Yep, that’s better: While the larger wheels would kill the handling of a normal bike, the Carbine is ripe for the change. We were skeptical when we heard about it, but were impressed with the changes the new hoops make.
Intense takes a lot of pride in being an American
company. Their production has always been in-house—from the design to the machining, welding
and finishing; everything has been under one roof. The
mad scientists at Intense have always put building race-
inspired dream bikes first, and in today’s world, that
probably means carbon. When they decided to go carbon,
they brought in carbon experts from the German company
SEEDS. While the carbon process does not happen at
Intense’s facility in Temecula, California, this is still very much an American bike.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Carbine is a lightweight trailbike, so it’s built for
the one-bike rider. It will do anything well—from epic-length cross-country and all-mountain rides to technical
descents and chutes. This bike has tons of versatility.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
We reviewed the Carbine 26 in our May 2012 issue.
While we were impressed with the potential of Intense’s
first venture into the carbon world, there was room for
improvement. The Carbine 26 had geometry traits that
were unbecoming of a 6-inch-travel bike. The bottom bracket was very low and the head angle was relatively steep.
Made in the USA: The dropouts are custom machined in the factory in Temecula, California. They place the wheel slightly higher and back to accommodate the larger wheel size.
Most bikes would simply not work with a bolt-on 27-inch upgrade package. However, given the handling characteristics of the previous-generation Carbine, we felt the bigger hoops were just the cure the bike needed.
The Carbine features full-carbon construction, except for a few bits. The custom G1 dropouts, rocker and mounting hardware are CNC-machined from aluminum at the factory in Temecula. The VPP Generation 2 suspension rides on cartridge bearings and features a BB92 bottom bracket, 12x142-millimeter rear axle and an internal bearing, tapered head tube.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Fox is finally on board with the 27.5-inch trend. This wheel size is not going away, especially when it comes to 5- and 6-inch-travel trailbikes. The 34 CTD fork that the Carbine comes equipped with feels like a perfect fit.
Versatility first: The 27.5-inch version of the Carbine proves that the larger wheel size will be a perfect fit for many trail riders.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: When we tested the Carbine 26, we compared it to our perennial favorite, the Tracer 2. We noted that the Carbine sported a lower front end, steeper angles and a lower bottom bracket. While those changes made the Carbine sportier, they also detracted from its descending prowess. With the 27-inch wheels, the geometry much more closely resembles our Tracer, with a slightly higher bottom bracket and slacker, more stable geometry. We're all about that.
Pedaling: The Carbine pedals well, just like a multiipivot suspension bike should. While the VPP suspension
design does not exhibit the anti-squat characteristics of
other bikes, the ProPedal lever offers adequate control to
keep the back end from bobbing. When you’re climbing,
sprinting or putting down a hard effort, plan to use the
ProPedal. The Carbine would also be a great candidate
for Fox’s CTD system, which offers a wider damping
range and firmer pedaling platform.
Climbing: The lightweight nature of the Carbine
allows it to scamper up climbs quickly and easily. With
the VPP Generation 2 suspension active when climbing,
the 6 inches of travel allow the rider to blast into and up
steep technical sections. The best technique is to use the ProPedal lever to keep the suspension firm on long,
seated climbs and hammer through the short and rough
sections with the suspension open. The Carbine will do
Cornering: The taller front end of the Carbine 275
gives it a bit more stability than its 26-inch counterpart.
The bottom bracket height and head angle were a bit too
low and steep on the previous version, which makes us
sure that this bike is the perfect candidate for a larger
wheel. If the geometry were slacker or taller from the
start, the larger wheels would be too big of a change to
accommodate without serious handling problems.
Descending: The larger wheels of the Carbine 275
allow it to “plow through” more than “pick lines
carefully” compared to the 26er version. This bike has serious descending chops, whether it’s rough-and-
tumble baby heads, high-speed corners or tight
switchbacks. The larger wheels blend the best of
26- and 29-inch-wheel formats without giving up much. While naysayers will want the ultimate in maneuverability or efficiency, the 27-inch wheels
will make just about every trail rider happy.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
While the 27-inch wheels add versatility, traction
control and several geometry benefits to the Carbine,
they also add weight. Physics dictates that any
27-inch wheel will be heavier than its 26-inch
counterpart, but these wheels felt noticeably more so.
The Carbine 275 would be better served if the
Nevegal 2.35-inch tires were swapped for something
lighter and snappier. Thankfully, that’s a small
upgrade to make.
The externally routed cables make for a no-fuss,
easy-to-use cable system, but the flat black paint job
mars easily from cable rub. Be sure to add a few
stick-on cable rub protectors before your first ride.
The Carbine is a great all-around trailbike that
truly benefits from the larger wheels. After our test
of the Carbine 26, we were lukewarm about the low
and steep cross-country nature of the 6-inch-travel
trailbike. The taller front end and increase in bottom
bracket would kill the handling of most bikes.
However, on the Carbine, the larger wheels improve
the geometry dramatically. Add Intense’s finely tuned
VPP Generation 2 suspension and a smart build kit
and you’ve got a trailbike that’s welcome in the
wrecking crews’ long-term test fleet any time.