I know that arguments about “best bikes” are subjective, and there is no true one-quiver ride. But for those of us not part of the mysterious, independently wealthy mountain town community, or who prefer to not accumulate debt, or who enjoy the absence of marital tension, one bike must suffice. I live near Denver, so I ride the long, technical, steep sit-and-spin climbs of the Front Range, which are peppered with sharp rock gardens, roots and washed-out erosion bars that steal momentum, yet offer a reward of equally steep, fast technical descents. Choosing a bike that can do it all is tricky. You want that connected feeling offered by a lower bottom bracket and slack geometry, yet you want clearance over trail features and a workhorse that is light and can move uphill efficiently.
I’ve been doing a lot of research into 27.5/650b setups, which seems an ideal middle ground and the way the industry is moving. I think the Intense Tracer may be pretty close to a one-quiver bike, 90% of what I want. Plus, they spec a great package in their aluminum frame for around $3,000. Not as light and stiff as carbon, but also more durable for the long haul. I’ve also chatted with some really enthusiastic owners of the new carbon Stumpy with the SWAT downtube storage. Any other recommendations for around $3,000-$3,500?
Right now I ride a 2010 Kona Cadabra with the Magic Link rear suspension (the stock coil spring paired with a Fox RP23 has been swapped out for Kona’s mini air shock paired with the RP23). And a Float 32 up front. The Magic Link suspension and frame design was a killer idea, and I can vouch that this thing really does work – converts from a 14omm climber to a 160mm descender on the downhills, and rides very smoothly at speed over rough terrain. But I want a bigger wheel, this bike is too much to maintain and it’s heavy as hell.
Front Range riders…What has worked for you? Comments encouraging me to buy up are not needed. I know a $6K bike will be awesome. Don’t rub it in. 😉
I ride any and all of the Front Range trails and I love to wrench on my own bike making a one bike quiver essential. My current bike is a 2015 Intense Carbine SL with a Cane Creek DB Inline rear shock and it is great. I have also owned a Yeti SB-66, Trek Remedy, and a Giant Trance. All are excellent choices for the pedal up, bomb down nature of our front range trails. Of course each bike had a distinct build kit further blurring the comparison, but if I had to rank them I would say: Trek Remedy (DRCV suspension is exceptional), Yeti SB-66 (Switch is great…but could be expensive to maintain proprietary bearings), Carbine SL (VPP suspension is tried and true), and finally the Giant Trance.
Since you already said you like it, it might interest you to know that Jenson has several models of the Intense Tracer on sale. The link goes to the model that is closest to your price point but there are others on sale too.
Check out the Guerrilla Gravity Bike they just reviewed today. With an adjustable travel fork, adjustable wheelsizes and built in/near Denver I assume it’d be perfect. My one quiver bike is a Cannondale Trigger 29er. I bought it as I could ride it in Wisconsin but also vacation with it in Colorado. It’s overkill on the most XC of trails in Wisconsin but it handles anything from trail riding to lift riding and is still fun on fast singletrack. Adjustable travel from 85mm-130mm with a flick of the switch.