2020 Intense Primer First Ride Review

A tale of three Primers

News

Three wheel sizes will be available on the Primer.

Trail bikes are the most important part of the mountain bike category so Intense overhauled their line to simplify and innovate their trail bike options. What they came up with was to do away with the old (Recluse, ACV, Spider) models and just have one 140mm rear travel bike called the Primer. And to offer something flexible and revolutionary, they will have three wheel size flavors, a 27.5, 29er and mullet or staggered wheel with 27.5 rear and 29er front.

And it’s not just a matter of slapping different wheels on the same bike. Rather these are three unique bikes, sporting different builds, all sharing the same 140mm rear and 150mm front travel.

Intense engineer Chappy Fiene demonstrates the ‘sendy’ characteristics of the Primer 275.

Intense Primer Highlights 

  • New, simplified trail bike line-up
  • 29er, 27.5 and Mullet/279 wheel options with three different Primers
  • 140mm rear, 150mm front
  • Adjustable geometry
  • Size-specific dropper lengths
  • Best in class builds with Fox suspension and Shimano brakes and SRAM drivetrains
  • Price: $6,999 Elite build, $5699 Pro build and $3799 Expert build

It is a 140mm rear and 150mm Trail bike so it is on the higher end of the trail bike spectrum, much like the YT Jeffsy 29 and 2020 Santa Cruz Hightower. The Pivot Switchblade 29er has 135mm rear and 160mm front.

And as the Primer changes wheel sizes, the travel stays the same.

Three wheel size flavors of the Primer

The Tale of Three Primers 

The most interesting quality of the Primer is it comes in three wheel sizes, 27.5, 29er and the intriguing 27.5/29er mullet combo. And each bike has different, tire combinations, shock tunes, and fork offsets. So much care was taken to ensure that each bike is taking advantage of the unique qualities of each tire combination. The Primer 275 has its own unique frame while the Primer 29 and Primer S share the same frame

Here they are in the same setting.

Intense Primer S sports ‘mullet’ style wheels with 27.5 rear and 29er front

Something quite notable is the difference in tires. The 29er and 27.5 have Maxxis Aggressor 2.3 rear and Maxxis DHR front in 2.5. The Primer S with Staggered wheel size sports a Minion DHR 2.6 upfront and a Maxxis Rekon 2.8 rear.

The Intense Primer 275 is the most playful one of the group with 27.5 wheels front and rear.

Geometry is slightly different for all the bikes but they all share the same 140mm/150mm travel.

The Intense Primer 29 is the fastest up (and perhaps down) the hills with 29er wheels front and rear.

How does it ride? 

And here comes the most interesting part, the test rides. Intense left us with three bikes, one of each wheel size and we’ve had 3-4 rides on them. We’ll discuss the 29er first since we’ve had the most time on it and talk about the differences on the other Primer Platforms.

How does it climb? The 29er weighs in at 30.2 lbs with 300 gram flat pedals and it pedals like a lighter bike. It feels lighter than 30 lbs perhaps because of the well-supported mid-stroke pedaling platform. Also, the Maxxis Aggressors are a fine choice for this bike as they provide the best balance of rear-wheel traction and climbing prowess. Climbing, it feels efficient with a lively character similar to a 120/130mm travel bike.

Traversing with the Primer 275

Descending, it was interactive. It’s not a pillow that mutes trail chunder and bad landings. Rather, it’s communicative, transmitting traction and trail nuances. It wasn’t plush initially so we softened the suspension and sped it up so we could get about 90% of the travel to put us in our happy place.

And now for the best part of the bike, it is playful and communicative. On singletrack that normally feels like a chore on a big travel bike, this Primer 29 was a delight. It pedaled with enthusiasm and every bump, pump, and berm felt like a playground feature. It invites the rider to play and work. The bike is responsive with well-supported suspension and it’s easy to corner, pump and launch at any opportunity. Land a little hard and all that travel comes in to play to support the rider.

We love the Fox DPX2 on Trail Bikes.

We then had a revelation that a bike such as this can make mundane singletrack fun. The bike and rider can create lines and features by pushing into the small bumps and launch off with enthusiasm. It rode very similarly to the Ibis Ripley with its playful nature. But this one didn’t run out of talent when the going got rough.

We rode and swapped bikes every lap.

How are they different from each other? 

With three different bikes, we gathered three different riders did about then eight shuttle laps. Each time, we changed bikes to understand how these bikes are the same and different. What ensued was one of the best three-hour rides ever.

The 29er was definitely the roller. It kept its speed up and down. It exhibited great traction and was playful. Seemed like the perfect bike.

Poppy, sendy bikes are fun even on little jumps.

But then, switched over to the 27.5 and was quickly educated on what a playful bike was really like. In the right hands, this is a sendy, ballistic weapon on playful singletrack. But even in our mortal hands, this bike encouraged to play and change in direction. It seemed to invite a new perspective on our familiar trail.

Finally got on the Primer S with the staggered, mullet wheel size. Would it be the best of both worlds or the best? Well, we could definitely see the vision. The front plowed over stuff and the rear was easy to flick around and change direction. In the loamy, Santa Cruz forest, this bike was not ideal as it wasn’t rocky nor tight enough. And the 2.8 Maxxis Rekons simply didn’t have enough grip for the late summer conditions. But give it an aggressive rear tire, perhaps a 2.6 and we can see this making a lot of sense. Rocky, rough, loose and tight trails like Tahoe, Downieville, perhaps Sedona could be its domain.

The best brakes around

If one had to summarize these three, we’d say they’re siblings that are definitely related but have their own character. The 29er is the fastest, the 275 is the most playful and the 279 Primer S is the rowdiest. They have the same cockpits, contact points, and travel but each has its own personality.

Components, weight and cost? 

Another fascinating aspect of this bike is the bike spec. Often one purchases a top-spec bike from another brand only to replace some of the key components. This one is as close to done as we’ve ever seen.

First off, it has Eagle 12-speed, the defacto standard drivetrain for the last few years. It is then mated with the incredible Shimano XT brakes. The 4-piston front and 2-piston rear reveal the insight that the Intense designers had, helping the rider with power and modulation.

Each bike is available in two colors and three price points. The pricing options are $6,999 for the Elite build, $5699 Pro and $3799 Expert. Given how dialed the builds are with minimal intervention needed, we are impressed. And the top bike is not over $7k and the lowest price bike is under $4k.

Cockpit featured these well-designed grips.

Fox suspension and dropper post are best in class again. A Fabric saddle, Maxxis tires round out two very important component categories. The only unknows are Intense grips and E-thirteen wheels. These grips seem very comfortable though with an ovalized profile to bridge the gap between narrow grips and thicker ones in the palm for long-ride comfort.

⚠️ Visit the Intense forum to share your thoughts on the new Primer.

For more information go to Intense Cycles


About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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