2018 Intense Carbine Factory

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Gunning For The Top - Meet The 2018 Intense Carbine 29

The new 29-inch, 155mm travel Carbine is more rally car than trophy truck, but that won't stop you from smashing your way down some rowdy trails. This one left us grinning ear to ear.

Rating: Vital Review
Gunning For The Top - Meet The 2018 Intense Carbine 29

Intense Cycles haven’t been shy about their participation in the wheel size wars. Back in 2009 when many were still #26forlife, their wagon-wheeled DH bike – the 2951 – stirred things up. At that time, Jeff Steber filled us in about why he felt big wheels had potential and what factors were limiting for the viability of aggressive 29ers at that time. More recently, another Intense prototype earned a spot on the Fort William podium under factory pilot Jack Moir. While the downhill prototype seemed to garner much of the limelight, the bike he was aboard at the Rotorua Enduro World Series had us just as curious: it appeared to be a new long-travel 29er. Our suspicions were recently confirmed when the 2018 Intense Carbine 29 arrived on our doorstep. The first generation was very impressive,

Intense Cycles haven’t been shy about their participation in the wheel size wars. Back in 2009 when many were still #26forlife, their wagon-wheeled DH bike – the 2951 – stirred things up. At that time, Jeff Steber filled us in about why he felt big wheels had potential and what factors were limiting for the viability of aggressive 29ers at that time. More recently, another Intense prototype earned a spot on the Fort William podium under factory pilot Jack Moir. While the downhill prototype seemed to garner much of the limelight, the bike he was aboard at the Rotorua Enduro World Series had us just as curious: it appeared to be a new long-travel 29er. Our suspicions were recently confirmed when the 2018 Intense Carbine 29 arrived on our doorstep. The first generation was very impressive, read on to find out whether the update is just as moving.

Intense Carbine Highlights

  • 29-inch wheels
  • High modulus carbon frame with monocoque front triangle
  • 155mm (6.1-inches) rear travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front travel
  • Enduro Link rear suspension with carbon or alloy top link
  • JS Tuned
  • Titanium hardware
  • Clearance for up to 29x2.5-inch tires
  • Internal shifter, dropper, and brake routing
  • Dedicated 1X drivetrain design
  • Press fit 92 bottom bracket shell with ISCG05 mounts
  • Downtube and chainstay flak guard armor
  • Water bottle inside front triangle
  • 180mm post mount rear brake
  • Integrated Boost 148x12mm rear dropouts
  • Sizes: S, M, L, and XL
  • Claimed Weight: 30.0-pounds (13.6kg, Factory build)

JS Tuned – An Explanation From Jeff Steber

Prior to hopping aboard the Carbine 29, we sought out Jeff Steber, Intense Cycles Owner and Designer, to offer some insight into JS Tuned bikes and what it means for the consumer. He explained that the concept is "not just focusing on the suspension, but the entire bike: kinematics, geometry, parts, ergonomics, and balancing all of these points for the segment the bike is designed for."

We interpret the concept of JS Tuned as Intense’s version of leaving no stone unturned, beginning with dialed suspension and working outward. While every brand has their interpretation of the all-mountain superbike, the attention to detail found on the JS Tuned Carbine 29 is among the best. Not only are the major elements of the frame and component choices dialed, the subtle things are too. Efficient cable routing, integrated frame protection, paint quality, frame hardware, water bottle compatibility, and the smartly recessed rear axle are all on point. While they might not grab immediate attention, those who spend their hard-earned income or demand the most from their bikes will appreciate the thorough and thoughtful approach. At first glance it's clear that the crew at Intense isn’t just designing bikes to move product, they’re designing them with faultless performance in mind.

While every brand has their interpretation of the all-mountain superbike, the attention to detail found on the JS Tuned Carbine 29 is among the best.

Enduro Link Explained

The updated suspension kinematics, Enduro Link, and 15mm of added rear travel are the most obvious departure from the original Carbine 29. While many companies are trying to move towards shorter links in the name of stiffness, Intense has gone longer on the basis that it allows them to further optimize leverage curve, axle path, all-around performance, and retain stiffness. They took a Goldilocks approach for the Carbine’s rear suspension. Rather than shooting for pure speed at the expense of comfort, Steber and the crew wanted the new suspension to perform well under Average Joes and Shark Attack Jack alike. The new rear suspension is designed to provide excellent small bump compliance, but remain progressive enough that it can be ridden extremely aggressively and not suffer from the mid-stroke wallow that some VPP bikes were prone to.

The new rear suspension is designed to provide excellent small bump compliance, but remain progressive enough that it can be ridden extremely aggressively and not suffer from the mid-stroke wallow that some VPP bikes were prone to.

Using the bike industry's leading linkage analysis software, André Santos, the Youtube suspension whiz, was able to determine a close approximation of the Carbine's kinematics for the purpose of this feature. These charts provide great insight into several key factors that impact how it rides. Those unfamiliar with these types of graphs should watch André's excellent series of suspension fundamentals videos. The results of his analysis are as follows:

Observations:

  • The new Intense Carbine is a quite progressive bike at 43%, meaning that the frame offers a good resistance against harsh bottom-outs.
  • Great pedaling efficiency with 100-120% anti-squat values on most rear cogs for a 30-tooth chainring. On smaller cogs the anti-squat can rise up to 150%.
  • The amount of chain growth and pedal kickback is slightly higher than most trail bikes due to the high anti-squat values on the whole travel.
  • Anti-rise of 66%, meaning that there is a good balance between geometry and traction under rear braking.
  • Overall, the Carbine 29 is a progressive enduro bike with good pedaling efficiency.

Geometry

Of the 25 bikes we had at 2014 Test Sessions, the Carbine was among the best. How to make it better then? In addition to the updates we've already mentioned, the wheelbase and reach have grown considerably. Then there's additional bottom bracket drop, a steeper effective seat tube angle, and a slacker head tube angle. Despite appearing as though the lower shock mount contains a flip chip, the Carbine 29 does not have adjustable geometry.

While some companies choose to push geometry numbers to the extreme, Intense chose to keep things reasonable in the long, low, and slack department. Regarding the challenge of choosing geometry, Steber added, "it really is a challenge these days, and even though the new Carbine has the makings of a race-bred bike, it performs equally well when out all day on the trail… the light weight doesn’t hurt either."

On The Trail

Squamish, British Columbia was our home base for the duration of our First Ride. We also managed to sneak away to the Whistler Bike Park, knowing that in order to consider the Carbine 29 as an all-mountain or enduro contender it needed to perform there too. The Sea To Sky corridor once again served up the goods, with springtime conditions delivering both kitty litter dry and slip n’ slide wet soil depending on the trails we rode. Furthermore, we are fortunate enough to have a quiver of 29er superbikes at the moment, which meant that we could immediately compare notes from one ride to the next.

Our first ride on the Carbine took us to the Crumpit Woods network. The area is a spider web of cross country trails that have claimed even the odd lost local (note: "cross country" in Squamish is not your typical crushed gravel path). The trails tend to be rolling, punchy, and quite tight – exactly where a long-travel 29er might struggle – which is why we spent our first lap in this zone.

We appreciated that the bike ascended so well without any climbing aids. Just hop on and pedal. No levers or switches to worry about here.

First up, the climbing position is spot on. We were able to climb efficiently, though the suspension remained active enough to provide excellent traction across wet rocks, roots, and around tight switchbacks. Using a firmer compression setting was even snappier, but required better technique when traction was at a premium. We found that the Carbine 29 climbed capably with the shock wide open, and our initial thought is that it climbs as well as anything in the segment. We appreciated that the bike ascended so well without any climbing aids. Just hop on and pedal. No levers or switches to worry about here.

Our first descent was an unnamed trials motorbike trail. Right off the top there are granite slabs with heavy compressions, tight corners, and roots aplenty. Even though the Carbine 29 appears ideally suited for high speed, we found that it was maneuverable in tight quarters and were comfortable dropping into tight chutes that would have seen some long, slow, and slack superbikes struggling. The Carbine 29 is also livelier than we expected from such a big bike, meaning that we could swap between lines and hop around more easily than some of the competition – no doubt the light weight wasn’t hurting us.

Even though the Carbine 29 appears ideally suited for high speed, we found that it was maneuverable in tight quarters and were comfortable dropping into tight chutes that would have seen some long, slow, and slack superbikes struggling.

Even on our first ride, with our suspension less than dialed, we were comfortably up to speed. The combination of RockShox Lyrik and metric Super Deluxe simply can’t be faulted. We experienced no harsh bottom-outs or mid-stroke wallow, and had great small bump compliance. With a little more tuning time we’re certain that we could get even more from the suspension. When the trail leveled off the bike carried speed well and rewarded pumping with free speed anywhere we found a compression or roller.

On our second ride we chose to head to one of our favorite after work loops. The Alice Lake area has everything from mild to wild, and we were seeking a little of both in order to experience the Carbine in a variety of scenarios. Our first trail was a rolling descent called Rupert. It has a mixture of short climbs, rock slabs, well-supported corners, and the odd root garden. The Carbine 29 tackled everything comfortably and efficiently, and even though 155mm of travel was overkill we never felt like we were hauling "too much" bike.

Following Rupert we headed to Credit Line. This trail was recently used for the NAET Squamish Gryphon, and although it isn’t steep or extremely rough, it's a solid few minutes of descending. What impressed us on this trail was how well the Carbine 29 carried speed, and moreover how it rewarded good technique. We found that we could use any compression to accelerate, and when we took an ugly line or made a mistake the long-travel and big wheels minimized our mistake kept things composed.

Our final trail was also recently used for the NAET and was an opportunity to test the Carbine 29’s high-speed stability and suspension under heavier braking. Again, the JS Tuned Carbine 29 was impressive. Regardless of whether we were braking or not, the Carbine 29 remained unruffled and confidence inspiring. In the roughest sections we found that the Maxxis EXO sidewalls were beginning to find their limits. In our opinion a bike as capable as this deserves a heavier tire casing.

All said and done, we hopped aboard the Carbine 29 and rode at nearly full speed after two rides, which hasn’t been our experience with every bike and is a testament to what Intense has put together.

All said and done, we hopped aboard the Carbine 29 and rode at nearly full speed after two rides, which hasn’t been our experience with every bike and is a testament to what Intense has put together. Our first impression of the Carbine 29 is all good, and we’re looking forward to putting miles in until the Intense crew rip it from our hands.

Riding the latest California creation on the slippery goods of Squamish, BC.

Build Kits, Pricing & Availability

Once aboard the Carbine, we immediately noted that the Factory Build component choices were bang on. The sheer bling factor had us grinning ear to ear, but the components weren’t just expensive for the sake of it – they were all functional upgrades that would positively influence ride experience.

While we acknowledge that many riders won’t be springing for the Factory Build tested here, the spec for the more affordable Elite, Pro, Expert, and Foundation Builds are also just as dialed. Each one features solid suspension, a 150mm travel dropper post, Maxxis rubber, Shimano stoppers, SRAM drivetrain, and a blend of in-house components at the right length and width. Regardless of spec level, the new Carbine 29 is ready to shred. We still have a tough time when receiving bikes worth thousands that need to be upgraded… not the case here.

Factory Build

Elite Build
Pro Build
Expert Build
Foundation Build

The Carbine will be available in five builds and four wild or mild color options starting Fall 2017. Two framesets will also be offered for those looking to build a custom bike.

  • Factory - $10,399 USD (tested)
  • Elite - $7,999
  • Pro - $6,999
  • Expert - $4,999
  • Foundation - $3,999
  • SL Frameset - $3,399
  • Standard Frameset - $3,099

Factory Specs | Elite Specs | Pro Specs | Expert Specs | Foundation Specs

What's The Bottom Line?

When we spoke to Jeff Steber, he noted that he was pretty proud of the new Carbine 29. After only a short time aboard the bike, we think he should be too. While no particular trait is extremely unique or pushes industry limits, the overall impression left by the JS Tuned bike is great. We'll be spending the next while aboard the Carbine 29, dabbling in the odd beer league cross country race, Whistler Bike Park Phat Wednesday events, and we might even have a crack at the Whistler Enduro World Series – the only change we expect to make is from the Maxxis EXO tire casing to Double Down. Once we’re finished with it, and assuming no atypical issues arise, we’re pretty certain that the Intense Carbine 29 will make a solid argument for best-in-class long-travel 29er.

Visit www.intensecycles.com for more details.

Vital MTB First Ride Rating

  • Climbing: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Descending: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Fun Factor: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Value: 3.5 stars - Very Good
  • Overall Impression: 4.5 stars - Outstanding

About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood - Age: 33 // Years Riding MTB: 20+ // Height: 5'11" (1.80m) // Weight: 185-pounds (83.9kg)

Joel has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last 11 years. If he isn’t coaching gravity racers he can be found tinkering in the garage or messing about at the pump track. He dabbles in all types of racing but is happiest simply exploring the limitless trail networks of the Pacific Northwest. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products.

Photos by Jessie McAuley

Specifications

Product Intense Carbine Factory
Model Year 2018
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
Small, Medium, Large, XL View Geometry
Size Small Medium Large XL
Top Tube Length 603mm 627mm 655mm 675mm
Head Tube Angle 65.5° 65.5° 65.5° 65.5°
Head Tube Length 92mm 100mm 110mm 120mm
Seat Tube Angle 74° Effective / 66° Actual 74° Effective / 66° Actual 74° Effective / 66° Actual 74° Effective / 66° Actual
Seat Tube Length 385mm 418mm 448mm 483mm
Bottom Bracket Height 348mm 348mm 348mm 348mm
Chainstay Length 445mm 445mm 445mm 445mm
Wheelbase 1181mm 1205mm 1233mm 1253mm
Standover 830mm 834mm 834mm 836mm
Reach 410mm 431mm 455mm 471mm
Stack 616mm 624mm 632mm 641mm
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Monocoque Carbon Frame // High Modulus Carbon Fiber // Carbon Top Link
Rear Travel 155mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe RC3, 230x60mm
Fork RockShox Lyrik RCT3 29, Solo Air, Boost 110x15mm Axle
Fork Travel 160mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset Cane Creek 40 Series, ZS44/EC49.40
Handlebar ENVE DH Carbon, 780mm
Stem ENVE Mountain Carbon, 40mm
Grips Intense Lock-On
Brakes Shimano XTR, Centerlock 180mm Rotors Front and Rear
Brake Levers Shimano XTR
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM XX1 Eagle, 12-Speed
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed
ISCG Tabs ISCG05
Chainguide N/A
Cranks SRAM XX1 Eagle Boost, 175mm
Chainrings SRAM XX1 Eagle, 34-Tooth
Bottom Bracket GXP
Pedals N/A
Chain SRAM XX1 Eagle, 12-Speed
Cassette SRAM XG 1299 Eagle, 10 to 50-Tooth, 12-Speed
Rims ENVE M70/30 HV
Hubs DT Swiss 240S, Centerlock
Spokes 32 Per Wheel
Tires Maxxis Minion DHR II, 29x2.4", 60TPI, EXO/TR Casing
Saddle Fabric Scoop Radius Pro, Carbon Rails
Seatpost FOX Transfer, 150mm Travel
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp Intense
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions Boost 12x148mm
Max. Tire Size 29x2.5"
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Gloss Red and Blue // Matte Gray and Black
Warranty 5-Year Limited Warranty
Weight 30 lb 0.3 oz (13,617 g)
Miscellaneous Ti Hardware
Internal Shifter, Dropper, and Brake Routing
Flack Guard Armor
Price $7,999
More Info

​Intense website

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