Editor's Note: Along with longtime Mtbr forum member Kent Robertson (KRob), the 2016 Outerbike Test Sessions were conducted by Ben Slabaugh, aka Schlim. Ben, 37, has been riding mountain bikes since he was 12, and today leans toward the XC side of things. This year, the pair headed to Moab, Utah, for the annual Outerbike consumer demo event where they rode as many bikes as possible. These posts are first ride impressions only - not full reviews. However, they stand by their opinions, and feel like they are good at feeling out the true identity, strengths, weaknesses, and soul of any given bike. For each session, they attempted to get set-up and suspension as dialed as possible. Test rides usually lasted 30-60 minutes. All bikes were then rated on a scale of 1-5 for visual impression/looks, climbing ability, descending, cornering, general agility, fit, and an intangible factor. Lowest possible score is 7. Highest is 35. [/B]
Check out the entire Outerbike Test Sessions archive.
The 130mm travel Intense Primer 29er started out at a distinct disadvantage because I did not want to give up the Yeti SB5+ to Justin in exchange for it. Reluctantly, though, I swapped onto the medium orange and gray frame. It was the only medium I rode all weekend, with everything else being large, so it was an interesting comparison.
The Intense has a pretty long reach despite the cool looking stubby Renthal stem, but I did find myself wanting about an inch more room, so the large would be my natural choice given my proportions. The saddle had plenty of clearance, though, to run right up to my 78.5cm ride height.
Never been to Outerbike? Find out what this consumer demo event is all about.
Several of us thought that the orange and gray was one of the sharpest color combos we saw during the weekend, and the ride matched the spiffy looking design. Once again, I found myself really happy with the DT Swiss wheelset, the difference being that this was the carbon-rim Spline XMC 1200 setup. I'd love to try this wheelset on another bike to gauge whether the ride quality of the Primer was due mainly to the frame and suspension, or if the wheelset was contributing to the ultra-smooth ride.
I haven't been a fan of many carbon wheelsets due to the harsh ride, but the Primer had the most muted, damped suspension feeling I rode all weekend. It was velvet over the trail, and the new JS-tuned setup won me over quickly. The Primer felt responsive and connected without having the overly-platformed VPP feel of previous designs I have ridden. It also lacked the mid-stroke "goosh" of many horst link bikes. An added bonus is that the short link is now set higher and out of the line of fire instead of hanging down below the bottom bracket like classic VPPs.
For another opinion, read the Mtbr First Ride Review of the Intense Primer.
Other than a saddle that didn't really work for me, the Intense rode like you'd expect $9000 bike should. Whether it's worth that premium depends on your disposable income. Intense retains a lot of brand cachet as both a fashion statement and a lifestyle choice, the space where Yeti has chosen to place itself, and both brands are backed up by a quality feel.
Compared to my personal Yeti SB4.5, which falls into a similar kind-of-enduro capable trail 29er category, the Primer felt a little less XC and a little more all-mountain. But it's difficult to gauge that accurately on trails different than home. I did feel immediately comfortable with the handling and tendencies, which speaks a lot to how far 29ers have come in terms of setup and tuning for trail utilization and a potential single mountain bike option.
See an expansive photo gallery of the Enduro World Series winning Intense Carbine 29C.
My only handling complaint was that I almost dumped myself when I over-zealously drifted the front wheel into a corner after riding the extra grippy SB5+, but the 29er wheels on the Primer chassis are excellent. I could see myself getting very shred happy on this ride with the slick paint job and predictable suspension feedback over the trail. I would give the DT wheels higher marks than the Knights I rode on the Turner RFX, but DT Swiss should watch out for the distinct buzzing of the Industry Nines coming up behind them. Once again, to me, the SRAM XX1 drivetrain felt a step below the Shimano XT on other bikes. But I appreciated the XT brake inclusion.
The Primer is tied with the Pivot Firebird for my second favorite bike of the weekend. I'd definitely buy one.
Outerbike Test Session Score: 31 out of 35
For more information visit www.intensecycles.com.