Pistons & Pivots

Claire Buchar's Lifted Toyota Tacoma & Intense Bikes

Photos AJ Barlas

Claire Buchar is a name that many keen mountain bikers will be familiar with. Born and raised on the West Coast of Canada, Buchar spent a few years chasing results as a World Cup Downhill racer. While she no longer races around the globe, she still takes part in local events. Her partner in crime is none-other than Aussie drift king, Chris Kovarik and together they coach and support young up-and-coming racers.

Claire's a soft-spoken, charming person. Open to the ideas of others and willing to listen. She's been through some shit over the years and situations like the car crash she was involved in during the 2012/13 off-season have helped shape how she treats her mind and body today.


"The Truck" – Claire (and Chris Kovarik's) 2017 Double Cab Toyota Tacoma

If you didn't know Claire, or the fact that her partner is Chris "Karver" Kovarik, her vehicle of choice would make absolutely no sense at all. Especially based on the above intro. While the lifted Tacoma serves a purpose for Claire as her daily driver, and she thoroughly enjoys the clearance, Kovarik's influence is clear. Then again, while Claire is quiet and respectful, she definitely has a lethal side too. Claire is still one of the fastest and most talented female riders around, especially on her home trails of the Whistler Bike Park. However, she does a great job of disguising her laser focus and fiery side.

Claire's 2017 Toyota Tacoma Specs

  • 2017 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab
  • Purchased brand new off the lot, but has since seen a transformation
  • 16 x 8 Baja alloy rims
  • 35-inch Hankook Dynapro ATM tires
  • 6-inch BDS Coil Over lift kit (installed by North Shore Off-Road in Vancouver, Canada)
  • Custom cut mud flaps front and rear
  • 39,325 kms at time of shoot (February 2019)
  • It's accompanied the Kovarik's as their race team truck all over B.C.


A mean looking Tacoma with heaps of clearance. "When I drive it over stuff sometimes I chant 'munch munch munch munch...' haha."


Up close and personal with the satoshi style grill.


Until the end of 2018 the Tacoma had a set of 18 x 12 Fuel Mavericks with 35-inch Toyo tires. Unfortunately the combination was generating too much bump steer. Now it's shoed with 16 x 8 Baja alloys wrapped in 35-inch Hankook Dynapro ATM tires. The change saved 10kg per corner, making for a smoother ride with better fuel economy.


Sitting on a 6-inch BDS Coil Over lift and the new "downgraded" 16 x 8 Baja alloys give Claire's truck a great look. She's also loving the clearance in the winter and hasn't had to shovel it out of their driveway like she used to with their previous vehicle.


The Fox 2.0 coil overs have been wound up an additional 2 inches to level the truck, bringing the front lift to a total of 8 inches.

The clearance is amazing, especially when we have record snowfall in December and the plow berms you into your driveway. This winter, I basically plowed us out of our driveway on several occasions. – Claire Buchar


The rear of the new Tacoma's hasn't changed as much as the front. As with the rest of the vehicle though, the lines are sharper and more aggressive. Claire (and Chris) haven't made any changes to the body.


Custom mud flaps run wider to take care of the debris flying off the 35-inch tires and the wider than stock stance.


Claire loves a lot about the truck but says she'd like to get a canopy of some sort. Leaving bikes in the back for even one minute causes some stress, even if they're locked.


A small gift from Jeff Steber of Intense Cycles. Chris had stashed the plate holder at his home in Australia. It only fit US or Canadian plates so he wasn't able to use it there. When they got the Tacoma in 2017 he knew it would perfectly complement the Intense wrap that was on the vehicle until shortly before these images were shot. Expect to see a Kovarik Racing wrap on the truck this year.


Just enough snow cleared from the bed for a couple of bikes to fit in. Claire's Tacoma has a 6-foot bed and is near perfect for strapping the bikes into the bed, rather than hanging them over the tailgate.


Chris was part of the Shred 'Till Ya Dead film that won the Dirt Diaries competition in Whistler a couple of years ago. Since then it's almost become it's own little brand but don't fall for the fakes that started about 12 months later.


Those contours…


… and again. The sharper lines on the 2017 body panels sure look good. The hood scoop on Tacoma trucks is for aesthetics and doesn't actually do anything.

We needed something that was professional and reliable so we could travel to events and do our job. Something that would go off-road in all four seasons, carry a lot of bikes and pull a trailer. But also something that wasn't too big and cumbersome to rip around in and that wasn't too hard on fuel. – Claire Buchar

No rust or oil to see here. The 2017 model Tacoma's engine bay is dusty but otherwise primo. Give it a few more years in the Sea To Sky Corridor…


Claire says nothing has been done to the engine. It's bone stock.


The 2017 models have a much larger cold air intake than the earlier models. I actually thought it was a modification when I first laid eyes on it.


Let it breathe.


The interior is kept quite clean. No modifications have been made in the front of the cab…


Claire found these seat covers online and says they're quite good. They were relatively cheap and "didn't have Tweety Bird or Skull Graphics from 1992 on them." She noted that the quality still kinda sucks (one tore when being installed) but they are water resistant and easy to wipe clean. Two important elements for a mountain biker's vehicle, especially one that see's plenty of road and work trips. The seats are also heated, which Claire finds to be luxury.


Claire keeps the truck quite clean too. Aside from essentials like a scraper/brush and the fresh groceries of course. The back is the domain of Laska, Claire and Chris's adorable dog. Claire's gone through a number of dog covers for the back seat but the current one from Pet Ninja seems to be holding up well. It's also water resistant, which is key with a dog that goes everywhere with you in all weather.


Under the cover, in front of the back seats, hides a tool kit with the essentials required for any issues while riding outside of Whistler.


Stashed behind the drivers seat were a couple of pairs of fresh Five Ten kicks.



Claire is one of the fortunate riders to have been on the Intense M29 since 2018.

Claire's Kitted Out Gravity Sleds

Being an ex-World Cup DH racer, Claire's bikes of choice shouldn't come as a surprise. Herself and Chris are fortunate enough to continue working with Intense Cycles and Claire has been riding one of the brand new M29 DH bikes since last year. For trail slaying duties she reaches for the Carbine, equipped with a Fox DHX2 coil. Kovarik Racing is supported by e*thirteen, Magura, Fox Suspension and Chromag, and the bikes are equipped with a range of parts from those brands.

Intense M29 Specs.

  • Size large (Claire is 5'11")
  • Fox 49 fork
  • Chromag touchpoints: BZA bars and stem. Palmskin grips, Lynx DT saddle and Dolomite post
  • Magura MT7 brakes
  • DT EX511 wheels but Claire will be running e*thirteen wheels in 2019
  • SRAM X0DH drivetrain
  • e*thirteen LG1r carbon cranks and LG1 chainguide
  • STFU chain damper
  • Schwalbe Magic Mary rubber "because Maxxis in 29" for DH wasn't easily available around here at the time."

29-inch wheels and 200mm+ of travel make this one weapon of a bike. Claire says she got one to better understand the Intense lineup and the differences between the bikes. She also wanted to smash it around B.C. and see how it fares.


Claire (and Chris) are supported by Fox which allowed her early access to the 49 DH fork.


Support from e*thirteen makes it no surprise to see the LG1r carbon downhill crank and chainguide. A SRAM X0DH derailleur takes care of shifting duties.


The cranks are stout and feature e*thirteen's direct mount chainring system.


Unless you've spent time riding in Whistler over the last 12 months these probably leave you thinking WTF. The STFU Chain Damper is something that Chris has been working on with some friends and they're almost done refinements. Claire has helped with some graphic design too. Look for more soon.

The Magura MT7's are great for me on this bike because they have more stopping power on top of their modulation. Perfect for the steeper, faster and more aggressive terrain that this bike shines on.– Claire Buchar

Claire runs the Magura MT7 brakes on her M29. She says the extra stopping power is perfect on such a sled. She's also running Chromag Palmskin grips on the DH bike. The Basis, her favourite grip, was out of stock when she built this up so she gave them a go. She's enjoyed the feel with her smaller hands.


Thanks to winter, the MT7 brakes hadn't seen a lot of action when we shot…


FRO: For Race Only. It represents the pinnacle of Intense bike technology and returned with the release of the M29 DH bike after being absent for some time.


Claire's Intense Carbine. She's quite fond of this bike, especially for the terrain often encountered in B.C.'s Coast Mountains.

Intense Carbine Specs.

  • Size medium
  • Fox 36 RC2 fork
  • Chromag touchpoints: BZA bars and stem. Palmskin grips, Lynx DT saddle and Dolomite post
  • Magura MT5 brakes
  • DT XM1501 wheels but Claire will be running e*thirteen wheels in 2019
  • SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain
  • e*thirteen TRSr carbon cranks and LG1 chainguide
  • STFU chain damper
  • Maxxis DHF front and DHR rear combo.

Claire relies on the Fox 36 RC2 up front for a balanced ride with her choice of coil sprung rear. The touch of orange also looks great. #designerocdapproved


Most Intense Carbine's run on an air shock but not Claire's. She prefers the added small bump compliance and traction offered from the coil on the Carbine. With the terrain on her favourite trails being steep, fast, rowdy and technical, and seeing all weather conditions, this combination has served her well.

It (the coil shock) gives me more small bump sensitivity and that translates to traction. It also doesn't heat up as fast and, while it isn't as tuneable as the Float, it's simpler and that suits me just fine. – Claire Buchar

Similar to the drivetrain on her M29; e*thirteen cranks, this time the TRSr carbon crank, and a SRAM drivetrain, this time the XX1 Eagle. Claire notes that the STFU Chain Damper works a treat with the long chain needed on the Eagle drivetrain.


Another closer look at the STFU Chain Damper. Look for more on these in the future.


Magura MT5's adorn Claire's trail bike. She's found them to have a more reliable feel but will likely try the MT7 on this bike as well.


A 180mm rear rotor with the MT5 brakes is enough for Claire to be comfortable in the gnarly terrain of the Coast Mountains.


Claire's "best friend" sitting quietly, waiting for action.

Claire may be soft spoken and kind, but she obviously has a side that wants to rip trails apart. Her bikes are both aggressively built weapons, set up to destroy anything that comes her way. In similar fashion, the Tacoma is ready for action, whether towing the team trailer to races or providing clearance to get by obstacles on the way to the trailhead.

Making the winter in Whistler easier to deal with is an added bonus.

Trending on NSMB


+5 Pete Roggeman AJ Barlas Niels van Kampenhout grambo pdxkid Kelownakona sansarret

Nice idea for a series. Please keep it up.


+2 pdxkid Kelownakona

There will be more for sure. We'll also have a user-submitted version. With prizes. So start your engines and think about your buddies with cool vehicles and how to shoot them in unique ways.


+2 Niels van Kampenhout Kelownakona

I'm sure everyone's frothing over my cheap,  stock, black, Toyota matrix and my cheap (ok- mid range aluminum),  stock, black trek remedy


+2 AJ Barlas Kelownakona

but they have sick matching paint! plus, the car is not a taco, which is refreshing.


+1 Niels van Kampenhout

Ha, my favourite part is both of them together  cost less what 1 bike in this article would cost


+4 Dan Mammal Pete Roggeman Kelownakona

Nice to see they came to their senses on tires, the trend in large diameter rims on huge lifted trucks makes no sense. It's like putting a 2" tire on a fat bike.


+2 AJ Barlas Kelownakona

You can always tell a mall-crawler from a four-wheeler.


+3 cyclotoine Mammal Niels van Kampenhout Pete Roggeman Kelownakona

Another article idea..."Bikes and Burritos!" With a breakdown of pro rider's bikes and what they put in their favourite burritos. :)


+1 Kelownakona

Maybe favourite burrito spot or recipe, but are burrito ingredients really all that different? Meat or no meat, guac or no guac (blasphemy), and then...?


+2 Niels van Kampenhout Kelownakona

my favorite 4wd bike shuttle: https://vimeo.com/216142074


-1 Kelownakona

Funny you should mention Rob and his syncro - I've known him since about 2005 and we've been in touch about this series. His would make a great addition.


+1 Kelownakona

How did it already eat a tranny?



Meanwhile in the rest of the world we are bothered about emissions , pollution, greenhouse gases , climate change , waste ...



Completely agree. Encouraging mountain biking is superb, encouraging driving something like this is bonkers!!!! NSMB are you environmentally friendly???



Bumpsteer isnt created by tires.. its created by that garbage bds lift.


-1 Kelownakona

They must put nuclear dust on the roads in the Sea to Sky. I saw this thing in person and it was definitely a "40 footer". That is, it looked boss from about 40' away and when you get closer you see all the rust. 

I also wouldn't consider a Tacoma like this to be easy on fuel. Probably getting 15 mpg (yes, I'm a Yank and yes I'll stop griping now)

Very cool series, looking forward to more!


-1 Kelownakona

They definitely use some horrible shit on the roads in the Sea to Sky. My 07 Taco has started to look especially bad over the last 3 years, which is right around when they switched to some new road treatment in the winters. Local car dealers are aware of it too. It's super frustrating and I'd like to see it stopped but doubt anything will happen.


-1 Ron Chang

lifted that much without a winch always seems weird to me, be it jeep or truck.  but i like the 6 ft box and the absence of the trd stickers.  when my wife picked up a used 2016 sr5, i was wondering why it had trd (sport) stickers, but then realized every single tacoma has trd stickers.  kinda loses it's purpose, or something like that.


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