For me, Intense’s M29 project is much more than a technological achievement – it defines who we are as brand. Part 2 finds us at the back end of a successful World Cup season, having tested the M29 alloy prototypes with a couple of the Intense Factory Racing boys. Jack Moir and Dean Lucas trialled no less than four different versions – each with differing geometries and suspension kinematics. Now, with the concept proved, it was time to step things up to the next level.
All this time, my brain had been working overtime on the evolution of the alloy test rigs into a sleek, purpose-built and designed carbon fibre race machine. The M16, our first carbon effort with a DH race sled, has proved very successful and will fill an important place in our lineup with 27.5in wheels until the rest of the world catches up.
Going back deeper, the legacy of the ‘M’ was forged with a for- race-only (FRO) mentality and proven track record under the world’s fastest racers, and its many evolutions – the iconic M1, M3, M6, M9… and on to the M16 and M29. To see the new bikes evolve from the crude-but-sexy, handbuilt alloy prototypes reminded me why I love my job, and seeing Jack Moir have two of the best finishes of his career aboard the new bike reminded me why I started doing this in the first place.
“To see the new bikes evolve from the crude-but-sexy, handbuilt alloy prototypes reminded me why I love my job, and seeing Jack Moir have two of the best finishes of his career aboard the new bike reminded me why I started doing this in the first place”
SETTING A NEW BENCHMARK
But we were now moving into uncharted waters with this whole project. I knew the M29 was destined to set a fresh benchmark in the long lineage of the venerable M-series. We weren’t just designing a new bike. We had a responsibility to uphold the legacy of the M.
A timeline was set. Our goal was to hit at least one of the remaining World Cup races with a full-carbon prototype. This would prove to be no easy task. It meant there had to be some overlap where we felt comfortable enough with the alloy test mules to start moving forward with Carbon 3D modelling of the new bike.
The Intense R&D team’s collaboration with Cesar Rojo and Cero Design would be the key. We worked together, spent some serious computer time and created the concepts and 3D models that would eventually become the M29. Cesar pushed the boundaries with some very futuristic ideas. He suggested combining the best attributes of the alloy prototypes together to create the new superbike. After a little analog sketching and some digital rendering, we decided on a middle ground that we felt would pass the test of time, turn some heads and win some races.
“I asked myself, was the M29 aggressive enough in concept? Was it innovative enough in design? Was it as striking as its predecessors? Would it perform at the level it needed to in order to hold its position at the top?”
At this point, some very important boxes had to be checked. As I might have mentioned, the M-series has always defined our brand. This new bike had to be no exception. I asked myself, was the M29 aggressive enough in concept? Was it innovative enough in design? Was it as striking as its predecessors? Would it perform at the level it needed to in order to hold position at the top?
As I went down the list, it became clear to me that the new design was indeed something special. Fuelled by that realisation, 3D models were completed, rapid prototypes were created and the race was on to get the first carbon fibre samples ready to be raced at the remaining World Cups.
OUT OF OBSCURITY
It had been quite a journey to get to this point in the project, and along the way there were a few side effects. Jack Moir had burst onto the World Cup stage with a second place at Fort William aboard the alloy M29 prototype (version 2). Jack had helped define the concept for the bike and raced it to its fullest potential.
At the same time, and not purely by coincidence, IFR came out of the relative obscurity of being a World Cup ‘B-team’ to being a focal point of the MTB media and a regular stop for editors and photographers from all over the world. The press now had a story (the bike) and a hero (Jack). They also had something no other team could offer – an amazing comeback story for both a rider fighting to overcome a series of injuries, and an underdog race team, battling for years to reclaim its spot on the World Cup circuit.
So, when he was chosen to be the test pilot for the new carbon sample, Jack knew he would have to give up the comfort and good luck of his alloy steed and switch over to an entirely new bike with new geo and materials, mid-season of his best year ever.
After a lot of long nights and hard work on behalf of teams of people on three different continents, we were able to send a carbon sample frame directly to Crankworx in Whistler. There was time for team technical director, Chappy Fiene to build and tune it, and for Jack to get a few runs on it before heading to Val Di Sole, Italy for World Cup finals.
Neither the rider nor the bike would disappoint, with Jack taking third in the Garbo DH and fourth in the Canadian Open. Val Di Sole meanwhile proved to be one of the most challenging tracks of the season, and Jack took 10th on the new rig. As if that wasn’t enough, he finished third in timed training and fourth in the final at the World Champs in Cairns.
After the emotional rollercoaster of this project, this was the cake-topper. The pressure of creating a machine that would not only embody all the mandatory qualities of an M-series bike, but raise the bar, along with running the test mules during the World Cup season on the race tracks with the media watching, is not something I’m looking forward to dealing with again anytime soon. But the results are something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
To me this was part of the emotional journey that defines projects like this – it just feels right. So we do it, and so it happened: the rebirth of Intense Factory Racing, a rising star, a group of dedicated people that redefines the word ‘team’, and the next big thing – the M29!