Review: Transition Scout Carbon

A new plastic pony from the Pacific Northwest

Other than the Slingshot, a bike that had a unique ability to turn its pilots into projectiles, the Scout might be the most aptly named bike ever. I don’t know how the Bellingham, Washington, crew landed on it, but I tend to think of the common dog name because the Scout’s trail demeanor reminds me of a waggy-tailed little trail dog. Or maybe it’s the bike’s ability to go on big backcountry missions, constantly on the lookout for the tiniest feature to pop off of, scrub, or manual. This little whippersnapper is one of the liveliest, wound-up bikes on the trail, but it’s surefooted and trustworthy too, like a young Eagle Scout after too many s’mores.

Transition Scout Carbon_RP-4893

Tonto’s horse in the Western TV series “Lone Ranger” was named Scout. That also fits, because the dudes at Transition–never ones to take themselves or technology naming too seriously–call their adaptation of the Horst-link suspension design ‘GiddyUp Link.’

As one would expect, the Scout Carbon shares the exact same numbers as its metal counterpart, including the 27.5-inch wheel size and 125 millimeters of rear travel. The only thing missing is an extra pound of weight, making an already-nimble bike even more so. The Scout Carbon has impressive lateral stiffness at the headtube and bottom bracket, which lets the rider dive hard into, and spring out of corners with confidence and stability.

Tire clearance may look tight here, but that's a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 on a 30-millimeter-wide rim, measuring 2.7 inches from knob to knob.
Tire clearance may look tight here, but that’s a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 on a 30-millimeter-wide rim, measuring 2.7 inches from knob to knob.

When running the recommended 140 millimeters of travel at the front of the bike, our size large Scout sports a reasonable 67-degree headtube angle, with the seat tube at a steep 75 degrees, and stubby 16.7-inch chainstays. The Scout diligently goes where you put it. Slow or fast, uphill or down, flow or technical, the Scout does it all. It’s a quintessential trail bike, with an extra bit of whoop and holler injected into its DNA. The low 13-ish-inch bottom bracket, as well as the 24.2-inch toptube create a low-and-balanced center of gravity, making it a bike that’s comfortable to ride at the ragged edge. One would expect a bike designed by Pacific Northwest shredders to descend like a submarine with a screen door, so that part isn’t too surprising. What is, though, is how amazingly it goes uphill, thanks in part by the attack position the steep seat tube angle puts you in.

The suspension curve is progressive as hell. It’s meant to be run with 35-percent sag, which is deeper than many bikes out there, even ones with much more travel. This gives the Scout a supple top-end and more negative travel than other bikes in the category, allowing it to track well and stay planted through stutter bumps and smaller hits, while still being able to handle bigger impacts. I love how quickly the Scout ramps up, because it means it can be pushed hard into corners without wallowing or getting squirmy. It also means the Scout can scoot up climbs very efficiently, even with the shock in the open position. On long climbs, I’d reach down to switch the shock to pedal mode, but there’s no need to bother on rolling terrain. If the curve is a bit too progressive for you and you’re looking to squish things up a bit, that can easily be arranged. The stock RockShox Monarch RT3 Debonair shock supplied on all builds of the Scout Carbon (and the frame-only option) comes with two volume reducer bands installed. Removing one or both will create a more linear stroke.

Transition Scout Carbon_RP-4888

With 140 millimeters of fork travel, the Scout has a tendency to motivate its rider to haul ass into chunky rock gardens, which in some cases can prove too much for the little wheels and short-ish rear travel. There’s no harsh bottoming, but the wheel does get hung up in this environment more than, say, a big-wheeled bike with comparable travel might. But what it lacks in roll-over, it makes up for with crisp, tight handling and hop-ability. The Scout Carbon prefers to air over sections that other bikes might plow right through.

To support the high-flying, hard-charging attitude of this trail bike, you’ll find big pivot axles and bearings, locking-collet main pivot hardware and stout carbon tubes throughout. The frame we received was assembled without grease or retaining compound on the pivot hardware, which could be because it was one of the first off the production line. Either way, this isn’t uncommon in the industry, so checking pivot hardware is on the to-do list for most qualified mechanics. Besides, it’s a good idea for any full-suspension bike owner to get in the habit of inspecting for loose or creaky pivots, especially with new purchases. Bikes break in and on a lot of them, that means some pivot hardware could back out after the first few rides. It took me about 10 minutes to go through the linkage with grease and Locktite, a quick and easy way to ensure a worry-free ride.

Transition Scout Carbon_RP-4907

For its second attempt at a carbon frame, Transition has done impressively well. The Scout’s internal cable routing is the fastest and easiest of any bike I’ve ever built, including all bikes with external routing. The hoses feed through internal guide tubes, and pop out right where they’re supposed to. There aren’t any annoying rubber grommets to install that just vibrate back out later. In addition, the ports are placed and angled perfectly to keep cable housing off the paint at the headtube. The rear end, which, by the way, is 12×142, uses the tried-and-true Syntace X-12 thru axle. The axle threads are in the derailleur hanger instead of the seatstay, so in the case that they strip, you’re out a whole lot less dough. Plus, your shop is more likely to have spare hangers than spare stays in stock.

Transition Scout Carbon_RP-4906

The Scout Carbon comes in ‘Blood Orange’ or the more subdued ‘Gravel Grey,’ although I wouldn’t recommend taking it on any gravel grinds or showing up to any Rapha Gentlemen’s Races on it. Three build kits are available, ranging from $5,100 to $8,800, and the frame and shock can be had for $3,000. There might be a lot of reasons for the naming of the Scout bike, but all that really matters is that it’s fun as hell.

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