Bike Review: Intense Tazer
Action Photos: Pat Carrigan
When the history books of pioneer mountain bike design and downhill racing are written, there is no doubt that there will be several chapters dedicated to the decades-long relationship that Intense Cycles has with crafting championship-winning bikes.
Ever since the first Intense showed up at the races back in 1993, if there is one thing that separated company founder Jeff Steber’s effort from the crowd, it’s been his willingness to design and build high-performance bikes from the ground up.
When it came time to design their first e-bike, Jeff was not willing to just slap a motor into just any existing frame sourced from Asia. No, they started experimenting. They made the first three prototypes in aluminum before moving to carbon. In taking a tour of their Temecula, California-based factory, we saw a prototyping room where a detailed process helps them dial in the geometry and suspension kinematics.
While mountain bike historians would be correct in pointing out that Intense had a non-assist hardtail mountain bike (now discontinued) by this same name years ago, Jeff decided that it was a more appropriate name for a new full-suspension e-MTB bike, so back the name came.
From the sloping top tube to the box-section chainstays, the carbon frame is a thing of beauty, and it is aided and abetted in trickness by the Fox Factory e-bike-specific suspension. The original colorway for this bike matched that of its namesake stun gun, the Taser. It came in yellow/silver. For 2020 it’s available in black/silver.
This bike was designed around a staggered set of wheel sizes, with a 29-inch front wheel mounted to a 27.5-inch rear, both mounted with Maxxis Minion tires. The advantage here is that the 29er front wheel rolls over obstacles better and is more precise, and the 27.5-inch tire offers a wider contact patch for better traction both in pedaling and braking.
Wheels are DT Swiss H1700, and the front 29er features a 30mm inner width, and the rear 27.5-inch is 35mm wide to allow for the plus-sized tire.
The suspension is courtesy of Fox 36 Float fork with 160mm of travel, with the rear duties capably handled by a trunnion-mount Fox Factory Float DPX2 shock with a three-position lever and 150mm of travel.
Intense opted for a long-travel Fox Factory Series Transfer dropper post, which offers one of the widest ranges of seat-height changes we’ve yet ridden. To keep pedal strikes at bay, they use a Shimano XT 165mm crank.
The Tazer uses a Shimano STEPS E8000 motor. It’s small, quiet and packs a serious punch in the top levels. It’s protected by a metal skid plate underneath to protect it from rock and log strikes.
Interestingly, they mounted an external battery internally. Intense isn’t the first company to do this, and there are some advantages and disadvantages inherent to the idea. First off, the down tube is massive. There’s a cover on the side that you must remove to not only remove the battery (if you ever do), but for the daily task of charging the battery. There’s no external port for this. This configuration does offer some weight savings over the internal batteries with all of their support hardware.
“If there is one thing that separated company founder Jeff Steber’s effort from the crowd, it’s been his willingness to design and build high-performance bikes from the ground up.”
The battery is also mounted upside down, and the reason for this was twofold: First, it lowers the bike’s center of gravity for better stability. Second, it allows Intense to engineer the front triangle to hold an optional water bottle cage for riders who prefer carrying water that way.
Battery capacity is a solid 504 Wh, allowing for long rides with little “range anxiety.” It’s mounted to make it lockable or removable without keys for those who want to carry an extra battery and swap it out on long rides.
The feature-filled Shimano STEPS display is small and mounted behind the bars and almost completely protected in case of a crash. It shows mode, power use, battery and one other item of the rider’s choice, such as range, cadence, etc.
Some mountain bikes add Di2 shifting with a manual shift lever to also control the power mode. Possibly to keep costs down, Intense instead went with a Shimano SLX mechanical setup and used a STEPS controller for mode control.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Tazer is aimed squarely at experienced off-road riders who want an e-bike with great geometry and suspension. It’s also a good way for experienced moto riders to get into mountain biking.
Powering up the bike is done with a silicone-protected button located on the downtube. Remember how the battery is mounted upside down inside the downtube? That means you’re simply pressing a protected button on the battery itself. After you press it, you can’t move the bike or touch the pedals until the motor system has fully started up and zeroed out the torque sensor, lest you get the dreaded “W13” error from the E8000 system.
The first thing you notice when you take off is that the bike doesn’t feel heavy. At 48.5 pounds, it’s heavier than some we’ve tested, but still lighter than many other bikes aimed for this category.
The medium we had actually fit some of our riders who normally like a large. It seems to cover a lot of people with only three sizes.
The suspension felt really great, really plush, with ample progression in the stroke. We never bottomed out. The ride was lively, and the 64.9-degree head angle was forgiving when we’d be a little too aggressive into a technical section.
The staggered wheels really work well. We rolled over obstacles we’d normally pull up over, and the back wheels have tons of traction, making controlling speed easy and keeping the rear wheel biting on fast corners. We loved the power of the quad-piston Shimano XT brakes, and there were a couple of times they kept us out of trouble when the plush suspension drew us into corners faster than we liked.
Steering is precise, and the bike responds well to rider inputs, whether that’s steering, weight shifts or lifting the front wheel. Even bunnyhops are surprisingly easier than you’d think with an e-MTB.
All motors have a preferred cadence. The STEPS is no different, providing the best power in any combination of gearing and power mode at 80–90 rpm. There are three modes: The first is Eco, and it provides just enough support to compensate for the weight of the bike. The second is called Trail, and the third is called Boost, which gives you a neck-snapping 90 N/m of torque. It’s almost too much.
We always ride the bikes with stock programming first. Then, we tweak them. Shimano has an app called eTube that allows you to customize the power levels. We left Eco and Boost where they were, but bumped Trail up a notch or two (you can do this in the field) to make it a more usable mode. From there, we kept it in Trail almost 90 percent of the time.
Climbing was made easy, and the Tazer made its way up the steepest trails we could throw at it. Despite the short rear end, it didn’t have a tendency to loop out. They nailed the bottom bracket height as we rarely spiked a pedal.
The Tazer is a lot of bike for the money. The geometry is nimble yet forgiving. The way this bike is set up makes for a confident rider over everything—dirt, rocks, logs, singletrack. It takes it all in stride. Without a doubt, the Tazer is definitely aimed at the more experienced, hardcore rider, but thanks to the handling and suspension, it is also a bike that would be the perfect tool for the less experienced rider to get better.
Motor: Shimano StEPS E8000, 250W
Battery: Shimano STEPS E8010, 504 Wh
Charge time: 4–5 hours
Top speed: 20 mph
Range: 20–40 miles
Drive: Shimano SLX, 11-42, 11-speed
Brakes: Shimano XT 4-piston hydraulic discs, 203mm (front and rear)
Controls: Shimano STEPS
Fork: Fox Factory e-bike 36 Float, Kashima, 160 mm, Fit Grip2, 15QRx110 BOOST, 51mm Offset
Rear shock: Fox Factory Float DPX2, Trunnion Mount, EVOL, 3-position Lever 185x55mm
Frame: Tazer Optimized Carbon 29” Front and 275+ Rear Triangle, Enduro link Pivot System, Downtube Flak Guard Armor, Internal Derailleur, Brake, Dropper Post, and Display Unit Routing, ISCG 05 Mount, 150mm travel.
Tires: 29X2.60, Minion DHR II front, 27.5X2.8, Minion DHR II rear
Weight: 48.5 lb. (medium without pedals)
Color choice: Silver/black
Sizes: S, M, L