Tested : Pete’s Intense Primer 29 Expert Review.

The Intense Primer is the Californian brand’s do-it-all mid-travel machine, Pete has been finding out if it can indeed do it all.

With 29″ wheels, carbon frame, 140mm JS Link suspension and some solid spec choices, can the Intense Primer 29 Expert punch above its weight?

Photos by Pete Scullion.

Key features:

  • Fox Performance Float 36 150mm fork
  • Fox Performance Float X shock
  • SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drive
  • TRP Trail EVO 4-piston brakes
  • Intense Recon dropper
  • £3,999.00 RRP
  • UK.IntenseCycles.com

The base model of a two-model range, the Primer 29 Expert still has plenty to offer on paper. You get full carbon fibre frame, SRAM NX drive train, Fox Performance 36s and a Float X, TRP Trail EVO 4-pots and a solid dollop of Intense’s own kit handling the hubs, dropper and cockpit. E.Thirteen rims are shod with Kenda Pinner tyres.

Geometry

The Intense Primer is available in Small, Medium, Large and XLarge.

The Medium tested here in the ‘High’ setting features a reach of 442mm with a seat tube of 431mm. Head tube angle is 65.7 degrees with a seat tube angle of 75. Chainstays are 440mm with the wheelbase on the Medium being 1200mm.

The ‘Low’ setting drops the reach to 435mm, drops 0.6 degrees off the head angle to 65.1 and takes a degree off the seat tube angle at 74 degrees. Wheelbase grows by all of 1mm.

Since I last checked in, I’ve only changed two things on the Primer that have changed how the bike rides wholesale. The Kenda Pinners were good enough on trails I know, where I can manage grip, but elsewhere were found to be lacking. These got swapped out for some downhill casing, soft compound Continental Argotals. I’d have preferred to use enduro casings, but that’s what I had. Lighter that other enduro offerings though, the downhill versions don’t feel like overkill.

Second to go was the basic organic pads in the TRP Trail EVOs. At low speed the pads work well enough but faded badly on longer runs, making the long throw of the levers feel worse. Some Aztec sintered pads went in (TRP 4-pots use the same pads as non-finned Shimano numbers) and the braking power went through the roof.

Intense Primer 29 Leaderboard

Staggering these two changes wasn’t the best plan, as the brakes now with the power they could really offer completely overwhelmed the Kenda tyres, hence the Continental rubber. Finally with the two things the bike had been lacking sorted, I could really go to town on the descents.

To get there though, I’d need to go uphill first. The Continental tyres did, unsurprisingly add some rolling weight to a bike shod with cheap OE tyres, and the 32t ring on the front definitely means you have to dig a litter deeper on longer climbs. I may well swap this for a smaller front ring.

On the downhills though, while I couldn’t do anything about the lever throw, the bike was ready to rock. The lively suspension I had gone with got slowed down on the rebound side a by a couple of clicks and it stayed glued to the deck until I decided it needed some airtime.

The linkage feels like you have way more than 140mm travel on tap and despite being the basic 36, the fork holds up well in the rough, even if it does feel a little firm on the low speed end of damping. Out back, the Float X handles almost all the hits well, although deeper into the travel a little bit more high speed compression would go down well.

Otherwise, the Primer has done the usual mix of big pedal missions, shuttle laps, mountain summits and everything in between without skipping a beat. Arguably my only gripe was the rear axle, which sports a handy indented lever, kept rattling itself loose, despite a healthy dollop of grease on the threads.

With the rubber and anchors sorted, I felt like I can really push hard into turns, with the back end easing into a very smooth, predictable slide when pushed really hard. Across the chatter, the bike tracks well and takes the square edge hits like a champ. Pick the right line and the Primer will reward you with more speed than you might want, but it’ll also help you deal with some questionable line choices too.

What do we think?

The Primer platform is clearly a winner, offering a lively ride that will take you pretty much anywhere. I’d love to see the Expert model come with a base spec SRAM Code or Shimano Deore 4-pot though, as it’s just a good set of brakes away from being really rather good. Failing that, Intense should just bring back the Pro model, as it’s the one I’d buy.

We love:

  • Lively, engaging ride
  • Dialled suspension
  • Go-anywhere performance

Could do better:

  • Vague brakes
  • Questionable tyres

You can check out the Intense Primer Expert on their website here.