Intense Tracer 29 Pro review

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The combination of lightness and pedalling efficiency will far outshine slight compromises in rider position on the Intense Tracer 29.

The Intense Tracer 29 is the venerable company’s latest wagon wheel offering in the winch and plummet category that also displays a remarkable aptitude for a broad range of trail types. As the Tracer has evolved over the past 20+ years – from a 100mm travel to today’s 170mm travel 29er (27.5 mullet options available) – it has always had the same game plan: pedal uphill like a trail bike, descend like a downhill bike. Intense’s JS Tuned dual-linkage floating pivot point suspension layout, while appearing a little dated, serves these dual purposes well, but compromises some comfort and traction on shallower terrain that perhaps some of its buyers are unlikely to be riding anyway.

Fancy headbadge

The Bike

The Tracer 29 has the typical broad range of features for a modern enduro bike that are now standard: full carbon front and rear triangles; downtube storage compartment; internally routed cables; high/low flip chip; bash guard; and rubberized protection of the driveside rear triangle.

Not-so-commonly, the Tracer sports an upper link made of carbon fiber, a lower link with grease port and an asymmetric design which offsets the shock to one side for greater drivetrain and tire clearance. Protecting that shock are an effective demi fender and splash guard to keep the shock well and stanchion clear of mud. 

To some eyes, the geometry of the bike is not quite the super modern enduro standards. With a 505mm reach (on the XL); 450mm chainstays (our measurements, in low geo setting); 347mm bottom bracket height; 115mm headtube; 64.25° headtube angle; and 76.5° seat tube angle (all measured, unsagged). These figures differ slightly from Intense’s published numbers which may be due to seat height, tire choice and other fitment choices, but the result is clear: the bike has an older school ride stance that puts the rider further back, higher and more hunched over than many of its competitors. 

Silk finish, yet industrial looking

On this Pro level build, that fit was augmented by a nearly flat E*Thirteen handlebar and 40mm stem and an aft seat position dictated by the SDG saddle’s limited rail positioning.  E*Thirteen also supplied wheels (with that cool toolless rear skewer), cranks, bottom bracket and a dropper post, while the drivetrain and brakes are from the well understood Shimano XT group.

Big forms are a theme on this bike. It carries 203mm rotors, Maxxis Exo+ Assegai WT 2.5 tires and Fox Performance level suspension featuring a 38 fork and X2 air shock. Intense house branded grips, Jagwire housing and a Cane Creek 40 headset round-out the build. This tidy package came in at a very reasonable overall weight (14.1kg or 2.2stone for you mediaeval hold-out types).

By spec alone, the bike appears ready to take on all but the roughest of downhill terrain while preserving a lightness and pedalability suitable for long days in the saddle. But, does the sum of the parts add up to its anticipated whole?

The Ride

Without doing any research on the bike in general, I first took it to Singletrack World’s finest (and only) nearby bike park, Havok for some steep laps. I was immediately aware of its weight (or lack thereof) and the big form factors which seemed to carry the bike a bit on that windy day. If you’ve gone from flying on 27.5 to 29 wheels on a windy day, you will know what I am talking about. The lightness made the bike easy to manoeuvre into corners and out of bad lines, while impressing on steep climbs where it had a near-XC efficiency. Certainly some of the climbing capability was due to the dropped lower link configuration which causes the axle to move rearward under compression and conversely keeps the wheel tucked in under high torque loads through generous amounts of anti-squat. Santa Cruz, the other leading maker of similar dual-linkage floating pivot type suspension, uses a much more horizontal lower link, unlike the Tracer’s whose endpoints are a big bottom bracket concentric forward pivot and a below axle height rear pivot. This same compact aluminium (for durability) lower link acts as a shock driver which, because of its small size, creates a high amount of progression so that bottom out was never an issue. Yep, the bike would likely perform well with a coil. 

While the bike park riding had some steeps, the trails were well manicured and did not present technical challenges that illustrated some of the Tracer’s quirkiness. I am used to very progressive geometry and once in steeper, rougher terrain found the bike’s front end a little too old school for maximum control. Though I did not mind the steeper-than-I’m-used-to headtube angle, the shorter front end, 40mm stem and low bar height (115 mm headtube and low-rise bar) put extra pressure on my hands and made me feel cramped and upright while descending. This was especially noticeable on super steep sections with the dropper down or moderate steep sections with the post up, where I felt pitched forward and resulted in craning my neck up to maintain good trail vision. 

On the other hand (end?) the rear axle’s backward motion and chainstay growth (starting from that long-already 450mm) made the bike extremely stable in rocky terrain with square edged obstacles. The bike was quiet and composed going through the rough stuff with the highly tunable Fox dampers easily adjusted for the terrain type. Braking forces were largely independent from the suspension and the ability to drop anchor with the rear brake in slick roots and moss covered rocks without a loss in rear wheel traction was a real boon in the 2023 summer’s never-ending showers. 

The front end issues could largely be addressed by a higher stem and bar swap which would reduce some of the pressure on one’s hands whilst also providing a more heads-up riding position. A 180mm (or 190mm?) fork wouldn’t be a bad addition, slowing down the steering a tad and raising the front end, but that’s something that should be factored before altering the cockpit. 

Marrying the front and rear ends is the ever-problematic (especially for taller riders) offset seat tube which creates a narrow window of proper height and angle. Intense lists the Tracer effective seat tube angle at 77°, but I found at my preferred height it was about 76.5° and rode with the saddle slammed forward beyond the markings to make the bike climb well. Even then, on steep pitches, it was only OK, with my upper body doing extra duty pulling myself into the handlebar to maintain traction and front end control. The geometry mix is probably better suited for California’s fire road climbs and dry, fast, chunky descents, than my local very steep, and often singletrack, climbs and slimy descents.  

What I found on more moderate terrain was that the Intense Tracer 29 is no XC bike, despite its airyness and efficiency. That rearward moving link didn’t move much under chain tension, so pedalling through rough stuff, was… rough. Here, again, the bike bifurcated: the front end felt like a dream long travel XC bike with the 38 fork crushing all in its path and the moderate seat angle and low front end making for a powerful position, but the rear end, for all its efficiency, felt choppy even at 30% sag. Though I tried the climb switch on a variety of terrains, because of the high anti-squat, the only situation I can recommend it for is extremely smooth climb trails or roads otherwise it reduces traction and adds harshness to the ride. 

Overall

The Intense Tracer 29 is two bikes in one and that’s not necessarily a good or bad thing. Who is the Tracer for? If you ride at pedal-up bike parks and trail centres or have access to moderate climbs this could be the bike for you. The combination of lightness and pedalling efficiency will far outshine the compromises in rider position on the Tracer 29. It is also well suited for moderate height (there is no small size) riders or those squarely in the middle of the height range for a size because the offset seat tube effect will be minimal. Those riders (size MD headtube is only 15mm shorter than XL’s minimalist 115mm) may still want a higher/longer front end than the stock E*Thirteen cockpit if they are riding steeper descents. While I didn’t find the bike difficult to turn, sharp bike park berms would almost certainly be better on the Tracer 279; the bike’s mullet sibling, while the Tracer 29 will roll a little faster up and down in a straight line.  

Intense Tracer 29 Pro specification

  • Frame // Carbon, 170mm
  • Fork // Fox Performance Elite 38 Float, 170mm
  • Shock // Fox Performance Float X2
  • Wheels // e*Thirteen LG1 Enduro
  • Front tyre // Maxxis Assegai 3C EXO+ 29×2.5in
  • Rear tyre // Maxxis Assegai 3C EXO+ 29×2.5in
  • Chainset // e*Thirteen Helix Base, 170mm, 30t
  • Drivetrain // Shimano XT, 10-51T
  • Brakes // Shimano XT M8120, 203/203mm
  • Stem // e*Thirteen Plus 35, 40mm
  • Bars // e*Thirteen Race Carbon 35, 800mm
  • Grips // Intense Lock-on
  • Seatpost // e*Thirteen Infinite Dropper, 31.6mm, 210mm
  • Saddle // SDG Radar
  • Bottom Bracket // e*Thirteen
  • Size tested // XL
  • Sizes available // M, L, XL
  • Weight // 14.1kg
  • Head angle // 63.7° (low)
  • Effective seat angle // 77°
  • Seat tube length // 465mm
  • Head tube length // 120mm
  • Chainstay // 447mm
  • Wheelbase // 1,297mm
  • Effective top tube // 647mm
  • BB height // 34.2mm BB drop
  • Reach // 498mm

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Review Info

Brand: Intense
Product: Tracer 29 Pro
From: Intense UK
Price: £5,799
Tested: by Fahzure Freeride for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 151

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