6,899 USD as tested (Pro)
The Tracer uses a mixed wheel setup with 170mm of rear wheel travel and a 170mm fork. Our test bike was spec'd with the Pro level build kit, which retails for just under $6000, featuring a Fox 38 Float Performance Elite Series fork and Fox DHX2 Performance Elite shock. Braking and shifting are handled by a Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain and XT 4-piston brakes. E13 components are found throughout with LG1 aluminum wheels, Helix cranks, Race carbon bar, and a travel adjustable dropper. ODI Intense branded grips are a nice touch to finish out the build.
Our size XL Tracer had a comfortable 500mm Reach paired with a 64.5-degree head tube angle for a relatively neutral body position on the bike. The shorter 1287mm wheelbase with 439mm chain stay length made for snappy handling on trail. The 77.9-degree seat tube angle provided an upright pedaling position. A geometry adjust flip chip is found in the lower link of the bike with a high and low setting. Intense suggests the high setting for more technical terrain and the low for bikepark-style terrain. We kept it in the low setting for the duration of the test. Our primary concern with the fit of the Tracer was stack height. Our size XL test bike came spec'd with a relatively short steer tube that limited the number of spacers under the stem paired with a short headtube. We solved this issue with the tallest handlebars we had on hand, which brought things up to a more favorable position.
On the Trail
Pointed downhill, the Tracer had a very intuitive feeling that allowed us to go where we wanted when we wanted, allowing us to choose lines and choose what to pump or jump off of with ease. Our testers felt an excellent balance in weight distribution aboard the Tracer that made for excellent pressure and traction at both wheels. Precision was a standout handling characteristic of the Tracer and allowed us to put the bike exactly where we wanted it. This bike felt right at home in the bike park; it did an excellent job of generating speed and softening what would otherwise be harsh bottom-outs.
The primary difficulty we experienced with the Tracer was when things got rough. The kinematic of the rear suspension has a falling rate, which comes on rapidly entering the mid-stroke and through the second half of the stroke. Put simply, the rear suspension became quite stiff rather quickly compared to the initial off-the-top feeling. Unfortunately, this seemed to overshadow the positive handling characteristics we experienced, which made holding lines difficult and some unpredictability when preloading through some transitions.
The Tracer achieves the climbing goals of any good Enduro bike by requiring little effort to get back up the hill. This efficiency comes from an upright seated pedaling position that allows for a lower cadence when desired and efficient power transfer when putting down the power. The pedaling capability of the Tracer would work well for riding mellower terrain when necessary when paired with the light feeling it carried on trail.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Tracer certainly surprised us during our time testing. Two out of three testers felt right at home aboard it, praising the comfortable geometry and body position in all situations. Geometry wasn't the only surprise; the rear suspension's kinematics felt like a significant departure from the past VPP-driven bikes from Intense. Two of our testers have spent considerable time on current Santa Cruz platforms and anticipated a similar feeling from the Tracer. We were surprised to find a much more supportive feeling from the JS Link platform and deemed it best suited for bike park-style terrain or terrain with heavier compressions. Since our test, Intense reached out to suggest possible solutions to the harsh mid-stroke support we experienced and informed us that some new shock tunes have been developed to create a more consistent feeling. The solution to our issues appears to be simple; with that solution in place, the Tracer is certainly not a bike to rule out if it is on your radar.
We stayed right at the base of the mountain, courtesy of Visit Big Bear, and couldn't have asked for a more convenient way to spend the week testing bikes. With our condo less than a minute from the Snow Summit village, we could easily head back to our unit between laps to swap bikes and had plenty of space to work on our bikes. Off the bike, we were thankful to have enough room for our whole test crew, as well as a pool and hot tub within walking distance to relax after each day's testing. Big Bear has a wide variety of food options and a great downtown we explored when looking to mix up our dinner plans or just grab some ice cream afterward. If you'd like to explore Snow Summit or Big Bear, California for yourself, visit BigBearMountainResort.com or BigBear.com for more information.
Big thanks to those who sponsored this test and made our trip possible!
Head here to check out the entire 2023 Enduro Bike Test Sessions Feature
Learn more about the Intense Tracer 279 at intensecycles.com
View key specs, compare bikes, and rate the Intense Tracer in the Vital MTB Product Guide.