Bike Review: Intense Tracer 275 Alloy Foundation

US-made Tracer 275 Alloy a price-conscious performance machine

27.5 All Mountain Trail
Intense’s US-built, value-minded Tracer T275 Alloy with the Foundation build kit earned an Mtbr 4 Chilies-out-of-5 rating for its smart, functional parts mix, and fun ride quality.

Intense’s US-built, value-minded Tracer T275 Alloy with the Foundation build kit earns an Mtbr 4 Chilies-out-of-5 rating for its smart, functional parts mix, and fun ride quality.

The Lowdown: 2015 Intense Tracer 275 Alloy Foundation

Never before have we seen the kind of performance and panache that comes from an Intense for so little scratch. We’re not saying $3,000 is chump change, but that the Tracer 275 Alloy delivers high-end performance on a made-in-the-USA chassis with a smart parts mix is more than remarkable–it’s valuable. No, it’s not the lightest horse in the stable, and no, you’ll not get of-the-moment suspension designs, 1x drivetrains, or carbon anything. But the capable all-mountain shred machine only needs a dropper post to unleash the beast within. True, some of those nice-to-have upgrades will boost the 275’s performance, but the truth is you’ll already be living on the far right side of the fun meter.

Stat Box
Intended Use: All-mountain, trail Wheel Size: 27.5-inches
Travel: 140-160 rear; 160 front Wheelset: Instense/Sun
Weight: 32 pounds (size L) Frame Material: Alloy
Drivetrain: Shimano SLX MSRP: $2,995
Suspension: X-Fusion Rating: 4 Flamin' Chili Peppers 4 Chilies-out-of-5

In the same league: Santa Cruz Bronson R, Transition Patrol 3, Giant Reign 27.5 2, Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Evo 650b, Trek Slash 7 27.5

  • Frame made in the USA
  • No dropper post
  • Awesome all-mountain performance
  • 32-pounds ain’t light
  • Solid Shimano component spec
  • Love it or hate it graphics
  • Excellent X-Fusion suspension
  • Narrow bars
  • Many color options

Full Review: 2015 Intense Tracer 275 Alloy Foundation

Sporting a Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension that adjusts from 140-160mm of travel, a low, slack geometry, 27.5-inch wheels and a hard-working, blue collar selection of components, Intense’s intent with the new Tracer 275 Alloy Foundation is clear–bring some of the magic and performance from its geometrically identical high-end carbon brother–the Tracer T275C–to the relative masses for about a third of the price. As if that weren’t audacious enough, Intense is bringing said all-mountain contraption of amazement to market for $3,000, and building its frame in their Temecula, Calif. factory.

All Intense alloy frames--including the Tracer275-- are built in their Temecula, Calif. factory. Photo courtesy of Intense

All Intense alloy frames–including the Tracer275– are built in their Temecula, Calif. factory. Photo courtesy of Intense

BORN IN THE USA – Not only is the Tracer 275 Alloy’s frame made in Intense’s Temecula, Calif. factory, the company gets plating and powder coating done locally. Their boxes are even made down the street, both putting money into the local economy and saving on production and shipping costs.
The Chassis

For several years now, Intense has licensed the VPP suspension design from Santa Cruz, who’ve continued to refine its execution. Though Intense’s current interpretation feels more active under pedaling than that of Santa Cruz, it’s none-the-less efficient-feeling, particularly with a sit-and-spin pedaling style. While that may sound limiting, it’s perfectly appropriate for this bike–the 275 is made for rough, all-mountain trail epics, not XC racing.

On the climbs, the 275 performs admirably, despite its 32-pound curb weight. We found its front end relatively easy to keep on task likely due to its mid-slack 66.5-degree head angle and easy-to-spin 2x gearing. The VPP rear suspension–which we ran in the full 160mm-travel position for the duration of our test–had a way of helping the bike claw up rough stuff and make you forget the about bike’s weight.

However, climbing is a means to an end on the 275, and that end is where the descent–and the fun–begins on this bike. Not only does the Tracer love to attack the gnar with its long legs and easy-rolling 27.5-inch wheels, it has a certain hard-to-quantify playfulness that begs to be aired and pitched. On both drops and jumps the bike is balanced and easy to pop–and if you do get it wrong, mid-air corrections feel easy and natural.

For a bike of its burly pedigree, the 275 climbs pretty well.

For a bike of its burly pedigree, the 275 climbs pretty well.

Parts Mix

Often when manufacturers are looking to cut costs on a bike build, suspension parts end up in the crosshairs. And while we’ve come to expect compromised performance from low-cost suspension parts, we were pleasantly surprised by X-Fusion’s 160mm-travel RL2 fork and and 02 RL Air rear shock. While they don’t have multitude of adjustments of higher-end models, their base tunes seem well-suited to the 275, and they both feature rebound damping and a lockout–simple and effective. And in our opinion, quite a bit better than the comparably-priced models from their better-known competitors.

On the trail, they set up easy, felt well-balanced front-to-back and gave the bike a premium feel. The RL2’s 34mm stanchions held the front wheel steady under heavy side loads, and seemed unfazed by dry and dusty, or rainy and mucky conditions.

While we used the suspension lockouts on extended climbs, it was primarily to eek out a little more efficiency to counter the bike’s weight than for outright performance. If we upgraded to, say, a lighter pair of wheels, we’d probably never touch the levers.

We’ve yet to be disappointed by Shimano’s SLX groupset, and like on other similarly-spec’d bikes we found them to perform on-par with their twice-as-expensive XT brethren. Even the sub-SLX Shimano BL 506 brakes felt great, providing stopping power and control way beyond their price point.

Wheels were acceptable if nothing special–Intense-branded hubs laced to Sun Inferno 27 rims via DT Swiss Champion spokes. Likewise, the bike’s wire-bead Maxxis Ardent tires were heavy but functional.

What we’d change

Our biggest complaint about this bike is in the cockpit. First off, it comes with a rigid, Intense-branded seatpost instead of a dropper. Since the latter is a prerequisite on a bike of this ilk, plan on dropping another $300 extra or so to add one. We installed a first-generation Specialized Command Post we had in the parts shed, and the bike came alive, despite the somewhat outdated post. The ability to get the saddle down-and-out at will simply elevates the Tracer 275 to a new level.

Our second complaint–the handlebars. At 740mm, they’re at least 40mm too narrow, and though we didn’t swap them out, experience tells us wider bars would make this an even better steed.

Continue to Page 2 for videos, photos, full specs, options and details. »

About the author: Mtbr is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.

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  • jason land says:

    d-Did MTBR just ding this bike for no dropper and “gasp” narrow bars??

    • Brady says:

      seems all reviewers have to perpetuate all the trends, are they blackmailed or just bought, we should contact someone maybe Liam Neeson or some other ninja to get to the bottom of this

  • Craptastic says:

    T275a frame only is available for $2199.

  • David says:

    I applaud you for publishing a review of the lower end model. Thanks.

  • JT says:

    “Our second complaint–the handlebars. At 740mm, they’re at least 40mm too narrow…”
    Dang, I ride with 760mm bars and feel like those are really wide. Does everyone ride in the desert now where there are no trees??

  • Franz Volpi says:

    740mm is NOT too narrow a bar. You guys must be apes.

  • hellbelly says:

    The head angle is actually 66.5 degrees instead of the road bike steep 70.5 degrees in the chart above. D’oh!

  • Raphael says:

    I love it when people who are way out of touch make comments about something they know nothing about. A bike like this is a 100 times more fun WITH a dropper post. In a way, I like that they leave it up to the rider to choose which one to run because nobody specs the 9point8 which is my favorite dropper. And yes 740 bars are too narrow–the bigger your wheels get, the better your leverage with wider bars.

  • Killo says:

    If I didn’t just buy a new bike I would have considered this. With an entry level spec there are always going to be personal preferences. Most preferences should evolve with innovation and while dropper posts and 1×10’s are obvious, bar length isn’t. That being said wider bars will change your ride if you just give them a chance and no 780mm isn’t going to hit every tree on the side of the trail. Hearing great things about x-fusion and really at the end of the day, would you prefer destroying a $3000 bike over a season or a $7000 bike? Used, buy and sell markets have extreme mark downs these days anyways. The foundation is a pretty attractive FU to Santa Cruz if you ask me.

  • Rob says:

    awesome bike. they are going to sell a LOT of these. great jump for a 26″ owner. swap over the bars/stem & dropper post and rock on. my wife is not going to be happy.

  • Alex says:

    Bought this bike on 12/31/14 and been having a blast on it ever since. Upgraded from a 2000 Specialized Enduro sport that i got new. The Intense Tracer 275 alloy is the best mtb I’ve owned. It loves jumping , downhill and climbing. I have ordered a dropper seat post for it. I plan on riding it every chance I get.

  • Randy says:

    Just bought this bike today, a long over due upgrade. Was riding my 1998 GT LTS until tonight. First ride tomorrow at first light to the “M” in Moreno Valley to try it out. Looks like a nice piece. I hope the 2X10 gearing is enough to grunt it up steep grades.

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