11 June 2008 - 13:09Intense Spider – First Ride
While the rocker issue on the Jet 9 is truly frustrating, I’ve decided to take the opportunity to get to know one of the other bikes we sell, the Intense Spider. These bikes are similar in that they are both geared towards XC riding and racing, so the comparison should provide some interesting results.
This bike is one of our demo bikes. It is a large frame, with a Fox RP23 rear shock and F29 100mm fork, SRAM X9 shifters and derailleur, an old but perfectly good set of XTR M960 cranks, a sweet looking set of Bike 29 Royale wheels (pewter hubs, black spokes, red nips on Arch rims), Easton EA 70 stem, Monkey Lite carbon bars and EC90 seatpost, and a white WTB Deva saddle. I originally had the white Juicy Ultimates on the Jet, but since it is grounded, I pulled them off to replace the Juicy 7s I had on the Spider. The bike has a lot of white on it, which I hear is the new black, so I have decided to name it “The White Shadow”.
This weekend’s weather was perfect for staying indoors next to an air conditioner, high 80s, and the air so thick you could eat it with a spoon. I’d been as sick as I’ve been in a long time all week, and I was certainly not in the mood to push it. It seemed as the most logical choice would be to head to Stowe Town Loops, which is ironic, as this is typically my new bike proving ground.
So how does it ride?
I will preface this by saying I am not really in any condition to “push” a bike to it’s limits, but I was able to get a good measure of the bike’s qualities, based on my familiarity with the terrain.
The ride starts with a gradual climb that will make you suck wind if you are out of shape, so I spun up in an easy gear. The hot muggy air didn’t help either. I did all of the sustained climbing with the ProPedal on, and was rewarded with a firm ride that moved on only the biggest obstacles. I rode a the medium Spider way back in 06, which was definitely too small for me, but I was impressed back then at the climbing prowess of this bike. Perhaps there is something in the name…?
Once the hill crests, the trail rolls down some rocky double track, before turning into rooty rocky single track through a pine stand. This is where it gets fun. It’s relatively flat, but still rolly, you can really milk your momentum. There are some large decomposing shale outcroppings to negotiate your way up, which can end up in disaster it you fall the wrong way.
Ont the right, there are hard rocks and tree roots, on the left, about a 70 tumble down a steep ravine into the Little River. Well, I did not make the first big outcropping. I had to put a foot down about halfway up. I attributed this to the back end being too firm.m I used this opportunity to turn the ProPedal off, and ran the shock wide open for the rest of the ride (with the exception of the last climb out).
That was much better. The biggest thing I noticed, is the the bike took on a slightly different personality. With the ProPedal off, the bike sank a little deeper into it’s travel. It pedalled very well in the rough stuff, bumps large and small disappeared and the bike seemed to levitate over the trail. I was expecting a fair amount of feedback from the ground, but was pleasantly surprised to find it was minimal. The VPP suspension design does a very good job of soaking it all up, and the F29 was dialed in. Not once did I feel a hard bottom out, despite how deep into the travel I was sitting.
Climbing with the ProPedal off was no problem, the back wheel stayed on the ground for the short techy climbs that are sprinkled throughout the ride. This was a relief, as I seldom have the presence of mind to flip the switch when I need to. As we climb up to the “upper” Town Loop, there are a series of bridges that take you over some very mucky ground, and the terrain becomes a little more difficult as the root and rock population increases.
It was here that I found the single thing that I found to be a negative on the bike. Pedal strike. While not a persistent problem, it is enough to get your attention, and on one instance I came right out of my right pedal at a time that was less than convenient. As I spend more time on the bike, I will likely adjust my riding style by timing my pedal strokes a little better. Like I said before, I was definitely not on my game, so some of it could have been attributed to that.
With my one gripe out of the way, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
The suspension is very plush, and handling is very predictable. It almost has a playful feel to it. While last minute course corrections are a snap, it isn’t quite as fractious as the Jet. This was appreciated, as I was on the edge of control on the fast single track descents.
The crucial piece of hardware I attribute the playful handling to, is the Chris King Tall Baseplate. It adds 5mm to the axle to crown height, thus slackening the head angle by about a degree. The Spider is renowned for it’s aggressive 74° head angle, which some find too twitchy. This baseplate and correct sag on the rear shock makes the bike very manageable.
All in all, I’d say that if you were in the market for an XC bike you can race or ride all day, this bike would certainly get the job done, and is well worth a good look.