18 November 2007 - 17:53First Ride – Intense 5.5
After many weeks of waiting, I finally get to ride the bike that many folks are waiting for, the Intense 5.5 29er. While this bike is still in it’s prototype phase, I would imagine that it is pretty close to production as is. Because Intense makes all their own bikes in house, small tweaks may be made, but we won’t really know until the production bikes show up.
It was a balmy 30°, brilliant blue skies, with a few inches of freshly fallen snow. And the ride was fun.
Really fun. It was the type of ride that made you wish it wasn’t Sunday, so you cold go out and do it all over again tomorrow.
Our location was Stowe’s Town Loops, always the first place I like to take a new bike. I know this area very well, so I figure it’s the best place to see what a new steed can do. It features a little of everything, without going to extremes (unless you know where to go) and is a good place to figure out if you forgot to tighten something.
Head Angle: 73°, 70°
Seat Angle: 74°, 70°
Effective Top Tube: 24.25″
Stand Over: 33.5″, 34″
From a numbers standpoint, you can see that for the most part, the bikes are pretty evenly matched, except for the frame angles. As I stated previously, it seems like Intense has gone out of it’s way to keep the front end low on this bike. Why, I’m not quite sure. With a normal headset, the angles would be slacker. My RIP has a Fluid 135 on the front, the 5.5 has a coil sprung Fluid 130, again dropping the front end.
The bike set up has XC racer written all over it, but why would you race a 29lb 5″ travel bike?
The construction is top rate.
No noticeable feedback from the pedals at all.
I was able to ride things my partners in crime weren’t able to.
Low front end. I felt like I could go over the bars at any time, and often did.
Rapid Rise shifting, it is so counter intuitive, that I only stayed in a couple of gears.Who uses this stuff? So I only had a couple of gears I could use without skipping the chain all over the place. This is after all, a demo bike, and it came complete and beat. Even though the Rapid Rise deraillieur made me want to shift less, there were only a couple of gears that I could actually use. So maybe this is a positive. I didn’t shift very much.
I think the fork was beat. There was no rebound adjustment, and no matter how much air I put in it, it always seemed to react the same way – like a pogo stick.
I kept clubbing my heels on the rear swingarm.
If I were to buy a bike like this, I certainly wouldn’t build it up this way. But, based on this ride, if I were in the market for a long travel full suspension 29er, it could be a serious contender.
It did pedal very well in fact. Despite the goofy XC set up, I enjoyed the bike tremendously.
What seemed like an ungodly amount of flex in the rear end around the wheel’s axle, it didn’t come through in the ride. It tracked true.
I didn’t notice the steeper angles so much as the lack of elevation at the bars. Still, it was responsive, and made last minute course corrections without any twitchy oversteer.
The “Works” finish is very cool, and all of the machined bits are anodized black to give it an air of seriousness.
I had to put my body weight in the rear shock to get the correct sag. Don’t ask, it’s a lot. I am willing to bet that my shock pump may not be that accurate, but it seemed excessive to get the recommended 20-30% sag.
Also falling under an anti-Shimano rant, are the XTR brakes. The 160mm rotors did an average job of slowing me down, but bigger rotors would be more apropos on a bike such as this, especially if you are in the Clydesdale range. Also the modulation seemed to vary throughout the ride.
The next step, is for me to pull all the XC components off of it, and replace them with bits more becoming of a 5″ travel trail machine from my RIP. Then we’ll see how it really shines in a true apples to apples comparison…
The tires I opted for today were the Bontrager Jones ACX TLR. I ran about 32 psi (with tubes – not my wheels) and found plenty of grip in the wet, leaf strewn, semi frozen ground beneath the snow. I figured the Crossmarks that came with the bike may not have performed as well.