2011 Intense Tracer 2 Review

Jul 29, 2011
by Richard Cunningham  
Intense fabricates the parts, welds, heat treats, paints and assembles the Tracer 2 in Temecula - a rural California town surrounded by some of the best-kept secrets in the singletrack world. Intense launched the Tracer over a decade ago as its aggressive trailbike and it immediately attracted a following among the sport’s most accomplished back-country riders. As skill sets evolved to their present level, Intense followed suit by boosting the Tracer’s wheel- travel, tweaking its numbers and throwing in some sweet technological innovations, like VPP suspension to keep it ahead of the performance curve. After a month of riding the Intense Tracer 2, we recommend that anyone who is searching for an extremely capable trailbike with technical handling that seems intuitive should ride one. Intense sells the Tracer 2 frame and shock for $2149 with Fox RP23 shock or $2549 with a Cane Creek Double Barrel damper. Complete builds are available for $4495 or $4895 with the corresponding shock options.

side shot
What's New About The Tracer 2

-Adjustable travel 5.75 to 6.25 inches 145mm-160mm
-1.5-inch head tube accommodates all steerer and headset options
-ISCG-05 integrated into machined BB shell
-Improved bearings with EZ-lock binder-bolt main pivot system
-Rear dropout mount system accepts all thru-axle systems or QR
-Threaded, replaceable zerk grease fittings
-Redesigned yoke and lower link machining for added rigidity and strength
-Redesigned proprietary hydroformed downtube
-Machined Boxbrace seatstay bridge adds swingarm rigidity
-Handmade in Southern California

It’s In the Name
The ‘2’ added to the Tracer’s name reflects that the chassis is designed to fulfill at least two roles. Set up at the 5.75-inch (145mm) travel option with relatively lightweight trail components like the complete Shimano Deore XT group and Fox Float suspension, Pinkbike’s Medium-sized Tracer 2 weighs in at 29.8 pounds – which adds up to a confidence-inspiring bike in technical situations that is lightweight enough to tackle extended climbs in the Rocky Mountains.

For those who feel the need for speed and are willing to push a couple more pounds up the mountain; Intense equips the Tracer 2 with dropper seatpost cable routing, an ISCG-05 chain-guide mount, a 1.5-inch head tube, a 6.25-inch (160mm) travel option on the upper rocker link and a quick-change rear dropout to convert to a 12/142-millimeter through-axle. Take advantage of all the Tracer 2’s big-bike options and then add a 2-by crankset with a roller guide; a Cane Creek Angleset headset; beefier suspension, like a Fox Float 36 160 fork and a Float RC shock; and you’ll tap into a gravity-powered monster.

Suspension DetailX
The Tracer 2's VPP dual-link suspension feels super smooth at speed and pedals quite well. An offset seat tube makes more room for the swingarm and more mud clearance for larger tires.

Tracer 2 Chassis
Intense owns computerized machining centers, which generate all of the Tracer 2’s custom pivot hardware, dropouts, rocker links, frame journals, and Intenses’ signature double-waisted 1.5-inch head tube. Intense also specializes in manipulating aluminum into optimized frame members, and the magic begins with the Tracer 2’s hydro-formed top tube which dips deeply to afford 28 inches of usable stand-over clearance at its lowest point. A massive, 2.5 inch diameter butted downtube obliterates the possibility of lateral flex in the front section and wide-profile tapered rectangular seat and chain stays do the same for the swingarm. As mentioned, the Tracer 2’s rocker links and pivot-mounting hardware are beautifully machined from billet aluminum stock.

Frame highlights: Details abound throughout the Tracer 2 frame like plenty of tire clearance for 2.4-inch rubber mounted to wider AM rims, ISCG tabs, and a direct-mount front derailleur mount. Of special note, are the replaceable G1 dropouts, which provide a stronger rear derailleur attachment than the flimsy screw-on hangers that most brands offer. Our test bike featured standard quick release dropouts, but 12/142-millimeter dropouts are in stock and the quick-change dropouts are fixed to the swingarm with flush-mount chainring hardware.

Clockwise - A 1.5 inch head tube ensures that Tracer 2 owners can use any steerer or headset configuration. Custom pivot hardware and two shock positions on the upper VPP link. Intense's beautifully crafted hydro-formed top tube offers lots of stand-over clearance. The Tracer's chain guide tabs are machined into the bottom bracket shell

Suspension notes: Intense and Santa Cruz share the development of the VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) dual-link suspension system, which is the source of the Tracer 2’s efficient pedaling feel and smooth suspension response. Beefy rocker links ride on sealed ball bearings. The Tracer 2 suspension’s rate curve seems to work best with more sag in the shock than most bikes. We discovered that 30-percent sag was the perfect number for every situation from big-hit descents to hour-long climbs. Most riders will prefer the shorter-travel 5.7-inch setting for trail, as it feels a bit firmer in its initial stroke where most pedaling occurs. Those who demand no or minimal suspension action while climbing will revel in the fact that using the ProPedal option on the standard-issue Fox RP23 shock will make the Tracer 2 pedal like an XC bike in both the long and short-travel rocker positions. Intense designed the shock mounting positions on the rocker link so that switching between them does not alter the bottom bracket height and head angle.

G1 dropout
Intense offers a host of options for its quick-change G1 rear dropouts that accommodate all of the popular through-axle systems like: the 135x10mm standard QR, 142x12mm Shimano, 142x12mm Syntace, and the 142x12mm DT Swiss (same as Syntace).

Tracer 2: by the numbers
Intense publishes two sets of numbers for the Tracer 2: one based upon a 15-millimeter-stroke fork (540mm axle-to-crown-race) and the second is based on a 160-millimeter-stroke fork (545mm axle-to-crown-race). The longer fork makes the head and seat-tube angle one degree slacker and raises the bottom bracket from 13.75 inches to 14.355 inches. Otherwise, the builds are identical. Our test bike was set up with a 150mm fork, so its seat angle was 73 degrees, the head angle was 68 degrees, the chainstay length was 16.9 inches and the bottom bracket as stated, measured 13.75. The medium-sized frame’s top tube is the accepted standard, 23 inches and the wheelbase is a bit long at 44 inches. Intense offers the Tracer 2 in small, medium, large and XL sizes with seat tubes from 16.5 to 20.5 inches tall. Stock colors are White, Gun-metal gray, natural aluminum (Works Raw) and a host of optional colors are offered at a slight up-charge including the “CanAm Yellow” featured on our test bike.

Tracer 2 Build Notes
If you want a complete bike from Intense, their build option is based upon a SRAM X9 components ensemble. Our test bike sported a 2012 Shimano Deore XT group including the wider-profile, 22-millimeter tubeless wheels. Tires were WTB Mutano Raptor 2.4 inchers and the cockpit was all Shimano Pro components. Suspension was a 2012 Fox 32 Float 150 RLC Kashima fork paired with an RP23 shock. All added together, the Tracer 2 weighed 29.8 pounds with pedals, and while that is a respectable number for an aluminum-framed trailbike, its carbon fiber competitors are over a pound lighter on average.

What's in the Standard Tracer 2 Build Kit

Release Date 2011
Price $4495
Travel 5.75 - 6.25
Rear Shock Fox RP23
Fork Fox Talas 36 FIT RLC
Headset Cane Creek XC Flush II 1.5 Taper to 1-1/8
Cassette SRAM 10s 11-36
Crankarms SRAM X9, 175mm
Bottom Bracket SRAM
Rear Derailleur SRAM X9 10spd
Chain SRAM 10S
Front Derailleur SRAM X9
Shifter Pods SRAM X9
Handlebar Truvativ Stylo T40
Stem Truvativ Stylo T30
Grips ODI Intense/ODI w/End Plugs
Brakes Avid Elixir 9
Wheelset Sunn Charger Expert
Tires 26x2.35 DTC folding tubeless
Seat Intense Sacred Heart Cr-Mo
Seatpost Truvativ Stylo T30

Riding the Tracer 2
Before you get your hopes up for a definitive Tracer 2 AM-vs-Trailbike shootout, Pinkbike tested the trailbike setup for this review and will save the big-bike test for later (we already have the parts ordered).

Setup: The Tracer 2’s VPP rear suspension likes a bit more sag than most are willing to use – about 30 percent – and this is true for XC/trail or all-mountain type riding. This means that the rear end of the bike will settle and rake out the fork if you don’t take the time to balance the front suspension with the rear. The key seems to be using about 25-percent sag in the fork. The addition of the low-friction Kashima seals in the Fox fork gives it a lot of small-bump compliance which makes it feel softer than it actually is. Use sag measurement, not compliance to set the air pressure and you’ll get the balance right the first time.

Rolling out: On the flats, the Tracer 2 accelerates smoothly without noticeable suspension bob under power. A few quick sprints out of the saddle lets the rider know that the Intense is not a feather-weight XC racer, but it feels efficient enough to encourage a moderately fit rider to look forward to an all-day epic in the mountains. The soft shock setting does not cause the suspension to bob while pedaling, but it does slacken the head angle a bit, which takes away from the pedaling performance of the chassis. Switch on the Fox ProPedal platform function and the rear of the bike sits up a bit and pedaling feels more crisp in all power modes.

Climbing: As mentioned, switching on the ProPedal function is a benefit for the Tracer when the time comes to lay down leg power for extended periods, and this is especially true for steep ascents The rear suspension rides higher, and in addition to giving the bike a slightly steeper head angle and a better seating position, the front wheel tends to stay on the trail when climbing steeps. Head angles slacker than 69-degrees tend to flop back and forth when climbing, and the Tracer requires some attention to keep it on line up anything steeper than a ten-percent grade. We noticed that the Tracer’s rear suspension feels bit notchy, like a short-travel XC bike, when climbing technical, uneven surfaces while seated with the ProPedal engaged. Switch it off and the Tracer 2 smooths out considerably. The ProPedal lever is not a necessity. Hit a climb with the shock wide open and the Tracer 2 will happily claw its way up, with its VPP suspension providing gobs of traction while you loft the front tire slightly with each muscular pedal stroke.

Cable guide
Cable housing guides for a dropper seat post are standard fare on the Tracer 2. The guides are designed for small Zip-ties, a pragmatic touch that reflects Intense's racing heritage.

Corners: Intense hit the numbers on the money for cornering performance. The bike’s Mutano Raptor tires absolutely railed corners where traction could be found, and when loose sketchy topsoil was deeper than a few millimeters, they became super-sliders. The combined effect of the WTB rubber would normally be a disaster, but the Tracer 2 is such a balanced chassis in the turns that the surprise slip-n-slides were quite fun. Keeping the Tracer leaned into the turn and it would drift easily with the rear wheel pushed out slightly more than the front until traction returned, or the bike burned off enough speed to get back on line. The 68-degree steering angle was slow enough to stabilize the bike at speed, without feeling excessively sloppy while climbing.

Technical riding: Take the Tracer 2 to the limits of its suspension and you will be pleasantly surprised to find that the Intense feels smoother than its numbers would suggest – as if it has the power to shrink the rocks, drops and jumps as they pass beneath the wheels. Add this to the Tracer 2’s sweet cornering skill set and it pushes you to take the A-line through every section just because you can. The Tracer 2 bangs through rocks without inciting a wrestling match with the handlebar. In fewer words; the Tracer 2 is a no-worry handler. We wondered how the rear suspension would respond under braking, but that became a non issue as rear braking did not seem to worry the bike even if we trail-braked deep into a sketchy turn. The center ridge of the WTB tire make it quite easy to skid on hard-packed dry surfaces, but once the bike was leaned over, the many-fingered tread pattern hooked up well.

Suspension Report: We ran the shock in the 6.25 inch position to try out the longer travel, but the feel was more balanced and almost as deep in the 5.7-inch-travel option. Riders who live for the descent will love the Tracer 2’s supple rear suspension. When you achieve the right setup, VPP linkage geometry makes the shock feel as if it has too much low-speed rebound, so give it a ride before you pass judgment on your setup. We liked the feel of the Kashima-treated Fox fork. We usually start with zero low-speed compression for Fox 32 Float forks to keep them from chattering over harsh braking bumps. The new seals and coating give the fork a far smoother ride over the chatter so we could use the adjustment to level the chassis while braking without sacrificing riding comfort. It will be interesting to see how the Kashima coating and SKF seals are received by the market as the forks reach bike dealers this year.

Read more about the Tracer 2's 2012 Deore XT components in Pinkbike's coverage of the Shimano launch at the Northstar resort near Lake Tahoe.

Click here to read the Deore XT story.

Pinkbike’s take on the Tracer 2
After riding the Tracer 2, it seems that Intense re-invented their Tracer to fill the gap between the old-school dual-suspension trailbike that is patterned after cross-country racing geometry and the heavy, six-inch-travel all-mountain bikes that a lot of gravity riders use to suffer uphill in order to access back-country trails. The new Tracer will be a dream bike for the latter group because it rocks the descents like an all-mountain sled, and it climbs pretty darn well too – so you’ll arrive at the next descent fresher and ready to rock. Add the Tracer’s hidden details like the ISCG-05 chain-guide mounts and All-mountain suspension options and it gives technical riders a lot of growing room should they decide to ride park more and trails less. Devoted XC trail riders, the ones who mark climbs with a stopwatch and descend with caution, might find that the Tracer 2’s 29-pound weight figure and gravity-friendly steering will take some fun out of the ride, but the beauty of the newest Intense is that, with the addition of some expensive lightweight parts, it could fulfill that role without sacrificing its shredability.

Visit Intense Cycles to check out how the Tracer 2 is built and why you might consider buying a bike that is hand made in North America by folks who ride what they build. And give Pinkbike some feedback on the New Tracer 2 – especially if you’ve been lucky enough to ride one.


  • 13 2
 what a great bike! super happy to see in house production, i cant stand oversea's production! marzocchi and soon to be raceface are prime examples, Good job intense!
  • 3 10
flag frenchcr (Jul 29, 2011 at 2:49) (Below Threshold)
 mmm, great bike, im not sure, i owned one and sold it. it was plush...BUT...the chain kept smashing against the underneath and gets caught up between the tyre and the frame. the vpp is a very poor design in this sense. clearance is just not good enough.
  • 1 0
 same problem with the 2006 reign.
  • 3 1
 @hardtailfreerider93: what about overseas production can you not stand?
  • 3 1
 yea, they have crazy high standards over there, not morally right but production wise it's great, apart from shipping.
  • 3 1
 lol @ crazy high standards. look at evil
  • 1 0
 lol on the other had i can't say they're bad because i've never ridden or even seen one in person for that matter.
  • 1 0
 its the pivot round at 8 oclock on the chain ring, that thing is so close to the chain, when the chain wobbles at all it hits it. when you drop a few feet the chain wobble means the chain moves up hits the frame, moves sideways a little as a result and can derail you if you pedal. just my experience, chain comes off alot.
  • 2 1
 I have two Intense VPP bikes (The 6.6 and a Tazer) never ever had the chain come off,although I do run chain devices ;-) on them both.
Chain hitting the frame is no more a problem on these bikes as every other full sus that is ridden hard - as they are designed for.
  • 1 0
 @richardpowell did you have lots of problems with your Reign? I still have mine and can't say it has given my much bother
  • 1 0
 the only problems i had were chain suck@ the cranks and the bearings weren't very reliable. Everything else is brilliant though.
  • 1 0
 hardtailfreerider93 - Race Face still produces much of its high end Products in Canada, and seems that will remain into the future as well.
  • 3 0
 I just hate the fact that decent paying jobs here in our own backyard kinda thing are lost to pay someone overseas to work for insulting wages. Not *Always* but often quality overall is just lost when production is moved to cheaper places, grades of metal and craftsmanship often arent as high when you are not happy with your job and its pay.

-Just my thoughts, but im stoked to see Intense as the great company they are!
  • 4 0
 Yeah, I agree with you. Its a real shame that so many different industries are moving work to countries with cheaper wages. But I can still understand both sides to the story. A lot of these people doing work overseas are hard workers, and in many cases very skilled as well. This should be some incentive for us to work harder and remain skilled, so we keep our jobs in our countries. But you only need one imbecile in management that only sees numbers to decide to move fabrication from one country to another.
  • 1 0
 markmac - i ran race face am triple with no chain device
  • 9 0
 Just seems like your perfect idea of a "mountain bike".
  • 2 1
 Awesome bike! i see someone maybe from Blackrock Bikes test rode it up to dry pond??
  • 6 0
 Spanking frame indeed, gotta love their attention to detail,like the headtube badge for example.Still handmade in the Good old USA.
  • 1 2
 I like Intense, but Good old USA is a thing of the past....welcome to the world economy!
  • 5 0
 Intense shows another example of how handmade in the US can offer high-performance and still be price competitive with the asian imports!
  • 2 0
 I love my Tracer 2. It pedals well, is of reasonable weight i guess and it does descend and rail real well. However, I think I picked a poor choice of a bike for where I live. Nebraska is pretty flat and this thing needs some big mountains. I wanted a bike that could do a bit of everything and this fit the bill. However, It was between the Tracer 2 and a Carbon Jekyll. I think I should of waited an extra two weeks for the Jekyll to come in stock and utilize its dual personality for my local trails.
Sweet bike and I am 80% pleased.
  • 2 0
 Certainly you don't mean "machined" when you're talking about the ISCG tabs. I'm pretty sure it's just welded on. Machining tabs onto a BB shell would require a huge block of aluminum and a lot of lathe time. Probably add a couple hundred bucks to the final price, too.
  • 2 0
 It also makes for bomber chainguide mounts, which is why they do it.
  • 2 1
 seems a wee bit heavy to fit in for me as a "pedal to location specific" bike for my needs,i would prefer something a little lighter to fill that middle ground, or if i'm going to have a 30ish pound bike, build something a little more burley
  • 10 0
 weight weenie.
  • 2 0
 The bike that won the first two rounds of the UK Gravity DH series was a Tracer 2 with CCDB coil shock and 160 Fox 36 that weighed a little over 30lbs. Lots of pedalling involved. Similiar to what you guys call Super D.
  • 2 0
 i think that says more about the downhill here tbh lol
  • 5 4
 i like intense' racing heritage, attention to detail and the fact that its made in USA but i find the welds ugly on this frame, in my opinion. also, i don't like the idea of the asymmetrical tube that connects the chain stay and seat stay just being on the non drive side. they could've made something like what giant does. a 'Y' shaped tube that connects both the stays. but then again, that's just me. let the neg prop begin!
  • 4 1
 Intense has "little to none" quality control. I have worked in a shop for quite some time and I have seen many brand new Intense frames that are crooked, or they have poorly installed bearings (indext), also being sent with the wrong drop out size and poor welds.Then when sent back to Intense to get straight one they sent another crooked one.

In previous years they have had great bikes but I feel as if they are now just coasting off of the name they built up years ago and they are letting their quality really fall behind.

I hope this can change because they are losing customers fast.
  • 3 1
 Exceptional bike when ridden. Have to agree completely with dieharddawg24 though. Alignment issues have killed their popularity here in the UK - with most of their own dealers. That said, with the VPP2 designs their welding jigs have been redesigned and miss aligned frames are apparently becoming the exception as opposed to the rule. Still, the UK importers SS2 Large demo is so badly aligned that the driveside crank shaves metal off the seatstay under power. So definitely not eliminated. And despite that I'm buying one (SS2). After what's been 4 months searching and testing bikes for a replacement frame, despite my concern over alignment issues I still can't find one that descends and corners like a SS2 short of a full on DH bike. Now Intense are making a foray into Carbon it will be interesting to see if that material spreads across the models and the alignment issues on the carbon frames at least disappear for good.
  • 3 0
 @mountguitars: gave you props for speaking your mind, but disagree. you only think the welding is ugly b/c you're not a welder. Intense welds are art. as for the frame design comment, I think that should be judged by the ride quality, not by the eye...Tracer 2 dishes up a remarkably stiff ride.
  • 1 0
 So, want to know something weird? I've shipped 3 Tracer 2 frames from U.S. to U.K. in the past year b/c the boys across the pond have a hard time finding them there, and they LOVE THEM!! Not sure what to make of it.
  • 2 0
 @frijolemoreno, i absolutely agree about judging it by its ride quality. obviously, im just judging by its looks and i have yet to try any VPP bike. besides, i know santa cruz and intense have been designing their frames this way for the last 5 years or more with regards to that lone tube i was talking about. i bet it works well and they have no issues with it whatsoever. just saying that there could be 'stiffer looking' designs out there. again, im just judging it by the looks, not ride quality. thanks for props by the way.
  • 1 0
 I recently went through a hugh headache with this company. I purchased a tracer 2 frame after receiving it noticed it was missing a weld on bottom bracket.Tried to work something out with intense, long story short they offered me a free hat or t shirt. "no thanx..." Bought ibis hd and loving it.
  • 1 0
 ibis hds are bad ass.....
  • 1 0
 I bouight a Tracer 1 and found it's performance to be peerless (I tested just about all the other bikes out there) Intense take the time to really work on the details of their bikes and these details when added togeather are what give intense the edge. I like the fact that the company has kept it's manufacturing base in the US supporting it's own countries workers (unlike Ibis,Santa Cruz & Yeti).
Another reason the Tracer handels so accurately is due to the use of VPP at the rear this allows the rear suspension to keep working under breaking.
If I had one criticism it would be customer care & communication, Intese need to take on board a 'can do', 'we'll sort it out no quibbles attitude'. Perhaps they could be more pro active on facebook & their website when customers ask them questions or have problems.
Put a 5 year warranty on all frames no quibbles & they'll be on a winner for sure.
  • 3 0
 I like how rear qr is pointing down
  • 1 0
 As long as it's closed it is all good.
  • 1 0
 The QR is pointing down because I didn't want it to clutter up the dropout shot. I usually tuck the rear QR in the space between the seat stay and chain stay. Gotta be pretty.
  • 1 0
 haha cool. glad that's not how you normally close your qr Wink

and brule. it's ideal to have em between or perpendicular to the ground or well just AWAY from it pointing straight downwards or back, chances of that qr getting caught on something and releasing...
  • 1 0
  • 2 1
 Intense cable routing has always been SHIT. Too bad, they build awesome bikes, why cant they do something with those ugly lines?
  • 1 0
 If you are interested in seeing an all mountain/freeride set up on the tracer 2? Check out my pics of the beast with a sic gold over raw finish!
  • 2 0
 i just think the seat tube could be a little bit lower
  • 1 0
 On the small frame it probably is.
  • 1 1
 Yes but then the top tube is too short for people who would ride a medium Facepalm
  • 2 0
 Well if he wants the seat tube to be shorter he's probably too short for a medium, its not especially long is it?
  • 1 0
 Nice bike, but i think that kind of bike should have 2 chainrings and chain tensioner....
  • 2 0
 Almost perfect. 16.5" chainstay and I'd be sold.
  • 1 0
 This looks pretty good for a womens bike. See if my girl can fit her fatty on that seat and we be rolling.
  • 1 1
 wonder if they have started using proper metal rather than the crap they used to. my mate went through so many back ends on is dh and uzzi.
  • 1 0
 lower and slacker please.
  • 1 0
 Agree. 14ish BB height?!? LAME.
  • 1 1
 Has there been any changes since the 2010 model or is the tracer2 from 2010 the same frame as this one?
  • 1 0
 looking forward to the big bike build review
  • 1 0
 Upgrading from Tracer VP to the Tracer 2 very shortly! Can't wait! Smile
  • 1 0
 i just bought one....i like it.
  • 2 2
 Fukin beatuful, if i had money i would buy one for sure
  • 1 1
 What a bike! No wonder Gandhi wore specs!!! : )
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