Intense Tracer S
Words by Matt Beer; photography by Dave Trumpore
Boasting 170mm of front and rear travel, along with all of the hot trends like downtube frame storage, an integrated fender, and a low-positioned coil sprung shock that articulates via a dual-link suspension system, the Tracer had a lot of hype around it while loyal Intense fans awaited its arrival to market.
• Travel: 170 mm rear / 170 mm fork
• Carbon frame
• Wheel size: Mixed
• 64.0º – 64.5º head angle
• 77.4º-77.9º seat tube angle
• 437mm chainstays
• Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
• Weight: 16.2 kg / 35.7 lb
• Price: $7,199 USD as tested
Glancing over the bike, there are a ton of reasons why the Tracer stands out from the crowd. First, is the flashy red paint that has been Intense’s signature color for decades. The frame is only compatible with a 27.5 rear wheel and offers just one adjustment at the lower shock mount to alter the progression and geometry by half of a degree. Those angles weren’t the most extreme with the head tube angle tipping to 64 degrees in the slackest setting, leaving the seat tube angle at a very acceptable 77.4-degrees.
Diving deeper into the frame details, a closer look reveals that the upper link is carbon and that there is some titanium pivot hardware on display too. Cable routing is managed by way of fully-guided internal tubes and below the shock is the Chad storage compartment. To access the cargo space, you’ll need to flip the bike upside down, which is how most people change a flat tire anyways, and inside you’ll find a neoprene bag to keep all of your tools from rattling around.
Another talking point is the parts package – it’s not your typical RockShox/SRAM or Fox/Shimano grouping. Instead, you’ll find an Öhlins 38 RXF fork and TTX22M coil shock, Magura MT7 brakes, E-thirteen wheels, dropper post, and a Renthal cockpit on the premium build kit that we tested, which retails online-only for $7,199 USD. Even though there’s a more affordable carbon model, the aluminum frames were only built for the purposes of prototyping.
Further inspection reveals the mixed part selection continues. I would have expected to find a 34-tooth chainring paired with the 27.5″ rear wheel, but there is tiny 30-tooth ring, which is actually steel. That’s bolted to SRAM X1 alloy cranks which are matched to a 10-52-tooth GX cassette and a X01 Eagle derailleur. That all makes for ultra low-range gearing. Intense takes care of the grips, and saddle with their own logo or seal of approval on those components.
Visually, aside from the paint, it didn’t look like much had changed from our First Ride on the prototype, but what did the trails around Bellingham tell us about the Tracer in comparison to the other bikes?
So a full carbon bike must be light, right? Well, not exactly. The Tracer S weighs in at 16.2 kg / 35.7 lb and, without a climb switch you might expect the 170mm of rear wheel travel to be a burden too, but you’d be wrong again. We all agreed that the JS tuned suspension and seated position made this Intense one of the best climbers in our test. The coil shock actually stays high in the travel and remains active on small bumps, which makes the bike an effective climber, even without the cheater switch. You can firm up the suspension on the fly relatively easily with the three-position high-speed compression adjuster, mind you, that’s not going to have much effect on where the bike sits in the travel at lower speeds.
To reach way down to that shock basement area of the frame, you’ll need to move the saddle out of the way. The saddle does move well out of the way, given the 440mm seat tube, and the standover height is ample, but my issue was with accessing the controls. Combining the mounting of the brake and dropper/shift levers to one clamp per side is great in theory, but the stock clamps didn’t allow me to angle the controls in a usable position. Since I prefer my brake levers perched in a flatter orientation, this pushed the dropper and shift levers farther under the handlebar and made them tough to reach. That didn’t make or break the bike, since mounting separate band clamps is still possible, but it was something that bugged all of us.
Pointing the Tracer up the trail, it was clear that this 170mm bike wasn’t as much of a handful as some of the other similarly equipped rigs on test. Both the front and rear wheels appeared slightly further underneath you compared to those of the praying mantis, the Commencal Meta SX, which is stretched nearly another 30mm between the axles. For the Tracer, that made tight switchbacks easier to coax the front wheel around and correct direction changes faster, should you stumble or get off line.
Although the Tracer doesn’t shy away from technical climbing, the smaller diameter rear wheel undoubtedly hangs up easier than a 29er. However, that sacrifice can be highly rewarding on the descents, especially for shorter riders, and we’ve seen a substantial number of EWS racers revert to the smaller rear wheel for its sportiness.
My very first laps on the Tracer were on some hectic trails that were steep, wet, rooty, and unfamiliar. Between those conditions and the familiarity of the Ohlins suspension and Magura brakes, I quickly felt confident in those demanding conditions. The rear shock promoted a more square, upright feel to the bike. A slacker head angle would have let me open up the limits further, however, the suspension worked brilliantly on all of the slippery, sniper roots.
It wasn’t until later in testing that we arrived at a much different zone where the Tracer showed a different face. The ground was now hard-packed with plenty of flat berms that want to stand you up as you hit the apex.
The higher-paced trails were also riddled with braking bumps and square edge compressions. Those really threw me for a loop when I tried to settle the bike into those awkward turns. It seemingly lurched front to back – like it couldn’t decide if it was going to push or pull you through the turn.
I experimented with altering the sag and low-speed compression at both ends to try and settle the bike down, but that had an overbearing effect on the harshness, rather than controlling the weight shifts that were giving me grief. That problem was compounded on high-speed hits because I only felt like I was using 75% of the travel and I can’t recall ever reaching the end of the travel. I just wanted the rear end of the Tracer to sit deeper and calm down.
So, the Tracer 279 isn’t the longest, slackest, most stable bike out there, however, it is still a burly bike that rides more on its toes than expected. That could make it an enduro bike that appeals to riders who want a reactive ride without getting bogged down by overly aggressive geometry or tons of sag. Lighter tires and components could drop the weight further and turn the Tracer into a long-travel, multi-purpose bike – one that won’t shy away from snapping through turns quickly or soaking up big freeride hits.
#Field #Test #Intense #Tracer #Energy #Speed #Pinkbike