The Spider has long been Intense’s moniker for the sharper, XC-oriented end of its offerings. However, given the unapologetically SoCal-centric self-definition of the brand and its history of producing highly regarded gravity bikes, Spiders have traditionally been pretty rangy in fit and more comfortable railing fast and loose than plucking slow and tight. The new Spider 29c, featuring a carbon frame with a VPP-esque pair of links between the front and rear triangle with a choice between 115 and 130 millimeters of rear travel, holds true to that pedigree.
The frame itself is admirably stiff, devoid of vagueness or any waggly tendencies. During our tests, the suspension excelled when pedaling and climbing, and also offered pliable bump absorption, hovering up everything from small trail garbage to bigger hits without complaint. There was enough progression and versatility in the travel to lead some testers to query the inclusion of the 115-mil-travel option, given how well everything worked in the 130-mil setting. Handling in general was more stable than snappy, aided in large part by the 29-inch wheels and 46-inch wheelbase on our large test bike. However, the 68.5-degree head angle and that stiff chassis gave the Spider a lively feel.Componentry was a mix of dependable performers (Fox Performance Elite Float shock and Performance Elite Float 34 fork, SRAM Guide RS brakes, SRAM X1/X01 shifters, derailleur and cranks, KS Lev Integra 125-millimeter dropper post) topped with a few standout touches (Renthal FatBar, Thomson Elite stem and DT Swiss M1700 wheels shod with Maxxis Ardent tires). The general consensus was that the price was still on the high side given the componentry when compared to some of the others on test. Nitpicks were nevertheless limited to a broadly voiced desire for a 150-millimeter dropper post.
Intense's website describes the Spider 29c as a "light trail bike built for cross-country and flowy singletrack…designed for climbing, cruising and fast trail riding." If that was the mission brief for the design of this carbon trail weapon, then (Intense owner) Jeff Steber and the boys can offer each other a round of high-fives. Mission accomplished.
Q&A with Jennifer Gabrielli
Before this year's test bikes rolled into our barn, we had questions about them–some of the same questions that you might be asking yourself when you start poking around at a new bike. Here's what Intense Cycles Marketing Manager, Jennifer Gabrielli, had to say.
–Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
Vernon Felton: What kind of rider did you have in mind when you guys were designing the Spider?
Jennifer Gabrielli: This bike was designed for an aggressive trail rider who is weight-conscious and might consider dabbling in the occasional XC race.
VF: You also offer the Spider in an almost equivalent (albeit, aluminum) 27.5-wheeled version–what kind of riders/riding conditions is the 29er better suited to?
JG: The Spider 275 is available is actually quite a bit different than the Spider 29c. It's far from just a Spider 29c with smaller wheels. Available in alloy only, it leans much more to the trail side with a longer front-center, shorter chain stays (16.5) and slacker head angle (67 degrees). So, it's really a completely different bike.
VF: What sets the Spider 29c apart from other trail-bike 29ers?
JG: The high-modulus carbon fiber is super light and stiff. Combined with the light, stiff component spec, balance of aesthetic and frame geometry, and efficient "JS-Tuned" dual-link floating pivot system, plus the added bonus of the maintenance improvements (grease zerks, internal cable routing), we are pretty happy with it.
VF: How does the Spider's suspension feel/performance change when you go from 130 to 115 millimeters of travel?
JG: 115 ramps up more than 130 and has more of an XC feel. With more travel, the bike is a little more linear, making it more plush/easier to get to bottom of travel. It's worth noting that the geometry does not change when adjusting travel.
VF: Are there conditions in which you feel this bike really excels and, if so, what specific design attributes of the bike make that so?
JG: This bike's geometry is really what makes it special. It is stable at high-speeds, but wheelbase is short enough that the bike remains nimble in twisty, flowy single track.
VF: Are there any aspects of the frame design that you guys are particularly proud of? If so, what are they and why?
JG: If you asked Jeff Steber this question, he would say, 'Intense always makes it a priority to balance form and function.' The goal was to make a bike that was a good all-rounder, but rides like a sportscar. We are pretty excited about the internal cable routing and the grease zerks on the bottom pivots. This allows grease to be directly injected into the angular contact bearings for improved bearing maintenance and longevity.
VF: What were you aiming for with the component spec on the Pro build kit?
JG: Our main goal was stiffer and lighter. We achieved this by going to the new Fox 34 platform (stanchions are larger diameter so they are stiffer and lighter), Fabric saddle is lighter and the DT Swiss M1700 wheels are stiff and light.
VF: Are there any details/features on this bike that you think are particularly critical to its performance that might be easily overlooked by consumers at first glance?
JG: The internal cable-routing tubes are literally invisible, and so very easily overlooked by consumers, but they really make bike maintenance and building way easier. They also keep cable rattle out of the picture for a nice, quiet ride–and maintain the sleek, uncluttered aesthetic.