The Spider 29er is a handcrafted beauty that any bike geek will drool over. Beyond the looks is a frame designed to perform. Lucky for us, Intense Cycles sent us a redesigned Spider 29 frame as a test frame. One of the last frames manufactured in the United States, it is designed from the ground up in California and obviously lovingly welded in-house. American made love does not come cheap, the frame and shock list for $2,149.To give some perspective many overseas frames cost more then the Intense does. I say this so you know that I am not whining of abnormal cost. This is a pretty average price for a high end frame
The first noticeable feature is the striking, red paint job. I am not usually a fan of red bikes. However, when I saw Intense’s pre-production photos posted online, I secretly started becoming a fan. The “works red” allows a subtle raw aluminium to show through. The paint is immaculate. As usual, I am also more inclined to purchase a bike that has anodizing or is raw, as these finishes are typically more durable and, as an added bonus, weigh less. Speaking of the weight, our medium test frame with paint weighed 6 pounds 15 oz (3.16 kg). This weight puts it a little heavy for a cross country race bike and a little light for a trail bike when compared to competing models in these disciplines.
The Intense Spider 29 is designed to span a wide variety of riding styles and can grow with you as you add new skills and terrains to your riding. I'll add, it can change between functions on the fly with a well thought out kit. Intense designed the Spider 29 to be run with 100-120 mm (3.9”-4.7”) travel forks. They have frames built heavy with 140mm forks as well. So, we can see the diversity this frame can provide. We will be focusing on this bike run with 100-120 mm travel forks, but will spend some time with this frame running a 140mm fork as well.
Here are some important measurements and details if you are considering a build with this frame. The headset is an external 1.5” lower bearing and a 44mm direct set upper. This is one of the variety of tapered head tube configurations available. The direct sets allow the front end to stay nice and low (stack height). While tapered steer tubes are becoming the 29er norm, the headset will more then likely have to be ordered from your shop, unless your shop happens to be very well equipped. The extra stiffness added to the fork and the extra surface area to weld the front end makes for a frame that does not twist under load, and is very strong.
The bottom bracket width is 73mm. Mostly, this does not cause bottom bracket compatibility issues any more, but check with your bottom bracket maker to see any details about installation. Spacers will be included with your bottom bracket(out board bearing models)
Again, Intense gives its customers the ultimate in versatility by offering the rear axle spacing appropriate to both a cross country and a trail bike. 142x 12 (my favorite) 135x12 or the open drop outs most readers are used to. If you are building from scratch, I strongly recommend using the 142x 12 set up. It is very easy to use and adds a substantial level of stiffness, especially in the wheel. The Spider 29, when run with the open drop out set up, does have compatibility issues when installing the rear wheel due to the quick release skewers female end. This is true of the Easton rear skewer we are running on this bike. You may or may not have problems with the rear skewer you are running. Just be aware, or better yet run a 142x12 rear drop out configuration, and skip this last statement completely.
It is not our style to draw lots of conclusions about how a bike will ride due to its geometry. The Intense is a sum of all parts. Until we ride it, we won’t speculate on geometry or suspension performance. I will say that Intense utilizes the patented VPP (Virtual Pivot Point ) suspension type. Intense licenses this technology from Santa Cruz Bicycles who bought it from a company called Outland. After Santa Cruz bought the technology, the first VPP bike I saw was from Intense. They have over a decade of experience with the VPP design, spanning from cross country bikes to down hill bikes. It is also notable that they were the first company to put out a VPP 29er. Added to this, they are one of the first companies to put out a full suspension 29er period (Intense Spider 29er, first generation). All in all, sounds promising.
The stock shock that was sent on the Spider 29er is a model that I am unfamiliar with called the Fox RPL. It is a large volume air can and has an open setting, a pro-pedal setting and a lock-out. There is a blue lever on the shock longer then a RP23 pro-pedal lever. It really matters where this is. The lock-out is performed when this lever pushed straight out towards the front of the bike. For some reason it kept inadvertently going into this lock-out position. It may take time to get used to this. If this shock isn't your bag, Intense will ship the frame with a different rear shock, like the Fox RP23.(Edit It seems as though the RPL is the only shock Intense is equipping this bike. Later this year we should see a Cane creek Double Barrel Air that will work on this. Sorry for the confusion )
Beyond what is outlined already are small details like a 31.6 seat post diameter, International Standard rear disc mount, direct mount front derailleur. This type of derailleur mount allows for shorter chain-stays and twist-less/ stiffer interface and, I will add, a pain to set up. It's not that bad, but a little annoying.
Grumbling about the front derailleur aside, the Intense built up smoothly. Intense graciously rushed this bike to us as I was leaving for Lake Placid, NY so I could get a jump start testing, especially since I would have an opportunity to try it in a different region than where we usually ride.
The seat tube is reamed perfectly. The head tube didn't have paint where the headset cups interface (good) and the disc brake mount was clean and straight. The pivots are tight and tolerances are tight. The first ride on the bike clearly shows how stiff and clean this bike is manufactured. The welds are as perfect as I have seen. There is obviously a lot of pride put into the construction of this bike. There is pure quality from the shape of every tube to the hardware and there is a reason for everything. All that, and it still manages to look awesome.
Again, keep in mind the rush to get us this frame. I am pretty sure they didn't have much time to prep this frame because of my time constraints. That said, the bottom bracket threads were tight; tighter then I am used to. There were tools involved from thread one and a bit more resistance then I would like to see.
The rear tire clearance is appropriate for a cross country bike or a dry condition trail bike. Our Specialized Purgatory 2.25 rear tire has some tight clearance.
Third and last thing is, while building, I ripped a nail and cut myself on the shoulder bolts. There are some sharp edges on those bolts. Big deal? No, but it’s worth mentioning as Intense is a premier builder and the frames cost enough to justify high expectations.
Over the next couple of months we will be testing the Spider 29. It will be set up and tested as a cross country bike and adjusted and tested as a trail bike. We will be really focused on the versatility of the Intense Spider 29. If you have any specific questions that are holding you back from purchasing the Spider, please ask through the comments section. We will do our best to answer them as quickly as possible. Until then, enjoy the pictures.