By Vernon Felton
Twenty-four hours ago, Intense Cycles joined the many companies (Norco, Jamis and Scott, to name just a few) that have rolled out new 650B mountain bike models.
In case you've been sleeping through the war of the wheels and have, consequently, missed the whole 650B brouhaha, here are the basics: 650B has been around since the cretaceous period. Neanderthal hunting parties, the story goes, later painted the wheels on the walls of their caves. Tom Ritchey built a bunch of 650B mountain bikes, shortly thereafter, but a bunch of worker elves at Nokian tires got sick with the flu in 1978, which led to a shortage in tires and, in a nutshell led to all of us riding 26er wheels.
A few years ago, once everyone put aside the brass knuckles and switchblades and got used to the 29er mountain bike being the next big thing, a few thoughtful people said, "Hey, why don't we introduce yet another wheel size--ideally something bigger than 26, but smaller than 29--just, you know, because there's not enough vitriol and bile floating around the bike industry these days."
And here we are.
So, 650B--yeah, it's either the perfect porridge or the worst of all worlds, depending on whom you talk to. What often goes missing in this very polarized debate, however, is that 650B might just be a brilliant way to improve the angle of attack on a longer-travel (150 and 160-millimeter travel) mountain bike. It's hard, after all, to add 29er wheels to a six-inch travel, mountain bike without also giving it a stupid-long wheelbase. 650B wheels, on the other hand, can be added into the mix without giving all mountain models a tractor-trailer rear end or having the rear tire devour the front derailleur.
And this is where Intense Cycles’ Tracer 275 fits in. The bike rocks five and a half to six inches of travel (it's adjustable), pretty damn short (17-inch) chainstays, a 13.3-inch bottom bracket and a 67.5-degree head angle. In short, it's an all mountain bike that benefits from bigger wheels than the 26-inch hoops you normally find on a bike with this much rear suspension travel.
The aluminum Tracer 275 is built here in the states (straight outta Temecula, yo). At this point, it comes in aluminum and in a crazy range of colors. If you've been secretly pining for something extra burly in hot pink, boy, are you in luck...though the bike also comes in Works Raw, Flo Green, Intense Red, Black Chrome and in custom colors (I'm guessing Pink fits in that category).
What about carbon you ask? Isn't it enough to release an aluminum bike these days?
Intense Cycles has you covered on the composites front too. Intense's carbon-fiber trail bike (the 26er Carbine model, released last fall) can be retrofitted to 27.5 (that's inch-ese for 650B, by the way) wheels with a new, handy-dandy G1 dropout kit. This should make everyone who bought a Carbine fairly stoked. The folks at Intense Cycles also claim that you can slap that new dropout on the Carbine and still fit a 2.35 tire in the rear end. ¡Viva the versatility!
The Tracer 275 should be available in October. Until then, you can lurk on the Intense Cycles website and ogle the fine bits right here