The Intense Cycles M16 has become the flagship downhill bike for a much-heralded company with many great bikes to their name. The aggressive suspension, sleek look, and race-ready design make the M16 an excellent choice for serious downhill bikers.
That said, the bike is not without its shortcomings. In this article, we'll take a closer look at Intense Cycles, break down what makes the M16 great, and speak on some elements that leave it a little lacking.
About Intense Cycles
Jeff Steber launched Intense Cycles in 1990 out of his garage in California. The 1990s were a heyday of mountain biking, and Intense Cycles found their way into the market quickly thanks to a commitment to innovation. From his very first ride on a mountain bike, he started scheming of ways to improve the experience.
While his initial design used existing frames and simple construction, Jeff deployed one small quirk: sealed bearing pivots. For a sport with intense forces and impacts, providing a sealed bearing meant his bikes could go harder without issues than his competitors. Just like that, a company blossomed.
Today, Intense Cycles provide some of the highest quality adventure bikes out there. Steber continues to head the company and continues to innovate. Their product line includes a full suite of downhill, enduro, trail, cross country, and e-bikes specifically geared towards riders seeking the ultimate performance machine.
In a testament to their bikes' quality, Intense counts among its ambassadors some of the best mountain bikers in the world. For over 20 years, Chris Kovarik from Australia has spearheaded the Intense Cycles racing team.
Kovarik set the record for the widest gap between 1st and 2nd place on the World Stage. Since then, he has relaxed on racing a bit to focus on coaching and mentoring with his own company Kovarik Racing.
Claire Buchar, another icon of the sport, also makes her mark using Intense Cycles. Claire has a bronze medal in the World Championships under her belt and numerous Canadian national titles and twelve appearances on the Canadian national team.
In other words, Intense builds fantastic bikes, and those bikes get the attention of amazing riders.
What We Like Best
First and foremost, the M16 wants to race. The 7-speed drivetrain gives some serious power to the pedals. It does seem explicitly designed for aggressive downhill riding, but the M16 offers a comfortable enough ride even without a lift assist.
The long wheelbase and 27.5" wheels allow this bike to absolutely eat up the trail. The stiff suspension and frame make it highly responsive to a little extra push from the rider.
Once the bike gets going, it really gets going. The stiff chassis and suspension also give it outstanding pop coming off jumps, and the carbon frame model has a light enough weight to maneuver the bike around the trail easily. The stiffness of the frame also allows for exceptionally precise placement of the front and rear wheels.
The bike performs best at high speeds. Aggressive riders will find the M16 handles exceedingly well through the rough stuff, and gamely tackles anything from big rocks to loose gravel with ease. RockShox suspension up front gives it just the right amount of give on high impact landings, corners, or trail dips.
Last but not least, the M16 has a beautiful design. Fresh out of production, the sleek features and expert welding make this bike a serious head-turner. Once it gets covered in a little dirt, dust, and grime, it only becomes more attractive.
What We Don't Like
The M16 gives expert bikers a finely-tuned machine to handle high-intensity situations. But one of the most significant shortcomings happens when things slow down a little bit. For a downhill bike, the M16 has a relatively long frame. Combined with the bike's stiffness - an excellent asset for racing or aggressive riding - the M16 struggles a little bit to handle tight corners.
Likewise, the M16 puts the rider in a slightly higher position than some of its competitors. That means the rider's weight has a much more significant effect on the steering since a higher center of gravity means bigger variation from smaller movements.
On g-outs, landings, or corners where steering mistakes get magnified, this can make the bike a little touchier, especially for less experienced riders. Again, it has its advantages for experts with total control of their bikes but presents some challenges too.
Secondly, the bikes tend to run small, even in the large size. The knees can get a little cramped for riders in the 5'10" to 6'0 range and beyond, even though the bike supposedly accommodates those sizes. The smaller size probably contributes to the amazingly lightweight design, but again causes some issues with steering and comfort.
Finally, a word on price. It's common for bikers - especially tried and true dirtbags - to joke that their bike costs more than their car. Indeed, with the ever-increasing marketplace of ideas and niche design, every year brings more and more expensive bikes onto the scene.
Intense Cycles is no different. The M16 comes with a hefty price tag, even at the base model. While you get what you paid for - especially when it comes to something like mountain biking - many riders will find comparable performance from far less expensive bikes.
Overall, the M16 is a fantastic bike. For the cost, it certainly should perform well, and it does. When it comes to serious downhill racing, Intense Cycles and their riders' podium finishes speak for themselves.
While other bikes look superficially similar, the M16 brings a lot more to the table in terms of its ability to handle aggressive descents, big jumps, and technical lines. Without a doubt, the M16 stands up with the best bikes in its class.
It has a few issues with steering borne out of its race-focused design, but a few minor adjustments or customizations can help mitigate some of its more squirrely tendencies. All in all, if you want a top-of-the-line, blazingly fast downhill bike, the M16 just might hit the mark.