Tested : Lewis’ 2019 Intense Tracer Expert Review.

Lewis has been hammering the Intense Tracer Expert 27.5″ for the last few months on all manner of trails to see if the Californian whip can cut the mustard.

Photos by Dave Price.

Key features:

  • 27.5″ wheels
  • 160mm front, 165mm rear travel
  • RockShox Yari RC 160mm Fork
  • RockShox Monarch RL, 216x63mm Shock
  • SRAM GX Eagle Drivetrain
  • Shimano XT brakes
  • Colours: Red or Black
  • £3,999.00 RRP
  • IntenseCycles.com

New for 2019, the Intense Tracer Expert model has been built around their Optimised Layup carbon frame and combines what they call a ‘race-ready’ frame with various components from brands such as SRAM, Shimano and DT Swiss.

2019 sees Intense sell direct to you guys, meaning the Tracer is now more affordable than ever without compromising on the quality of the product. The bike has a real pedigree feel to it, and the components are good… so I was excited to see if it could live up to a thrashing round some of the UK’s best trails.

Frame and Build Kit

The sleek and eye-catching frame in addition to the colourway makes the bike look (I think at least) absolutely brilliant. It definitely turned some heads at local trail centres.

I was pleased to find beauty wasn’t just skin deep though and really like what Intense have done with the geometry. The could never be accused of being super modern or aggressive, but the angles worked really well for me and very confidence-inspiring. It was another good example of how bikes don’t need to be super long to be fun to ride.

I was testing the size medium, with a reach of 436mm, a seat angle of 75° and a chainstay length of 432mm. This isn’t a big bike by any means but it worked well for my height. The size large comes in at 460mm reach which is pretty much on par with many similar bikes out there today.

What I really liked was the fairly slack 65.5º head angle which provides a confidence-inspiring cockpit to handle various trails and conditions. The not-too-long size makes it easy to chuck around, whilst the head angle gives plenty of plough. Good combo.

Build Kit

Intense have carefully selected components from various brands that they believe provide excellent quality without forgetting value for money. There’s a RockShox Yari RC fork up-front and a Monarch RL shock on the rear. Both will be tuned specifically to your weight and riding style before the bike is sent to you. That’s an excellent touch.

The DT Swiss M1900 wheelset is strong but light. It is combined with SRAM’s GX drivetrain for great efficiency when putting the power down or ascending some big climbs. The alloy Intense stem combined with the Renthal Fatbar Lite DH provides some comfort and flex while keeping the bike in control. No problems there.

The 4 Pot Shimano XT’S (180mm discs) had consistent stopping power and I had no problem on some of the hardest enduro and bike park trails in the UK.

Lastly, the Fox Transfer post is reliable and is a great choice when it comes to droppers. Other finishing kit includes a WTB saddle, Maxxis Minions (DHR2 WT), Cane Creek headset and some of Intense’s own bits.

Up Hills

When it comes to climbing, the Tracer makes it easy to push through the pedals with great efficiency.

An effective seat tube angle of 75 degrees allowed me to sit in a more forward position with less fatigue. Longer climbs such as to the top of the Golfie in Innerleithen were made easy with the GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain and it’s great big cassette. The slack, but not too slack, head angle also worked a treat on the steep climbs.

The RockShox components work well locked-out or in the open due to the frame’s ‘Enduro-Link’ geometry, giving less sag and plenty of grip on steeper or loose surfaces.

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The Downs

Firstly, I took it to my local bike park in Afan to set-up. Every new Intense comes with the suspension setup for your riding weight and the handlebars trimmed to your preference. This was a massive help and really felt like a good bit of added value. I could crack on with riding, knowing that 90% of the setup was already done.

On the trail, it was instantly obvious that this bike is great fun to throw  into turns and make shapes in the air.

You can tell that this bike is all about enjoyment as well as a ‘race-ready’ enduro machine. When it gets up to speed, the slack-enough head angle and supple suspension platform help the Tracer to track the ground, offering more grip and confidence to hit turns faster.

When the trails get steep and natural, the slack head angle and the stiffness of the frame gave me loads of confidence.

I felt that I could hit turns and ride steeper sections faster without feeling that the bike was going to run away from me. The mixture of the DT Swiss wheels and aluminium Renthal Bars allow for flex when riding harder and more complex trails.

The shorter top tube (compared to other medium frames) and a longer rear linkage make the bike easier to handle when the trails get steeper, I felt myself leaning the bike further into the turns, knowing that the bike was planted. The stopping power of the new Shimano 4-pot XT’s allowed me to stay in control of technical and high-paced trails.

I also went to Fort William and tackled the infamous World Cup Track. I managed 6 runs of the track with only a few dents in the rims to show. The wheels are still running tubeless without any loss of pressure.

The only product that I changed during the test was the rear Maxxis tyre for my journey up to Scotland, purely because I knew that I was going to do the World Cup track and needed a tougher tyre to reduce the chance of a puncture.

If you want the bike to become more adjustable and to get the most out of the capable frame then you might want to consider a shock upgrade. The shock worked well in most scenarios but did feel on its limit when the trails turned from Red to Black at Bike Park Wales. I noticed this particularly on longer trails or when I was battering through repeated, hard hits.

The Rock Shox Yari fork works very well for the cash and is a sensible choice. There were no reliability issues with the bike during the 6 weeks test. I did bend the hanger and bend the brake lever in a big crash, but it was my fault, I was lucky to walk away from that one I think!

What do we think?

Let’s be honest, there are direct sales bikes on the market that have similar specs for less money.

That said, the complete package offered by Intense is a really strong one.  You get suspension setup from the factory which saves you time, effort and money. You get your bars trimmed to your preference. You get a bike with really fun to ride geometry and a solid spec that’s ready to go hard.

Whilst Intense keep saying ‘race ready’ for the Tracer Expert, I think this bike is a bit more than that. It’s super fun to ride, easy to throw around and ready for anything the UK or the Alps can throw at you. I’ve really enjoyed my time on the bike and really feel like the Tracer puts the all-important element of fun back into Enduro bikes.

We love:

  • Confidence-inspiring ride
  • Solid spec
  • Dialled geometry
  • Very fun to ride

Could do better:

  • The shock finds its limits on faster, rougher trails

You can check out all the details on the Intense Tracer Expert on Intense’s website here.