Intense Tracer 29 long-term review

Santa Cruz Highball X01 Axs Rsv Carbon Cc 30

The Intense Tracer 29 is a big-hitting monster-truck 29er enduro rig with 170mm of travel. This bike is built to take on the hardest terrain and pedal back to the top for another go. Intense has taken its 30-year heritage and condensed it into this Taiwan-made carbon concoction, paired it with all the spec you could realistically need and nailed the price-point. The previous-generation Tracer was designed in 2017 and was starting to look a bit dated, particularly in terms of geometry. When the Tracer 279 was released in 2022, it received a positive reception, with riders praising the looks, spec and modern geometry. But the mullet wheel-size option left some riders cold: Where was the 29er race version? The 2023 Tracer 29 answers that question and with its in-frame storage, long dropper post and aggressive geometry, it has all the ingredients riders have come to expect on a modern enduro race bike. So, will the Tracer 29 add up to the sum of its parts?

Intense Tracer 29 long-term review update one

Intense Tracer 29

It’s been a busy month for Will and the Tracer. The Tracer has received a serious thrashing since I got it. It’s held up well (including the wheels this time) despite hitting huge jumps such as the Viagra Falls pro-line at Windhill Bikepark and gnarly rough terrain such as Dai Hard and Pork Belly at BikePark Wales. Additions I’ve made to the bike include some Pembree D2A pedals and a Pembree VFS stem. There’s not much to say about the stem, other than that it’s very bling, precision-made and does indeed clamp the steerer tube perpendicular to the handlebars. The pedals, however, are truly brilliant, spinning smoothly on two bearings and a bush, and looking gorgeous. The perfect concavity and incredibly cosseted comfort are definitely worth noting. The superbly shaped design seems to cwtch (Welsh for hug) your foot and increases the grip level available from any mountain bike shoe. It’s an awesome design and up there with my favourite flat pedals.

The suspension is mostly dialled in (although I’m lamenting the lack of adjustable high-speed compression on the Float X2 Performance shock), so I have started to fiddle with the geometry. Flipping the chip (located on the lower link) is not an easy affair because all air must be purged from the shock to access the bolt. It’s not disastrous, but it is an annoying design oversight. This then lowers the BB height from 351mm to 341mm and slackens the head angle from the already relaxed 64.4 degrees to a daring 63.7 degrees.

Highs and lows

Intense Tracer 29

The Tracer came through the Vanta Jam at BikePark Wales with flying colours. Ride experience was mostly positive, and it now really does feel like a light, agile version of a full downhill bike. However, it’s noticeably more recalcitrant on seated climbs, and more laborious on flatter sections of trail, where it had surprised me so favourably in the ‘high’ setting. This ‘low’ setting is therefore great to have in your arsenal, if you’re racing a DH or heading abroad for an uplifted bike park holiday. It takes the Tracer 29 out of the realms of all-rounder and fully into the camp of a gravity sled.

This versatile machine has remained reliable despite the thrashing I’ve given it. But since new I’ve been frustrated with consistent water ingress into the CHAD box if the bike is ridden in wet weather or washed. More recently, the box lid has become so loose it’s started flapping noisily when riding, so I’m retrofitting a thicker seal to find out if this fixes it. It’s been a busy few months for the Tracer 29. Riding the huge jumps at the BikePark Wales Vanta Jam, the big enduro machine coped admirably despite some big cases. It rolled faster and provided more manoeuvrability than the DH bike I rode at the event last year. 

Timed runs of the park’s black trails with Steve Peat and Laurie Greenland showed just how capable the Tracer 29 is when pushed to the limit. I needed maximum traction if I was to have any hope of staying near their blistering pace and the Tracer delivered.  What’s coming next? I’ve acquired an Ochain system suitable for the Tracer 29’s E13 Helix cranks. Will it make the Intense’s suspension feel even more supple and perhaps even high-pivot esque? We’ll found out in my next update.

Intense Tracer 29 specification and details

Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The Tracer 29 looks good from all angles. The chunky carbon frame features some sharp-looking lines and a matt black paintjob with red and silver highlights. Scratch below the surface and you’ll find 170mm of suspension travel utilising a dual-swing-link VPP design to give the ideal compromise of suppleness, progression, anti-squat and anti-rise. Intense’s CHAD system offers generous internal storage with a secure (but fiddly to open) door at the bottom of the frame and a long neoprene sausage to fill with items you want to carry about in your bike.

Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Airtime is comfortable thanks to the long wheelbase and low BB. A two-position flip chip for geometry adjustment on the lower shock mount enables simultaneous adjustment of the bottom bracket height and head angle. An air-sprung Fox Performance 38 fork and X2 shock keep you suspended (more on those later). ethirteen finishing kit consists of LG1 28-spoke wheels, carbon bar, 35mm stem, 180mm Infinite dropper, Helix crank and Vario chain guide, which belies this bike’s hard-hitting intentions. Stopping power comes from a pair of Shimano XT four-piston brakes with whopping 203mm rotors. Shimano also provides the XT derailleur and shifter, and SLX cassette and chain. Sticking you to the ground is a pair of Maxxis Assegai tyres in EXO+ casing and a generous 2.5in width. Contact points are an SDG Radar saddle and some retro-themed Intense lock-on grips.

Intense Tracer 29 specification

  • Sizes: M, L, XL (Large tested)
  • Weight: 16.27kg without pedals
  • Frame: Carbon front and rear triangle, carbon top link, titanium hardware, threaded BB with ISCG 05, VPP suspension with aluminium concentric BB link, flip chip on lower shock mount, integrated frame protection and CHAD storage with neoprene tube bag, Boost spacing QR axle, 170mm travel
  • Shock: FOX Performance Elite Float X2 (205x65mm), climb switch
  • Fork: FOX Performance Elite 38 Float, 170mm, Grip 2 Damper, high/low speed compression & rebound 170mm (6.7in) travel
  • Shifters: Shimano XT M8100 12-speed, I-Spec
  • Derailleurs: Shimano XT M8100 12sp
  • Cranks: ethirteen Helix cranks (1×12) 170mm, 32t direct-mount chainring
  • Wheelset: ethirteen LG1 28h
  • Tyres: Maxxis Assegai 2.5 EXO+ 3C 29X2.5in (f & r)
  • Brakes: Shimano XT M8120 4-piston, 203mm rotors
  • Bar: ethirteen Race carbon 800mm
  • Stem: ethirteen Plus 40mm length (35mm clamp)
  • Seatpost: ethirteen 180mm dropper
  • Saddle: SDG Radar

Intense Tracer 29 geometry

Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Climb mode on the Fox Float X2 shock means you’re still smiling at the top. The Tracer 29’s geometry is aggressive and modern. The reach on my large bike is 480mm, and combined with a snappy 445mm chainstay, gives a wheelbase of 1,268mm. The steep seat angle of 77.7 degrees leaves you seated comfortably for climbing. Most striking is the low bottom bracket and super-slack head angle. With the flip chip in the high setting, a BB height of 351mm is already low, but put it in the low setting and a 9mm reduction means it’s just 342mm. The head angle is also suitably naughty, going from a slack 64.4 degrees in the high setting through a 0.7-degree reduction in the low setting to a Big Lebowski level of relaxation at just 63.7 degrees. That’s slacker than most downhill bikes.

Seat angle – effective (degrees)72.8 / 7772.8 / 7772.8 / 77
Head angle (degrees)64.4 / 63.764.4 / 63.764.4 / 63.7
Chainstay (mm)445 / 447445 / 447445 / 447
Seat tube (mm)418440465
Top tube (mm)590 / 592618 / 620647 / 647
Head tube (mm)100110120
Bottom bracket drop (mm)24.7 / 34.224.7 / 34.224.7 / 34.2
Bottom bracket height (mm)351 / 341351 / 342351 / 341
Wheelbase (mm)1,239 / 1,2381,268 / 1,2671,297 / 1,297
Standover (mm)805 / 799809 / 802814 / 806
Stack (mm)629 / 633638 / 643647 / 651
Reach (mm)455 / 447480 / 472505 / 498

Why did I choose this bike?

Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Will felt instantly at home on the Tracer 29. There is always a place in my stable for a big-hitting enduro bike. These are bikes fast enough to tackle all but the roughest DH track, but with the versatility of being able to winch yourself back to the top without the need of an uplift. With this in mind, I asked Intense for a Tracer, in the 27.5in mullet incarnation. Instead, the brand suggested I try its big mountain slayer: the Tracer 29. I ride a size large, which is a 480mm reach – about standard for a large in 2023. I usually size up for stability and speed, sacrificing a flickable nature with something I need to ride more aggressively when the need to change direction arises. The spec of this bike is practical, if not drool-worthy. At a competitive price-point, the Tracer 29 offers all I could want from an enduro bike (bar perhaps some adjustability in the suspension) without a noticeable sacrifice in performance, strength or weight.

Intense Tracer 29 initial setup

Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The Tracer 29 thrives in big, lumpy terrain. Bar height felt sensible out of the box. With a low stack height, low rise bar and a 170mm-travel fork, I left all four 10mm spacers below the stem. Job done. I went slightly over Fox’s recommended suspension pressures for my weight because I like a firmly sprung bike. My chosen damper settings are slow on the low-speed to prevent the bike pitching, and open on the high-speed for compliance. This enables the wheels to move out of the way of bumps quickly and the suspension to be held up on the spring pressure. The saddle is slammed all the way forward for climbing, and the 180mm dropper and short 440mm seat tube mean the saddle is at its correct height for climbing (with the dropper extended) when it’s slammed in the frame: out of the way, where it belongs. My next steps are to try the bike in the low setting, mess about with some volume spacers in the fork and shock, and keep experimenting with the damper settings.

Intense Tracer 29 ride impressions


Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The Tracer is confidence-inspiring in corners. My first ride impressions on the blue runs were great. Corner schralping is easy thanks to the geometry, which is bang-on. A 480mm reach and a 64.4-degree head angle on the large bike, in the high setting, mean the bars and cranks are exactly where I want them to be in relation to the wheels. Fox’s 38 Performance Elite is a great fork with a stiff chassis and the same Float air-spring and GRIP2 damper as Fox’s more expensive Factory sibling (but without gold Kashima coating). It was easy to set up with a wide range of adjustment (high- and low-speed rebound, and high- and low-speed compression on the Fox, low-speed compression and rebound on the shock).

The bike comes with volume spacers to tune the progressivity of the fork and shock for no extra money. The Maxxis Assegai 3C EXO tyres are awesome: They aren’t the out-and-out grippiest mountain bike tyres you can get, but they are great all-rounders. More importantly, they break traction in a smoothly predictable way thanks to their rounded shoulders, enabling you to sense when you’re starting to slide and catch the bike easily.


Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Tackling gnarly terrain is a doddle with the Fox 38. There are plenty of places in South Wales where rocks pummel you and staying on-line and resisting arm-pump are major battles. The Tracer takes choppy terrain in its stride, holding its shape but absorbing the hits, allowing you to stay off the brakes and concentrate on hitting your lines. The progressive suspension isn’t as forgiving as some bikes on the bigger hits though, meaning you get fatigued more quickly than on other, more forgiving ‘plough’ bikes, such as the many high-pivot options out there.

The long dropper post is brilliant, tucking nice and low for any big terrain where body follow-through is required. Meanwhile, the ethirteen LG1+ chain guide means you never lose a chain, even on the roughest sections. Due to over-exuberance and poor judgement, I destroyed the rear ethirteen LG1 rim at BikePark Wales on Rim Dinger trying to stay ahead of Ben Deakin. The team at Intense UK were quick to sort a replacement, but it left me wondering if speccing 28-spoke wheels on a big enduro bike was a contributing factor to my rim’s demise.

Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The Tracer 29 won’t feel out of its depth in the big stuff. Fox’s Float X2 Performance Elite shock doesn’t have adjustable high-speed rebound and high-speed compression. Additionally, although the main piston and valving of the Performance Elite Float X2 and the top-spec Factory Float X2 are the same, the VVC (Variable Valve Control) high-speed damping cartridges of the more expensive Factory shock are missing from the Performance Elite. RideFoxUK’s technicians tell me the circuits work similarly, with the VVC high-speed circuits offering more tunability for the rider. I haven’t had a problem with the stock (fixed) setting because I’m 65kg and don’t need a slower high-speed rebound, which is useful for riders running higher air-spring pressure. However, with the non-adjustable high-speed-compression, to me the factory setting feels a little firm. If I could, I would decrease the High-Speed Compression damping a little further open to free up the movement of the shock when encountering square-edged hits.


Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

In the low setting, the Tracer 29 corners as if it’s on rails. The Tracer climbs better than you might expect from a 170mm-travel bike too. The steep seat angle keeps your mass forward of the bottom bracket so you don’t loop out on seated climbs. You can lock out the rear suspension by flicking the blue lever on the Float X2 shock labelled ‘Firm’ with an arrow. It works by impeding the flow of oil and adding a pedalling threshold, which prevents energy-sapping bob. It works perfectly, however I’ve found the bike stable enough without the lock-out, leaving it fully open for extra traction and less faff. The Shimano XT drivetrain is a favourite performer of mine, offering a great mix of reliability, performance and light weight without breaking the bank. Snicking through the wide-ratio cassette while mashing the stiff 170mm ethirteen cranks, it’s easy to remember why I love Shimano’s XT groupset so much.

Overall impressions

Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The harder you push the Tracer, the better it gets. My early impressions suggest Intense has knocked it out of the park with a bike that delivers on every level a high-spec enduro bike should. Aggressive geometry means you can really monster this bike, constantly pushing to try to find the limit. Low weight and inertia means it is playful and quick to pick up speed. The spec is strong for the money and a well-chosen mix of kit that really suits the bike’s personality. The only niggles are that if you ride in the wet or wash your bike, the CHAD frame storage becomes sopping wet, with anything metal in the neoprene storage sausage corroding and anything else degrading. Also the 28h wheelset seems a little out of place on such a gnarly build. Interestingly, the Intense 279 is specced with 32h wheels front and rear.

Intense Tracer 29 upgrades

Male Cyclist Riding The Intense Tracer 29 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Will is already plotting his next moves with the Tracer. I can’t wait to spend more time tweaking the Tracer and upgrading the bike with parts aimed at improving performance. However, I’m first keen to try the Tracer frame in the low flip-chip setting and spend some time tweaking suspension and cockpit setup. I’m planning to try an Ochain to see if it reduces pedal-feedback from the long rear suspension. And, of course, there’s always room on any bike for some more bling. I have my eye on some UK-made bicycle jewellery from small manufacturers Pembree in Sussex.


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