“If you’ve got it, flaunt it” – as the grandpappy of someone I vaguely knew was reputed to have once said… But regardless of shady anecdote material, the Intense booth today was certainly flaunting it.
Intense has had a long history with downhill racing and it obviously runs a pretty good archive of historic frames from over the years, which is why visitors to this year’s Sea Otter could see a selection of World Championship frames, and other historic frames going back 20 years. In the mid to late 1990s when downhill was barely a separate sport and when the focus of many firms was still on the leg-shaving XC racers, there really weren’t many bike frames that were suitable (or durable enough!) for downhill racing – which was transitioning from going as fast as you could down a fire road, to riding down the steepest and rockiest trails you could find.
The Intense M1 came out around that time and was one of the first bikes designed not with pedalling efficiency in mind, but for going very, very fast downhill instead. Other early suspension designs of that time were still intended to be pedalled back up the hill, but the M1 was meant to rely on a friend with a pickup, or preferably a resort with a chairlift to get you to the top of the hill.
Many companies were rushing to develop a specific downhill bike, but with a downhill World Championships to race for and a newly developed downhill World Cup series to race for, they were struggling to get anything out in time for their downhill racers. So several firms used to race Turners or Intense DH bikes with their own company stickers on. While it fooled no one, it let the bike companies field racers until they could put them on a bike of their own. John Tomac’s ‘Giant’ was definitely one of the more famous ones of this era…
Intense doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, so expect to see more Intense bikes at a downhill race near you soon.