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Time Capsule: Shaun Palmer’s 1996 Intense M1

A Trip In Mountain Bike History

Words by Morgan Taylor. Photos by Morgan Taylor.
May 29th, 2014

Every so often you come across a piece of history so well-preserved that you just have to stop and pore over the details. Such is the case with the Intense M1 that Shaun Palmer piloted to a silver medal in the 1996 Downhill World Championships.

Intense’s founder Jeff Steber recently purchased this bike from Palmer after having hounded him for years. Steber values having his creations back in his own collection, and this is just one of many that would easily populate a museum worth visiting.

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The aluminum monocoque frame, which Steber formed in halves over wood dies, was one of his original M1 prototypes. Troy Lee, who wasn’t really involved in mountain biking at the time, hand painted the frame.

The bike, now 18 years old, sits as a time capsule for an important era downhill mountain biking history. The M1 went on to win a lot of races draped in other companies’ livery. We’re just lucky this one persists and we can stare at it for a while.

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Custom paint by Troy Lee over a frame hand built by Jeff Steber.

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The once-flawless paint job is beginning to show its age.

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Entire sections of the paint work threaten to fall off; this area was clean to the aluminum.

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But even with the crumbling paint, this thing is a sight to behold.

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Palmer flew his snowboard sponsors’ colours on the bike.

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Neat little details all over the place; zip tie, wire, and a chunk of grip prevent derailleur slap.

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IS disc brake mounts, not in use.

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Ringle skewer, sliding dropouts, bearing pivots.

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The single pivot rear end was simple but effective.

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Adjustable geometry, cracked paint, and speed holes.

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One notch away from full slack.

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The Fox Vanilla Rx provided damping out back.

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XTR crank, MRP sandwich, and a chainring meant for mashing.

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Crank spider: Proto.

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There’s a good chance you had a pair of these pedals.

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I got to run the bike around the warehouse; the XTR still shifts beautifully.

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8-speed corn cob on the Ringle hub.

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The venerable Mavic 121 SUP Ceramic rim, with alternating black and silver nipples on the back.

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IRC Missile 26×2.25″.

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It would probably still work just fine, but it’s hard as a hockey puck.

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The original Rockshox Boxxer.

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Magura hydraulics were the stoppingest stoppers of the era. Who didn’t drool over these in a glass case at the shop?

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Custom Intense brake bridge.

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But you might still need all four fingers.

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The Azonic Shorty stem and GoFast riser, now a classic combo.

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This was indeed a short stem at the time.

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More repurposed grips. Why not?

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Lots of drop on that crown.

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Metal flake and embroidery. America.

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Shaun Palmer’s 1996 Intense M1, now residing at the Intense factory in Temecula California.

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can watch this bike in action at Cairns 1996 HERE. Palmer’s time was just 0.15 off Nico Vouilloz.


It’s not perfect, but it’s been ridden to a second place at the World Championships. Do you have any museum pieces kicking around?

  • tuskalooa

    classic, got to see the evolution of DH on Steve Peats – Won’t back down …legendary stuff

  • dkl

    Holy crap. Those handlebars are still on my old mountain bike sitting in my parent’s basement. Classic!

  • http://nsmb.com Pete Roggeman

    Beauty photos, Morgan!

  • Craig Hunt

    Yup, have a bunch of vintage parts sitting in the basement; original 6″ Boxxer, multiple sets of Magura hydraulic rim brakes, Azonic shorty stem. Unfortunately they aren’t hanging on an old school DH frame.

  • David Wootten

    Classic! I remember when I gave Palm those brakes.

  • lim

    That’s not a boxxer that’s one of the boxxer prototypes, it was a dho lower leg with more travel and the prototype boxxer damper inside. You can tell cis it’s got a bolt on brake arch. The real boxxer lowers weren’t seen till 1997 a year before they were released to the public.

    • Morgan Taylor

      Good catch, and thanks for the info! I was 13 at the time.

    • thn311

      Definitely not dho lower leg.
      look at this pics from the RockShox boot at the 2010 Eurobike :
      http://mtbs.cz/media/2010/09/10/EB10-retro-rockshox_cl.jpg
      On the left a DHO and on the right the same prototype Boxxer with bolt on brake arch. as you can see the lower is way wider than the DHO (dropouts are beefiers too). DHO also had disk mount, not this proto.

  • Cr4w

    Gore-tex rear shifter line. Wow. I loved those Missiles. What’s funny is that they’re still being produced but inexplicably they’re now called the Freedomcross Trail Bear.

    • Chaz

      Freedomcross Trail Bear? Shit, I’d buy those just for the name!