Intense, the name synonymous with race bred downhill bikes. Jeff Steber and crew have been tweaking and fine tuning their latest offering on the World Cup circuit under some of the fastest racers on the planet over the last 2 years, and are ready to take their crown jewel to the masses.
The result of that work is the M9 FRO. Race bred, factory tuned and ready to go. Check out what the M9 has to offer!Intense M9 FRO
The Intense M1 is perhaps the most famous downhill bike in the short history of our sport. It has won title upon title, often re-badged as another brand. Downhill, as a competitive sport, owes much of it's early rise to the M1. Riders on the M1 were suddenly going bigger and faster than ever thought possible, and if you didn't have an M1, you wanted one. Intense didn't rest on their laurels however, and has been striving to create what they believe is the ultimate downhill race bike: the M9 FRO. Their newest creation may well be Intense's masterpiece after 16 years of racing. The bike was developed with the input of the #1 World Cup team in 2010, as well as many top riders from around the globe, and they believe that they have created "the best handling downhill bike" ever produced. Those are some big claims to live up to, does the M9 have what it takes? With more adjustments than a chiropractor, the frame can be molded to fit all styles of rider, and all styles of courses - this bike is not just a one-show pony. Just to get things started, our frame came fully built from the factory, but it is not representative of an Intense build kit. Wanting to get Pinkbike a bike as soon as possible, they built this machine using some spares that were at Intense HQ in Temecula and meant for their demo fleet. It is built sturdy, that's for sure. Intense did manage to include the creme de la creme of shimano parts for drivetrain and braking though, the same as their race team. When build kits are finalized, they will be posted on the Intense website. As soon as you pull the bike out of the box, you realize you have more than just a downhill frame. The craftsmanship on this bike is second to none. Handmade in their factory in California, this isn't your standard mass produced bicycle. The welds are gorgeous, the paint is flawless, and there are details like grease ports on the main pivot that you certainly don't see every day. Intense told us "we don't weigh bicycles, we ride them." and it wouldn't be fair to weigh the bike as delivered due to the non-standard parts that were used. A medium M9 with paint, headset and steel coiled Fox RC4 is 11.6lbs claimed weight. Complete bikes with Fox, Shimano Saint and Deemax's runs about 39.5lbs.
The M9 FRO comes in 3 sizes, with a range that will fit most riders. At 5'5", the small surprisingly feels quite compact to me, especially after coming off of larger bikes for the last few years. Riders of smaller than average stature take note, this is a great thing as normally it is a huge pain for smaller riders to find a bike that they can truly feel comfortable on. Intense has had their fare share of issues over the past years, but as of 18 months ago or so, it's a completely different company. The frame issues some saw on M1SLs are a thing of the past. From Intense: "As its been reported all over the web and print media, Intense is still owned and operated by the same guys (Jeff Steber, founder and designer, probably works 60 hours a week here, always has) But in the last 2 years Intense has converted to a new philosophy in design, manufacturing and customer service." Intense's spokesperson continues: "For 2010, our manufacturing and customer services processes have been significantly overhauled using lean thinking to ensure that they flow more efficiently and effectively. We are confident that the identified and continued improvements will ensure that our products are made on time to the same exacting standards, with no extra economic cost to you, as customers. In addition, if defects are made, we are confident that they will be remedied as quickly as possible with minimal hassle to the customer." It takes balls to admit that there were problems, and step up to the plate to make the changes necessary. With that in mind, I was more than happy to give the M9 a shred, and felt comfortable in giving it a fair shake.
The M9 FRO is not inexpensive, with an MSRP of $2950 USD, but that does include a Cane Creek AngleSet along with the Fox DHX RC4 rear shock. The AngleSet allows for extremely easy head angle adjustments, simply by swapping around some cups. The best part is that Intense has partnered with Cane Creek on his frame and has used a headtube that features a pinch bolt that you can loosen to make swapping the cups that much easier. There's no fussing about when pressing cups in and out on the M9, it's simple and easy to do with your fingers and one allan key. The bike includes 0 degree, plus or minus .5 degree and plus or minus 1 degree cups direct from the factory, so you are ready to go as soon as you receive your new frame.
The M9 FRO uses a championship winning VPP suspension design and through the use of a flippable chip in the bike's lower linkage you can easily change the travel from 8.5" to 9.5" of travel in half inch increments. Looking for a slightly snappier bike that you can pump easier? Run it in the low setting. Want it to gobble up the rough stuff on a particularly nasty track? Set it at 9.5" and get ready to rock and roll. You get one centered 9" travel chip, and one offset chip that will let you get to the two extremes. Although it isn't new, there is no denying that it's an ingenious system and extremely easy to use, only requiring a few minutes and one hex key.
Once you have your travel sorted out, you can get your suspension setup dialed in. The M9 will come with the option of a Fox DHX RC4, or for only $50 USD more, a Cane Creek Double Barrel. Whichever shock you choose, you can use one of the three forward shock mounting points to adjust the suspension rate to suit your tastes. If you want a more progressive feeling, drop the shock into the lowest mounting hole. If you want it more linear, raise the shock up to the top mounting hole. Intense has gone to extremes to make sure this frame will keep everyone happy, no matter your shock choice, riding style, or terrain that you're on. You have no excuses for not getting this bike dialed!
Last but certainly not least, is the G3 dropout system. These non-symmetrical dropouts allow you to fine tune your chainstay length, as well as make slight adjustments to the bottom bracket height and head angle. The G3 dropout is an extremely elegant solution. Held together by two standard chainring bolts, you can move the dropouts in unison to change your stay length in .25" increments. Making a .5" adjustment in chainstay length will have a massive effect on how your bike handles. Cornering will be especially affected by this, so choose wisely! Each change made to the dropouts will change bottom bracket height by about .125", as well as change your head angle by .25 degrees.
Check out the Intense website
for more information.Sure, it is a mega adjustable, go-fast bike, but the boys at Intense say that by simply selecting the middle ground on the settings you'll have a great handling bike that can excel anywhere a downhill bike can spread its wings. We'll be testing that theory, as well as playing with the adjustments over the coming months and will report back with what we find, but in the meantime let's hear what you have to say about this red racer!