Over the last year, few brands have introduced as many new bike models as Temecula, California-based Intense Cycles. The latest release is the completely renovated 155-millimeter-travel Carbine, which rolls on 29-inch wheels and is mated with a 160-millimeter fork. I recently had the opportunity to get the lowdown on this new all-mountain beast, and take it out for a spin on the unique and rugged terrain of Sedona, Arizona.
Available in five builds ranging in price from $3,999 to $10,399, the Carbine line has three versions built around the top-shelf SL carbon frame (the Factory, Elite, and Pro builds) which also feature a carbon top link and titanium hardware. The standard carbon frame is mated to an alloy top link and is found on the more reasonably priced Foundation and Expert complete bike packages.
As with all full-suspension Intense machines, the rear wheel travel is managed by the dual-link suspension design formerly known as VPP, but is now referred to as JS Tune suspension. The Carbine’s suspension platform has been rejiggered for improved suppleness at the initial part of the travel, yet ramps up for high-speed impacts. The new Carbine frame includes internal cable routing with internal sleeves, plus integrated downtube and chainstay protectors.
For vertically challenged riders, it features a particularly low standover height, especially for a 29er with so much travel. Intense lists the size small Carbine as having a 32.7-inch standover measurement. Across all Carbine models you’ll find RockShox suspension, metric-sized shocks, 150-millimeter dropper posts, and Boost wheels with 30-millimeter-internal rim widths. All builds are specced with SRAM Eagle drivetrains, except for the Foundation build which utilizes a SRAM 1×11 NX and GX drivetrain combination.
For the number crunchers among us, the Carbine is claimed to have a 65.5-degree head tube angle, a 13.7-inch high bottom bracket, a 74-degree seat tube angle, and a 17-inch (431-millimeter) reach on the size medium. For riders preferring to build their own custom Carbine, the SL version is offered as a frame for $3,399 while the standard carbon frame goes for $3,099.
On The Trail
Many of today’s 29ers are versatile, super fun and incredibly capable—add six inches of travel and you have one serious trail smashing machine. I only have a couple of rides on the new Carbine, but in that short amount of time a few performance and ride qualities were apparent.
First off, at 5’9” the size medium Carbine fit me well. With 6.3 inches of travel up front and 6.1 inches in the rear, plus trail-smoothing 29-inch wheels, the Carbine made easy work of both wide-open rough terrain and low-speed, technical trails. To get the most out of the Carbine, simply let off the brakes and let the bike do what it does. The plush rear suspension provides a lot of traction in varying conditions, which is noticeable when ascending super-steep uphills. If this bike were to stay in my garage for awhile, I’d certainly be experimenting with volume reducers in both the RockShox Super Deluxe RC3 shock and Lyik fork to maintain the supple small-bump sensitivity but allow the shock to ramp-up for harsher impacts at speed.
The Carbine Factory build cockpit features 780-millimeter wide Enve downhill handlebar and their stubby 40-millimeter stem. This configuration won’t do you any favors navigating tight, uphill switchbacks, but when the trail points downward it’s an excellent combination for high-speed descents. Twenty-niners have come a long way in recent years, and the performance advantage is undeniable. The Intense Carbine looks to make its way into the conversation regarding the sport’s most capable machines, and with complete carbon bikes starting below $4,000 the Carbine is more accessible than ever.