Intense Sniper XC Expert
Spandex or baggies? Yes.
Spandex or baggies? Yes.
Although I usually see more Intense head badges being loaded onto a gondola rather than pedalled to the top of a mountain, I was excited to find out what a cross country race machine was going to feel like from the brand. When I heard the 100-mm travel Intense Sniper was coming in for test, I reached for the spandex kit and tore off my helmet visor.
The gear selection may have been a little premature, however. The geometry spec had me a little confused. With a 67.5 degree head-tube angle and 468-mm reach on my sizelarge test bike, I had the spandex in one hand and the baggies in the other. The bike has foam grips, so definitely spandex for me. It also has a dropper post, so that had me looking back at the baggies. But the post only drops 125 mm.
Whether you prefer tight-fitting shorts or loose ones, the Sniper doesn’t judge. It will help you climb like an XC racer and descend like a seasoned downhill pro. The Sniper I tested was the XC Expert version sporting 100 mm of travel front and rear thanks to the Fox Float 32 Performance Elite fork and Float dps Performance Elite rear shock. The pedalling efficiency of the frame is very good. I experienced very little pedal bob and felt that most of my energy was being transferred into the rear wheel. The Sniper was also very good and soaking up bumps on steep climbs while still maintaining traction. The bike really inspires you to push hard on climbs thanks to its efficiency and 73 degree seat-tube angle. I did find the geometry a little slack for tackling very steep switchback climbs and some slower-speed technical climbs, where I needed a little more momentum to keep the bike on its line. Riding the Sniper downhill, I’d forget I only had 100 mm of travel. The geometry is closer to a trail bike than a traditional XC race machine and you can really tell on descents. The Sniper is truly the downhiller’s XC bike because the only limiting factor in how fast you can descend is the amount of travel. I found myself pushing a bit too hard on a few occasions and having to dial back the speed to ensure I didn’t need to make any trips to the wheeltruing stand.
After a few rides on the Sniper, I still wasn’t sure which shorts I should be wearing. I’m OK with that. The bike can have two identities. You could take the Sniper to your local XC race where it won’t hinder your performance at all. Or, put some aggressive trail tires on it and tackle a technical downhill. Although it may not be the weapon of choice for purists of a particular mountain bike discipline because of its XC build and trail geometry, it is certainly a bike for riders who like to pedal fast and attack trails with the precision only a Sniper can achieve.
“Riding the Sniper downhill, I’d forget I only had 100 mm of travel.”