2016 has been a really fertile year for Intense, who have showcased something like 5 new models. The latest is the Tracer Carbon, Intense’s Enduro weapon, to be launched worldwide today in its new version. We’ve been riding it in advance, in order to summarize our riding impressions prior to the launch, so we’re able to provide you the following complete test. As usual, a big part of the test was carried out on the Enduro trails at Finale Outdoor Resort, thanks to B&B La Rocca di Perti Mare and Ride on Noli shuttle service.
First off we have to specify that Intense took advantage of the Cero Design’s collaboration for the design and project of the new Tracer. Cero is Cesar Rojo’s design brand, formerly the Mondraker developer and now the UNNO brand’s creator. Cesar is a dynamic Spanish engineer who has been at a high level for several years in the UCI DH World Cup and then switched to Motocross. For the new Tracer, Cesar worked on several projects and prototypes to reach a top level both in terms of performance and design, at the same time keeping in line with the running concept of the historical model of the Californian brand.
The result is a bike updated in various aspects, most of all the suspension and geometry. The top 3 builds are made of SL carbon, the highest quality carbon fiber offered by Intense, while the frame of the other two builds is of slightly lower level carbon, called NM. This ultimate carbon model is the last step in the development of the Tracer after some aluminum prototypes, which were directly manufactured, as tradition, by the iconic Jeff Steber, the founder of Intense.
Geometry is pivotal in the new Tracer and completely changed its character and performance. Cesar, creator of the Forward Geometry launched some years ago by Mondraker, left his mark on the asset and the handling position which is longer, with a higher front-center measure and a 40mm stem. This is a turning point for Intense which always made pretty short sizes in the past. The angles are now more downhill oriented and give the new Tracer a very aggressive style.
Tracer mounts the JS Tuned Suspension System which is an adaptation made by Intense of the Virtual Pivot Point patent that Intense has used since 2003. On the new Tracer though, the links are re-dimensioned, creating a new version of the platform optimized according to the target use. This adjustment is called JS Enduro and is meant to work specifically on 160-170mm travel bike. The new JS Enduro system places itself in the range of JS Tuned Suspension System between the JS Trail, a classic version specific for shorter travels, and the JS Downhill, for travels longer than 175mm.
Both links are now clearly longer than those of the previous version of the Tracer. In particular the lower link, apart from being bigger, is also positioned differently, connected to the frame a lot more forward than the old design. The dimensions and placement of the JS Enduro links determine a forward movement of the IC of the Tracer during shock compression, thus enhancing the downhill performance. Consequently the wheel path is almost vertical, which helps maintaining the speed while soaking up major hits. Furthermore, the JS Enduro system optimized the compression rate for this riding discipline, improving the downhill performance combined with high-volume shocks and still maintaining smooth pedaling performance.
Both the link and the frame intertwine perfectly in order to reach the desired configuration getting as short a chainstay as possible as noticeable in the picture below. The link moves inside the rear triangle which it is attached in a lower position with respect to the old version.
The lower link is made of an aluminum alloy while the upper one is made of carbon for the SL carbon frames and of aluminum for the NM carbon frames. All of the pivot points of the system have oversized angular contact bearings. The lower pivot point of the lower link (the one connected to the rear triangle) is equipped with a grease port since it is the most exposed to water and dirt and needs to be periodically filled with grease in order to be perfectly sealed.
The rear triangle, in contrast to the old model, is now symmetric and has a vertical strut on both sides which enhances stiffness. The triangle is also wider, with Boost 148 hub and the seatstays have a wider diameter too, with a specific shape that provides more stiffness.
The Tracer’s 165mm rear travel is controlled by a Factory Kashima FOX Float X2 with a 2 position lever to quickly close compression while pedaling. This is, as usual for high-volume shocks, not a complete lockout of the suspension but only a hydraulic adjustment which sets the low speed compression firmer. The Float X2 (new version with 250psi air chamber) is installed on 3 of the 5 builds offered by Intense, while the other 2 are equipped with a RockShox Monarch Plus.
The Factory build which we tested is equipped with a 160mm FOX 36 Float Factory FiT4 Kashima which works extremely well and is perfectly suited to the rear shock. The hub spacing is Boost 110×15 with QR lever. The top-3 builds have three different versions of the FOX 36 installed, while the other two feature RockShox, respectively a Lyrik and a Yari.
The drivetrain is a SRAM 12-speed Eagle with mixed parts: XX1 cassette, chain and trigger while the derailleur is X01. The carbon crankset is a RaceFace Next with 34-tooth spiderless chainring. The Tracer supports up to a 36-tooth chainring because the rear triangle is wide and already the 34 is close to the metal protective plate on the chain stay. It should be noted that the chainring clearance increases substantially when the suspension is sagged, under compression of the rear shock.
The Factory build is equipped with ENVE M70 wheels in HV profile version, the wider Enduro carbon rims offered by the American brand. 31mm of internal width, 30mm of height with 32 spokes on each rim, assembled on DT Swiss 240 hubs, both in Boost version.
The tires are E*Thirteen TRSr that we personally tested the prototype of a year ago. It is worth going into detail about these tires since they are a brand new product and there are some major differences with the prototype of the previous test. The tread pattern has been improved: the side knobs are taller and the central ones are scaled towards the sides to improve the transition and avoid some minor losses of grip in corners. These characteristics I experienced during the test have been eliminated. The braking performances has been improved with good results by spacing the central knobs, but this change affected the rolling resistance a bit. On this aspect the softer compound played a big role, the former 50a/42a is now a more downhill oriented 42a/40a. The casing was already solid but it has been further reinforced and now it is almost comparable to a double casing. It is an actual 2.35” wide and meant to offer the best possible profile with 24mm to 31mm rims. Both the rims and tires are Tubeless Ready and Intense uses this configuration on the factory build.
The whole cockpit is by Renthal: Fatbar Carbon handlebar 780mm wide with 20mm of rise, clamped to a 40mm Apex stem. Since the headtube is quite tall, after a couple of rides we chose to remove all the provided spacers (two 1cm ones and one .5cm) from below the stem.
The braking system is a Shimano XTR equipped with 180mm Ice Tech rotors and pads. Both the frame and the fork have a post mount 180 caliper, so no adaptors are needed since the calipers are fixed directly on the frame and the fork. As noticeable in the picture, the rear hub doesn’t have a Quick Release lever. This is a proprietary threaded axle with inner expander which, according to the tests carried out by Intense, increases the overall stiffness.
A Tracer branded, sturdy and well-finished rubber protection placed on the chain stay and a metal plate, already described above, protect the rear triangle. In its inner side, the seat stay is well protected, although a slightly longer cover could shield the paint a bit better. The protection on the lower section of the down tube is wide and really well crafted; it effectively protects the bottom bracket shell and it is one of the best-made solutions of this kind we’ve seen on the market. The entrance hole for the internal cable routing is minimal yet useful and precise. The seatpost clamp is designed to fit the frame shape and it holds a 150mm RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost.
Below is a detail of the frame in which the internal cable routing system is shown. Two Nylon sleeves prevent any noises due to cable movement inside the frame and at the same time makes maintenance a lot easier.
Riding the Tracer, you feel confident from the very first moment thanks to the geometry developed by Intense and Cero Design. The rider’s position is central and provides total control thanks to the long reach and short stem. The Medium size we tested fit our 5’9” tester perfect, satisfying his preference for long bikes. Although this is an aggressive Enduro bike, the riding position is comfortable also for long climbs. On smooth climbs in fact the Tracer is easy to pedal even with the choice in tires of the tested Factory build, more oriented to downhill than to climbing, due to their rolling resistance and their soft compound.
The suspension system is rather stable even in open position, the Float X2 lever which closes the compression, provides additional stability, perfectly adjusted to let the shock absorb bumps in the more offbeat climbs and gain more traction. In this way you can also face short, steep and technical punches, where the handling is sufficiently good. Long and technical climbs of course are not what this bike is intended for; like all modern Enduro bikes made for giving it their best in downhill, the climbs are just the unavoidable tiring part in between each descent. The 34t is the best choice for the chainring: combined with the 10-50 cassette it works perfectly and offers a complete range of gear ratios which is suitable both for climbing and downhill.
As soon as the front wheel points down, the new Tracer model goes into its element and we really feel all of the improvements that have been made. Geometry and the riding position, as already said above regarding the climbing attributes, convey even more assurance and control to the rider, instilling confidence in every riding situation.
The handling is so precise that it becomes easy and natural to choose the trajectory through the turns. On corners, the bike is almost as stable as a Downhill model, leaving you a lot of margin to possibly adjust any imprecision.
The new JS Enduro system compression rate is well calibrated and optimized for this purpose. It’s easy to create kinematics that absorb big hits, but it’s way harder to manage the right progressivity and build a system which also provides a reactive and responsive suspension to suit the aggressive riding style required by modern Enduro. This is a golden feature of the new Tracer, one which is rare to find on modern aggressive Enduro bikes.
Excellent geometry together with high performance suspension is fully exploited on fast, technical and harsh sections. Not only the rear shock, but also the FOX 36 fork works really well. The Tracer doesn’t lose the line even on the most bumpy trails. It is stable, precise and it doesn’t even tire rider’s arms and legs, allowing for partial recovery of the energy lost during the climb. Also the wheels play an important role in conveying this stable, accurate and comfortable feeling: the HV version of the ENVE M70 wheels is as stiff as the standard model but less tiring, thanks to their lower profile with the E*13’s solid reinforced casing and their soft compound providing further absorbing capacity and extreme grip.
Maybe it’s not the fastest in the Enduro segment on quick changes of direction, but it works well. It’s still agile and easy to handle, plus the precision and stability we mentioned several times in this article are once again appreciated in quick slappy corners, because they allow you to safely pick fast lines; even when the rider is not extremely accurate. The result is a fun and dynamic ride that always leaves a big grin on your face at the end of the trail.
Balanced and aggressive but not extreme geometry, an efficient suspension system with a well calibrated compression rate, well finished and high-quality spec. The new Intense Tracer an Enduro bike which has all the suitable features in order to ride fast and have fun: it’s easy to handle and never too demanding.
Prices and specs
Tracer SL Factory – $10.399 – Weight, measured in Medium size: 12,9kg
Tracer SL Elite – $7.999
Tracer SL Pro – $6.999
Tracer NM Expert – $5.499
Tracer NM Foundation – $4.499
Tracer SL frame – $3.399