First Ride : Pete’s 2021 Intense Primer S Review.

Pete gives his opening thoughts on the 2021 Intense Primer S, the highest spec bike in Intense’s trail bike range, sporting 29″ wheels and 140mm rear travel.

With a sold spec, sensible weight, 140mm rear and 150mm front travel, the Intense Primer S looks to be at the more capable end of the ‘trail’ bike spectrum.

Pete took the Primer S to the Highlands for a mix of different rides to see what the bike is made of.

Key features:

  • Ohlins RXF 36 M.2 Air 150mm fork
  • Ohlins TTX22M Coil shock
  • Shimano XT 12-speed drive
  • Magura MT7 Pro brakes
  • E13 LG1 Enduro Race wheelset
  • E13 Vario Inifinte dropper
  • £5,499.99 RRP

Build and Spec

A mostly unchanged Primer frame still features a monocoque carbon frame, with a carbon upper link and Ti hardware throughout. Internal cable routing is on hand for all your cables and runs silent. The downtube comes with Intense’s Flak guard frame protector.

Suspension is handled by the top tier Öhlins units, with a coil-sprung TTX22M shock and an RXF 36 M.2 air fork. I’d only run the lower spec Öhlins dampers before and found the forks wanting, but was hopeful the Primer’s suspension could do the job.

Drivetrain is Shimano’s solid, dependable XT 12-speed, running on an EThirteen TRS+ crank.

Magura’s MT7 Pro brakes provide the stopping power, with 200mm and 180mm rotors front and rear respectively. I’d not used these before but had heard good things.

The remainder of the bike was mostly made up of EThirteen components, including an 800mm carbon bar, Vario Infinite 150mm dropper, LG1 Race enduro wheels. A Cane Creek headset, SDG Radar saddle and Intense Grips rounded out the package.


Little has changed in terms of the frame with the focus being on spec and pricing for the 2021 Primer range.

On the size Medium Primer S in the ‘Lower’ setting as tested, you get a 444mm reach and 430.8mm seat tube length combo, with head angle at 65.3º with a seat tube angle at 74.3º. Wheelbase its at 1199mm with a 440mm chainstay.

The bike feels roomy in the cockpit without being massive, but the chainstays are definitely in the less playful end of the spectrum, which enhances the bikes ‘ride through anything’ feel.

Opening moves

Leatt DBX 4.0 helmet

The Primer arrived shortly before a planned week in the north west Highlands, with some serious altitude and mileage planned, I knew I’d find its strengths and weaknesses pretty soon.

Before I got wheels on dirt, I did have some trouble centering the Magura brakes, partly due to warped rotors, and with the mounts not allowing the brake to get far enough out with the bolts and washers supplied to align them properly.

After a lot of muttering under my breath, driving the pistons home, before starting again, I got them to a point where they’d spin freely enough. This is where direct sales loses some ground over a shop-bought bike. A good mechanic could have sorted this before the wheels hit the ground.

With the brakes somewhat sorted, and the 800mm bars clipped to 750mm to suit my 5′ 4″ frame, I set about a riding 30 hours, 46 miles and 9,000ft up and down in four days. Munro bagging and some big Highland circuits definitely gave me an insight into what the Intense was made of.

I was happy to see the new Öhlins dampers providing everything I asked from them in terms of traction and dealing with the hits. The ramp up chamber on the fork allowing me to easily set the amount of progression I wanted, rather than remove tokens. The coil shock out back working well with the linkage that put all of my power into forward motion, including not stalling on square-edged hits, in fact, it felt like the bike used these hits to spur me forward. This combined with the relatively low weight and fast, yet grippy Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres meant that technical climbs and any manner of descent were a joy.

The XT shifting as as crisp as you’d come to expect, and the drivetrain dealt with the Highland grit and slop well.

I swapped the grips out for some thinner offerings, but anyone with adult-sized hands would have no issues with the Intense numbers fitted as stock. My concerns about 35mm bars being too stiff did not come true with the EThirteen bars, even when clipped.

On day one, the rear brake through its toys out of the pram early on, with the lever pulling to the bar until I could get some heat into the system several hours later on a prolonged descent. Thankfully, this issue never reared its head again, but it did make me wonder why, with the Shimano drive train fitted, any one of Shimano’s excellent 4-piston brakes wasn’t chosen to provide the anchors.

That said, when they did work, lever feel was excellent and power almost limitless, with good modulation. It’s just a shame as had they worked flawlessly, the Primer S was quickly making a name for itself as far as bikes for big day missions are concerned.

With the early issues with the brakes mostly ironed out, the Primer S was a delight in pretty much all trail conditions. Easy speed was found regardless of square edges or trail chatter, and it took some amount of pushing before the Primer started to feel rattled. I was pretty happy with how a short setup on the suspension led to that amount of speed from the get-go.

I look forward to finding the sweet spot with the Primer in the very near future. Watch this space.

Check out the full Intense Primer S specs on their website here.

  1. Nice review, for an even nicer looking bike. What is your opinion on sizing of the frame? I am 5″ 10″, ride normally with 750mm bars and a 45mm stem (on a Tracer in Large, with 460mm reach). Would you say the size M would be the way to go for me to?

    1. Hey Benno, Thank you.

      I am 5′ 3″ and the Medium is roomy enough, I’d say you are probably on the border between a medium and a large but would probably go the M as the L is 15mm longer, rather than 10mm shorter than your current bike.

      Full review to come.



  2. Hi Pete,

    thanks for the reply. I think I agree with you on the frame size. Then there is the battle between 275 and 29. I would love to thy the Ohlins shock, but I am not sure if I like the 29 vs the 275 I have now.

    Looking forward to the full review!

    Kind regards,


    1. No worries Benno,

      I think the reach on the 275 might be slightly longer from memory. I was quoting reach from the 29″.

      The Ohlins rear shock is a delight. A little firm on the low speed compression end but good everywhere else.

      Full review coming soon.


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