I press a small button, and my bike comes to life with a futuristic beep. I hop on and, with a gentle turn of the pedals, it takes off like a rocket. The wind blows through my hair, and my cheeks hurt from smiling. This is a story about how I fell in love with a bike — an Intense Tazer.
That’s right, it's an e-bike.
No matter what you think about e-bikes, there’s no denying that they are here, and they’re here to stay. I’ll admit, I was slow to accept them. I love discovering the limits of my body, pushing myself to get fitter and faster, and enjoying the meditative act of pedaling. To me, e-bikes went against everything that made cycling pure and beautiful.
Cycling isn’t easy for everyone though, and I’m fine with how e-bikes can make our sport more accessible. New riders might not otherwise be riding outside, but with e-bikes, that can all change. I think it’s also cool to see technology allow people to enjoy riding with their faster friends. But I never saw myself as someone who would ever willingly ride an e-bike. That is until I met Paul Wells.
Paul works for Intense and he rides a Tazer. One day, I was slogging up a local hill, absolutely dying after a week of hard riding. Then I heard an electric whir behind me and looked back to see Paul cruising up. We exchanged pleasantries, and he continued on his way.
I kept slogging for the next 30 minutes until I heard it again — Paul on his Tazer, whirring away behind me. He passed me again. Then, 30 minutes later, he passed me again. By the time I reached the top of the mountain he had completed three laps and was already coming up for more. With the power of an e-bike, he was able to get over three times more descending than me. Suddenly, I felt very jealous.
Despite my devotion to mountain biking’s physical challenge, I’ve always lived for the downhills. I used to spend entire summers at the bike park, hitting the gnarliest downhill tracks, trying to improve my skills and build courage.
Then fatherhood interrupted my flow. Long bike park weekends shrank into occasional one-hour lunch rides on local trails. I started feeling slow and rusty. At my last enduro race, I got creamed. My friends who were riding at the park regularly just seemed to get faster and faster. I needed a way to get a leg up. Maybe the e-bike would be the perfect solution.
I contacted Paul and told him I was ready to see what the Tazer was all about. He graciously obliged, and soon I was on the trails, whirring along with a Tazer Pro.
I had an ambitious plan for my first ride. In my lift-assisted park rat days, I would regularly achieve 8,000 feet of descending in one day. This would be impossible (for me) on my local trails with my regular bike. I’d have to ride for 24 hours straight and destroy myself physically. But with a pedal-assist e-bike, I thought it might be possible, maybe even easy to achieve that 8,000-foot benchmark. See how my ride went in the video above.
On the Tazer, I accomplished this 8,000-foot goal in just over six hours. I covered over 33 miles of trail and used two batteries. How did I feel afterward? Completely wrecked. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that much descending and my hands suffered greatly. My arms and shoulders were pretty sore too.
What did I learn? Well, brace yourself — e-bikes are awesome.
When descending, the Tazer Pro felt composed and agile, not at all what I expect from a 50-pound bike. In fact, most of the time I forgot I was even riding an e-bike. I rode all the same jumps and drops I usually hit, and it took it all in stride. The 29”/27.5” mullet set-up probably helped a lot with the agility I perceived. With a slack 64.9-degree head tube, 160mm of travel in the front, and 155mm in the rear, it’s about as capable as you’ll ever need for most rugged downhills.
You only notice the bike’s weight when you have to get off and push. Sometimes the terrain is just unrideable, and when I’m forced to get off, the bike is a bear to haul up the hill. Otherwise, it’s easy to switch between the motor’s Eco, Trail, and Boost power modes on the fly. I used Eco mode most of the time and switched to Trail mode when I needed an extra kick to get up really steep sections. Boost mode is almost too much for normal riding but it’s fun to flip it on from time to time.
I got about three hours or 16 miles per charge using Trail mode on the steepest, most technical trails in my area. If you ride mellower trails and stay in Eco mode, you can expect to get more battery life, four to six hours, or 20-50 miles. Battery life will depend entirely on how you ride.
The Shimano Steps motor makes it easy to swap batteries if you want. You can stash a spare battery in your car or carry it along in your pack if you feel like doing an epic long-distance ride. (Just don't forget it on your workbench like I did!)
The 11-speed Shimano SLX drivetrain paired with the Shimano Steps motor provides enough gearing and power to get up the steepest trails. It might be cool to upgrade to a 12-speed drivetrain, but the pedal-assist from the motor makes it pretty unnecessary.
Would I change anything on the Tazer Pro? Personally, I’d opt for some downhill casing tires and Cushcore tire inserts. I hit the rims a few times at my preferred air pressures and that made me a bit nervous. With a motor, I’m not as worried about weight so maximizing tire and rim protection would be my number-one priority.
After that, I’d probably add some downhill brakes like Shimano Saint or SRAM Code. With a heavy e-bike, the brakes get worked hard on long descents. After multiple runs, the stock Deore XT brakes began to fade. This was not enough to make me worried, but I always prefer more stopping power. If your trails are mellower, you may never notice.
I rode the Tazer a couple more times after my little adventure. Every ride was a blast. Sure, some people are going to be up in arms about it being an e-bike. But I think everyone should try one to experience it.
I’ve realized that e-mountain bikes like the Tazer can be a serious tool for serious cyclists. I can get way more descending per ride and really refine my skills. When I’m tired from a week of training, I can use an e-bike to turn my recovery rides into skill-building sessions. When life gets in the way and prevents me from going on long rides, I can use it to hit more trails and maximize the little time I do have.
I’m never going to give up my “acoustic” bikes. But I think an electric bike would be a great addition to the stable. Am I going to buy one? Well, I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. But let’s just say I’m setting some money aside for next season!