For almost a decade from 1994 onwards Intense and world cup racing were a force to be reckoned with. They had the bikes, and riders swarmed to get a ride on the iconic Californian design. For the privateer and pro rider alike it was regularly the first choice.
Shaun Palmer led the march but he was succeeded by a rider way more unpredictable and wild. Chris Kovarik took his Intense to three world cup wins on the trot in 2002 and the unforgettable Fort William 14-second bruising. Sam Hill came hot on his heels too, bringing more victories for the brand.
Shaun Palmer’s 1996 Intense M1
Front Centre 729mm
Bottom Bracket 349-374mm
Head Angle 66-68° adjustable
Bar Height To Floor 1070mm
Jeff Steber continued to produce good bikes but it was the brand they shared the VPP design with – Santa Cruz – that was to be the stronger for the next decade. However it was still Steber who had the upper hand in design, being the first to bring 27.5” wheels to downhill bikes and even in 2010 had produced a 29” wheel DH bike.
Today Intense are back at the top: Jack Moir and Dean Lucas are going well for them, there’s a buzz about the Intense team truck in the pits. The swagger is back, the style has never gone away.
The M1 is a bike that pretty much changed the face of downhill over a short period of time, bringing style and charisma to bicycle design that was to last for years to come. Shaun Palmer famously brought the brand to within a whisker of a win on a couple of occasions, and while the Palmer spark fizzled the brand continues at the cutting edge, advancing bikes while others ponder.
At the time, the M1 became the most sought-after bike on the planet and it was also the go-to bike for professional riders from other brands. Tomac, riding for Giant, famously raced a badged up M1; Greg Minnaar’s Haro was pretty much a mildly modified M1; Gee Atherton won his first world cup race on one in 2004 (pictured above).
It was ahead of the curve in many ways, it had a coil shock and linkage, it was adjustable, it offered 6-7” of travel. From this point on it was to become a race to find a fork to equal the rear end and balance the bikes out. There’s no doubt the M1 looks slightly steep and high compared to Nico’s GT but the geometry numbers tell another story.
It was an incredibly exciting period of bike evolution.