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About 2 weeks ago, Jeff Steber, the man behind Intense Cycles, released photos of a prototype 29-inch-wheeled downhill bike. Using the same machined parts and pieces from the stock 951, the bike was dubbed the 2951. The public reaction to this bike is either love/hate, so Vital MTB met Jeff at the Intense factory to find out why he decided to make the bike. The conclusion? Why not?

Exclusive Video
Jeff Steber discusses the 2951 as Andrew VanZuyen rips it in Pine Valley, California
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PhotoUsing traditional downhill geometry as a benchmark, the 2951 uses a Manitou Dorado, reduced to 7-inches, low-stack headset and no-rise bars to keep the bar height in the realm of a "normal" downhill bike. Test riding, which is already underway, will reveal if this is where the geometry will stay. The most limiting factor, according to Steber, in the continued development will be tire choice. If there is no real tire option, he believes it will be hard to get a professional rider to campaign the bike. Intense test rider, Andrew VanZuyen (featured in the video above) just raced Fontana yesterday and experienced 3 flat tires, including one in the race run. "We need some tires," he says. Regardless, Jeff does not see tires as an insurmountable obstacle at this point and believes that riders will feel the theoretical benefits of the larger wheels will show themselves as true in the field.
    Steber notes Alex Morgan's 29er DH bike attempt a few years ago and then says, "I liken it to Doug Henry riding the YZ400f motocross bike a few years ago. It took one guy to prove it. Everyone focused on the negatives, yet the next year, half the field was trying them out and look at motocross racing today. I don't know if the 2951 will have that same success, but you never know. Why not try it? If it doesn't pan out, at least we can probably learn something from the experiment."
     Reaction from those who have ridden the bike is surprisingly positive. Andrew VanZuyen (featured in the video above) thinks the 29-inch wheel design will catch on. "It rolls over everything. Now, I actually find myself looking for bigger things to run over. There's still a lot to figure out, the bike requires a different riding style, but I'm pretty surprised by the possibilities."
Photo     My initial response to riding the bike was also surprise. Having hopped on the bike briefly, I was quite surprised by how responsive it felt. It felt a lot more nimble and maneuverable than I figured it would. The talk of having the bottom bracket lower than the axle height seems to hold something. There is a feeling of being "in" the bike and though it takes a bit more thought to lean the bike over, it seems manageable. Standover was no different than a regular DH bike and since I have stubs for legs, this was a concern. Will "ass buzzing" be a factor in technical terrain or big jump bottom-outs? Time will tell, I suppose.
     The 2951 is not slated for production. It's just an experiment. I'm pretty sure I rolled my eyes when I saw the first photos of the 2951 and I still find myself feeling uncertain at the aesthetics of the wheel size. Having thrown a leg over it and witnessed the bike in action, however, my mind is more open to the idea of the bike. Maybe it's old age getting the better of me, but like Jeff says, why not? I'm sure we'll see more of this big-wheeled beast in the future. -spomer

Geometry of the prototype "medium"

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sspomer sspomer 11/22/2009 12:20 PM

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I think it will be funny watching the bikes absolutely destroying the wheels because of the size of the rim!
And doesn't the Dorado have no wheel arch in the photos or is that just me?

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don't really dig the idea after trying to ride 29" for 6mos (crap, I missed being able to jump and flick a bike around!Maybe just too much bmx and moto when growing up). May work better for a proportionately taller rider? it probably won't go away. too late for those who drank this kool-aid. the horses for courses applies here i think. the courses need to get back to more tech and steep for this option to go away.

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LOL. Nice one Primoz. While we're at it we should begin the trend of flipping the bars upside down to get lower still! smile

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AJ monkey you can always mount the bars to the sliders between the crowns and have a REALLY low front end tongue

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There is a definite advantage to larger diameter wheels for DH application,. 650B could be a better rim size choice for DH as they can be built up as strong as 26" but still give you a larger outer diameter for rolling over rocks etc.. They would also require less frame geo re-engineering. I would think that a larger front wheel and smaller rear would be the hot setup for DH. 650b up front 26 rear or deep V 29 er up front and V 650b rear. Shortest spokes possible for strength on any of these. There are plenty of name brand 650B Off-road tires in existence and making a DH casing should be easy at this point. Rim=Velocity BLUNT. check em out. -morph

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Well this definitely sheds a bit more light on all of this but still leaves quite a few voids left unanswered.

1. I'm assuming the 4th or 5th article on this prototype will include the wind tunnel test results?
2. Will THE be manufacturing the carbon aero number plate or will these be machined inhouse out of aluminum?
3. I doubt Trek will license their aero disk wheel technology, how far along is that testing and what weight is Intense shooting for with their aero disk wheels?
4. Will the final production frames include a seat tube long enough to accept a Torreli frame pump?
5. Again an assumption, but does this mean that the UCI will be bringing back skin suits?

On a separate note but equally important to this demographic: Any word on whether TLD, 661 or anyone else has any special full face helmets in the works that will accomodate enormous sideburns and neck beards? Easy enough to cut the roost guard out of most helmets, but I think they will require specialy molded cheek padding for this to take off.

Thanks in advance.


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I think that it is great to check out new avenues. Without people willing to do this we would still be rocking the ol' GT LTS & v-brakes. So I am really into this and look forward to hearing more about it as it is tested. My only gripe, and I see it as a serious negative that was not mentioned as one in the article, is the fact that the fork had to be lowered to 7" travel to accommodate the larger wheel pushing the Headtube up an inch and a half. I think that a lot of riders will want to keep the 8" of travel in the front and won't be willing to lose the cornering ability and attack position garnered from a lower front end. There aren't to many ways around this either as we are already running our front ends as low as possible for the most part and a larger wheel will always result in a taller front end when keeping the fork set to 8 inches.

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@spank - making a mold for the tire is what costs money.... a potential risky investment if the tires aren't going to be a success. jeff had all the tubes/parts ready to weld up for the frame, nothing was really done from scratch, so it was pretty easy and cost-effective for him to make the frame.

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Aesthetically, I believe the bike looks amazing. The 29" wheel will be a sure thing once we move toward the hubless railed wheels of the future ( as seen in so many motorcycle and bicycle concepts).
It is crazy that it is cheaper to build a 29" frame than make a 29" DH tire, but I'm sure some smart company will put one out soon enough. Come on guys, quit knocking it...I'll bet everyone jumps on the bandwagon after reading the bit about Doug Henry and his thumper.

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I think its great that Intense did this. It kills me that people are building stupid light bikes because the courses they are on have gotten less technical and less steep, but then laugh at the idea of this bike.

Guess only time will tell how realistic this concept is.

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