Friday, June 6, 2014

Bike Review - Intense Spider 29 Comp

Mike and Mike put the Intense Spider 29 Comp through the paces.

Rider: Mike Pellerin
Hieght: 5’11”, Weight: 205

At Dirfest this past weekend I had the opportunity to ride the Intense Spider 29 Comp.  Intense hooked us up with a beautiful barely ridden demo model in Red and Black.  This carbon full suspension was a dream.  I had always thought that Intense bikes were a little on the heavier side but this fully built bike with up to 5” of travel felt very lean and it was a perfect fit for me (5’11 with 32” inseam).  I had wished that I had the opportunity to ride it somewhere more fitting for its ability.  This was my first time up to Lake Raystown where the IMBA trails are fast, flowy and with a lot of swoop.  There are very few rocky sections, or roots for that matter,  and I can only imagine how this bike would perform at the Shed or a place like Lodi Farm (tight and twisty with mega roots).  Regardless this bike shined in all respects.  It is fast! And I found myself going into some of the corners and whoopties with a little too much gusto.  The Fox float CTD rear shock had three settings (Descend/Trail/Climb).  For the most part I kept it on the trail section but did try the descend setting on a few of the longer descents.  Keep in mind this is Raystown and the descents are super-fast, not very technical and have “pump track” style humps.  At the descend setting i could really feel the bike compress at the bottoms of the humps and felt that it was absorbing too much energy unnecessarily.  I switched back to trail and it was perfect.  The bike floated through everything and while I know it was moving  through the suspension it didn’t give that sensation.  Even on the climbs, leaving the setting in trail was perfect.  I never felt like the bike was bobbing.  Speaking of climbing it did that very well-it didn’t feel like it took much to get it rolling and the light weight was definitely noticed. The other aspect I found surprisingly comfortable was the short stem.  I believe it was 50mm.  The shortest I ever ride is 90mm.  I thought the bike would be twitchy but it wasn’t at all. 

The only negative aspect that I saw was that there was little clearance between the tire and the chain stays.  It was a bit muddy over the weekend and I found the lower stays clogging with mud, leaves and needles.  I didn’t feel much drag from this but did get the occasional noise from the leaves.  They eventually cleared without intervention but not as quickly as a frame with more clearance.  I also found that the screws holding the cable clamps were loosening just from riding on smooth surface.  One fell out and was lost.  Not a big deal and nothing a little Loctite wouldn’t take care of.

Beautiful Bike!  If I come across some extra coin I would definitely make this an addition to the quiver.

Rider: Mike Cain
Hieght: 6’, Weight: 180

Trails ridden:
·         Maryland Watershed/Gambrill State Park.  Long ride with terrain that is rocky and technical.
·         Fountainhead Regional Park, Fairfax, VA.   Opposite of the shed – they just spend $500,000 making dedicated biking trails.  The trails are flowy, smooth, and several turns are bermed.  There are a few small, well-built bridge drops.

The bike looks awesome.  I love the built-in rubber protector at the bottom of the downtube by the bottom bracket, and the internal cable routing.

I was wondering how a long ride would be on a 125mm rear wheel travel bike.  As a downhiller in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I thought anything with more than 100mm travel would be inefficient.   The Spider didn’t feel inefficient at all.  From an efficiency standpoint, it climbs VERY similar to the Spearfish, and this is a compliment considering the Spearfish has only 80mm of rear travel.  It has an advantage over a hardtail on rocky or rooty climbs, because you can keep pedaling the whole way without the rear wheel skipping.  Although the top tube is a hair smaller than what I would have preferred, the wheelbase is 1” longer, which seems to keep the front more planted on the steep climbs.  My Spider had a very short stem (70mm?).  If I were going to do a cross country race with steep climbs, I’d put a slightly longer stem on it to keep the nose down.  But for most rides, I would keep it just the way it is.

The bike felt GREAT going downhill and turning, and pedaling through rock gardens.  I’ve read countless magazine reviews saying how certain bikes isolate pedaling forces from rear wheel action, but I feel like the VPP really has it nailed.  The dropper post helped too – once I remembered to use it, it really helped me get lower for turning and descending.  It was perfect when I came to some drops in Fountainhead - they are small enough, and have great transitions, so you don’t really have to lower the seat to drop them -but the lower seat gave me the confidence boost to hit them.

The Revelation was soft the first day, I felt like it was diving a little too much in rock gardens.  That was easily fixed with more air pressure before the 2nd ride.  However when I first added air the fork bottomed, and stayed bottomed.  When I added air again, it held.  Perhaps the shraeder valve was loose the first time?  I went on a 2 hour ride after that and it felt great.

The 1x11 gearing was great and I would consider running that permanently.  I’m a big fan of dropping to the small ring at the last second before a technical climb, but I occasionally drop a chain doing that.  The 1x11 seems more reliable.  I would happily run fewer gears with a larger ratio change between gears if that were available.  I almost always change more than a gear at a time anyway in the rolling hills where I ride.

The Intense jumps and bunny hops better than my personal ride.  If I compressed the suspension before a jump I would get a nice bounce, but it did not feel bouncy through faster rock sections.  I’m not sure if that is a difference between rebound settings, or the suspension itself, but it was noticeable.

The Ardents were great.  I had confidence on rocks and turns, so I might be switching to Ardents in the future.

Overall, the Spider is a great bike.  It truly is a one-bike-does-it all bike, because I feel like I could race cross country on it, or even throw it on the back of a chair lift.  And it is undoubtedly a perfect choice for long days pedaling through rocks with your friends.   Now I just have to explain to the wife how badly I need one! 

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