Review: Intense Sniper T 29 Elite
A lightweight race rig made to thrive on the most adventurous cross country courses
What is a cross country bike? A few years ago, it would have been a super-light rig with short travel, a hardtail with steep angles. A bike like Intense’s Sniper T, with its 120 mm of travel and 66.5-degree head-tube angle, would have got sideways glances from anyone showing up at the ride in Lycra.
Once you crest a hill, Intense’s long-travel XC bike absolutely flies on the descents. With slack angles and a more stout back end for 2020 model, the Sniper T has your back when the trail gets rough. While the purist, 100-mm travel Sniper XC model shaves weight with an asymmetric rear triangle, Intense added a second vertical strut to the rear triangle of the Sniper T to improve lateral stiffness. The added grams are worth it when you run into the unexpected in a marathon XC race.
Go long: Intense packs room for two 500 ml water bottle cages on the Sniper T.
Go light: Fox's Factory 34 Step-Cast takes on big descents with a svelte weight.
Intense's house brand stem, carbon fibre bars, and Shimano XT brakes.
While the Sniper T’s progressive geometry numbers – longer wheelbase and slacker head-tube angle – pay dividends in speed and smiles on the descents, there is a trade-off. When it comes to the tightest and steepest of uphill switchbacks, keeping the front wheel down requires some attention. Here, the relaxed 73-degree seat tube angle does not help any. While there are those that still prefer the classic style to newer, steeper seat tube angles, riders at the upper limit of their size might find themselves farther from the front wheel than they’d like, especially when combined with the slack head angle. For the most part, this isn’t the biggest issue until you get into steeper, tighter terrain. Unless you only ride steep uphill switchbacks, the compromise is worth it. The Sniper T carries speed very well through all other turns and over rough trail.
Intense stiffens up the Sniper T's back end for 2020.
Intense shaves a few more grams with a carbon fibre suspension linkage.
SRAM XX1 and XO1 make up the drivetrain.
KS's small dropper post lever was awkward to use, and added to cable clutter. A paddle lever should be standard.
It doesn't shave too much weight, but KS wraps the dropper post shaft in full carbon fibre.
The Elite model comes with the decked-out parts kit you’d expect from a top-end bike. At $8,600, it’s not a low price tag, but the bike has components you might expect on a machine that costs more. A Fox Factory Float 34 Stepcast fork provides enough support for aggressive descending, with a Kashima-coated Fox Factory Float DPS shock keeping things light out back. Carbon-fibre XCX wheels from e-thirteen and even a KS Carbon lev Ci dropper post match add some flair, though the lack of paddle-style dropper post lever on a bike in this price range is a bit of a miss. Rounding out the Sniper T Elite build is the gold lettering of an XX1 rear derailleur and X01 12-speed Eagle mix drivetrain from SRAM and Shimano’s always reliable XT brakes.
In the Sniper T, Intense has made a bike that is light enough to race and fun enough to hunt KOMs on your local
trails. Whether pointed up or down, the bike is made for speed. The added strength to the cross country bike’s back end matches its progressive geometry and parts build, allowing you to push the pace on the descents. While testing the Sniper T, I rode a large section of the BC Bike Race’s opening stage in the Cowichan Valley. It’s exactly this type of technically challenging marathon race, one that ventures well outside the traditional stomping grounds of cross country racing, where the Sniper T is designed to excel.
Intense Sniper T 29 Elite
SRAM XX1 rear derailleur, XO1 Eagle 12-speed cassette, Stylo Carbon Eagle DUB crankset, Shimano XT M8000 brakes, 180-mm front rotor/ 160-mm rear
Fox Factory Float 34 Stepcast fork with 120-mm travel, Fox Factory Float DPS, 120-mm travel
e-thirteen XCX Carbon, 29″, 28-mm internal width
S, M, L, XL (only M and L available from MEC)