Just a month ago we previewed the build up of our Intense 951 EVO test bike. Now with some hours on this boundary-pushing machine, it’s time to weigh in with a First Impression.
Aside from this being a very slick and purposeful looking, US-made bike, two characteristics really stand out; one, 27.5-inch wheels, and, two, the very progressive geometry.
Thought we haven’t seen 27.5 take a widespread hold on the professional circuit, all signs point to 2014 being the breakout year for 27.5. I found Red Bull’s “The Details in the Dirt: Wheel Size” video very intriguing. In the video Sam Blenkinsop says, “I feel like I can hit things a lot faster, and like, all the rock gardens felt a lot smaller.” Blenkinsop follows by saying, “It was crazy how much faster it was, over a minute of a track it was a second and a half faster.”
Though I haven’t been able to do any back-to-back testing like Blenkinsop, I certainly feel faster and more confident on 27.5 wheels. Like Blenkinsop mentions, the wheels hang up less in holes, and certainly offer more traction than their 26” counterparts. From my experience, the feel of these larger wheels is fairly subtle, just a little more of everything in terms of confidence, and no real drawbacks aside from slight increases in weight. At this point, tire and rim selection are catching up to the 27.5 market to offer racers a broad selection of options.
In the downhill realm, like the trail bike market, bikes are continuing to push longer, lower, and slacker. Stock out-of-the box, Intense delivers geometry further than nearly everything else on the market, certainly beyond any bike I’ve ridden previously. Despite the aggressive 62.5-degree headtube angle, and long 48-inch wheelsbase, I quickly acclimated to this bike. For me, it’s always easier to trend toward increased stability than it is to adjust to a steeper and quicker bike. The only time I noticed the rangy wheelbase was at slow speeds, say pedaling around the bike park where turning around 180 degrees seems akin to pulling a 180 in a long bed, crew cab pickup. Otherwise, on the trail, you’re never going slow enough for the bike to feel unwieldy.
Mike Dettmers, Director of Sales/Product Development at Intense says, “The biggest thing you notice is more momentum, you’re going faster all the time.” He also said, “At the end of the day, 27.5 has all of the advantages that you’re looking for, and really no disadvantages that we’ve seen so far.” While it’s not often I can get behind everything that’s said in a marketing video, my experience aboard the 951 EVO is exactly parallel to the thoughts of the Intense team in this video.
Overall, when it comes to going fast, I’m totally sold on 27.5-inch wheels and this highly progressive geometry package from Intense. This bike simply makes me feel like a better, more confident rider, and that’s about the best we can hope for from a bike.
Stay tuned for the complete review along with an interview with Intense Founder and President Jeff Steber in Dirt Rag #176. Subscribe now so you don’t miss out!