Down Time: The Patrol might not be the most supple bike on descents, but its long, slack geometry makes it a hard-charger. It's composed, supportive, playful, and it begs its pilots to push limits, both on the ground and in the air.
The Up Side: Because of its super steep seat angle and supportive, progressive shock stroke, the Patrol is a best-in-class climber. Overall, it has more of a trail bike feel on most terrain than many other bikes in the category, until you point it downhill.
Dollar For Dollar: It's tough to compete with mail-order prices, where for this price you might find carbon wheels. But the Patrol is spec'd smartly where it counts: Fox Performance 36 HSC/LSC fork, DPX2 shock, SRAM Eagle drivetrain, Code stoppers and Maxxis rubber—that's a no-nonsense build.
At 64 degrees, the Patrol's head angle is nearing on downhill bike-slack. Between that and the 170-millimeter Fox 36 hanging off the front, testers expected this outrageous new Transition to be a shrewd descender. Easy guess. Also based on what's going on at the front of this bike, we obviously reckoned it'd be among the worst climbers of the bunch—but that's where we guessed wrong.
On paper, it really seems like the Patrol should be a cumbersome pig of a bike whenever it's not pointed straight downhill. But, in fact it turned out to feel remarkably normal. Instead of being unwieldy on the steep, technical climbing portion of our test loop, the Patrol remained surprisingly composed. The reduced-offset fork places the front wheel closer to the rider, while the steep seat angle moves the rider closer to the front wheel. With the rider's weight positioned over the front more, that ultra slack head angle starts to feel a whole lot less crazy.
We were pleasantly surprised with how well the Patrol behaved on pedally, undulating trail. For most short climbs, there's no need to reach down to flip the shock to pedal mode, and leaving the shock open while pedaling through flat, technical bits allows the rider to remain seated most of the time. The bike doesn't squat under heavy pedaling, and it never feels like the rear wheel is getting hung up underneath you. All and all, the Patrol is pretty efficient at pedaling through rough terrain—for a small-wheeled bike anyway. To be clear, we're praising the Patrol's climbing prowess relative to other long-travel bikes. It's a dignified climber considering the speed-thirsty adrenaline factory it is.
The Patrol's 160 millimeters of rear-wheel travel feels much more poppy and lively than most other bikes with this much travel. Long-travel bikes can oftentimes feel dead, like jumping on a water bed, whereas the Patrol is more like jumping on a trampoline. And while this rewards aggressive riding and hucking, it may not be what everyone is after.
If you're looking for something that feels like it has deep, endless travel, this isn't that bike. If you want something that'll make technical trails feel like flow lines, this isn't the bike for that either. But, if you want to actually feel the trail, ride really hard, really fast and hit huge jumps without your suspension caving in on you, this is most certainly the bike you're looking for. What we're trying to say here, is the Patrol is a shredder's bike.
Q&A with Lars Sternberg, marketing for Transition Bikes
1. Let's talk rear suspension, since Transition bikes are rather unique. Your bikes run more sag than is typically recommended (32-35%), they often have less rear travel compared to other bikes in the respective category, and they have super progressive spring rates. What's your philosophy behind this approach?
First and foremost, we build our bikes in the manner that we want to ride them. The reverse-mullet approach strikes a good balance between capability and efficiency. There’s enough business in the rear to get you through most situations you could fathom getting yourself into, and more party up front to keep you safe and comfortable. And when you’re not purely descending, the bike performs a bit more like the rear travel would suggest. Versatility being the end game. The rear sag is dictated by our Giddy Up suspension platform, being that 32-35% sag is the sweet spot where the chain growth is at the correct point. This allows you to run the shock in the open position when climbing without experiencing excessive ‘pedal bob,’ while increasing rear-wheel traction. The rear shocks are tuned to work with the Giddy Up design to have range in both directions for increasing or decreasing progression with the addition or removal of volume spacers. We want everyone to be able to get the suspension to do exactly what they want, whether they’re hucking to flat or keeping the wheels on the ground.
2. Other than the bling factor, what are the benefits of going with the carbon frame over the aluminum one?
We understand not everyone needs the most blinged-out bike. A lot of people are after a good bike that performs well and works with their budget. So price is definitely a consideration, as well as weight. There is roughly a 2 pound difference between the carbon and alloy models. Some folks are concerned about weight and some just aren’t. So there are options there. Some would argue there’s a noticeable difference between the ride feel of the two materials, so these might be the customers who opt for a carbon bike over an aluminum one. I also know plenty of people who simply won’t ride anything other than carbon. I, on the other hand, love having an alloy bike in my small quiver.
3. The Patrol is spec'd with 2.3-inch tires, which kind of seems narrow these days. Are you guys not down with the wider stuff?
Well, admittedly this was an oversight on my behalf. As you guys received one of our first carbon Patrols, we didn’t have full 2019 parts kits to build it up with. And I neglected to swap the tires to the MY19 spec which is a 2.5 Minion DHF/Minion DHR 2.4 combo. Apologies for that, I owe you a beer.