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The founder of Intense, Jeff Steber, talks to Chipps about keeping up with the times and thinking about the future. Without forgetting the past.

Jeff Steber is the first to admit that he’s not the best guy to be running a bike business. He’d rather be in his workshop, hot TIG welder in hand, knocking out prototype frames for a crazy idea that might see the light of day two years down the road.

However, that’s not the way that small businesses evolve. Jeff started making full suspension bikes in his garage in the early ‘90s and quickly found himself riding a runaway train of success as riders flocked to buy his wares. By the time the iconic M1 downhill bike appeared a couple of years later, Intense Cycles was most definitely on the map.

The M1 was so far ahead of the game, trouncing other contemporary bikes – elastomer-sprung or shorter travel rivals – that it was still being rebadged by other brands’ race teams at the turn of the century. To keep up with demand, Jeff moved his team of Southern California-based aluminium fabricators to a new factory building in Temecula, an hour or so east of Los Angeles.

Over the next decade, Intense continued to innovate, with the co-licensing of the VPP system with Santa Cruz in the early ‘00s and its first venture into designing carbon frames with the release of the carbon Tracer in 2014.

All that time, Jeff Steber was still running the company, building prototypes, being ‘that guy’ at the trade shows and World Cup events, liaising with Intense’s formidable racing team riders and running the small team of welders in the fabrication shop. In addition, he was starting to travel to Asia to oversee the manufacture of the new carbon bikes. Having been used to nipping across town to visit the heat treaters, or the paint shop, this was quite a departure – and the more international travel he did, the less time he had to do what he enjoyed most (and, arguably, is actually best suited to) and that was tinkering on designs in the prototype shop.

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About Singletrack

Chipps suggests that you wake up and smell the broad beans. International Adventure - Costa Rica. This tiny Central American country has a hidden network of beautiful singletrack. Holger Meyer teams up with one of the country’s best riders to get to the good stuff. Room 101. Charlie the Bikemonger dons wig and prepares to hand out justice. In the dock this issue are secret trail snitches and over-biked canal riders. Trailhunter - Gettin’ Grizzly. Tom Fenton goes off the beaten trail centre at Grizedale forest to find out what exactly makes a ‘must-do’ trail. Singletrack Recommended. Only the products that we fully endorse, make it into Singletrack Recommended. This issue we have forks, wheels and a shock pump. Column - Jason Miles. Being a winning endurance racer is fully achievable, reckons Jason. Being a tidy one is a completely different thing. Bike Test - Twentyninegnars. 29in wheeled bikes have come a long, long way in the last decade. We check out three mid-travel trail monsters from Evil, Orange and Pivot. Interview - Intense Cycles’ Jeff Steber. The charismatic founder of Intense talks product development, company expansion, carbon evolution and why he’ll always be at home with his TIG welder. Classic Ride - Northumberland. This most empty of English counties gives up some singletrack treats for those willing to make the journey. Kit Bag - Bothy Bags. Tom Hill unpacks his overnight bothy bag to show what he takes out on a mountain night in the hills. Grouptest - Flat Pedals. Flat pedals are not created equal. David Hayward’s been testing 16 and has whittled those down to his favourite four flat pedals. International Adventure - Menorca. Antony takes an off-season winter jaunt around the singletrack of this Mediterranean island best known for its summer beaches. Column - Dom Perry. How come, at the end of a riding week, it starts to feel like work?