Transition Bikes with the help of their Victoria, BC dealer Goldstream Cycles and our local trail advocacy group the South Island Mountain Bike Society [SIMBS] put on an amazing demo this past Sunday at the Hartland Bike Park. I say amazing because my expectations for demos are quite low based on previous experience. Getting to ride bikes on dirt is a privilege worth dealing with some hassles, but the typical problems like broken, poorly setup bikes and unmotivated staff who couldn’t organise their way out of a paper bag detract from the experience. I usually find myself having to imagine what the bike would ride like if it actually worked and was setup properly for me.
In any case the Transition demo was the opposite of that. The bikes were well taken care of and setup for me close enough to perfect that I didn’t feel like messing with them. The Demo staff were keen and really had their shit together. And the bikes rocked or at least the Carbon Patrol made my day. So a big thanks to Transition Bikes for taking the time to run a demo properly. It was well appreciate. Thanks also Goldstream Cycles and SIMBS for their parts in making the event happen. I showed up at 9am and finally left a 2pm. There was too much good stuff happening to peel out any earlier.
The bike I was curious to ride was the Carbon Patrol. It’s an all mountain/enduro rig that can still be pedalled well, but it’s focused on the DH side of the spectrum. My super short TLDR review of the bike is – rode exactly as advertised. I got on a large [I’m 5’11” with a 33″ pant’s inseam]. We set the sag at 35% seated. Bike was shod with Maxxis DHF/DHR 2.35″ tires. First off it’s a gorgeous bike. That’s not the most important thing, but when you are going to drop over $3K for a frame/shock it’s nice if you can lose track of time gazing at the frame details lovingly. It also sports room for a full sized water-bottle, which is nice even in the age of the hydration pack.
I didn’t pay a ton of attention to the build kit. Everything worked well, but nothing jumped out at me as particularly awesome. I’d just buy a frame/shock anyways so the build was irrelevant to me beyond any weak spots that might compromise my demo ride. In that respect there were no issues at all. If you handed me that demo bike and let me keep it the only things I would change out right away would be the wheels/tires and that’s just because a prefer something different not that there was a real problem.
The Patrol has a steeper Seat Tube Angle [STA] than I am used to so I was happy to note I found the seated riding position comfortable although I did notice the feeling of being higher and closer to the BB than on my usual bikes. It felt like a difference I could adapt to with a bit of time and enjoy. Note this was without a setback seatpost so if I wanted to I could also use a different dropper and stick with a more familiar riding position. One issue I noted was losing traction on some slippery techy climbs that I wouldn’t have issues with on my personal bikes. I want to chalk that up having my CG a bit more forward on the bike due to the steeper STA, but given that I was running different tires I can’t be 100% on that. It wasn’t terrible and even seemed like something I’d be able to adapt to if I owned a Patrol. Seated climbing felt good as you would expect from a steeper STA and there was no requirement to slide forward on the saddle for more challenging ascents.
That was good because the Patrol was equipped with an uber short [for me] ~40mm stem and wide [I’m guessing 800mm] bars. I really didn’t have any space to move forward since that geometry was fairly cramped even on a large. If I bought a Patrol I think I’d get a 1″ setback dropper to open up the seated riding position and use some narrower 740mm – 760mm bars. The wide bars were a handful in tight treed spots. Not awful, but something I had to keep thinking about. I didn’t mind the wide bar steering feel, but I also didn’t think it was so amazing that I needed to start running 800mm bars on my own bikes – currently my two rides sport 720mm bars.
I left the Lyrik fork and Super Deluxe shock set to open the whole ride. I don’t enjoy fiddling with knobs all ride so unless we are talking a long fireroad climb to get to the top of a mountain I want to “set it and forget it!” The Patrol obliged me. The suspension was definitely active and plush, but supportive enough I never felt I was being penalised terribly for sporting ~6″ of travel. The combination of 35% sag and lowish 13.3″ BB height did result in more pedal strikes than I would have on my personal bikes, but not a truly annoying number. If I owned a Patrol I might run some extra volume spacers in the shock, slightly shorter cranks [say 170mm] and very thin pedals to mitigate this issue.
Handling was exactly as expected. Weaving my way upwards through techy terrain the bike was a bit sluggish. It never caused me an issue following the line I wanted, but it was relaxed vs. sporty feeling. Same goes for rolling terrain. The Patrol made its way through or over everything in a business like fashion, but It didn’t feel like it was making the most of this type of easier terrain. The pay off was apparent as soon as you pointed the bike down anything steep and rough. It came alive and wanted to go faster and charge harder. The long wheelbase and centred rider position allowed me to carve up corners nicely. The plush long travel suspension opened up line options and I could ignore all, but the worst chunk.
Our trails tend towards slow, steep and techy. We get few opportunities to really open up a bike and the Patrol kept begging for a faster descending speed that I couldn’t oblige it with. At slower speeds it’s not a poppy/playful bike. I felt like it would be at higher speeds, but that’s a theory I didn’t get to test.
A couple details that matter to me: 1) the bike has enough clearance for 2.4″ Continental Trail Kings on decently wide rims, but nothing bigger and 2) it’s not Boost. I can’t own a bike without room for 2.4″ TKs and although I would like to be able to run a bigger 2.5″ tire it’s not a deal breaker if everything else is great. I don’t need or want a Boost bike. There may come a time where that’s unavoidable, but before then I’ll stick with 100mm/148mm frames for cross compatibility.
Coming back to the parking lot with the Patrol I was pretty stoked. If they had frames to sell and a small “buy it now” discount I’d probably be the proud owner of a Patrol. I liked it that much. Not just the bike, but chatting with the folks from Transition [turns out the owner/president and Sales Manager were part of the demo staff!] they had an amazing rider focused vibe and there is a natural desire to support a great local PNWet company with a sweet product.
Now having had a night to sleep on it I’m feeling less inclined to spending the money for a Patrol. Not because it’s lacking in anyway or I changed my mind about how I felt riding it. But, with a bit of perspective I started to evaluate where a bike with those capabilities would be ideal and the answer was not on most of our local trails. We lack the high speed open trails that would make this bike come alive. It sort of feels like wanting to own a high clearance Jeep with big tires, but living in a big city.
I also demo’d the Transition Scout, which is their shorter travel bike. I turned around after 15mins as it just didn’t feel right for me. Even with the suspension set at 35% seated sag it was too firm/taught for my preferences. The Transition folks agreed that trying to soften up the Scout’s 125mm rear travel wouldn’t work as you’d be too deep into the travel beyond 35% sag.
I’d like to get a mid-travel [~140mm] 29er at some point and there are rumours that Transition will put out a revamped Covert in that category. So that might be my ticket into the Transition Club.
Thanks again to Transition for putting on a superb demo day. Awesome bikes, awesome people and some nice swag. I really don’t think I could suggest any improvements….except maybe come back to Vancouver Island more often. 😉