The INTENSE story is one of passion, innovation and creativity. Back in the early 1990’s a young thrill-seeker from Ohio decided to head out west to chase his Californian dream… that person was INTENSE founder and CEO Jeff Steber. Designer, artist and craftsman, with a hands-on approach and a drive to make things better.
In those early days Jeff sculpted and welded aluminum frames in his garage. These bikes would go on to set the competitive bicycle world on fire. The somewhat conservative XC crowd wasn’t quite ready for his full-suspension Spider back in 1992, but the slightly more forward-thinking
downhill riders couldn’t get enough of it. The legendary M1 and racing success was soon to follow, and the rest, as they say, is history.
1990 - 1992
Wanting to improve on what was currently available, and with a knowledge of motocross bike design and an understanding of what would and wouldn’t work, Jeff Steber starts sketching out ideas and designs for a new full-suspension mountain bike. Jeff creates his first prototype bike, the full suspension 3” travel Spider. The bike used a MacPherson Strut design with a Horst Link chainstay pivot, it was an awesome combination that helped to isolate pedaling and braking forces. The bike was adopted by downhillers and Jeff’s local trails became his salesroom floor, with riders commenting that the bikes looked ‘intense!’. And the name was born.
The INTENSE brand becomes properly established and Jeff
attends his first Interbike trade show. All sample frames are sold, international distributors are signed up... things are happening fast. There’s a realization that INTENSE could become a real business.
The first M1 is produced. Featuring active suspension, a stiff monocoque construction, CNC machined parts, sealed cartridge bearings and adjustable geometry. It was a game changer. The M1 would go on to become an industry leader and the most iconic downhill bike of all time. It was also in 1994 that Kathy Sessler became the first Pro rider for the brand, and when
snowboard superstar Shaun Palmer picked up his first M1.
Bikes started to be used by local MX riders for cross training, and Palmer brought his friends Randy Lawrence and Mike Metzger (the Godfather of Freestyle Motocross) to the party. These three would form the first INTENSE team, racing the US NORBA series. Their action sports backgrounds brought a different attitude to the scene.
Palmer wins the US National Championships on a linkage-driven, 6” travel INTENSE M1. He then powers this same bike (this time painted with the USA flag) to second place in the World Championships in Cairns, missing out on the top spot by just 0.15 seconds. The downhill world is
John Tomac rides an INTENSE M1 (Giant) to second place at the Chateaux-d'Oex (Switzerland) World Championships. During this period many top racers would ride rebadged M1s with their own sponsor’s logos on them – US
greats like Eric Carter, Toby Henderson, Mike King, April Lawyer, Brian Lopes and others. The M1 was everywhere.
Leigh Donovan raced on INTENSE bikes from 1996 to 1999
(three of those seasons on the Mongoose team). She took the M1 to her first World Cup win at Massanutten, Virginia in 1997, and then the 1998 DH US National Championships.
Chris Kovarik and Michael Ronning sign for INTENSE. Chris would go on to become a multi-time Australian National Champ, win several World Cups and epitomize everything that INTENSE stands for. Kovarik has been on INTENSE bikes ever since.
Constantly looking to improve the MTB experience, Jeff starts talking to Charles Cole (inventor of ultra-sticky Stealth rubber and founder of Five Ten shoes) about developing a bike-specific shoe as well as a new tire system. Over the next few years INTENSE logo’d Five Ten shoes would be winning World
Cups, the World Cup overall and World Championship titles.
INTENSE partner up with Santa Cruz to launch the VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) system at Sea Otter. Both brands utilize the same technology but with their own personal take on it. Sabrina Jonnier signs for INTENSE. In her five years with the brand she was a permanent fixture on the women’s podium. She won four World Cup DH races, the overall DH title twice and the 4X title once on INTENSE bikes.
INTENSE goes through a winning streak with Kovarik winning the first ever Fort William (Scotland) World Cup by a staggering 14.02 secs. He would go on to win the next round in Slovenia and then podium at World Champs. Young upstart Sam Hill wins the Junior World Championships in Kaprun (Austria) on an INTENSE. Greg Minnaar wins the World Championships in Lugano, Switzerland, on an INTENSE Haro.