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For the uninitiated, Intense Cycles was founded in 1993 to compete at the top levels of professional mountain-bike racing, and, in the 25 years since, its distinct, innovative designs and pro-level performance have earned it a sterling reputation that ranks among the best in the industry. While it may not be the biggest, most-household name in biking, those in the know recognize Intense Cycles as a mountain biker’s mountain bike, delivering peak performance without consideration of the cost. In line with this design philosophy, and as a product of it, Intense Cycles has developed the Intense Tracer, the top-of-the-line bike from a top-of-the-line bike maker.
What Is the Intense Tracer Bike?
The Intense Tracer is what happens when you take what already is one of the most performance-minded bike makers around and have them design their dream mountain bike, no matter what the cost is. The dual-suspension Intense Tracer cuts no corners, providing the best conceivable configuration in every aspect, with a price tag to match. As Intense Cycles puts it, “The Factory Build Tracer is our highest build spec. We’ve carefully selected and tested every component.” And it shows.
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The frame of the Intense Tracer is the Tracer 275 SL Monocoque UD with carbon front and rear triangles, a carbon top link, and internal cable routing. The suspension fork is a Fox 36 Factory Float with 160mm of travel, and the rear shock is a Fox Factory Float F2, which can be adjusted to two different positions. Demonstrating the extreme approach Intense Cycles took with the Intense Tracer, the bike features carbon wheels and rims to reduce weight and increase performance. Even the saddle on the Intense Tracer uses carbon rails.
The top-of-the-line specs don’t end there. The Intense Tracer drivetrain features exclusively SRAM components, coming standard with SRAM XX1 Eagle 12-speed shifters, an SRAM X01 X-Horizon Carbon Eagle 12-speed rear derailleur, and an SRAM XX1 Eagle 12-speed cassette. The brakes are Shimano XTR hydraulic disc brakes, and they measure 180-mm in front and rear for some serious stopping power.
Costing around $8,000, the Intense Tracer falls into the category of “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” With a price comparable to a decent used car, the Intense Tracer certainly is not for the casual rider or even the experienced amateur cyclist. The Intense Tracer is for the professional rider who needs to squeeze every possible edge out of his or her equipment and for whom every fraction of a second counts.
How It Compares
To give an idea of just how the Intense Tracer from Intense Cycling measures up against other mountain bikes, we’ve selected competing models from a wide variety of price ranges, beginning as low as $400 and running as high as the $8,000 Intense Tracer. We’ve done this to help our readers see the different options available at different price points, as well as to help you determine whether the features on the more expensive, performance-minded bikes offer value for the kind of rider you are, or if you are better off saving your money.
For this review, we’ve decided to compare the Intense Tracer against the following popular models from other top brands in mountain biking.
- DIAMONDBACK BICYCLES SYNC’R HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKE
- GT KARAKORAM COMP HARDTRAIL MOUNTAIN BIKE
- ORBEA LOKI H30 MOUNTAIN BIKE
INTENSE TRACER FACTORY BUILD MOUNTAIN BIKE
The Intense Tracer Factory Build mountain bike is available online for about $8,000, making it far and away the most expensive bike in our group. The Intense Tracer is the kind of bike that gets made when price is not a consideration. Consequently, by comparison, all the other bikes in our group will compromise on performance to one degree or another in order to save on cost. The Intense Tracer refuses to compromise, which is why it costs as much as a quality used car or several months’ rent.
We don’t hand out five-star scores lightly, but it’s earned in this case. The Intense Tracer performs like it costs $8,000, which means it is the kind of bike most of us can only dream about. But dream we will, as this is a phenomenal piece of bike-making that borders on artistry, both to behold and to ride.
You can’t ask for a better array of features than those found on the Intense Tracer; it is specifically designed that way. Not only are all of the components at the high end even of professional grade, but the bike designers at Intense Cycles have rigorously tested an enormous number of permutations to deliver the ultimate in performance.
DESIGN QUALITY *****
The attention to detail that went into the design of the Intense Tracer is simply mind-blowing. We think this no-holds-barred approach to bike design is best illustrated by the fact that Intense Cycles upgraded the build material to strong, light, high-performance carbon wherever possible. This is done not just on the frame and fork, but even on the wheels, rims, and saddle. No stone was left unturned in making the Intense Tracer the ultimate mountain bike.
Intense Cycles offers a three-year limited warranty on the carbon downhill frames, like that on the Intense Tracer. Other components are covered under the warranties of their respective manufacturers.
- The ultimate full-suspension mountain bike
- No-stone-left-unturned attention to detail exemplified by use of carbon even in the saddle rails
- Includes Intense Cycles brand torque wrench set and shock pump for proper maintenance
- For many of us, this is the mountain bike of our dreams (even if, due to its price, it is likely to stay that way)
- Costs as much as decent used car or several months’ rent
- Do you really need this much bike, especially with quality offerings available for literally a small fraction of the price?
DIAMONDBACK BICYCLES SYNC ‘R HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKE
Diamondback calls the Sync’r their “top of the line, do-it-all hardtail,” and we’d have a hard time arguing. This versatile, hard-tail model features high-end components and a rugged, no-nonsense attitude for about one-seventh of the price of the Intense Tracer.
The Diamondback Sync’r delivers hardcore, hard-tail performance at a budget-friendly price. Of course, for about one-seventh the price, one shouldn’t expect it to perform like the professional-grade Intense Tracer mountain bike.
The Diamondback Bicycles Sync’r features a 6061-T6 aluminum alloy frame, a Rockshox Recon RL fork with 130mm of travel, an SRAM NX X-Horizon 11-speed rear derailleur, an SRAM NX 11-speed shifter with X-Actuation Trigger, and Shimano MT500 hydraulic disk brakes and levers, delivering an impressive array of high-end components for a fair price.
Diamondback Bicycles are known for their design quality, and the Sync’r is no exception. This bike is built to last with quality components and workmanship that should have you confidently whipping along singletracks for years to come.
Diamond Bicycles provides the following warranty coverage: lifetime warranty on rigid bike frames (one-year coverage on labor costs); one-year warranty on finish and decals; one-year warranty on suspension parts; one-year warranty on Diamonback-branded accessories. Parts and components made by other companies are covered by the warranties of their respective manufacturers.
- High-quality, highly capable mountain bike at a reasonable price
- An extremely versatile mountain bike
- May suit the needs of the average rider even better than the high-price Intense Tracer
- Some amateur riders may desire more than 11 speeds for those tough climbs
- Not nearly the professional-grade performer that the Intense Tracer is
GT KARAKORAM COMP HARD-TAIL MOUNTAIN BIKE
At the low-end of our price spectrum, the hard-tail GT Karakoram will prove perfectly adequate for many users, and its price is easy on the wallet.
Available online for about $400, the KT Karakoram represents the lowest-price tier among bikes we looked at for this review. Additionally, for literally one-twentieth the price of the Intense Tracer, the Karakoram really showcases what the opposite end of the price spectrum has to offer, which is a quality, reliable bike that will be perfectly fine for most casual, occasional bike riders.
The GT Karakoram doesn’t come close to matching the high-end, professional-level performance of the Intense Tracer, but at literally one-twentieth of the price, we shouldn’t expect it to. This GT offers good-quality parts and components in a solid package for an extremely affordable price.
The GT Karakoram features an SR Suntour XCM-HLO suspension fork, a Shimano 3×9 drivetrain, Shimano BR-315 hydraulic disc brakes, 29-inch wheels, and a cross-country-style geometry that will keep you feeling comfortable and efficient over the long haul. However, as we sometimes like to say, the most important feature on this bike is its price, and what a feature it is.
DESIGN QUALITY ***.5
For a bike in this price range, the GT Karakoram offers excellent design quality, with components from reputable names like Shimano and a triple-triangle aluminum frame that is strong and light.
Karakoram provides a two-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship, but you’ll need to save your original receipt to take advantage of it.
- Solid design at a bare-bones price
- Components from high-end names like Shimano
- Disc brakes
- Cross-country geometry
- 27 speeds
- Not nearly as high a performer as the more expensive models, particularly the Intense Tracer
- Riders engaging in more than casual, occasional riding may soon find themselves desiring more in a bike
ORBEA LOKI H30 27″ MOUNTAIN BIKE
The Orbea Loki is a versatile, dependable mid-level performer at mid-range price, comparable to the Diamondback Sync’r (though in a head’s up comparison, we would give the edge to the Sync’r).
With a list price of $1,499, the Orbea Loki can now be found online for around $1,199, putting it about mid-range among the bikes in this group.
We found the performance on the Orbea Loki to be adequate for the price range, but, as we said above, we preferred the performance on the similarly priced Diamondback Sync’r to the Orbea.
The Orbea Loki features a triple-butted aluminum frame, a RockShox Recon RL fork with 130mm travel, a Shimano SLX rear derailleur and shifter, and Shimano M365 hydraulic disk brakes, about what we’d expect from a hard-tail mountain bike in this price range.
DESIGN QUALITY ***.5
With a triple-butted aluminum frame and components from high-quality names like Shimano, the Orbea Loki delivers a quality design for its price.
Orbea provides a lifetime warranty on frames and rigid forks (materials and workmanship) and a two-year warranty against paint/varnish corrosion.
- A versatile performer at a mid-range price
- Lifetime warranty on frames and rigid forks
- If forced to choose between the two, we would go with the Diamondback Sync’r for a comparable price
- Not the best option for higher performance or lower price, making the Intense Tracer and the GT more suitable options for these factors, respectively
After comparing the Intense Tracer against other mountain bikes from a variety of price ranges, we’ve decided to give this ultimate racing mountain bike an overall score of 4.5 stars, with the only drawback being that its price will put it out of reach of almost all non-professional riders. This is a shame considering the Intense Tracer’s rigorous, leave-no-stone-unturned attention to detail, its top-level design and components, and, most importantly of all, the incredible feel and control it delivers while riding.
That being said, after comparing the Intense Tracer to other bikes costing a fraction of the price, for the non-professional, recreational mountain bikers among us, it would be hard to justify shelling out $8,000 on the Intense Tracer when the Diamondback Sync’r offers a solid alternative for one-seventh the cost. That’s why, among the bikes we looked at for this review, we think that the Diamondback Sync’r achieves the best balance of performance and price.