Trail and Enduro Bikes

Intense Carbine – Dirty Dozen

With the previous Carbine a hit in the Dirt 100 three years ago, how does this latest version stack up?

The Intense Carbine is the the latest release in a long list of all-new models launched by this brand over the last year. The second of two 29ers to come from them, this is the longer travel model with an enduro focus.

Words: Steve Jones, Ieuan Williams, Sean White  Images: Ieuan Williams


Here at Dirt we’ve had a strong affinity with the big wheelers from Intense. Ever since we started testing 29″ wheel mountain bikes way back in 2011 Intense has turned out some impressive machinery that made us inquisitive as to the future of this wheel size for more aggressive riding. First came the all-aluminium and US made Tracer 29, a long-termer that we ran with an angleset, a Fox 34 fork and often a coil rear shock. The combination of the silky-smooth VPP rear suspension and robustness allowed us to roam into territory normally reserved (at the time…) for longer travel 26″ wheeled bikes. ‘It simply doesn’t let up when the going gets out of hand’ was how Steve Jones summed up the Tracer 29’s ride dynamic. While the 26″ Intense Slopestyle was on the cover of the 2011 Dirt 100, the Tracer 29 took the spot as our ‘Trailbike of the year’ two years later.

Then came carbon from Intense, with the Carbine 29. Slacker, lower in weight and with adjustable travel from 140mm to 125mm. It scored a slot in the 2014 Dirt 100 and in a feature we titled ‘Haulage’ went up against the Specialized Enduro 29 and BMC’s Trailfox 29er. This new breed was here to stay.

The Intense Carbine for the 2017/18 intends to pick up where these benchmark bikes left off. As with all the latest Intense designs, main man Jeff Steber has worked closely with Cesar Rojo, bringing his suspension and geometry expertise to the table. It’s an all carbon machine and here on the Factory spec bike we have the SL frame which uses high modulus carbon fibre, a carbon linkage and titanium hardware and drops 200g over the standard carbon model. This latest Carbine dishes out 155mm of rear travel with a 160mm fork. All the features you’d expect are here: Frame protection, water bottle mounts, internal cable routing, Boost dropouts and grease ports on the pivots.

The geometry is as you would hope; slack and long but in this case not extreme. The reach figure for a size large is 455mm and it sits on a 1233mm wheelbase. The ‘JS Tuned’ suspension uses their longer Enduro link on the Carbine to ‘optimize leverage curve, axle path and overall performance’ (Intense’s words). So it’s not just a longer travel Primer, but a bike designed specifically for enduro stage racing and riding with a gravity bias. With a 65.5° head angle and a 74° seat tube angle this bike promises both good climbing ability along with uncompromising descending manners.

One of the highest spec and most expensive bikes in our Dirty Dozen shoot out, the Carbine is also available as a ‘frame only’ option with rear shock at £2499. However, the Intense Carbine bike range starts with the ‘Foundation spec’ (using the regular carbon frame) at £2699. With lower pricing for 2018 and a change to direct sales (rather than through retailers) does this bring Intense more in line with brands such as YT, Canyon and Commencal?


FRAME: High Mod carbon, carbon top link, titanium hardware

FORK: RockShox Lyrik RTC3, 160mm travel, 51mm offset, Boost

REAR SHOCK: RockShox Super Deluxe RC3 230mmx60mm


CRANKSET: SRAM XX1 Eagle carbon

BRAKES: Shimano XTR 180mm rotors F/R

WHEELSET: DT M1700 (on our test bike)

TYRES: Maxxis Minion DHRII 29×2.4″ EXO/TR

HANDLEBAR: Enve carbon DH 780mm

STEM: Enve carbon 40mm

SADDLE: Fabric Scoop Radius, carbon rails

SEATPOST: Fox Transfer 150mm, 31.6mm

PRICE: Factory spec (with Enve M70/30 + DT240 wheels) £6799. Carbine 29C Frame/shock £2299. The 2018 Carbine bike range starts with the Foundation build at £2699.


Review continues below)


The new Intense Carbine has probably got the best shape out of the twelve bikes on test and with a great feel to the Enve cockpit it has some real purpose to the size and fit. This coupled with a low standover and short seat tower shows that Intense has listened. The Carbine is light for a long travel 29er too. The bike in question is the highest build, the Factory spec, but with a DT Swiss alloy wheelset fitted. The gold 1×12 SRAM Eagle transmission is pretty spangly mind and looks great against the red. This model comes with some big name parts fitted but at this price point you would expect no compromise in hardware choices.

The ride feel is where the Intense Carbine falls a little short. Even with the great shape there are so many other things that you need to get right when designing a bike and the Carbine is stiff. And I mean seriously stiff! I feel this is due to the the front triangle matched with the large stiff bearings and carbon links and rear stays – it’s carbon on carbon and this is a seriously hard combination to get bang on. The chassis needs a fraction more compliance. Even with the aluminium DT Swiss wheelset fitted it has an almost abusive feeling to the ride. This Carbine seems to fight you with every line choice and you have to attack it to get anything back in return.

With this stiffness in play it takes away from the rear suspension and almost gives it a lesser feel when going through the harsh parts of the track. Then there is the fatigue factor that has to be looked at. I really couldn’t see my body lasting for many more laps of Bike Park Wales where on bikes such as the Starling Murmur or the Evil Wreckoning there is a more forgiving chassis allowing all-day riding without a problem. This being said the Intense climbs well with the steeper seat angle putting the riding position bang on.

There is most definitely no issue with longevity on the Carbine, the greaseable pivots and large burly carbon construction seems to be tough enough to take on most tasks.

If you aren’t going off racing or pushing this bike to the limit then the whole stiffness overload may not have as large of an effect. There is no denying that this is a great looking bike and if the ride was more supple then I could see the Carbine being a top level contender.



As a trail rider who’s spent most of the last twelve years on 29″ wheels I was sold on Intense’s shorter travel big wheeler, the Primer earlier this year. The Primer has a fast, lively and inspiring ride and it suited me well. So how did I get on with the Carbine, a bike for more serious terrain?

We all agreed that the shape of the new Carbine is spot on. Our size large test bike was long enough in the reach and I felt balanced between the axles giving me a riding position which inspired confidence from the start. A good width and shape to the Enve handlebar helped too.

There is a precision and accuracy to the steering on this 29er, with a light feel. It seems that the geometry, sizing and balance of the bike of the bike really does shine through for me here all working well together. It’s fun and fast through the tight stuff, feeling as nimble as a 27.5″ wheeled bike much of the time – a note worth mentioning.

The Carbine is stiff under power but felt a touch unexciting until the pace picked up. Once rolling quickly this Intense carried speed well though. It’s a very different ride to the Primer and the solid feel from the front of the bike was not ideal for many of the test tracks I was riding. It felt tuned for more aggressive terrain yet had me concerned about feedback on rougher tracks that could lead to discomfort, especially on longer rides. Climbing traction was great (although not rapid), winching its way up the steepest pitches, helped by the high volume Maxxis rubber.

The specification is all top drawer. The SRAM Eagle is now both proven and my first choice and the brakes are spot on. The ‘Wide Trail’ high volume Maxxis rubber is a sound choice along with the broad rims. All components that fit the job in hand. However, I’m curious to see how one of the lower priced Carbine models would ride with the regular spec carbon frame and a less premium build kit.


There are some mighty fine bikes in this test of twelve 29″ enduro bikes, and ultimately there’s no room for shortcomings. The Carbine doesn’t have many. The geometry and ride position is balanced and on many tracks the bike has a buoyant nature to it. Visually striking and shod with all the quality componentry it’s not wanting for much. The brand has good heritage, if you buy into that, and an excellent distributor which I’ve witnessed offer good back up.

On shorter, loamy runs I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this bike, it’s quick, fun and with good rider weight distribution. However take that 150mm travel into tougher terrain and it’s found wanting. Or at least the bike overworks the rider. On five minute rocky descents it’s an incredibly draining experience and have spoken at length to Intense about this. It could well be that it simply comes down to suspension philosophy and the terrain in which it was developed. In this test, on our conditions there are much better 29″ enduro bikes out there as will become evident in the forthcoming weeks.

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