We think the 2020 Intense Sniper exemplifies the downcountry bike phenomenon. Never heard of downcountry? No worries. A lot of people thought of it as something as fleeting as the phrase "OK boomer." Essentially, take your XC bike, replace the fork with something stiffer and with more travel to add a bit more descending capability, like going from a Fox 32 to Fox 34. Add a dropper post and stickier tires, and you're essentially there. And while we've always appreciated the idea of adding capability to an efficient XC bike, swapping out parts to make your bike right instead of finding the right bike from the factory can sometimes be compromised. Enter the 2020 Intense Sniper, designed from the start to exemplify what we've looked for: a downcountry bike ready to go right from the factory.
Let us be clear: our broad range of XC bikes from SCOTT, Orbea, Santa Cruz, BMC, and Cannondale among others are seriously capable, and make for what we feel are the best XC bikes on the market. Intense Bikes' Sniper, however, is a bit different. First, it comes in two models: the XC with 100 mm travel and a Fox 32 fork, or the Trail with 120 mm travel and a Fox 34 fork. It has geometry numbers that are in line with a traditional trail bike, with long reach, sub-68-degree head angles, low top tubes, short 50 mm stems on every size, and dropper posts on every model.
Frame details include full internal cable routing, a rubber frame protector on the chainstay and down tube, space for a bottle cage on the down tube with an option for two bottles on sizes large and extra-large, and a BB92 bottom bracket. As with most new bikes these days, it doesn't accept a front derailleur.
What doesn't fit in is just how trim the Sniper is in comparison to other trail bikes. Weight of the 2020 Sniper Trail Expert bike is just 23.7 lbs in a size medium, even with beefed up tires and Fox 34 fork. The same bike in its Sniper XC Elite setup cuts over a pound, coming in at 22.4 lbs for a size medium. That's paired to Intense's JS Tuned suspension, a dual-link design with a carbon fiber rocker driving the shock, and a magnesium lower link rotating just behind the bottom bracket. More or less, this is a variation on the VPP linkage they used to share with Santa Cruz. This suspension has the plush off-the-top feel of a typical trail bike, allowing you to cruise through the techy trail features that might make you wince on a typical XC bike.
It feels like the Sniper is a trail bike invited to the XC party, your friend who knows everyone and fits in just about everywhere. While we plan on covering everything in a Sniper ride review (stay tuned!), the gist is that the Sniper pedals as one would expect a bike with 100 mm travel, giving you the feel that made me want to power up and over obstacles rather than downshift and sit through. At the same time, the Sniper is not the Intense we would pick to place at the start line of an enduro race (Carbine or Tracer would be the move there), but it would certainly fit right in at the start of Park City Point to Point.
Downcountry is often referred to as a niche segment, but in our eyes the Sniper fits right in as a holistic development of the bikes we've sought to build ourselves. And if this is the future of short travel mountain bikes, then we are certainly down
with this cross-country bike. Groan.
Have any questions about downcountry style bikes? Give us a call during business hours or send us an email any time to email@example.com