Photos by Brice Shirbach.
Intense has carved its niche as a high-end manufacturer of some of the most desirable frames in the mountain bike business. At one time it was an operation that only served up American-made aluminum frames and select parts kits. Recently it set the industry on fire with the $10,000 carbon Tracer 275C with a top-shelf Factory build kit. I had the opportunity to put extensive miles on the T275C Factory early last year and called it one of the best-performing do-it-all trail bikes ever. Obviously the parts package and 26.4-pound weight played a nice role, but the fact remains that the Tracer platform—with 27.5-inch wheels, 160 mm travel VPP suspension and a 66.5-degree head angle—was pure joy to ride anywhere and everywhere. So what if I told you Intense has introduced the same frame design in aluminum with a parts group that allows the company to offer it at a retail price that’s well over two thirds less than the cost of the T275C?
Meet the Tracer 275 Alloy Foundation, a $2,999 version that delivers maximum performance as well as being made entirely in the brand’s Temecula, California, factory. Not only is the frame manufactured completely in the USA, but it’s also painted Day-Glo orange near the Intense factory. Intense even gets its bike boxes sourced from a neighboring business.
Last year when Intense introduced the carbon Tracer it slackened the head angle by a degree and added 10 mm of travel at max setting compared to the existing aluminum frames. This year all the metal bikes have followed suit and have upgraded to the exact same proven geometry and adjustable-travel range (140 mm to 160 mm via a bolt on the link) as their carbon siblings. It’s a small but noticeable performance difference. The head angle was changed because designers found that with the carbon bike the angle made it more stable on steep sections without giving up any slower speed performance in tighter, twistier sections. When riding the bike on the East Coast, which often transitions from short, steep drop-ins to flatter, rougher sections with serpentine turns and slower speeds, I found the Tracer Foundation had no limitations or objections. Adding to this, of course, is the snappy feel of the 27.5-inch wheels.
The ultra-long 47.2-inch wheelbase provides predictable stability without feeling like it hampers performance in switchbacks or when a degree of body English is needed to change direction. This bit of agility is helped in part by the 17-inch chainstays. For comparison, the Tracer’s wheelbase is in the realm of what full-on downhill bikes were using not that many years ago, but somehow the bike’s geometry pulls it all together so it doesn’t feel as long as it measures.
Intense’s VPP suspension, controlled by an X Fusion O2 RL Air shock and matched to an X Fusion Sweep RL2 160 mm travel fork, gets the job done in fine fashion. Both the front and rear felt tender off the top with nice progression through the middle, and both also felt very balanced, especially in rougher, stutter-bump sections. Given the price point, it’s hard to complain about the shock’s on or off lockout compared to multiple settings so readily available, but I will say Intense’s version of VPP begs for a middle-platform setting. The lockout available on both the front and rear was just that: fully locked and most useful on only the smoothest of climbs.
Kudos to Intense for spec’ing the frame with a full Shimano SLX ￼￼￼ drivetrain (10-speed cassette and 38/24 chainrings) and Shimano M506 disc brakes. As a group, everything worked in perfect harmony, no doubt adding to the bike’s overall trail confidence—especially the brakes. Shimano’s lower-end stoppers continue to be quality performers. To reach the price point, some parts corners have to be cut; in this case, the Intense-branded wheels and accessories do their job but are nothing to write home about. Also, expect to pay a few hundred dollars to add a dropper post—seemingly a must for a bike this style. The seat tube is ported for an internally routed post, with no frame tabs for external routing. Intense has three aluminum complete-bike options that also include the $5,999 Pro and $5,650 Expert, both with Kindshock LEV Integra dropper posts, for comparison.
At a weight of 30.3 pounds for the Foundation build, this is very competitive for any aluminum bike at this travel, and it’s excellent for the price. Any last niggles? The 2.25-inch-wide wire bead Maxxis Ardent tires seemed too narrow for the Tracer. Upgrading to a wider tire will improve the bike’s downhill and technical gravitas. Going with a lighter folding bead should also cut a bit of that already respectable weight where it matters most.
This Tracer 275 Alloy Foundation was a blast to ride. It’s certainly capable of being a fun daily driver for a rider who puts downhill speed above everything, and it’s also a good option for park riders and shuttle hounds who may find themselves doing a bit of all-mountain exploring. The Tracer’s well-documented and proven VPP suspension and parts performance make it one of the best available at its price point and also very competitive with many bikes costing twice as much.
- Price: $2,999
- Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL
- Wheelbase: 47.2 inches
- Top Tube: 23 inches
- Head tube angle: 66.5 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 71 degrees
- Bottom Bracket height: 13.5 inches
- Rear center: 17 inches
- Weight: 30.3 pounds
- Specs based on size tested