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2017 Intense Recluse Elite (discontinued)

Vital Rating: (Very Good)
2017 Intense Recluse Elite (Turquoise)
2017 Intense Recluse Elite 2017 Intense Recluse Elite 2017 Intense Recluse Elite
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Review - 2017 Intense Recluse from Vital MTB Test Sessions

A valiant effort, incredible looks, and dialed on the build kit front, but less smash ready than you'd hope for a bike equipped with such a rally-worthy rear shock.

Rating: Vital Review
Review - 2017 Intense Recluse from Vital MTB Test Sessions

Recluse: [noun] A solitary person who avoids the company of others.

Brown Recluse: [noun] One of two poisonous spiders in North America. The bite of the brown recluse causes necrosis (death) of the tissue.

Intense Recluse: [noun] A brand new carbon fiber all-mountain bicycle from a reputable American company.

Was the new robin egg blue head turner from California going to be more like the hermit in the woods or the small nightmarish spider that causes your skin to turn black and die? Perhaps it would be neither, instead providing a ride so good that it would "keep you alone, out in front of the pack." We smuggled the bike deep into the harsh mountains of Tucson, Arizona to find out.

One thing was for sure right away, the Intense Recluse is a stunner with an eye-grabbing color scheme. If you were to just take the bike based on its looks though you’d be missing the substance beneath the surface. Intense has put their own unique spin on a Virtual Pivot Point suspension design in an attempt to make a more supportive and reliable ride. Sporting modern geometry numbers in the longer, lower, and slacker category, the Recluse is a sneak peek of things to come from Intense. The bike also boasts the adjustability of the new FOX Float X2 rear shock, a pretty unique feature that riders have been asking for in the mid-travel range. Whether a bearded crusty hermit or deadly spider, it's a brand new beast whose mettle was to be tested in the rock and dirt during the 2017 Vital MTB Test Sessions.


  • Full carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 150mm (5.9-inches) fork travel
  • JS Tuned suspension
  • Tapered headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • Titanium hardware
  • Monocoque front triangle
  • Angular contact/collet bearing system with replaceable grease zerk fittings
  • Press fit 92 bottom bracket shell with ISCG05 mounts
  • Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size large, no pedals): 28.4 pounds (12.87kg)
  • MSRP $7,899 USD


The Virtual Pivot Point design (henceforth VPP) was first released in the 1990s on the Outland VPP 5. Not only was the bike’s five inches of travel unorthodox, but so too was the pivot design. The designers claimed that the pivot worked in some sort of quantum reality where the main pivot moved as the bike went through its travel. Tens (hundreds?) of thousands of bikes later, VPP is still alive and well. With patents and licensing requirements recently expiring, however, Intense and Jeff Steber put their own "JS Tuned" and "i-BOX Pivot System" spin on things by developing a new system and kinematic. Shortening the linkage and sucking up that dangling link from below the bottom bracket, Intense claims the new design offers more mid-stroke support and climbs better with less suspension bob.

As mentioned, the linkage is paired with a 200x57mm FOX Performance Float X2 shock – something very rarely seen on stock 140mm travel bikes that carries the promise of adding both tuning and ride capability. The use of angular contact/collet bearings and replaceable grease zerks help ensure routine maintenance goes smoothly.

Cable routing is entirely internal with rubber grommets to aid in rattle prevention. The rear shifter and brake cables hang below the bottom bracket which isn't ideal. It's easy to imagine the housing getting hung up and having to limp home with compromised shifting or brakes.





Titanium hardware, Boost axles front and rear, a tapered headtube, ISCG05 mounts, press fit 92mm bottom bracket, and direct front derailleur mount add to the list of features.

The luxury of being able to put a water bottle on the bike and taking that weight off your body gets us excited when we see bottle mounts. We quickly mounted our cage and grabbed a bottle. Feeling like an unresolved fairy tale we grabbed the first normal size bottle only to find it wasn’t close to fitting. Then, finding the smallest bottle we could we jammed it in with confidence. Denied once again by the oil reservoir of the Float X2 we were left scratching our heads. Pumps and tools can be mounted, but it's called a water bottle mount, right? Intense's claim that the Recluse fits a bottle is an overstatement because all builds feature a piggyback shock.

Sporting a more adjustable Factory Float X2 shock and FIT4 damper in the FOX Float 36 fork, the $9,499 Factory build includes some of the best components available. The $7,899 Elite build tested in this review is the penultimate step in the lineup and includes Intense’s own carbon wheels. For $900 less you can get the same components sans carbon wheels in the Pro. From there things gets much more reasonable with the $5,899 Expert and $4,599 Foundation builds. In the words of this site, "Intense has you covered from Trump-like wealth to the Bernie budgeter."

Part of the way Intense is able to pass savings to you is through the use of two different carbon layups. The Factory, Elite and Pro all feature the Super Light (SL) carbon frame while Expert and Foundations use a standard carbon construction. Thanks to titanium hardware and high modulus carbon fiber SL fames are 0.55-pounds (250g) lighter. Both feature downtube and chainstay "Flak Guard" protection, although the downtube guard is far too small to do much.



The Recluse looks to be Intense’s first foray into the most recent genre to go long, low and slack. With a 66-degree head tube angle and a 75-degree seat tube angle, this bike has everything you need to slam into things on the way down and power up climbs. In the bike industry today you’ll often find big discrepancies in the reach of the same size bikes – we had a super long medium in this test that is 16mm longer than the 460mm on the large Recluse, for example. Even so, the Recluse is in the long category of modern bikes without going into the experimental/circus sideshow region. On paper Intense has come out swinging, and the Recluse seems to have most numbers people are asking for. The 350mm measured bottom bracket height is pretty high up there, however. Ultimately the geometry shows a bike that is equally adept at going up as going down.

By shortening the bottom suspension link and creating the i-BOX Pivot System, Intense pulled off the shortest chainstays in the test at a super short 419mm. The argument is that shorter chainstays make initiating shorter turns and changing directions easier, though the other side can be debated in this Vital forum topic. Having these abbreviated stays on the XL might create a interesting dynamic with the longer reach. The very short 419mm chainstays and stiff frame do come at the sacrifice of tire clearance, however. If you live in a place where mud accumulation goes beyond ~5mm you might want to look elsewhere - and that's with a 2.3-inch Maxxis tire. At the end of the day, the quick and nimble spider wins on the Recluse's geometry chart.

Suspension Analysis

Using the bike industry's leading linkage analysis software, André Santos, the Youtube suspension whiz, was able to determine a close approximation of the Recluse's kinematics for the purpose of this review. 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:






  • The Recluse is a progressive trail bike. Bottom-outs won’t be an issue during normal trail riding.
  • Anti-squat values range between 120-130% on bigger cogs and peak at 200% on smaller cogs, which is excessive. High anti-squat values can cause extension of the suspension under hard pedaling.
  • Although the anti-squat values quickly drop at the end of the travel, due to the very high values on most of the travel the total pedal kickback is higher than most trail bikes.
  • It has an anti-rise of 85% at sag, meaning that the geometry of the bike is quite well preserved under braking.
  • Overall it’s a progressive trail bike with high anti-squat values and high pedal kickback.

How does science meet the dirt? Did our real life ride time confirm the analysis? It's back to Vital's testers to hear how the Recluse performed on trail.

On The Trail

The rides we’d be taking it on would be equally hermit and deadly spider. Starting up Bug Springs trail we’d face some technical decomposing granite pedaling, then dropping in things come fast and heavy with ledgy rock moves and some twisty and smooth bits as we continued down to Prison Camp trail. Next up was La Milagrosa, where things are either quite fast and on the edge of control or slow and technical with the only constant being the rock. Sometimes you jump the things and sometimes you smash them. As you'll see in the video below, during the last mile the speed gets turned way up and all mental resources go into to keeping the ship afloat in the puckering technical smash fest. It's certainly a ride that touches several types of terrain and pushes the bike and the rider to the raggedy edge.

Bike setup was a breeze. Dialing in the factory recommended settings for the X2 shock meant some click counting, but hey, we can count to 17. Clicks out from fully closed were suggested as: HSC: 9 // LSC: 19 // HSR: 10 // LSR: 17. After that it was a matter of setting the sag at the suggested 30% and getting the fork where we wanted it. The FOX Performance Float 36 with the GRIP damper is its own beast and requires a minor learning curve to setup, but more on that in a bit. Overall the reach and top tube length was comfortable and size appropriate for a large. Our 5’10” (1.78m) tester was on the edge of both the medium and large sizes fitment wise, and chose to run a short 35mm stem on a large to reign things in to suit his preferences. While the numbers are on the long end for a 5'10" rider, with a short stem it was perfectly manageable. He also had to slam the seatpost but had plenty of standover height.


A deadly brown spider or a person in seclusion? Dropping into the first descent our taller tester was neither. Being 6'0" (1.83m) tall he fit into a large or an XL on Intense’s sizing chart and they had sent a large. Hopping from considerably longer XL bikes to the shorter large Intense took some getting used to. The stability of the longer wheelbase was lost and he was suddenly out of his comfort zone much quicker than he had been previously. Coming into rock gardens and blind corners he was brake checking hard. He was also losing out on the fun factor in the rowdy bits and felt as though he was going to get launched over the bars from time to time due to a suspension imbalance deep in the bike's travel. "Recluse or reckless?" he thought. Perhaps he was destined for a life of seclusion on the blue beauty?

On fast and smoother sections of trail the bike came into its element. When we had the gas to give'r, really push into turns, and power out the bike felt great.

After the first few descents and some front suspension tweaks the brown spider began to shine through. What we had under us was not some mindless plow horse but a little spider with a big bite. The rear suspension had loads of support and it never got stuck in holes or wallowed, instead it sprung and popped. Riding gnarly rock gardens simply took more finesse and belief, perhaps braking a touch more into the wildest sections but a few pumptrack style pumps and the bike was back up to speed. The front end could be picked up and moved around without too much effort. On fast and smoother sections of trail the bike came into its element. When we had the gas to give'r, really push into turns, and power out the bike felt great. Those short chainstays felt stubby in turns, bringing our weight forward.


The Recluse is definitely a bike that you can feel the trail with through the suspension and pedals, which may be a deterrent for some. This isn't an overly plush ride. Its 140mm of rear travel takes the edge off but doesn't make it disappear. After experiencing extra harshness and a bit of skittery feeling through steppy chunk both up and down, one tester found the ride improved from the base setting when he took some low-speed compression off and sped up the rebound a bit. The suspension was supportive all the way through the travel. Near the bottom of the stroke the Float X2 does ramp solidly and we found that we rarely bottomed the shock even though our ankles wondered why we hadn’t.

The Recluse is definitely a bike that you can feel the trail with through the suspension and pedals, which may be a deterrent for some. This isn't an overly plush ride.

FOX's Float X2 rear shock offers the allure of easy tuneability that many short travel bike riders have been pleading for. The Elite build comes ready to adjust your low-speed rebound, low-speed compression and has an easy to reach climb lever. During the test this level of adjustments allowed both testers to find a place they thought the bike performed best. Neither tester was left wishing for high-speed adjustment as the stock tune seemed sufficient. Hopefully this is the start of a growing trend of having tuneable shocks on shorter travel bikes, because people are using their "little" bikes for more than ever these days.

Those high anti-squat values and corresponding high pedal kickback showed themselves when stomping on the pedals through chunky descents or while sprinting full bore into something techy. Using larger cassette cogs things felt reasonable in this respect, however.

Part of what makes this bike so stiff and responsive are the Intense wheels. Impossible to miss with their hellfire red branding that may match the bike a bit too intensely for some, they are also impossible to miss when riding. Solid feeling under load without the harsh feeling of many carbon hoops, the wheels hit a nice compromise. With short travel bikes in rough terrain the wheels get pushed hard, and these in-house wheels gave the impression that they could stand up to abuse and had great ride qualities.

The Elite build that sparkles off the Recluse is one fine spec, therefore the weight of this bike is low at 28.4-pounds (12.87kg). With its suspension performance and lack of bob, this thing pops off the ground and gets in the air with ease. While in the majority of situations this is a great feature, in the heavy chunder this could be a detraction. The bike feels a bit chattery and wild when playing high speed roll the dicey rock garden.

Those light wheels and stiff snappy frame do make the Recluse pop into action when pedaling. Sprints and pedal strokes out of corners bring the bike up to speed quickly. Just like the bike's climbing performance, there is little to no bob and all power goes into driving you forward.

There is no question the Recluse is a fine climber. Both in and out of the saddle, as well as leaving the climb switch on the Float X2 in the full open position, the bike climbed with gusto and had no issue in the crank smashing department. This revision of the VPP design certainly shines through in keeping the bike from moving much. On steep, technical, and loose climbs, however, the same forces that keep the bike from bobbing limit the level of traction you get. Efficient is name of the game, which is a worthy sacrifice unless you’re hell bound and determined to clean those climbs that leave 95% of people walking their bike. It does come with some downsides in overall suspension performance, however.

Build Kit

At a Benjamin short of $8,000, the Elite build should be of dream bike quality. Perhaps one of the most unique builds in this year's 18 bike Test Sessions roundup, this bike certain looks dreamy and offers what seems to be a very personalized pick of parts from numerous companies. Reputable 20mm rise Renthal Fatbars drive the bike but are a touch narrow at 760mm wide. Thompson’s 50mm Elite X4 stem, with its 3mm bolts, grabs the bars. SRAM’s X01 bits control the shift on an extended range e*thirteen 9-44 tooth cassette, providing gearing options comparable to SRAM's new Eagle drivetrain. The Fabric Scoop Radius Elite saddle and 150mm travel RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post serve as a fine place to put your butt down.





As mentioned, the 150mm FOX Performance Float 36 fork took a bit of a learning curve to set up. Due to the way the rear end performed, the use of a single stock volume spacer in the fork caused caused an imbalance near the last third of the bike's travel. On the initial ride we resorted to going midway into the three position GRIP compression damper knob which isn’t ideal. Taking the bike back into the laboratory we added two additional volume reducers and gave it another go. With the extra reducers installed the fork transformed and yielded no more complaints. It does seem curious that the Recluse costs nearly $8,000 and you don’t get a nicer model 36 with more adjustment and a refined damper. We'd happily trade the high dollar crankset for improved suspension performance. That said, the all black color looks rad and only those who can feel a pea (or think they can) under the mattress will find the FIT4 version a major improvement.

Black and hotrod red carbon wheels that roll on DT Swiss 350 hub super bearings and butted spokes? Yes please. These luxury carbon Intense rims sported a "just-right" 31mm inner width, tubeless compatibility, and had enough vertical compliance to be less harsh than ENVE’s M70 HV hoops. Given the Recluse’s already stiff frame, the wheels likely helped take away from the steel I-beam feel that can come with a bike that's too stiff. All was good, we nearly wrote in the "happily ever after" line, and then that fantastic plastic went and dashed our dreams.


All was good, we nearly wrote in the "happily ever after" line, and then that fantastic plastic went and dashed our dreams.

Our last ride on the Recluse was on Prison Camp trail which we had ridden several times and were able to ride at full speed. Tucson's terrain is very chunky in spots, and knowing this we ran 31-32psi in the rear tire. Riding a series of rocky ledges that ended in a clearable four feet down and five feet out trail feature we heard the rear wheel crack upon landing. Various other test bikes equipped with aluminum rims with the same number of spokes simply shrugged at this feature and, based on prior experience, those same harsh ENVE wheels wouldn’t have flinched. For those that live in rocky terrain and don’t want to be out a wheel while warranties process, consider the Pro build with its aluminum rims. We spoke with Intense after the crack and got the impression that their warranty replacement program is very generous. They send a temporary replacement wheel out asap while rebuilding yours with a new hoop, keeping you on the bike with minimal downtime.

Maxxis tires are popular for good reason – they kick ass. With 2.3-inch Highroller II 3C/EXO TR rubber front and rear and that wide 31mm rim profile, the Recluse hooked up well in several types of soil (or lack of it). Given the nature of the rest of the build we'd likely throw a 2.4-inch or Wide Trail version up front for maximum funsies.

Paired with 180 and 160mm rotors, SRAM’s Guide RS brakes had the power and modulation to keep our speed under control. The improved dual piston calipers and relatively new brake levers minimize the small amount of fade that earlier Guides had and there were no performance issues encountered during the test.

The hybrid SRAM, Race Face, and e*thirteen 11-speed drivetrain had some pro and con column worthy performance. e*thirteen's cassette is a nice looking piece with excellent range helping you spin your way up and really crank it down. Shifting performance sees a small detraction due to an audible clunk and slight shift delay – a willing sacrifice if a larger range is necessary. 175mm carbon Race Face NEXT cranks help keep the weight down, and the 32-tooth narrow/wide chainring pairs well with the cassette and wheel size.


Just like the spider and hermit, this bike is nearly silent. The only noises worth noting are the sound of rocks being pulled through the frame by the rear tire and a slight internal cable rattle.

When it comes to the components, right down to the house brand grips, little to nothing truly needs to be changed on the bike. Intense’s dual density lock-on grips were certainly in the top five for best in test. The parts list clearly mimics someone’s personal setup and we commend Intense for going out of their way to make a great and unique list of parts. Those looking to save some cash will find another solid build in the $5,899 Expert setup with proven Shimano XT bits and RockShox suspension.

Long Term Durability

Besides the wheel issue, the bike looks like it's built to last. The suspension linkage and pivots seem easy to maintain and include the always nice grease zerks for ease of lubrication. Titanium hardware is a nice touch that resists bending more than aluminum and is lighter than steel, so there shouldn’t be any longevity issues there. You'll find torque specs, an exploded diagram, assembly and maintenance instructions in the detailed owner's manual.

At the end of the test the bike had a creak that we couldn’t locate, though the press fit bottom bracket may be to blame. The rear axle was also backing out and needs to be watched. Intense supports owners with a five year limited warranty.


What's The Bottom Line?

Part necrosis inducing spider and part bearded hermit, the Intense Recluse has a unique personality as a mid-travel 27.5 bike with the adjustability of the FOX Float X2 shock and looks that could kill. While Intense has indeed improved on both suspension support and pedaling performance with their new design, they've perhaps gone a bit too far. Due to the way the suspension works, its ideal rider lives in an area where smooth speed, fun, and flow takes precedent over bumpy gnar. That person should be one who enjoys a fast and efficient climb nearly as much as charging down the hill. Out of the box the Elite build has a very unique and smart list of components where nothing needs to be changed, though it'll cost you a pretty penny.

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Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 3.5 stars - Very Good
  • Descending: 3 stars - Good
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Value: 3 stars - Good
  • Overall Impression: 3.5 stars - Very Good

Bonus Gallery: 22 photos of the 2017 Intense Recluse Elite up close and in action

About The Reviewers

Mint Henk - Age: 32 // Years Riding MTB: 18 // Height: 6'0" (1.83m) // Weight: 180-pounds (81.6kg)

"Ragged, with a hint of Neanderthal." We decided to bring Mint onboard after watching him absolutely rocket up and down Colorado's high country like it was no big deal. Meanwhile, we were huffing and puffing trying to keep up. Mint is the real deal, and he brings a fresh eye to the Vital MTB testing game backed with years of relevant experience.

Brandon Turman - Age: 30 // Years Riding MTB: 16 // Height: 5'10" (1.78m) // Weight: 175-pounds (79.4kg)

"My current riding joys include pulling up hard and hucking test bikes into poor landings and techy sections with reckless abandon, then seeing how they react upon landing." Formerly a Mechanical Engineer and Pro downhill racer, Brandon brings a unique perspective to the testing game as Vital MTB's resident product guy. He has on-trail familiarity with nearly every new innovation in our sport from the past several years and a really good feel for what’s what.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.


About Test Sessions

For five years a dedicated crew of Vital MTB testers have been bringing you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. This time around we rode 2017's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes on a wide variety of rowdy trails in Tucson, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Arizona Cyclist. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Specialized, Five Ten, ZOIC, Sombrio, Race Face, and EVOC. All photos by Lear Miller.


Product Intense Recluse Elite
Model Year 2017
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 575mm / 22.6" 601mm / 23.6" 626mm / 24.6" 652mm / 25.6"
Head Tube Angle 66° 66° 66° 66°
Head Tube Length 102mm / 4" 102mm / 4" 102mm / 4" 102mm / 4"
Seat Tube Angle 75º Actual/ 72º effective 75º Actual/ 72º effective 75º Actual/ 72º effective 75º Actual/ 72º effective
Seat Tube Length 376mm / 14.8" 446mm / 17.6" 484mm / 19" 515mm / 20.3"
Bottom Bracket Height 344mm / 13.5" 344mm / 13.5" 344mm / 13.5" 344mm / 13.5"
Chainstay Length 419mm / 16.5" 419mm / 16.5" 419mm / 16.5" 419mm / 16.5"
Wheelbase 1142mm / 45" 1169mm / 46" 1196mm / 47" 1222mm / 48"
Standover 792mm / 31.2" 800mm / 31.5" 807mm / 31.8" 807mm / 31.8"
Reach 417mm / 16.4" 438mm / 17.3" 460mm / 18.1" 486mm / 19.2"
Stack 587mm / 23.1" 599mm / 23.6" 611mm / 24" 611mm / 24"
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details SL Monocoque UD Carbon Front and Rear Triangle, i-BOX Pivot System, Downtube Flak Guard Armor, Internal Derailleur/Brake/Dropper Post Routing, Ti Hardware
Rear Travel 140mm
Rear Shock FOX Performance FLOAT X2, 2 Position Lever with Open Mode Adjust, 200x57 mm
Fork FOX Performance FLOAT 36, 27.5", 3 Position, GRIP, 15QRx110 BOOST
Fork Travel 150mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset Cane Creek 40, Alloy Cartridge, 25mm of Spacers
Handlebar Renthal Fatbar, 20mm x 760 mm
Stem Thomson Elite X4, 50mm
Grips Intense Dual Density Lock-On
Brakes SRAM GUIDE RS, 160mm Front / 180mm Rear Rotors
Brake Levers SRAM
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM X1, 11-Speed
Front Derailleur N/A (Direct Mount)
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01, 11-Speed
Chainguide N/A (AU Only: e*thirteen XCX)
Cranks Race Face NEXT, 175mm, 11-Speed
Chainrings DM 32 Tooth
Bottom Bracket Press Fit
Pedals N/A
Chain SRAM X1, 11-Speed
Cassette e*thirteen 9-44 Tooth, 11-Speed
Rims Intense Carbon 31mm, Tubeless Ready
Hubs 28 Hole DT Swiss 350, 15mm x 110mm Front / 12mm x 148mm Rear, XD Driver, 6-Bolt
Spokes DT Competition 2.0/1.8/2.0
Tires Maxxis 27.5"x2.30" Highroller II F60 3C/EXO TR
Saddle Fabric Scoop Radius Elite
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth, 420mm, Zero Offset, 150mm Travel
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp Standard
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions Integrated BOOST 148mm x 12mm
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Recluse Turquoise, Recluse Red
Warranty 5 Year Limited Warranty on Carbon Frames
Weight 28 lb 6 oz (12,870 g)
Miscellaneous Angular Contact/Collet Bearing System with Replaceable Grease Zerks
Price $7,899
More Info

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