Intense Cycles Factory Tour

Art’s Cyclery is proud to partner with Intense Cycles to offer their outstanding frames and complete bikes for sale on ArtsCyclery.com. We have build kits available with both Shimano and SRAM options that offer amazing value, or you can build the bike yourself with your dream spec! At Interbike, we were invited to tour the Intense Cycles factory in Temecula, California and we jumped at the chance. A walk through this storied brand’s facility brought to mind  the overwhelming number of innovations in the mountain bike world that Intense has produced. For example: Intense made the first real downhill bikes, soft compound tires, sticky rubber flat pedal shoes, one of the first monocoque mountain bike frames, full suspension dual slalom bikes, the first real downhill tires, and the list goes on.

Their history of winning out on the track is especially impressive when one considers the list of riders whose frame sponsors bought Intense M1 frames and slapped their own brand’s logo on the top tube because they couldn’t make a race worthy downhill bike that could compete with Intense’s offerings. Highlights on this list of riders include John Tomac, Leigh Donovan, Brian Lopes, Gee Atherton, and Greg Minnaar. Each rode Intense M1’s to victory while sponsored by another brand (current World Champ Greg Minnaar won his first World Title aboard a Haro branded Intense).

Intense Founder Jeff Steber still gets his hands dirty everyday.

Intense continues to build handmade aluminum frames completely in-house. All of the machining, welding, and heat treating are done right in the Temecula factory. The only things that aren’t done in-house are the bike boxes, powder coating, anodizing, decals, and steel hardware. But every one of those things come from vendors that are less than a mile from the factory! Even Intense’s new Asian sourced carbon frames are built using hardware and links that are made in Temecula, California. This commitment to American manufacturing even extends to all of Intense’s many CNC machines and welding machines. Each are American-made units to ensure that only the most reliable and advanced equipment is used to produce Intense frames.

Beyond this commitment to produce bikes locally, the thing that stands out about Intense is the passion that owner Jeff Steber puts into his company and its products. Throughout my interview with him and the tour of the factory, Steber’s excitement about the products he has been producing for roughly 20 years now was undeniable. Jeff explained that every curve and angle on an Intense frame exists not only to produce a stiff, world class suspension chassis, but also to produce a bike beautiful enough that it could stand alone as a piece of modern industrial art. Steber has an area carved out of the factory that he uses as a lab to produce new prototypes he tinkers with on a daily basis. When we went through, we saw a prototype frame tacked together that we were forbidden to photograph. Even so, Steber didn’t hesitate to share with us the details of his latest creation and infect us with his enthusiasm for the next generation of Intense bikes.

Rick the Welder working on an M9

During our tour we met Intense’s world famous welder, Rick. We were treated to a show of his craftsmanship up close and in person as he laid down a weld that he lovingly referred to as “a string of pearls” along a Tracer 275 top tube. We learned that the beauty of these welds were far from skin deep as Rick turned the tube over after completing the top side to reveal that the beads looked identical on the inside. That, my friends is proper weld penetration, and is a skill Rick has honed through 20 years of experience welding aerospace projects together, including the Patriot Missile.  Rick proudly informed us that a machine welding firm claimed they could produce a mechanical welder that could repeatably weld Intense’s two piece top tubes together with greater efficiency than he could. After months of trying they gave up and left.

Nearly everyone at the factory is an avid rider and that passion can be felt when meeting each of the workers. How could they not be? With World Cup Downhill veteran and former Australian National Olympic BMX coach Scott Sharples handling their public relations and marketing, passing on any opportunity to ride with him would be a real shame.

Intense was cranking out frames when we were there.

While there, we were given an opportunity to take another ride aboard the new Tracer 275. The trait that stood out most about this bike was its bump swallowing capability. Rock gardens and braking bumps were leveled out more effectively than we have ever experienced on 26″ wheeled 160mm travel offerings from other manufacturers. Yet, the bike could manual with ease and the super stiff frame could really carve through tight corners. The ride is exceptional and is something that has to be experienced first hand to fully appreciate.

We punished the Carbine 275 while at the Interbike Dirt Demo. While it uses similar geometry and suspension, the Carbine is a different animal than the Tracer 275. With a more taut ride quality and the vibration damping of the carbon frame material, the Carbine feels a bit more racy and is our pick for a singletrack carving weapon that has enough travel to easily hold its own when the trail turns rough. The lightweight frame makes it extremely flickable as well for riders who like to get rowdy on technical trail features.

Check out all of our Intense Cycles frames and build kits here.

2012-10-26T10:08:52-08:00