A while back, the mountain bike market spoke. And they said “goodbye 26ers, hello 27.5 and 29er.” Today the 26-inch-wheeled mountain bike is all but gone from biking retailers’ showrooms and websites. They’re replaced with these new configurations that offer greater rollover height, versatility and nimbleness. Like the market, we at GearGuide took the opportunity to play around with a number of bikes in the 27.5 category recently including one from a manufacturer based in Temecula California — Intense. The company’s Tracer 275 comes in aluminum and carbon variants in either a Foundation (entry level) or Factory (top end) build. Our demo was the Intense Tracer 275A (aluminum) Foundation in black.
Wheel size is not the only thing that’s changed in the world of mountain biking in the past few years. The old standby 3x transmissions moved to 2x. And now 1x offerings are considered state of the art. Suspensions too have evolved with top of the line travel pegged around 160mm. And rear-end spacing also shifted to a wider 148mm spec known around the industry as Boost.
The new for 2016 Intense Tracer 275A slides right up near the top by adopting mostly top-tier specs for even the Foundation build. We were impressed with what you get for the $2999 price tag and the overall build quality. Component selection might not reach for the skies but the 2×10 drivetrain, 160mm travel and Boost rear end are impressive nonetheless.
We also like the paint color schemes and detailing on the Tracer 275A. Our understated black frame boasted some nicely anodized red accents in the form of pivot-point bolts and headset. Frankly, we liked the red frame even more. It pops with a brightness that’s, well, intense.
Intense threads a nice little needle with the Tracer 275A Foundation build. They combine Rock Shox and X-Fusion for the suspension components. The rear shock is a Rock Shox Monarch Plus R Debonair. It features a variable rebound adjustment but no complete lockout, and it worked well in our tests. So did the X-Fusion Sweep fork. It has a full lockout. Neither of these are top of the line components, but they performed well on our demo machine.
Rear Shock: 160mm travel Rock Shox Monarch Plus R Debonair
Fork: X-Fusion Sweep RL2
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore and SLX (2×10)
Brakes: Shimano BL M506 180mm
Wheels: Sun Helix TR 27 27.5-inch
Weight: 32 lb
Same was true of the combo-burrito of Shimano drivetrain components. The Deore and SLX derailleurs, crank, shifters and cassette all worked together flawlessly in our test. Shifts proved positive, no issues there. The brakes were also good, just a bit spongy for our taste. They performed without incident however. Good stopping power all around.
Many of the other components are Intense OEM bits. These include the seatpost, handlebar, grips, headset and stem.
I must admit, having ridden last year’s Tracer, there’s one change that made a nice difference in parts bin here and that’s the wider handlebar. Last year, Intense spec’d a 740mm wide bar and unfortunately that made the cockpit feel a bit claustrophobic and fiddly. By widening by just 20mm more, the ride becomes more stable and much more confidence inspiring.
One miss on the Foundation build kit is the missing quick release on the seatpost. I expect Intense wants you to add a dropper upgrade, but shaving a few bucks here seems unnecessary.
I stand 5 foot 10 inches on a good day and the Intense Tracer 275A in medium fit me perfectly. The relatively short 50mm headset complemented the top-tube length and added to the bike’s handling. Standover height is just over 31 inches and also felt perfectly comfortable.
The fork and shock providing plenty of rebound and we liked the adjustments on both (although we would have enjoyed a more complete lockout mechanism on the rear shock). The Rock Shox Debonair can be mounted in one of two positions allowing for adjusting the rear travel from 160mm to 145mm.
The Intense Tracer 275A delivers the goods for just under $3000. The ride is top notch thanks to the high-quality frame. And the component selection keeps the Foundation build from breaking the bank. The little upgrades between the 2015 to 2016 model make a surprisingly big difference. They’re available online from retailers like Jenson USA.