Reviewed by Brandon Turman and Steve Wentz // Photos by Lear Miller
Giddy up boys and girls! An entire new line of Transition bikes is here for 2015 featuring the GiddyUp suspension design. The complete overhaul to their frames and suspension system includes a Horst Link (not to be confused with a four-legged animal who neighs), which is now available to use by a wider number of companies. Transition was among the first brands to jump on the opportunity. Interested to how they pulled it off and what improvements they might have made, we tested the 155mm travel Patrol 1 during the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions.
- Aluminum frame
- 27.5-inch wheels
- 155mm (6.1-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front travel
- Tapered head tube
- 65-degree head angle
- 76-degree (S), 75.4-degree (M, tested), 74.9-degree (L), 74.5-degree (XL) effective seat tube angle
- 337mm (13.3-inch) measured bottom bracket height
- 430mm (17.0-inch) chainstays
- 73mm threaded bottom bracket shell
- 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
- Measured complete weight (size Medium, no pedals): 29-pounds, 9-oz (13.4kg)
- $5,999 MSRP
Transition says the Patrol is meant to "give you the control of a downhill bike perfectly balanced with a lively and jumpy personality for a comfortable, efficient and fun ride in almost any trail condition." How'd they pull it off? The bike uses some pretty aggressive geometry coupled with suspension that's supple as can be yet progressive to provide some pop. The new design has improved anti-squat over their old bikes, significantly less brake squat, and a progressive leverage curve. The shock is also easily accessible should you feel the need to flip any levers.
Additional features on the aluminum frame include a 73mm threaded bottom bracket, ISCG05 tabs, plenty of room for a bottle inside the front triangle, a tapered headtube, zero stack headset, 160mm post mount rear brake, Syntace X12 rear axle, E2 low direct front derailleur mount, and integrated rubber chainstay protection.
For those that ride in the grime, mud clearance is pretty good with ~1cm of room at the tightest point with the stock 2.35-inch Schwalbe tire. They say you can fit up to a 2.5-inch tire out back should you prefer some big meats for dicey conditions or a day at the bike park.
Cable routing is almost entirely internal, which is actually a surprise given the company's no non-sense approach everywhere else. Though maintenance can be a pain, it does look good we suppose. The rear derailleur and rear brake go through the downtube and exit just in front of the bottom bracket before reaching their destination. The rear brake line is slightly exposed to stray rocks on the bottom of brake-side chainstay. Dropper post routing also follows the downtube before exiting momentarily and heading up into the seat tube for that stealth look.
Three build kits are available at $3,499, $4,899, and $5,999. We tested the top of the line Patrol 1 model. For those wanting to build one from the ground up, it's also available as a frameset and shock combo at $1,999. Claimed weight for a size Medium frame with shock is 7.85-pounds.
On The Trail
We rode the Transition Patrol on West Cuesta Ridge and in Montana De Oro State Park near San Luis Obispo, California. The trails included very rocky, fast descents that really tax a bike's rear suspension as you flow in-between trees over never-ending boulder fields. We also got some time in on rolling hills and faster, flowier terrain with several tight turns to see how the bike maneuvers when it counts. A jump trail rounded things out.
Transition recommends 35% (22mm) seated sag on the 216x63mm RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair shock. This is the point at which they've designed the bike to have the best anti-squat properties. It comes stock with two volume reducers already in the rear shock, though more can be added for seriously hard charging riders. We appreciate that Transition publishes a handy guide discussing how to get the most out of their rear suspension design.
We were also pleased to see that the cockpit includes a 50mm long Race Face Atlas 35 stem and 800mm wide Race Face SixC 35 Carbon bars that can be easily cut down to suit any rider's preference. Considering the bike we tested is a size Medium, the 432mm reach dimension is actually quite long, comparable to many other brand's size Larges. This will make those accustomed to shorter bikes feel much better when things get wild or fast. The average length 583mm effective top tube has a familiar feel for a size Medium while pedaling seated.
You'll see Lars Sternberg doing his best to compete with the fastest in the world at the Enduro World Series aboard the Patrol, which clearly shows the bike's intended purpose. The Patrol is the most aggressive bike in Transition's refreshed lineup, and is geared toward the Enduro racer and professional fun havers. It has a slack 65-degree head angle, 337mm bottom bracket height, and 430mm chainstays that combine to create a ride that's ready to rally. The rather short 419mm seat tube adds a nice perk in that you can get the seat far out of the way, but may be a bit too short for some long-legged riders. At 5'10" one of our testers was near the upper limit of the 125mm RockShox Reverb. Transition specs a longer 150mm dropper on the bigger sizes.
Pointed downhill the Patrol will bring a smile to your face. It excels in situations that coincide with its geometry, including those that are fast and rough. Surprisingly it's quite agile on the jumps as well, and we had no issues throwing it around in the air or through tight turns. Stability is quite good at all times, allowing you to precisely pick your way down the trail. We did occasionally experience some harsh feedback in the rear end while riding at speed through really rough, continuous baby-head rock sections, but it remained in control and pointed straight ahead at all times. Lifting the front end is easy to do, and we found ourselves manualing and popping off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail more often as a result. This bike definitely encourages playful riding and rewards a dynamic riding style.
Transition tuned the rear suspension in a way that benefits a rider who likes to push into the bike, yielding a surefooted and immediate response. Running the shock at 35% sag allows the bike to use a good portion of its travel over small hits, getting the rear wheel up and out of the way quickly, but the progressive design still does very well on larger hits. Though we used full travel pretty often, we never once felt a harsh bottom out, indicating a nice ramp up at the end of the stroke. We rode the bike almost exclusively in the wide open compression setting outside of our experiments to see how it impacted the ride.
At 29.6-pounds the Patrol certainly isn't the lightest bike, but it's actually quite reasonable when you consider the full aluminum frame and real-deal, large volume Schwalbe tires that are made to withstand and perform in rough conditions. The weight is noticeable when pedaling up, but the bike does have a lighter feel when pointed downhill. It's pretty quick to respond to firm pedal inputs and rolling speed is decent, though the beefy front Magic Mary tire slows things down a bit.
Climbing the bike is less terrible than climbing a slacked out 160mm bike with large tires should be. Those looking for a boost will want to switch the shock into a firmer compression mode, but leaving it open will yield gobs of rear wheel traction over rough and techy climbs. Body position is quite good with a 75.4-degree effective seat angle. When standing up or hopping through technical climbs, the length is sometimes apparent and a little awkward as you push it out and over slow maneuvers.
The build kit on the Patrol shows the Pro-level experience that Transition's Product Mangers have in the field. Notable standouts include bars with actual rise and a wide width, a fast rolling rear tire matched to a meaty front tire, and pre-installed volume spacers in the suspension. The build includes components from Race Face, RockShox, SRAM, Anvil, Schwalbe, DT Swiss, and Stan's No Tubes.
Up front it uses a RockShox Pike RCT3 fork. After a few years of standout performance, it goes without saying that we were pleased with the fork. It helps provide a very balanced ride, mimicking the smooth feel of the rear suspension off the top and ramping up nicely at the end, especially with a Bottomless Token or two inside.
You're more likely to find the mega wide and super beefy 2.35-inch Schwalbe Magic Mary front tire spec'd on a downhill bike than a trail/all-mountain/enduro bike. It's very well suited to loose and wet conditions, much like those you'd find in Transition's hometown of Bellingham, Washington. The huge knobs sometimes lack a little bit of bite on rocks and loose over hardpack terrain, however, and the weight of the front tire is very apparent when you pick up the bike. Out back the've included the polar opposite 2.35-inch Schwalbe Rock Razor to help keep things moving along decently quickly. It offers good cornering bite, but may struggle with braking in some conditions. We appreciate that they chose the softer Trailstar compound up front and more durable Pacestar out back.
The wheels are a combo of the well-regarded and lightweight Stan's No Tubes Flow EX rims and reliable DT Swiss 350 hubs. This will make future tubeless tire swaps a breeze. The DT Swiss hubs offered good engagement, and are upgradable to have more points if you'd like something quicker. After a few days of rocky abuse the wheels still ran true with no dings or flat spots, but prepare to re-build a few if you're a big, hard charging rider as the rims can be a little soft.
Shimano's XT brakes were as dialed as ever, offering plenty of useable power with dual 180mm rotors and good modulation.
The drivetrain uses a combination of Race Face and SRAM components. We've spoken well of the new Race Face SixC Cinch cranks before. They're incredibly light, surprisingly strong, offer good stiffness, and are easy to maintain when combined with the threaded bottom bracket. The Narrow/Wide chainring also does a good job of keeping the chain on, and we experienced no dropped chains. Those seeking to race (or just avoid any awkward near death moments) will want to add a chainguide for added security using the frame's ISCG05 mounts. The 32-tooth chainring provides a good range of gears paired with SRAM's massive 10-42 tooth cassette. Increasing the chainring size will yield less anti-squat, so be aware that'll impact pedaling performance a bit if you swap it out.
Shifting was dialed, just as you'd expect from SRAM's top of the line XX1 shifter and derailleur. The inclusion of these high-end parts was one of the only choices that had us scratching our heads, as SRAM's more affordably priced X01 and X1 drivetrains provide very comparable performance at less cost. But hey, why not go a little baller sometimes?
The silent nature of the XX1 drivetrain does make other noises more evident, including cable rattle inside the frame. While Transition's cable guide design does a decent job of quieting things down by tensioning the housing as it enters the frame, the addition of tape in select locations could quiet it down a bit more. Also consider adding a bit of mastic tape to the inside edge of the seat stay to fully silence chainslap.
Long Term Durability
We see no issues with the Patrol's design or components at this time. It certainly seems as though it's in it for the long haul. Everything is user serviceable, including the collet style pivot hardware that's made to stay snug while being easy to remove for bearing changes and the like. Transition backs the frame with a two year warranty.
What's The Bottom Line?
If a buddy asked us how it rides, we'd likely say that the new Patrol 1 is one of the best Transition bikes yet. The updates to the suspension design, wisely chosen components, dialed appearance, and overall attention to detail coincide with the brand's continued growth and real-world experience. This particular model is best suited to dynamic riders looking to mob down hills at speed, perhaps in an enduro race scenario. It excels in fast terrain with occasional chunder thrown in, jumps very well, and offers good support for those times when you just want to pull up and send it.
As always, Transition's value for the price is good, leaving us very little to not like about the new steed. Even so, $5,999 is no small amount of money to kick down for a new bike, especially with some nice carbon options at comparable prices, which is why we think the more reasonably priced Patrol 2 model is the best bang for your buck on this bike.
What we liked most is how the Patrol never did anything wrong, which is much less common than you'd think in today's bike market. The full aluminum frame and dialed spec list show just how in tune Transition is with what makes a bike ride well under a demanding rider, overlooking some of the industry's current trends in favor of what actually works best. From our perspective the Patrol represents the best of the "less is more" belief. While Transition's refinement of proven concepts yields nothing super fancy, the back to basics approach works damn well and keeps a smile on your face - and that's precisely why we ride bikes.
Visit www.transitionbikes.com for more details.
About The Reviewers
Steve Wentz - A man of many talents, Steve got his start in downhilling at a young age. He has been riding for over 18 years, 11 of which have been in the Pro ranks. Asked to describe his riding style he said, "I like to smooth out the trail myself." Today he builds some of the best trails in the world (and eats lots of M&M's).
Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 15 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.
About Test Sessions
Three years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2015's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in San Luis Obispo, California. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Foothill Cyclery. Tester gear provided by Five Ten, Race Face, Easton, Troy Lee Designs, Club Ride, Kali, Royal, Smith, Pearl Izumi, and Source.