Intense Cycles has produced some of the most coveted bike frames in the industry–from the now fabled M1 down to the recently retired Tracer. Prior to their partnership with Santa Cruz Bicycles to produce their own Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) designs, Intense licensed the Horst link from Specialized. Though the Horst link is one of the most proven designs, the VPP suspension design has quickly proven itself in a variety of applications from full-on DH racing all the way down to svelte XC racing bikes.
The VPP design has garnered a lot of attention and has even spurned several similar designs that are on the market today. The idea of a virtual pivot point is that the actual pivot around which the rear swingarm pivots is out in space in front of the downtube, below the head tube somewhere. Depending on the linkages, the movement of the swingarm can change to be more sensitive to smaller bumps, or provide a solid pedaling platform with seemingly bottomless travel.
About the Intense Uzzi VPX
The new Intense Uzzi VPX frame is the replacement for the awesome Uzzi SLX frameset, which was sold from 2001 to 2004. The SLX was a 6 inch travel trailbike that could handle burly descents with aplomb yet still be efficient enough (thanks to the Specialized-licensed Horst Link) to pedal up long climbs. With that standard to live up to, the VPX comes in with some new features that the SLX couldn’t have–like a continuous seat tube and 7 3/4 inches of rear suspension. Standard on the Intense Uzzi VPX is a One Point Five head tube to accept Manitou Sherman forks. Alternatively, with the proper headset cup reducers, you could also run a standard 1 1/8 inch fork. Having the flexibility to run either forks is always a plus.
The VPX comes standard with a Manitou Swinger 6-way coil shock, which offers more adjustments than you’ll ever understand in a day. Perfection takes time, and adjusting your rear suspension is something that takes weeks to get right. Intense says the frame weighs 9 lbs. with the Manitou shock, which puts it right on par with most bikes in this category. The VPX is billed as a pedal-able freeride bike, but is capable enough to handle long climbs and trail riding. Word is that Intense has another bike in the works that will split the difference between the 5.5 EVP and the Uzzi VPX… stay tuned for coverage from Interbike 2005 this Fall.
Intense UZZI VPX On The Trail
Lifting the bike out of the Intense Race Support trailer at the NORBA Nationals in Deer Valley, UT, I was initially impressed with the overall weight of the VPX. I didn’t have a scale, but the hefty freeride build of the VPX likely tipped the scales around 35 lbs. That’s a respectable weight for a bike with over 7 inches of travel front and rear. The test VPX was spec’d with a Manitou Sherman Plus 170mm fork up front, SUN S.U.V wheels, Intense 2.35 tires, Shimano XT and Saint drivetrain and 8 inch rotors. The bike was stout and ready for action.
My saddle time was limited to two shorter trailrides over a couple of days. The upper elevation trails in Utah are still thawing from the massive snowfall this winter and spring. So, I made the best of it by pushing the trailriding limits of the VPX.
Pedaling up windy singletrack, the VPX screams of efficiency. The best feature of the VPP suspension design is its quietness. Not literally quiet (the test bike squeaked under hard thumps), but quiet from unnecessary movements. As you’re pedaling uphill with a consistent cadence in the saddle, the VPX’s rear end stays stable and smooth–no bobbing and no extra motion to rob your precious leg power. I felt as if every pedal stroke was transferred directly to the drivetrain. I’m guessing that the shock may not have been adjusted properly for my weight because the negative travel that the VPP designs are known for didn’t seem apparent. On rough, rutted, and steep climbs, the rear wheel lost contact with the ground and spun out. I’d guess that with a bit more tinkering and a long-term test, this problem would be all but solved.
Also on the climbing front, the Manitou Sherman Plus with the travel adjustment knob was absolutely necessary to get this bike up steep singletrack. I found myself “squishing” out way too much on climbs when I didn’t have the travel reduced on the fork. I would welcome another fork with even more travel adjustments to further lock down the front fork on the VPX. As it stands, if you intend to do any climbing at all on the VPX, get something that offers some travel adjustments–you’ll be much happier.
Going downhill, the long wheelbase of the VPX shows its stability at speed. There isn’t any amount of speed that will phase the VPX… it is a smooth criminal as it flows through singletrack. I did notice a lack of steering precision in tight, twisty singletrack, which caused me to head off trail a few times. This is to be expected from such a squish machine. On other VPP suspension designs I’ve ridden, the suspension can absorb too much of your “pop” when trying to hop over rocks, logs or drops, but the VPX showed little signs of absorbing my energy as I easily cleaned several rocks and other obstacles in the trail.
This was my first time using the Shimano Dual Control levers extensively and… I still don’t like them. The lone bright spot with the Shimano shifters is the Rapid Rise downshifting, which comes in handy when a quick climb sneaks up on you in the trail. I found the shifting method to be awkward and the braking to be scary at times as the lever wiggled up and down while braking in the rough. I would have to say that thumbs are for shifting and fingers are for braking… ahem… SRAM X.9 Shifters… ahem… You’ll be much happier with a complete set of SRAM X.9 drivetrain components.
The Bottom Line on the Intense Uzzi VPX
Everything about the Intense Uzzi VPX worked well and was on par with what I expected. It’s not your typical all-day trailbike, nor is it a burly huckster, but something in the middle. If you like to dabble in freeride stunts and still want a bike that can pedal uphill, the VPX would be a great choice. The nice thing about the Intense bikes is that you get to build them up exactly how you want them. You could easily build up the VPX to be 32-33 lbs., or you could deck it out freeride-style and top the scales over 40 lbs. Whatever floats your boat, the Intense Uzzi VPX will cater to your exacting needs.