Transition Bikes: Knock, Knock

Transition Tour

2018 Tech and First Ride

Words by Drew Rohde // Photos by Samson Hatae

Bellingham, Washington is famous for quite a few reasons, but we’d wager one of the most well known things about this Pacific Northwest jewel is Transition Bikes. On our way home from Crankworx Whistler we decided to stop and check out the crew’s new mothership and ride some of the PNW’s best known trails.

Transition recently made some waves when they announced their new Speed Balanced Geometry (SBG) concept. The concept addressed the offset and trail of contemporary frames and forks. A topic highly discussed and written about in the 1970’s chopper scene, when motorcycles with six-foot long forks and 45-degree head tube angles were cruising the highways ridden by acid-crazed bikers. Slightly more relevant to our modern SBG conversation, except maybe for the acid part, Transition realized that frame design and tube geometry could only take us so far in the complete handling package that mountain bikers demand. Transition must have taken a page out of the Chopper Builder’s Handbook because their SBG concept includes two important aspects to bike handling performance that are often overlooked each year as new bikes come out.

Transition Bikes Entry

Offset and trail are two key factors in a bike’s handling, and aside from a few brand’s tinkerings, it hasn’t been addressed much. Offset is the distance between the steering axis, (straight line through the center of your steerer tube to the ground), and your front axle. These numbers vary by wheelsize, but 29ers typically have 46- or 51mm of offset. A 27.5 bike normally comes with a 42- or 44mm offset fork and a 26-inch bike runs 37- or 40mm of offset.

Trail is the distance from the center of the tire’s contact patch to where the steering axis meets the ground. Much like the head tube angle, trail changes can make a bike more stable at speed or twitchy in its handling characteristics. Depending on the desired performance of a bike, (think XC racer versus a DH sled) designers will try to find the optimal head tube angle for a well balanced ride. By adding trail and offset into the equation, engineers will be able to further tune and alter ride characteristics.

This is the very shortened version of just two aspects of SBG and how offset and trail can affect the way a bike rides. Transition believed that just changing fork offset alone wouldn’t be enough, much like they didn’t believe just lengthening the reach and slackening the head tube angle would create the best performing bike. Much like your grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies, the final product is the perfect blending of several ingredients, and Transition has narrowed the geometry batter to five key ingredients: A longer reach, slacker seat tube angle, reduced fork offset, shorter stems and steeper seat tube angles. By blending all these ingredients together, Transition hope to give riders a more balanced and stable feeling at high speeds, while also avoiding the dreaded low speed front tire flop and sluggishness that long, slack bikes tend to suffer from.

Transition Bikes Patrol Ride

First Ride

After the tour and technical crash course, we installed some pedals and hit the door headed for the nearest trails. Short on energy and time, we kept it close with a hot lap on some local favorites. Sammy was riding the new Sentinel, while I rode the new Patrol. I was a big fan of the earlier Patrols so I was excited to see what the new generation would offer.

We climbed a fairly casual trail with a few tight switchbacks and some rooty, rocky bits. Looking back now, they were rather uneventful encounters, which makes me realize the new SBG may have worked better than I realized. A major improvement I noted was in the pedaling performance. We rode a section of logging road called The Wall and it gave me some up close and personal time with the top tube. Climbing position was comfortable and seemed to balance fore and aft weight distribution, but the efficiency was what really stood out. With the shock switched over to grunt mode, I felt direct transfer of power to the wheel, pretty impressive for a big-mountain bike.

Transition Bikes Patrol Ride

Likewise, Sammy made his way up the trail, although not with as much ease as I did thanks to his heavy camera pack and general lack of energy. Three thousand miles of motorcycle riding in the heat mixed with a week of Crankworx will do that to ya.

Once at the top we dropped saddles, flipped switches and let gravity lead us down. It was a bit dusty and following a rippin’ local down an unfamiliar trail on brand new bikes proved to be a challenge on this day. As all riders know, sometimes you just don’t feel it. This was one of those days.

Despite our personal business, the bikes were up to the task and were most certainly begging us to be pushed harder than we were willing to ride that day. When we had short bursts of motivation come through, we were able to experience the fullness of Transition’s new bikes. The tight, twisty trail was chock full of fun little doubles into, or out of, tight berms. In these pumpy and tight situations, I couldn’t believe I was riding a 170/160mm bike. The Patrol certainly did not feel like it had that much travel. It pumped and popped with ease and I really enjoyed the centered and balanced feel in the G-inducing berms.

Transition Bikes Patrol Ride

Sadly, due to time constraints and a lack of brain power, I didn’t take the time to fidget with the shock as much as I’d like to, which led to me having a few issues in the chatter. After taking the bike back to Lars, we turned knobs, counted clicks and surmised that my feedback was most likely related to the last rider’s shock tune, and not the bike itself.

I’m eagerly awaiting more time on the Patrol and Sentinel as the SBG program really seemed to work well and I’m assuming that, combined with the suspension feel I’ve grown to expect from Transition bikes, should mean I’ll like these bikes a whole lot more once I get ‘em dialed in.

Website: Transitionbikes.com

This is a cool online tool for those wanting to play around and experiment with rake and trail numbers. Click Here.

Transition SBG

Patrol 27.5
• Price: $2999 – $4999 USD. Frame only w/ DPX2 shock: $1999.
• Travel -160mm rear / 170mm front
• Speed Balanced Geometry
• Boost spacing
• Trunion metric shock
• Threaded bottom bracket
• External rear brake routing
• Water bottle storage inside front triangle

Sentinel 29
• Price: $2999 – $4999 USD. Frame only w/ DPX2 shock: $1999.
• 140mm rear / 160mm front
• Collet main pivot
• Speed Balanced Geometry
• Boost spacing
• Trunion metric shock
• Enduro Max sealed bearings
• Threaded BB
• External rear brake routing

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