Live Test: M29 Prototype, Fort William 2017
In the middle of 2016 Jeff Steber, INTENSE founder and visionary, started drafting up a 29" wheeled downhill bike. This was not a new endeavor for Jeff, having built the revolutionary 2951 seven years previously in 2009 – a 29" downhill bike based on the 951 model chassis. However, this time it was different. This time the world was ready and the bike would be put to the test on the biggest stage in downhill racing – Fort William in Scotland.
In January of 2017, the INTENSE Factory Racing (IFR) team got their first look at the new 29" downhill prototype. At this point, it was Prototype #2 (P2) and during team camp Jack Moir and Dean Lucas were able to get around 20 runs each on the bike and provide feedback. After team camp Jeff, along with the INTENSE R&D team, got to work on P3.
Fast forward to May of 2017 and P3 was ready for testing. With the downhill season already in full swing and Fort William next up on the calendar, this was the only chance to get the bike under the IFR team. Jeff and Chappy Fiene (INTENSE Technical Director and IFR Mechanic) flew out to Fort William with two prototype frames and parts. With only a day before the practice was due to start they rushed to get the frames built up and ready for the riders. The first day of practice was the first time that Jack and Dean had ridden the new prototypes and it was the first time the bikes were to be tested at World Cup speed. The bikes were an instant fit for both riders, and their comfort and confidence on the prototype soared as practice ended.
On the day of qualification, most of the mountain was soaked. Slick roots, rocks and deep pockets of mud littered the track. Fort William is notorious for its weather, which on a long course takes its toll on riders. With only one day of practice on the new P3 Jack and Dean lined-up for their first full run on the new bikes. Jack went on to qualify in third out of a stacked field and in doing so confirmed that the new 29" downhill bike was a serious contender.
With his amazing position in qualification, Jack would now be the third to last rider to leave the start hut on race day. With a couple of small suspension tweaks, the new P3 prototype was ready to perform on race day. With future teammate Aaron Gwin putting in a solid run and sitting in the first place, Jack took to the stage and put down a run to let the world know that the new 29" downhill bikes were here to stay. Beating the time of Aaron by less than a second, Jack and the P3 prototype were now in the hot seat with a time of 4m 43.323s. Greg Minnaar would soon come down putting in an amazing run of 4m 40.344s securing first place.
With one day of practice and one day of qualifying on the new P3 it had proven to be a podium ready bike. The P3 would go on to be developed into the current M29, available to all riders looking for performance and confidence.