Intense SS SlopeStyle Frame:The SS Slope Style is built around specific geometry set to redefine how MTB park riding is meant to be. As we all lean towards more travel and having more fun look no further than the SS Slope Style.
from Brisbane, AUS
Date Reviewed: September 24, 2010
Strengths: You can take this bike anywhere, and do anything on this bike! It would be the first choice in my quiver if I was going overseas, and did not know what trail you would be encountering but wanted to cover all your bases.
Weaknesses: Bottom pivots bearings wear out quickly, which I think is resolved in the SS2 iteration with the grease ports incorporated into this area;
As mentioned by others, not the best bike to take when having to pedal up a great amount (i.e. trailbike), but that’s not why you would buy this bike for in the first place;
The rear triangle is susceptible to flex. However, having gone from a Bullit to the Slopestyle, it actually felt a lot more rigid, until I started trying later model bikes of the same vein (SX2 and Scratch). I believe that the SS2 now has a strut between the rear triangle stays that adds rigidity to the rear end.
I’ve had this bike for a good 2 and a bit years now, and it’s probably a good time to give a write up my experiences with it. When I was looking for a bike to replace my Santa Cruz Bullit, the criteria was to have a bike that was going to be strong enough to withstand the downhill shuttling, which used to happen once a month, but still be manageable enough for riding around the local trails. So when I saw the article written on Dirt mag about the development of the SS with collaboration from Nigel Page, the bike jumped out at me, and I was very interested indeed. The head angle was nice and slack at 66.5, a full length seat tube available for trail pedalling, a burly light frame with a coil shock, it ticked off all the boxes for me. Because Intense demo days just don’t happen in Australia, I bought the frame in good faith that it is the right bike I was looking for, and here I am 2 and a bit years down the track, still loving what the bike offers.
Ever since I feasted my eyes on the M1, the old school Tracers and Uzzi’s, I had always lusted after an Intense. The brand appeal is very strong, with the decals, colour schemes, and frame design very distinguishable from other brands.
The SS is no different. Beautiful welds, Easton aluminium frame material, small details such as the pivot bolts, CNC’d linkages… all just adds to the aggressive beauty of this compact and sweeping frame.
All mountain duties:
Now that I have a dedicated downhill machine, the SS is the bike that I take out the most on the trails… even before my hardtail Chameleon. To be truthful, this bike can be a handful to ride uphill, with the slack geometry and rake making it harder to manoeuvre at slow speed. I find that I have to be mindful about weight distribution when going up steep pinches to keep the nose down. I think that an adjustable fork like the Talas would help in making this bike more trail friendly.
However, when you get over all the climbing pains, and you start to descend, all is instantly forgiven, as you arenow on board a mini dh bike that is gives you all the confidence you need to hit anything the trail throws at you. You then start to look for natural doubles on the trail, and get that tendency to pop off every little rock, root, lip, log, boulder that you can. It’s easy to get carried away, and the number of times that I will get flats on single ply tyres definitely increase, hitting rough sections of track at pace – I highly suggest running higher pressures if you are running single ply tyres on gnarlier tracks, or going to dual ply tubeless.
It has a low bottom bracket height, so I suggest running a bashguard of some sort (taco or bash ring), or go the full trick option and run a Hammerschmidt (that would be cool on this rig!). Don’t even think about pedalling around a corner, because your pedal/crank will hit the ground. I also find that when going over rocks or logs in the trails, its best to get your bunnyhop on, or unweight the bike at the peak, otherwise your chainring will make contact. Also, when riding tired, I found I was mashing my pedals into obstacles, as you have to concentrate on your cadence to compensate for the bottom bracket height.
It’s not all bad news with the low bottom bracket however, as cornering on this rig is sublime. I find the weight distribution of this bike is very neutral between the front and rear, and I can remain centered on the bike and feel very stable. I feel that the VPP linkage allows me to remain in the shock’s mid travel, so the progression of the shock is predictable, and the action feels buttery smooth.
To make it more of a true all mountain rig, I would install the following parts:
• Fox 36 Talas 160 RC2;
• DHX Air shock;
• Adjustable seat post;
• 7 inch front, 6 inch rear rotors;
• Lighter, tubeless rims, like a Crossmax SX.
If you equip this on the burly side so that your parts are durable, this frame will serve you well for downhill duties. Initially, I was put off by the FRO (For Racing Only) tag that is put on the crest of the tub, with the internet forum “gurus” throwing their two cents worth that the frame will only last a season. However, after all this time that I’ve had it, giving it the proper maintenance on the prescribed times, it is still going strong.
The slack front geometry gives that stability when hitting the higher speeds, and when tackling features such as drops and steeps. I say this even with just having 160mm on the front, so I can just imagine that by throwing a set of Totems or even a triple clamp downhill fork on this frame would make it even more so.
I find that the Propedal is best turned all the way off when the bike’s on downhill duties, with the cornering characteristics being enhanced, as the rear end feels more active to the subtle body language that you transmit to the bike.
Its relatively short wheelbase and short chainstays are awesome when tackling the more technical twisty tracks. I find that with my bike set up having the Fox 36’s, negotiating tight switchbacks and skinnies is a lot easier.
Where you will fall behind when riding with fully fledged downhill rigs are when the tracks turn to fast open sections that are rough with decent sized rocks, and braking bumps. You may be able to keep up with the downhill rigs, but it requires more effort on your behalf, beating yourself and the bike up in the process. As well as that, the shorter wheelbase means it gets skittish at the high speeds.
That being said, for a “small” bike, it can do a lot of things, and its just not fair to compare against a proper downhill rig.
The Whistler experience:
With so many V10’s, Demo 8’s and other downhill exotica running around the MTB Disneyland bike park, its easy to feel like you’ve brought a knife to a gunfight when on board the SS. However, once you start riding around the different trails that the park has to offer, and you’re not only keeping up with some of the big rigs, but overtaking them, you can’t help but feel big love for your mini dh bike. It is the weapon of choice on the jump tracks of Crank it Up and A Line, as the small compact nature of the bike makes it easier to pop of the lips and finesse the bike in the air. Even on the rougher, more natural tracks from Garbanzo (favourites being In Deep, Duff Man, and No Duff), the bike is more than up to it. The only observation that I have about using the SS in Whistler is that when it comes to doing high speed runs on the rough open parts like on the Expressway after Fatcrobat, or the washboarded areas of Heart of Darkness, it does get uncomfortable and I found I fatigue a lot quicker than guys on the plush downhill set ups. In the ten days solid riding I did over there, the only casualty I had on the bike was a broken derailleur cable, and a slightly out of true rear wheel.
The International Experience:
The SS has been a very well travelled bike. I took this bike over to the south island of New Zealand, where I got my first taste of big mountain on the chair lifts of Coronet Peak, to a tour around checking out the downhill runs in Queenstown, Alexandra and Dunedin, as well as helidropping of the peaks in Wanaka.
It also got a fair amount of action in Canada, handling the tech and stunts of North Shore, loamy sublime Sunshine Coast trails, and extended sub alpine descents in Nelson. It even served me well doing the Seven Summits trail in Rossland.
I would have to say that if I had to pick what type of trails the SS was perfect for, it would have to be when hitting up the blue or black runs of the North Shore (I have yet to try the double blacks), or when hitting up the jump tracks of Whistler.
This bike in my hands has suffered a fair amount of abuse. The numerous hucks to flat, short landings on gap jumps and tabletops, and the over the bars moments in BC. It has been absolutely ridden hard, but apart from some nicks, scuffs and scratches on the frame, the bike is still in fantastic condition. I have absolutely enjoyed riding this frame, and suspect that I will continue to do so for a good long while yet still. The initial outlay was quite horrendous, but you know what, who cares! The amount of joy that I have had on this bike has been priceless, and would pay it again gladly.
Similar Products Used: Cannondale Gemini, Santa Cruz Bullit, Giant Reign X1, Specialised SX 1 and 2, Trek Scratch.
Bike Setup: Grips: Odi Intense
Bars: Chromag OSX Fubar (cut to 700mm)
End caps: Straitline with Dirt Mag logo
Rear shifter: Shimano Saint
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Saint short cage
Stem: Thomson x4 50mm
Headset: FSA Orbit xtreme Pro 1.5 to 1 1/8
Fork: 2008 Fox Van 36 RC2 160mm
Brakes: Shimano Saint with 8 inch Avid Cleansweep G3 rotors
Rear shock: Fox DHX 5.0, custom tuned for VPP linkage and downhill/free ride duties, and my weight.
Chainring: E13 33t
Cranks: Shimano Saint 170mm
Chainguide: E13 LG1
Front Wheel: 721’s laced to Hadley 20mm thru axle hub
Rear Wheel: 721’s laced to Hadley 135 x 10mm thru axle, 96 pt engagement,
Pedals: Shimano DX flats
Seatpost: SDG I Beam
Seat: SDG I Fly C
Cassette: Shimano XT 11-34 9sp
Tyres: Minion DHF 2.5 dual ply for DH on front (slowreezay) and rear (supertacky)
Kenda Nevegal Single ply DTC 2.35 front, Maxxis Crossmark 2.1 rear for trail duties.
Strengths: A do everything go everywhere bike. A lot of people have been thrown off by the 'Slopestyle' name, but don't get hung up on it. If you're looking for an actual slopestyle bike, you already know that this one has too much travel for you.
This bike replaced 3 bikes (an SC Blur 4x, an SC VP Free, and a Dobermann hardtail) and I don't miss any of them.
Weaknesses: Not enough hours in the day for riding it.
It seems that Intense quality control is all over the map, as I've talked to other people who have had issues with the rear dropouts/swingarm alignment. However I have had no issues with this, my frame was flawless. All I needed to do to the frame before building it up was to chase the BB threads on the non-drive side. The welds are all excellent.
The 2009 frame allows for a long setpost, so you can trail ride then slam the seat out of the way.
I've been riding it in so many different conditions, from desert rips to BC winter goop and everything in between, and I love this bike. It's great in the air, it rails into corners, it pedals well, and it's fun to ride.
The value was excellent - a 100% north american made frame for less $ than any Taiwanese equivalent.
I've been riding it for 6 months and I'm still stoked on it.