When I heard that Intense would not only be providing the bikes for the 2016 Magura Press Camp, but that they also would be debuting two new models, well, that was pretty cool. When I found out I could take one home for review, that was exciting, but I had some reservations. Why? Well, frankly, I have never been a fan of VPP having ridden it, not extensively, but perhaps 3 or 4 times in various incarnations on Intense and Santa Cruz bikes. I always felt it descended way better than it climbed, especially on smoother trails. It was very supple but too active and fell into its travel a bit much for my tastes. I have to say that after many hours of riding the new Primer 29er over a fairly wide variety of Western trail conditions, I have been most pleased.
What changed? VPP got JS (Jeff Steber, owner of Intense Cycles) Tuned. The patents ran out on VPP, allowing things to get ‘tweaked’ a bit…massaged perhaps…and these short link bikes are very sensitive to small changes in the particulars. The bottom iBox link is short and tucked in at the BB, allowing for 438mm chainstays. The pivots have nice Zerk fittings for easy-greasey maint.
The new Intense Primer replaces the Spider 29 in the line up and sits alongside the 27+ ACV, another new bike from Intense, but the Primer is a pure 29er with no pretense of being a Plus bike. At 140/135(or 115) F/R travel, the new Primer has enough travel to put it well into the trailbike realm and even consider it as an Enduro race bike. Note that when the rear travel is changed between 115mm and 130mm, the geometry does not change. I did play with this in So Cal and will talk about my thoughts in the second post about the Intense Primer. It is boost at both ends, but not Plus ready.
I have the Intense Primer 29 Factory Build, a bike with all the chi-chi boxes well checked on the order form. This model features the top level carbon lay-up (there are two levels) and is also available as a frame only in the top carbon form. XX1, carbon cranks, carbon wheels, carbon Renthal bars…it’s loaded. Impressive, but it is a 10 grand bike after all. The frame is said to be just under 6 pounds in a Medium. It is a really nice looking frame with clean lines, internal routing, and nothing looks like an afterthought or forced decision. It is front der ready too, a choice that many bikes take away from the buyer these days.
I weighed this at just over 25lbs, well under what most trailbikes of lesser stature (and lesser cost) would typically be. That is XC bike territory. It’s a handsome bike too, with lines that compliment it and the color and graphics are smart. I like orange. I like grey. Orange and grey together…it’s almost too much to endure!
The DT Swiss XMC 1200 Spline Boost carbon wheels are pretty stunning too. Note that the test bike I have is XX1, not Eagle which will be standard on this version as the parts were too scarce to make the build times for the review process. So the spec differs there. The Renthal bars and stem are sharp looking items too. It’s a dream spec, really.
There are 4 Primers, differing in the two levels of carbon frame and with varied build spec, ending at the Foundation Build at $4599.00.
The time on the Primer began in Sedona, AZ. Those trails challenge me, and I am always there on an unfamiliar bike. Not the best situation to be in.
The previous day I had been riding an Intense Carbine 29C, a 160/140mm bike that is a notch up in beef over the Primer. It was OK, but it felt a bit clumsy to me on the tight and quickly changing trails of Sedona. The Primer felt better almost immediately. Quicker pedaling, lighter on its feet…I was comfortable on it within a very short time on trail. I was riding with another media guy for this round, just the two of us, and he was on the Intense ACV in a large size.
At first I was fit to an XL, and at 6’2″ and long of arm, I was OK on the XL. It did feel a bit longish between the wheels though, so I jumped on a LG and that was actually quite good as well, although just barely so, as far as Reach is concerned. The LG did feel just a bit more nimble with less wheelbase over the XL version, although at a 1181mm wheelbase in the LG, it is hardly a short bike. It felt good though, that LG, so I went with it.
Sedona is so radically different from where I ride in So Cal. The trails hardly ever go straight ahead for very long and if they do, about every twenty feet you will be either dropping off of or climbing up onto ledges and rock outcroppings. There were things I liked about the Primer right away.
- The travel seemed to be ‘just right’. With the rear end of the bike set to the 135mm travel position and the 140mm fork, it was enough for anything I pointed the bike into, but not too much like the Carbine where I felt like I was dancing in too big a shoe.
- The JS tuned VPP was a real pleasure to pedal up things, where in the past, VPP always felt better to me when descending. It was peppy and poppy and smooth and on mild sections of trail it did not drag along at all, allowing me to get out of the saddle and push hard without it feeling too lazy to want to play.
- Ledges and other abrupt obstacles were no match for the rear suspension as it was very good at letting me keep forward momentum. As well, braking down the same terrain seemed to show a still active suspension. I ran the suspension open 100% of the time.
- The seat tube angle is pretty steep at 75° but that places you over the BB and forward, so that works to your favor when trying to tackle steep and techy things going uphill.
- The wide Renthal bars felt very ‘moto’, especially with the rather straight bar…less sweep than I might normally use. With elbows out and my upper body slightly forward, it felt very natural when cornering.
- The light weight is appreciated whenever you need to pop the bike around or initiate a quick acceleration. Light bikes are funner.
After a few hours of riding, there were no glaring things I did not like about the Primer. In fact I really, really liked it. It had a very ‘together’ feel; balanced and poised, and I felt at ease on it. Hey…I could take this home. Oh wait…I can! And that will be a very different experience, with So Cal’s longer smoother climbs and much less techy-ness. Will it still be as good there too? Hang on for that in the next post.
Note: The products shown here were provided at no cost to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.