We sling a leg over In­tense’s M29 Elite 29er down­hill bike, Or­ange’s Stage 6 Fac­tory en­duro ma­chine and Board­man’s MTR 8.9 bud­get-friendly full-susser

£5,499.99 World Cup-proven 29er race weapon

Mountain Biking UK - - CONTENTS -

When 29in wheels be­gan ap­pear­ing on the down­hill scene, they were met with no small amount of scep­ti­cism. But one man who be­lieved in their po­ten­tial from the start was Je Ste­ber. The In­tense Cy­cles boss­man built his first pro­to­type DH 29er (the 2951) way back in 2009, but it’s taken nine years for an evo­lu­tion of that bike to make it into pro­duc­tion, in the form of the new M29.

The frame Sev­eral it­er­a­tions of al­loy pro­to­type have been raced and tested at World Cup level to get to the pro­duc­tion bike we see here. Moulded in full car­bon, it’s one slick bit of kit, with smooth, flow­ing lines that ac­com­mo­date the big wheels while main­tain­ing a low stan­dover height. Ste­ber en­listed the help of Ce­sar Rojo (UNNO, Mon­draker Sum­mum) to help dial in the kine­mat­ics of the twin-link sus­pen­sion sys­tem. The rear shock is housed neatly in the belly of the bike and the up­per link blends seam­lessly into the seat tube.

In terms of siz­ing, the M29 isn’t vast, with a reach of 450mm on the large size we tested. But, paired with lengthy 456mm chain­stays and 29in wheels, this felt about right for our 6ft main tester. On 29er DH bikes, the com­bi­na­tion of big wheels and long­travel fork means stack height can be an is­sue. By us­ing a short 90mm head tube, In­tense have kept this down to 610mm on the large M29. You can al­ways add spac­ers or fit a higher bar to suit your pref­er­ences.

The kit In­tense have opted for a mix­ture of coil and air sus­pen­sion – Rock­Shox’s new BoXXer World Cup fork with ‘DebonAir’ spring and a Deluxe RC coil at the rear. We were se­ri­ously im­pressed by the sup­ple­ness of both of these units, par­tic­u­larly the new BoXXer, which rep­re­sents a se­ri­ous step up in per­for­mance from the old model. The rear shock isn’t highly tun­able, with sin­gle com­pres­sion and re­bound damp­ing di­als, but that does mean it’s sim­ple to set up, al­though its buried po­si­tion makes it fid­dly to change the re­bound on the fly.

The M29 Elite isn’t dripping in the car­bon kit we’re used to see­ing on In­tense bikes, but the equip­ment all per­forms very well. We haven’t yet sub­jected the bike to the rigours of the Alps, but have ham­mered it

down some pretty burly South Wales tracks, and we’ve no com­plaints about the tough­ness of the DT Swiss wheels or the power of the four-pis­ton Shi­mano XT brakes. The SRAM/Tru­va­tiv/e*thir­teen driv­e­train combo is a tried-and-tested favourite, while the Maxxis Min­ion tyres pro­vide pre­dictable all-round grip.

The ride With pro­duc­tion 29er down­hill bikes be­ing a rel­a­tively new phe­nom­e­non, we don’t have a breadth of sim­i­lar ma­chines to draw com­par­isons with, and hav­ing only had lim­ited time aboard the M29, we’ll re­frain from jump­ing to too many con­clu­sions. But this bike feels ex­cep­tion­ally good where you’d ex­pect it to be – on fast, rough ter­rain, where the twin-link rear end and coil shock swal­low up ev­ery­thing in your path and trans­mit lit­tle feed­back through the ped­als. This does mean that on smoother, more ‘bike park’ style tracks, it can feel like your e orts to pump and pop are be­ing soaked up.

In cor­ners where you can set up wide and lean in early, the geom­e­try, wheel size and sus­pen­sion all come to­gether to make it feel like there’s end­less amounts of grip. The flip­side to this is that when the trail steep­ens and tight­ens and you’re forced to ride more re­ac­tively, it’s easy to push the front wheel wide and un­der­steer. This was no doubt not helped by our hard sus­pen­sion set-up though. The large M29 comes with a 500lb coil spring, which we found too firm for our weight. With­out time to ex­per­i­ment with spring rates, we had to com­pen­sate by run­ning the fork harder and the han­dle­bar higher than we would usu­ally.

A mi­nor is­sue like this isn’t enough to hide the ob­vi­ous po­ten­tial that this bike has to be rid­den very, very quickly though. It’s def­i­nitely built for big, fast World Cup cour­ses, not tight, awk­ward UK tracks, but there’s a good rea­son why the In­tense Fac­tory Rac­ing team – Jack Moir, Dean Lu­cas and Char­lie Har­ri­son – have made it onto the podium so of­ten in the last cou­ple of sea­sons, be­yond the ta­lent of the riders. ED THOM­SETT www.sad­dle­back.co.uk

The down­hill MTB equiv­a­lent of a Fer­rari, both in looks and ride

With its big wheels and 200mm of plush travel, the M29 is happy tak­ing on the rough­est of tracks

In­tense stick with their proven twin-link sus­pen­sion de­sign, tuned with help from Ce­sar Rojo

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