Ridden & Rated: 29" DH bikes From Intense, Saracen, GT & Devinci

Mar 18, 2019
by Paul Aston  



It was only a few months ago that we featured five 29" downhill bikes in a Ridden and Rated feature. That crop included Trek's Session, Cube's Stereo, Banshee's Legend, Norco's Aurum HSP, and Commencal's Supreme. This second batch includes four more race winning rigs from Intense, Saracen, GT, and Devinci. That's nine downhill bikes in a head-to-head comparison, and if you are wondering who came out on top, and which was my preferred rig, read on to find out.






Saracen's Myst has been on the racing circuit for years, a brand with a long history that in more recent years was revived and fuelled by Madison – one of the UK's biggest distributors. This 29" wheeled downhiller for 2019 and onwards shares a silhouette with the previous Myst but has been tweaked and tuned with input from no other than Danny Hart, and 2018 Junior Downhill World Champ, Matt Walker.

The Myst is now available with 27.5" or 29" wheels, various build kits, framesets, and even a budget alloy version. We opted for the top of the line, full carbon, 29" wheeled Myst Team. The Myst Team is a replica of the bike that the Madison Saracen
Saracen Myst
Travel: 200mm rear / 203mm front
Frame construction: 24T/40T/3K Toray UD Carbon
Suspension Design: Linkage driven single pivot
Suspension: Fox Factory 49 + DHX2
Sizes: M and L
Weight: 16.2kg
Price: £5799 GBP / $7445 USD (approx.)
saracen.co.uk
Factory Team have been racing this year, built to.their racer's spec' with Fox Factory Suspension, Shimano Saint stopping and starting gear, and a DT Swiss FR560 wheelset wrapped in Maxxis rubber. All of the above is available through your Saracen dealer or their online shop freewheel.co.uk for £5799 GBP (est. $7445 USD)

Saracen Bike Test


The Saracen was a real head-turner out on the track. People seemed to love the orange frame that matched the Fox 49 and the clear-coated carbon-fiber treatments. The Myst proved that a single-pivot bike with a linkage-actuated shock can still hold its own against the big boys.

The Myst is a great all 'rounder that will do everything well, with some adjustment to fine tune the fit and feel to your needs or to the track. The lack of an XL size puts tall riders out of the equation, but smaller riders can opt for the 27.5" wheel version that offers even smaller sizes. It' only other limitation is that it is not available globally, but one can be found in many dealers around the world, or from Madison's own online shop, freewheel.co.uk.

bigquotesThe suspension is superbly supple off the top, and has really good mid-stroke support and bottom-out resistance... I would describe the Myst as responsive and lively, but it still gives confidence and holds a line when things get rowdy. Paul Aston

Pros

+ Great suspension and a solid build
+ Balanced and adjustable geometry
Cons

- Lacking XL size
- Limited availability worldwide







Devinci's Wilson has been on the World Cup circuit for years, but after a brief hiatus, it is back under the Unior Devinci Factory Team, with Dakotah Norton taking it to 5th place in Losinj. The current iteration rolls on 29" wheels, with a Canadian made aluminum frame and 204mm of travel, delivered via a Split Pivot suspension design.

The Wilson 29 is available as a complete bike in two spec' levels or as a frame only, with a choice of colorways: the black / silver (pictured) or red / orange. The ready-to-race SRAM X01 DH build (tested) with a top spec' Rockshox Boxxer World Cup fork and Super Deluxe shock is available for $6449 (approx. €5681), while the GX DH build has a Boxxer RC fork in addition to the more affordable
Devinci Wilson
Travel: 204mm rear / 200mm front
Frame construction: 6066 T6 aluminum, carbon seatstay
Fork: Rockshox Boxxer
Shock: Super Deluxe Coil
Sizes: S, M, L, XL (tested)
Colours: Black / Silver and Red / Orange
Weight: 38.03lbs / 17.31 kg (XL, w/o pedals, actual)
Price: $6449 (est. €5681) X01 build
devinci.com
drivetrain and can be bought for $4119 (approx. €3629). The frame-only option comes with a Super Deluxe Coil WC shock and FSA headset for $2279 (approx. €2007).



While the Saracen Myst is a great all-'rounder, the Devinci Wilson is a high-speed brute whose massive size and geometry ignores boundaries. This is a bike for people who want to go fast and carve corners, and one of the best choices if you ride brutal descents serviced by chairlifts.


bigquotesSmall-bump sensitivity was great, and it had really good bottom-out resistance on bigger hits.... I found the Wilson to have a good balance of stiffness and compliance. Paul Aston


Pros

+ Great overall package
+ A big bike for big speed
+ Full external brake routing
Cons

- Difficult to adjust rebound
- Hard to slow down in steeps
- A little on the heavy side for some







Intense has been competing at the sharp end of the downhill World Cup since before many of Pinkbike's readers were born, with the legendary M1 regularly visiting the podium. Back in the day, other manufacturers simply re-badged Intense frames with their own team logos. Nowadays, Intense Factory Racing and Cero Design (the studio behind Unno Bikes) have been heavily involved with the development of the 29" DH bikes. They were race-testing aluminum M29 mules during the 2017 season and were one of the first to debut a carbon production model.

In 2019, the M29 will be available as a complete
Intense M29
Travel: 208mm rear / 200mm front
Frame construction: carbon
Fork: Rockshox Boxxer World Cup
Shock: Super Deluxe World Cup Coil
Sizes: M, L, XL (tested)
Weight: 16.77kg / 37lb (XL, w/o pedals, actual)
Price: $5,999 USD Elite build
intense.com
bike in the 'Elite' build and also as a frame and shock. Initially, a race team replica going by the name FRO (For Racing Only) was released, and the 15 bikes sold out almost immediately, despite their $10,000 price tag. The Elite build reviewed here costs 'only' $5,999 USD and is ready to be put to test against the clock straight away. The frameset is also available for $2,499, including a RockShox Super Deluxe coil shock.

Intense M29 Review


The M29 did have a few little annoyances when it came to shock access and some small hardware issues, but who can't like the M29? The iconic shape and style of Intense is something that is envied by many other brands.

The M29 had a unique ride quality and feel that is not found anywhere else. It excelled everywhere and sits securely as my second favorite thanks to its combination of style and superb ride characteristics.


bigquotesIt may have a World Cup DH pedigree, but the M29 is really easy to get to grips with. Thanks to the progressive nature of the linkage and excellent small-bump compliance, chattery sections of trail, where it can feel like you're losing speed,melt away underneath the M29, and tempo increases naturally. The bike accelerates really well under power, and barely bobs at all. Paul Aston


Pros

+ Fantastic silhouette and heritage
+ Superb bump compliance and traction
+ Lively and confidence inspiring

Cons

- Low-spec components for the price tag
- Some slightly frustrating maintenance access issues
- Only available in bigger sizes










After seeing prototypes of the Fury under the GT Factory Racing Team on the race-track in 2018, this new model was much anticipated. The Fury 29 marks a departure from GT's I-Drive suspension configuration, to the more conventional LTS design, with a high main pivot point and idler pulley. The current iteration's carbon frame can change between 29" or 27.5" wheels with a 'Switch Kit' in order to offer a bike for shorter riders and to provide snappier handling for bike park use.

The Fury is available in three complete builds. The Carbon Team 29 being tested here was inspired by the bikes their race team ride. It retails for $7900 USD and comes with Fox Factory suspension, using a 49 fork and a Float X2 shock. The drivetrain is Shimano Saint and the finishing kit is by RaceFace.
GT Fury
Rear Wheel Travel: 190mm (29") and 200mm (27.5")
Wheel size: 29" or 27.5"
Frame construction: carbon front triangle and aluminum rear
Fork: Fox 49
Shock: Fox Float X2
Sizes: S (27.5" only), M, L (tested)
Colors: Blue / Yellow
Weight: 17.84kg / 39.06lbs (L, w/o pedals, actual)
Price: $7900 USD / €7499 EUR Carbon Team build
gtbicycles.com

Other models available are the Carbon Pro for $5775, with either 29" or 27.5" wheels (size S is 27.5, M = 27.5 or 29, L = 29). They also offer the Carbon Expert 27.5 for $4200, and the frame separately, including the Switch Kit, for $3000.

GT Fury Review


On track, the Fury had a great balance between a real high-pivot-idler machine and classic four-bar system. If you like a four-bar design, the GT gives you that, but with a smoother ride and less feedback from the trail through your feet and legs. Its heavy weight will put some riders off, but if you want a rig that can be bashed around bike parks, or you're a hard rider and don't want to worry about thin carbon tubing, the Fury could be for you. We had an issue with a weak shock bolt during testing, but GT assures us that has been addressed on all models moving forward.


bigquotesThe suspension set with the coil shock had great beginning-stroke suppleness, mid-stroke support, and ample bottom-out resistance. The Fury is a stiff machine, and although not harsh feeling, it doesn't track as well at low speed and off-cambers as some other bikes. When I really got on a charge, the bike did come alive and showed a great balance between all aspects of the design, but this didn't happen on every lap. Paul Aston


Pros

+ Rewards aggressive riders
+ Stout chassis for serial bike-beaters
+ Plenty of tuning options and adjustments
Cons

- Heavy
- Weak lower shock bolt
- Low front end on size large




Top Picks

Like the previous Ridden and Rated for big wheel downhill machines, and despite my criticisms, all the bikes featured here are more than capable of taking on the hardest tracks all over the world, and they are all better than everything from earlier this decade – if you have an old 26" bike from 2011, anything here will blow your mind with its capability.

But, one bike has to come out on top. The Intense M29 was a fantastic machine in my eyes and sets a benchmark for many others to work towards. But, and there is a big but – the Commencal Supreme 29". The Supreme took our 2018 Bike of the Year award, and I still post it at the top of my list. It simply does everything - it's a superb value and it comes in many colors, build options and sizes. Above all that, there is still nothing else that gives the bump munching ability, grip, balance, tracking, and silence that the Andorran bike offers.





83 Comments

  • + 193
 It like loking at other man wife. I like to lok. But I never brave enuogh to ride one.
  • - 77
flag Flowcheckers (Mar 18, 2019 at 2:00) (Below Threshold)
 I'm betting there will be more crashes with more racers on big wheels. There are trade offs to the increased speed of the wheels.
  • + 58
 @Flowcheckers: have you not gone to bed or did you just wake up?
  • + 1
 @Naturel: no typos, just typed in a dialect.
  • + 87
 M29 is pure sex. And like sex, it will cost you.
  • + 100
 And Commencal is then a party girl. Who does it just for fun. Because she knows she's good at it.
  • - 24
flag WAKIdesigns (Mar 18, 2019 at 1:53) (Below Threshold)
 Sexists. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

*I decided to be PC Police this week.
  • + 13
 however it will still look attractive in 5 years
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: So what? Sex is what it's all about. Period.
  • + 18
 @yoobee: how dare you mention period? The sexism on this site is out of any bounds
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: Some PB people don't understand sarcasm/irony/humor... please forgive them.
  • + 2
 @sewer-rat: this is true, it reminds me of the ol turner dhr
  • + 4
 I dont like it when its completly bald but it shouldnt be too Fury either.
  • + 1
 @roninagent23: Absolutely! I bought the last model year DHR (new at 50% off) and 5 years later I still love it! I just wish finding 26" tires wasn't such a problem (Ebay or Chain Reaction, I guess).
  • + 2
 @roninagent23: dhr Drool would bang
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Sure. What do you expect in male-dominated forums. Even sarcasm sucks, watch your rating Wink ).
  • + 4
 @yoobee: I’m no holier than thou... most of my replies to @Keit were written between a poop and the pornhub... although his comments made me type weird sht in the search... to the level where I covered the camera with one finger just in case a Nigerian prince sends me an e-mail asking for 2000€, attached my face expression with screenshot of foursome aligator farm fecal
  • + 41
 Good luck and godspeed to @paulaston, definitely my favorite reviewer on PinkBike. He's always been balanced and honest on reviews, even if it means knocking an envied brand off their lofty perch.
  • + 7
 Although he does not like bikes with less than 77° SA/61° HA and 555mm wheelbase... Wink
  • + 12
 @cool3: You like bikes with less than 555mm wheelbase? Damn
  • + 1
 @JorisW: Clearly, I meant 1555mm... Wink
  • + 4
 About as "Fair and Balanced" as Fox News here in the states.
  • + 1
 @cool3: So basically all "Enduro" bikes
  • + 5
 @brappjuice: @brappjuice: As balanced as all news in the States. Please include MSNBC, CNN and Huff Post in your list...
  • + 3
 @WhatToBuy: so true haha no argument there!
  • + 1
 @WhatToBuy: you say that like international news isn't even more skewed. lol
  • + 32
 What if I don’t f*cking want carbon
  • + 50
 I'm with you on that. Commencal Supreme 29.
  • + 13
 Commencal, cube are alu, and from the other manufacturers cheaper options may follow. Also other brands besides the pb reviews do exist.
  • + 21
 @daweil: let me bitch, Jesus.
  • - 18
flag matzx (Mar 18, 2019 at 2:01) (Below Threshold)
 @Kickmehard: i have a french friend who knows Pierron's mechanic and story is - Pierron have a 1 frame for 1 run, because they have 100% rate of cracked or snapped frames...
  • + 21
 @dhmtbr777: said Judas at the last supper
  • + 60
 @matzx: I have an Angolan cousin who knows your wife and story is - she doesn't have a 100% rate of satisfaction
  • + 14
 The Banshee legend only comes in aluminum (and looks amazing in raw).
  • - 1
 I read that with an accent.
  • - 1
 @dhmtbr777: you forgot " be a " in between me and bitch!
  • + 1
 @weeesel: Well, now I just want to go home and fire up the brazing torch! That thing is sick!
  • + 29
 ahhh the sweet words of a lost prophet the book of Paul
  • + 31
 Big Pauls letter to Descendians...
  • - 13
flag dirtbeard (Mar 18, 2019 at 0:23) (Below Threshold)
 @WAKIdesigns: first comment! then some Waki!!!!! This is some kind of revelation!
  • + 10
 Thanks for the reassurance Paul, being 6'5 I really went out on a limb and was one of the first to buy the Commencal, the only other option at the time was the geometrically stunted and over priced Trek. But I'd always had good luck with Commencal and took a gamble, which paid off as the last season on it was absolutely amazing (by both my experiences and WC results)! It's great to know that even by the reviewer's standards though I picked a winner not a lemon.
  • + 10
 How is EXO tires a con for a spartan, but not for a Saracen Myst?
  • + 5
 “Fantastic silhouette and heritage“

It looks cool, but for “heritage” are we going with ancient history or a more recent heritage of cracking frames, poor qc and Jenson USA sales?

This is the least important factor in buying a bike. Intense is just another consumer direct brand, nothing else.
  • + 2
 The funny thing is that's part of their heritage too. Lots of M6s and M3s needed replacement rear triangles, so much so that "M3 front triangle" was a common thing on buy and sell.

They've always been maintenance monsters. I can't see myself buying another Intense, ever.
  • - 1
 “Intense has been competing at the sharp end of the downhill World Cup since before many of Pinkbike's readers were born.”

Pretty sure they didn’t have a team for quite a few years before 2019.
  • + 7
 So the least expensive carbon bike of the litter has a con of being expensive @paulaston ? That is really interesting.
  • + 4
 haha, my thoughts too!
  • + 3
 Ah yes, when one of the cheaper bikes is entirely made of carbon, is a complete redesign from the ground up and comes with WC forks and shock, yet the price is too high for low end spec WC parts. Not having many cons in the cons section is not a bad thing, you know? At least the saddle on this one comfortable Big Grin
  • + 5
 decent review,...focused on what I (subjectively think), counts. thanks PB.
  • + 2
 I don't see the point of carbon when these DH bikes are weighing 35-39lbs. Bike manufacturers can easily make those weights with aluminum frames. Perhaps stiffness but that is still a stretch.
  • + 3
 Where would the PB audience place the SC V10? After all it was the bike that got the DH scene abuzz about 29” wheels.
  • + 4
 You must be this tall to ride the ride..... looks like I'm outa luck
  • + 0
 The only "cons" you put down on the Saracen were...no xl size, and limited availability. So if this is about which bike is the best in your eyes, how does a bike you listed performance or spec "cons" on, win over a bike that had performance cons??? Intense must be upping the ad dollars this month?
  • + 6
 Well, the M29 didn't have any performance cons either. If you read the longer reviews on those bikes, it seems like Paul got along just fine with the Saracen but felt that the M29 was special (though in a different way from the total ground munching of the Commencal).

Sometimes how we feel about bikes aren't a linear combination of the pros and cons list. That's why the longer form reviews are nice.
  • + 1
 Honestly... I was thinking the same thing.

In a dh machine like this... great performing suspension should be a massive massive plus. No XL... o.k. well... is that a ding for anyone under 6'2? You need to talk about the bike and the people buying/riding that bike in a review not those that aren't/can't. Those people clearly aren't interested in that bike because they can't buy a big enough one.

The bike that got the thumbs up has crappy components for the money and has maintenance issues. And is expensive. But it looks pretty.

Didn't realize I was reading a Men's Health review.
  • + 1
 @paulaston thank you for the new reviews and keeping the comparison format with all other DH bikes you have tested.
Now all we need is to see how the V10 meassures up against those bikes and its a wrap.
  • + 3
 sick! what about the new santa cruz v10 29er?
  • + 1
 So the Saracen is a good ‘all rounder’ but that doesn’t include going fast downhill (like the DeVinci), isn’t that the one thing you want from a DH bike?
  • + 2
 Would you still prefer the Commencal to the Intense if racing was only a small part of what you ride on your DH bike?
  • + 2
 Why, these will be old by years end! 36ers are on their way at mach speed!
  • + 2
 Which of these would you guys pick? I would go with the Devinci
  • + 1
 i screwed that up. meant to say...win over a bike with NO performance "cons".
  • + 2
 @paulaston You gonna review a Tues 29er anytime soon?
  • + 1
 Con for a direct to consumer brand: Low-spec components for the price tag. Welcome to the crazy wonderfull world of MTB...
  • + 1
 Some bikes are too shiny.
  • + 1
 I wonder how NS Fuzz would compare to those?
  • + 1
 PB - What location is the first photo! looks stunning!!
  • + 1
 Verbier
  • + 1
 I'm guessing none of them had Enve rims...
  • + 1
 I had one of the first myst's. such an awesome frame
  • + 2
 Nope
  • + 0
 No bottle mount or seat bag, not interested.
  • - 2
 "Ridden & Rated: 29" DH bikes From Intense, Saracen, GT & Devinci." So the best bike? One that wasn't even mentioned in the story until the very end as the best bike.
  • + 0
 why wasn't the Banshee included in this comparison?
  • + 2
 I have the 27.5 legend. Objectively best downhill bike I've ever ridden. I'm sure the 29 version shares most of the same positive characteristics.
  • - 1
 oooooh boy
  • - 1
 Saucy as the lot of em
  • - 1
 Hell yes!
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