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Intense Cycles is known for its handcrafted, championship-winning race frames, and is regarded by many as the “Ferrari of the mountain bike industry.” How does a company born in 1992 gather such a prestigious reputation in such a short period of time? Let’s take a quick trip back in time to see how one man’s idea flourished from the kitchen table to UCI podiums.
In 1991, Jeff Steber designed and constructed his first full suspension mountain bike in his garage, and the following year would see new additions to the frame such as CNC machined parts and sealed bearings. Then in 1993, Jeff decided to try his luck and go public with his product at the 1993 Interbike trade show, and his gamble paid off. Jeff sold every frame he had and then some. His success with the short travel frame fueled the passion to construct a downhill specific model, and the unparalleled history of the M-1 was born. The M-1 needed some serious testing and exposure before it went public, so Jeff went to work on rounding up his first factory DH team. Little did he know that his team and its members would become legendary: Randy Lawrence, Mike Metzger, and Shaun Palmer. Palmer brought to the DH racing world an attitude and race style that will never be forgotten, and one that rarely lost races. The spirit of the original DH team set the standard for Intense Factory Racing for years to come, as well as raising the bar for other manufacturers to step up to. It still has yet to be met.
Intense race frames saw an ever-increasing demand with other racers and manufacturers, and established a new standard for competitors to follow. The M-1 saw action under the likes of Brian Lopes, Eric Carter, and Leigh Donovan of Mongoose, John Tomac of Giant, Gregg Minnar of Haro, Toby Henderson of Iron Horse, and of course John Kircaldie, Colin Bailey, and April Lawyer of the multi-championship winning Maxxis DH Team. Indeed, Intense Cycles’ image and heritage in the industry is unmatched by any other racing or factory effort as they continue to establish the benchmark in product development and design.
So how does an industry leading company continue to stay on top? The answer is with technology, and it all began with a small company in Canada. Virtual Pivot Point Technology (VPP) was originally introduced in the early 90’s by Outland, a small group of engineers who were cycling enthusiasts. They set out to create the ultimate in suspension efficiency, but when it came to production their frames were under built. Consequently, the frames couldn’t handle the rigors of race-level riding and the company eventually folded. In 2002, Intense partnered with Santa Cruz and brought back a new and improved VPP design. The essence of VPP design is as follows: two linkages work together to move the back end around a point that would be impossible to put a pivot. Pivots are positioned to provide an initial rear moving axle path and at the same time control the shock rate. VPP helps eliminate unwanted and energy-wasting shock compression caused by pedaling by applying some of the pulling force from the chain to counteract the shock motion. The link configuration and axle path means the suspension continues to absorb bumps during pedaling. VPP allows for a much more tunable axle path and thus allows Intense to create optimal performance in all ranges of the travel, while minimizing pedal induced movement and also improving small and large bump feel. The end result is an incredible ride whether you are pedaling up hill or down, hitting small or large bumps, standing or seated. VPP is also special because the design provides the same pedaling efficiency on the 9.5-inch travel M9 as it does on the 4-inch travel Spider. Take one for a ride and you will believe in VPP.
Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension: The torque-sensitive VPP system balances the downward movement of the rider with an equal and opposing upward force on the frame. This leaves the suspension neutral and able to comply with both bumps and depressions while eliminating power loss. The VPP system can maintain efficient pedaling through a large portion of the travel, providing excellent acceleration even while running sag. This makes the suspension more compliant and conserves rolling momentum better than a topped-out or over-damped set up.
All of Intense Cycles manufacturing efforts are located in Temecula, California, a town that is nestled on the inland side of the coastal mountains in between Los Angeles and San Diego. All of their products are made in house, from the frames to the bolts, and they pride themselves on the fact that each frame is handcrafted and assembled in the USA.