With the advent of the 27.5/650b wheel size a few years ago, the buzz that was created by 29ers some years before that was somewhat quelled as manufacturers and consumers scrabbled to get a slice of the medium-wheeled pie. With the 26" wheel virtually condemned to history, 29ers have also taken a backseat in the Trail/All-Mountain sector, while remaining the hoop size of choice for hardtail/XC/short travel bikes. But now it seems the benefits of the big wheels are being remembered, and paired with some smart geometry are making a mark where the mid-wheelers had seemed to have the market cornered. Intense have thrown their hat into the longer/lower/slacker 29 ring and the Carbine 29c packs some pretty dialled numbers into a big-wheeled package.
Rear wheel travel can be set at either 140mm or 125mm of VPP-controlled travel by easily changing the position of the shock mount on the rocker, without affecting the geometry at all. Our bike comes specced with the 'Pro Build' kit which sits second from the top of the line, and uses a Rock Shox Monarch Plus RC3 HV shock with remote reservoir.
The suspension pivots on nice big angular contact bearings, adding stiffness, smoothness and long life and low maintenance intervals. The rocker links are forged alloy and the rear triangle is all carbon.
The interchangeable dropouts of the previous incarnation are gone, with a 142x12 axle now standard, and rear end stiffness is no doubt boosted by the substantial brace between the stays. Drivetrain duties are handled by SRAM XO1 11 speed, complete with 10-42 cassette. The chainstays aren't super-short at 17.75" but that gives the bike a longer wheelbase and a planted feel, while still climbing well.
Internal routing is the name of the game with Intense, with holes for derailleurs, brakes and a semi-internal route for the dropper post. Head angle is a fairly-slack-for-a-29er 67 degrees and gives the bike a stable demeanor on the steeps, but still gets itself around tight turns and twisty singletrack with aplomb. And who doesn't love a real proper head badge!
Colour co-ordination gone mad? Nope, Thomson now offers the coloured faceplate option for all their stems, and the red on the 50mm unit just happens to match perfectly with the Carbine's scheme. The Renthal FatBars come in alloy, 20mm rise and 760mm width. Cane Creek looks after the the steering duties with their '40' internal cartridge headset.
The venerable Pike up front is a solid and sensible choice, you know it's going to be plush, stiff and progressive. The Carbine runs its fork at 160mm which works well with the 140 out back and provides a bit more squish when things get rowdy, which is what this bike is designed for. Don't be fooled, this thing can handle the most Enduro of Enduro terrain.
Plenty of tyre clearance for big rubber out back... we're keen to see how the rear triangle handles wider rims and tyres, as the DT wheelset at 22.5mm internal width isn't in the same category as some of the offerings out there, and the High Roller 2.3 still leaves enough room for maybe up to a 2.5 to fit without much compromise. We think a wide rim/tyre combo combined with the big footprint and rollover ability of the 29er hoops will put the bike into monster truck terrain-crushing territory.
Plenty of room left for big meat by the Pike/HR combo too... axle spacing is 100mm for the 15qr.
Silver hubs are back! Well, if they didn't go away, they have rarely been seen, and these DT Swiss 340s are a tried and true bombproof hub which look great in their shiny finish. Rotor mounting is Centrelock.
The dropper post routing sneaks in just ahead of the BB, and a bottle mount is welcome too.
Plenty of protection for the carbon tubes around the swingarm/BB area, with rubber bumpers and an alloy protector to prevent gouging should you be unlucky enough to get the chain caught up.
KS LEV Integra posts works a treat, but would be nice to see a 150mm version rather than the 125 specced. A Southpaw lever would also be welcome over the standard KS thumb-style lever, but it's an easy upgrade to make. The Fabric Scoop saddle is comfortable straight up.
SRAM Guide RS brakes have a great lever feel and plenty of adjustment, and grab 180/160mm rotors F/R. ODI lock-ons come with custom Intense end caps and go about their business with minimum fuss.
We got to sample the bike after hastily getting it built for the Dodzy Memorial Enduro last weekend, and we are pretty impressed so far. A bit more tweaking should really bring out the best of this bike. Its capabilities and intentions are clear though, it's built to be ridden hard and on steep, rough and technical terrain... which comes in spades at Wairoa, and nothing at all phased it there despite our best attempts.
Look for a full review in Issue 66, out May.