Oh boy, does this bike climb - REALLY climb - like there’s a small motor tucked away down in the bottom bracket, or you’ve constantly got a tailwind pushing you up the hill. You just find yourself going faster and faster until your legs are spinning fast and your heart is pounding hard. It really encourages you to hit the climbs full gas and give it everything you’ve got.
And why not, when climbing is this much fun. Yeah, I said it, climbing can be fun. Well, it can when the bike is this light. The suspension is supple and active on the smaller stuff, with ample traction in the loose, and it doesn’t bob excessively when you rise out of the saddle to sprint for the summit. I never found the slack head angle resulting in vague or lazy steering when tackling steep hairpin tracks, you can get enough weight over the front wheel and use those wide bars to leverage the Sniper around the tightest turns.
There’s no lockout lever on the shock, but I didn’t miss it at all. The Sniper simply doesn’t need it; the suspension is supportive enough that even in the open mode it just gets on with the task at hand. For longer grinds, it’s no effort to reach down between your legs and flick the Fox Float’s lever into the middle setting for a bit of extra compression damping. The firm mode was rarely used, other than to check it worked - but if you do a bunch of road to get to the trail it might be useful. I really feel Intense has got the suspension tune just right to enable you to benefit from it all the time, and not mask any inadequacies with a lockout lever.
That a light bike climbs is obvious, but it’s the efficiency and stability of the suspension, the rangy top tube, wide bars and short stem, that all combine to make climbing something the Sniper does exceedingly well. I cleared a couple of climbs that I hadn’t managed before and set a few personal records on Strava. What more proof do you want?Handling & Agility
XC bikes are normally short and steep to provide maximum agility and responsiveness, but despite its length and slackness, I never felt the Sniper to feel lazy or unresponsive when approaching race speeds. It carves, flicks and changes direction very sharply. Granted, it’s not a pinball, razor sharp bike through the turns, but it’s plenty agile. And at higher speeds, the calmness of the handling is a real benefit, especially towards the end of a long ride when you’re badly fatigued.
The 74-degree seat angle ensures an efficient and comfortable pedalling position for the long grinds, keeping you positioned nicely over the bottom bracket. The wide bars don’t feel too unwieldy on such a light bike and give you so much control when the trail gets technical or you need to change direction quickly. I thought the short stem and wide bar would limit the agility of the bike but there’s no loss of turning speed at all, and there’s no hint of twitchiness when you’re really ragging along. The way it covers ground so quickly and effortlessly is intoxicating.