Rethinking the Possible

Rethinking the Possible

When I was in Sedona for Magura Camp, Intense was one of the brands on hand with product to check out. Of course, my focus was road, but fortunately, I was afforded three rides and there were only two road bikes. So one mountain bike ride, right? Intense has long had a reputation for making bikes for guys who tend toward flight.

Intense introduced a new bike; the ACV, or Air Cushioned Vehicle (stands for air-cushioned vehicle, as in military hovercraft), is a 27.5 Plus bike with 150mm front travel and either 115 or 130mm rear travel. It straddles the trail and enduro categories. Should you not need quite as big a footprint as the 2.8-inch tires with which this baby was shod, you can run 29-inch wheels for quicker rolling.

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Designed by resident Intense brainiac Jeff Steber, the ACV features what Intense calls the JS Tuned Suspension. This is a refinement of the VPP design, for which the patent recently expired. Because Steber is no longer bound by the restrictions of the patented design, he was able to alter the kinematics specifically for this wheel/tire size. The upshot is that the rear wheel travel path is less vertical than with many other bikes. The rear wheel actually swings away from the bottom bracket a bit, something traditionally considered a no-no in suspension design because it causes chain growth.

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What I experienced out on the trail was a bike that bucked less as I hit rocks, or slowed less as I climbed over rock steps. Impressively, I never felt any pedal kickback while climbing bumpy terrain. For riders who don’t find 130mm of travel necessary to their riding, a 5mm bolt can be moved in the upper swingarm, fixing the shock to a different location on it. Voila! The bike suddenly has 115mm of travel. IMG_2391

I spent my ride time following a rider on an Intense 29er and in locations where his rear tire broke free, I could feel the Ikon tires continue to grip the red rock even as I followed his line exactly. And I could see from the way his hydration pack bounced that the ACV was smoother over the rock and my inability to get up steep faces usually had more to do with my faith in my own ability and strength than with any limitation with the bike.

The ACV comes in two builds, Pro ($6499 MSRP) and Foundation ($4599 MSRP) and is available in four sizes: small (57.3cm top tube, 39.4cm reach), medium (59.9cm top tube, 41.6mm reach), large (62.4cm top tube, 43.8cm reach) and XL (65.1cm top tube, 46.3cm reach).

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Though it’s easy to move that bolt to reduce the ACV’s rear travel, this thing pedaled really well at 130mm. I never once flipped the lever on the shock and found the supple travel to help a great deal when climbing up looser faces.

Both the front and rear triangles on the ACV are constructed from carbon fiber, while the links are made from aluminum. Because it’s designed for Plus tires, Steber went with a Boost 148x12mm rear end. All cables are internally routed.

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I tried not to use the SRAM Guide brakes. Honest. I couldn’t help it when inspecting a few of the drop offs we encountered, and honestly, I needed them to help negotiate a few turns. That said, this was one of the most plush and capable bikes I’ve ever ridden. I’d love to have a chance to ride it on trails I know, and also to try it as a 29er.

Sedona is a place with some deathly lines; I avoided those. But even the easy lines can be amazingly challenging. I can say with reasonable certainty that I rode terrain that I would have walked on other bikes. And that’s the promise of more travel and bigger tires; they make for an instant skill set, no matter who you are.

A friend recently said to me, “More travel is always better.” I’m beginning to agree. The ACV is one of the two or three finest mountain bikes I’ve ever ridden, and I hope I get to tackle Annadel with it.

Final thought: My kids’ stuffed animals aren’t this plush.

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2 comments

  1. Carson

    Great review. Four years ago, I switched from a 26″ full-suspension Maverick to a 29″ hardtail Niner. I’ve loved it, but lately I’ve been eyeing a return to full-suspension, especially after getting pummeled on the hardtail in Sedona. This bike looks like its worth a close look.

  2. GT

    medium (59.9cm top tube, 41.6mm reach) probably needs to be cm for the reach.

    Do like Intense bikes and nice to see VPP has finally been tweaked, wonder how that will affect the likes of Santa Cruz?

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