So, not one person that I know has anything bad to say about the Spider.
This bike utilizes a Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension linkage which Intense and Santa Cruz have pioneered and perfected. You can read the details about the design here.
Being really pleased with the way my current (albeit broken) ride behaves, the Spider had some big shoes to fill.
So here’s the breakdown.
This bike came to me with a full XTR kit, including the controversial Dual Control levers, Bontrager Race Lite wheelset, and Bontrager Jones XR tires.
I 86′d the Bonti wheels and tires, in favor of my Royale wheelset and Panaracer Rampage tires. No hard feelings towards the folks in Wisconsin, but my wheels are stronger and lighter. The XRs are not suitable tires for the type of terrain I was playing on.
The good news is, there was plenty of room for the 2.35 Rampage.
If I could have, I would have 86′d the Dual Control levers too, but I’ll get to that.
The bike came with a set of low rise bars, and a low rise 110mm stem that was inverted. This gives a good bar height relative to the saddle for riders that would be riding a size medium frame. As I am not a medium frame candidate, I flipped the stem to get the right height. I had the correct saddle height, but the top tube proved to be too short for me.
While I was on the phone with Fox (regarding the rear shock on my RIP) I learned how to get the most out of the RP23 that this Spider is equipped with.
Sag was about 10mm measured at the shock, with the Pro Pedal setting on 2.
The Reba was set at 90/90 (positive/negative).
Like everyone before me who has spent time on this bike, I marveled at how well it climbed. One of the reasons why VPP is so popular, is the way the suspension feels. It literally squirts you forward. It feels very snappy, and, if you have your shock set up correctly, you are in a “zone” that is quite forgiving when it comes to rider input. So with every bump, the suspension works to get you over the bump through it’s stroke. It helps you keep your momentum, and, add the momentum retaining qualities of the big wheels, well… you get the picture.
When the trail pointed down, the bike was confident. Despite having a top tube that was too short for my size, I was able to keep it in line. The steep head angle of 74 degrees made the bike very responsive. I only got into a pickle once, and it was here that the short top tube may have been a saver. During this point, I noticed that the frame was stiff enough laterally to recover form my little incident, which basically had me hurtling down a steep section on my rear wheel between 2 tight trees over some off camber roots, and having the trail turn hard right before the front wheel landed. I was going way too fast. A short wheelbase and agile handling was a lifesaver.
Which leads me to some negative comments.
Brakes? What brakes? The XTR stoppers barely even slowed me down. If I’d have had the option, I would have pulled the Avid Juicys off my RIP for this ride as well as the wheels.
Dual Control is Shimano’s off road version of their road levers. What is good for the goose, isn’t necessarily good for the gander. On road bikes, it’s great. Most roads are smooth, unlike off road trails. What you wind up with, is a terribly cumbersome lever assembly, that controls the shifting and braking with one lever. Not so good when the ground is rushing up at you repeatedly. I shifted my gears while I was braking and bouncing down the trail. Seeing as how the brakes weren’t even working, not being in any sort of gear was just downright annoying.
Lots of folks like this set up, so I may offend some. I think it’s junk.
Don’t even get me started on Rapid Rise…
The bottom bracket is 12.75″, even lower than the RIP! Needless to say, I was prepared for pedal strikes.
The rear triangle seemed wide. I kept hitting my heels on the swingarm, but this was early in the ride, and I noticed it less throughout the ride. Maybe I can chalk this up to the fit not being right.
Being a demo bike, this thing has been ridden hard and put away wet often. I could only find a few gears that would not grind or skip. When switching the rear wheel, I had to fix the spacing of the rear brake caliper, and I also noticed that the drop outs were 140mm apart. hmmm.
I would imagine, that as a demo bike, it probably isn’t a first quality frame. A headset with an extra 5mm above the crown race is necessary for the crown of the fork to clear the down tube. Hopefully, an oversight that won’t plague production frames.
Enough with the negatives!
Descending was as comfortable as could be, despite the smallish frame. I really thought the steep head angle would be twitchy, but it really isn’t.
On level singletrack, the quick steering, snappy suspension and few gears that worked allowed me to pull way ahead of my riding partner. This is clearly a race weapon. I was not able to get a gear where I could go 90%, but I can only imagine what it would be like.
I’d have to say, that overall, I’m impressed. There are lots of odd things about this bike that might make some folks nervous, but the reality is, it delivers all it promises. And then some. Put some good components on it, fix the crown clearance issue and you have a serious machine, capable of dishing it out on race day, or just flowing through the woods with your friends.