We all have friends who are risk-takers. They tend to fall into one of two categories--the first being those whose risks inevitably never pan out. You want to look away but can't resist watching for the I-told-you-so moment. And those whose out-of-the-box thought processes open your mind to what's possible.
In the bike industry, risk-taking innovation tends to fall into those same categories--from the what-were-they-thinking to a why-didn't-I-think-of-that moment that drives technology forward.
Transition's new SBG lineup of bikes falls into the latter. What started as a pet project in the garage of Transition's Lars Sternberg has quickly evolved into an industry-wide movement to rethink what shorter fork offsets could and should be for mountain bikes. A simple experiment with a short-offset, dirt-jump fork crown matched to a longer-travel set of lowers has managed to effect industry-wide change with most major manufacturers offering short-offset fork options that simply did not exist prior.
But it's not as simple as shorter offset equals better. It's a more holistic approach to bicycle design. In Transition's case, this allowed it to push the limits of head angles, reach and stem length to achieve cornering and overall stability characteristics with its bikes that couldn't be achieved with previous offset standards.
Transition's 2019 size-large Patrol sports a 475-millimeter reach with a 64-degree headtube. It bolts a 170-millimeter Lyrik on with only a 37-millimeter offset. The reach is a full 17 millimeters longer than the previous generation, which I gushed about during our 2016 Dream Builds issue. You'd think it'd make for a wandering, mind-of-its-own ride quality, but that's simply not the case. It actually equates to a marked improvement in cornering and high-speed stability. It's so noticeable that it's undeniable: The front wheel feels more planted and in control through turns while still taking advantage of a slacker head angle in steep and high-speed terrain. Add a 76.6-degree seat angle and your pedaling position wouldn't lead you to believe anything radically different was going on beneath you.
A key to SBG's proven handling is running a short stem. When combined with a long reach and a slack head angle, it feels right. The 35-millimeter Nora stem from Bellingham-based Tenet Components is a perfect match. Combined with Tenet's tall, 35-millimeter-rise Bodem carbon bar, the Patrol exhibits unbelievably precise and confident handling. Despite the stout appearance of the front end, the Patrol still offers all the comfort needed for all-day missions, combined with DH strength and confidence when the trail turns treacherous.
The ride quality of the front end had a cascading effect on how the rest of this build took shape: How far down the DH rabbit hole could I go on a modern trail bike?
The Push ElevenSix rear shock has been a personal favorite of mine. Its sophisticated tune, shockingly stable pedaling platform and bottomless feel on descents make the most of Transition's Giddy Up rear linkage. I wouldn't describe the ride quality as mind-blowingly plush but rather a harmonious cocktail of control and stability. So much so that I'm still not sure that I've found its limits.
Of course, this is all a wash if what you're rolling on isn't on the same page. The new Maxxis Assegai DH-casing tires on paper might seem overkill on a trail bike (and for many they might be) but for what I want this bike to be it's been a fantastic choice. Match the amazing braking and cornering characteristics of this new tread pattern with the support of a DH casing and it really feels like you can do no wrong. But this isn't solely based on tire choice. I stepped out of my comfort zone with the Santa Cruz Reserve 37 wheel. Yes, 37 refers to the inner width of the rim, and this is by far the widest rim I've ever ridden on a bike of this style (read: non-plus). Designed around tire widths of 2.5-2.8, the Assegai WT mounts nicely without squaring off, and the sum of all the parts--tread, casing, rim width and one of my favorite hubs of all time, the I9 torch--and it all feels complementary to what I want to achieve with the ride characteristics of the bike.
The Cane Creek eeWing cranks have the same ethos as the rest of the build: stout, stiff and visually stunning. It's not all looks though. Cane Creek claims the eeWings test about 20-to 30-percent stiffer than carbon cranks of a similar weight. The direct power to pedals gives it sports-car-like acceleration, even with flat pedals. Flat pedals might seem like a bit of an afterthought, and I've often thought of them as a disposable part like tires or grips. Tenet, however, takes a different approach by offering a pedal-refresh program, which includes a free service on its FTP pedals. Tenet wants you to be as confident in its pedals as you would a high-end clipless pedal. This is welcome news for me. I haven't been clipped in since the days of Lycra and V-brakes.
The Bike Yoke Revive dropper is another component on the bike that stares durability right in the face. Its external reset adjustment directly addresses any unwanted slippage that could develop in the hydraulic circuit via a 4-millimeter Allen key located right under the seat clamp. Additionally, the Revive has by far the lightest action required to drop a post that I've used. Speedy return and a lever that integrates seamlessly with the SRAM Code brakes (among others) make this dropper a step above the rest for me. Generally, on a size large, 170 millimeters of drop is all I can get away with. On the Revive, I'm able to get run 185 millimeters with room to spare.
With all this attention to brawling speed and durability, I'm only paying a small price in overall weight at just about 33 pounds. This Patrol is unapologetically built to descend but modern geometry and an efficient pedaling platform are able to turn this mini-DH bike into a daily driver.