Photos: JP Van Swae
Transition is riding a rising wave at the moment–a swell buoyed by equal parts Pacific Northwest working-class sensibility, forward-thinking geometry and a strong sense of humor grounded in an uncluttered, performance-based ethos generated by a bunch of guys in Bellingham, Washington, who all happen to be absolute crushers on the bike. The Scout, in turn, is Transition’s latest twist on ‘the trail bike;’ that broadly capable, middle-of-the-range steed that most of us should be riding once we get over ourselves and stop trying to pigeonhole our riding into one category or another.
An aluminum frame utilizing truncated Toblerone-esque tube shaping to optimize chassis stiffness coughs up 125 millimeters of rear travel via Transition’s ‘Giddy-Up’ link, itself a very intentional interpretation of the venerable but still entirely competent Horst-Link four-bar design. A one-piece aluminum rocker compresses a RockShox Monarch RT3 Debonair shock, and is matched at the front by a 140-millimeter-travel Pike RTC3 Solo Air fork. All pivots run on sealed cartridge bearings–the main pivots feature low-hassle locking collet hardware–cable routing is internal, there are tabs for a front derailleur as well as an ISCG05 mount and, praise be to all that is sacred, the Scout features a threaded bottom bracket. Is a threaded bottom bracket shell a big deal? Press-fit bottom brackets are fine, right up until they start creaking. In the real world, threaded bottom brackets still rule. We chose to test the $4,800 mid-spec Scout 2, kitted out with SRAM X1/X01 drivetrain, SRAM Guide RSC brakes and a KS Lev Integra 150-millimeter dropper post, and shod with Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR tires.
Compared to the sea of ‘big-form’ carbon-framed trail bikes on the market, the Scout looks subtle and understated, almost delicate in spite of a 7.28-pound frame-and-shock weight. Aluminum and a Horst Link? How old school. However, the geometry of the bike tells quite a different story. A fashionably contemporary 67-degree head angle is held apart from a mighty steep 75-degree seat angle by a 24.2-inch toptube (on our large test bike). Despite snappy 16.7-inch chainstays, the front-center measurements lend themselves to a surefooted 46.3-inch wheelbase. There is nothing at all old school about those numbers.
Numbers, being numbers, don’t tell the whole story. Spreadsheet-based expectations have a way of faltering once the wheels are carving dirt. In the case of the Scout, if I was to pre-judge based on the numbers, I would’ve expected something freight-train stable with slow steering and sort of sluggish. Wrong. Given the somewhat-hefty stock wheels (Easton AR27 rims laced to SRAM 716/746 hubs) and overall weight of the bike, I would’ve expected it to be a reluctant ascender. Wrong. Looking at the slender tubing, I might have assumed it would be a noodle. Wrong. This bike flat-out rips. Period. I wish I could end the review right here, spiking an empty beer can into the ground then floating off in a sweet, sustained wheelie. But I suck at wheelies, so let me further elaborate.
I have loathed slack seat angles for decades now. Back in the dark ages, 73-degree seat angles were the norm and they felt adequate, but then freeriding happened like some aberrant curse upon the sport and everything got slack, including seat angles. Transition is one of a few companies leading a charge away from this, and the 74.9-degree seat angle on the Scout is a godsend. It brings rider weight forward, makes it easier to get over the front and make it bite in corners, allows for effortless movement between seated and standing riding and for me personally, it feels as if I can push an easy gear or two heavier in all conditions.
What that means in terms of riding the Scout is this: A rock-stable, long-wheelbase trail bike that just rails high-speed corners, can still muscle up climbs like it means it and remains nimble and downright playful in all terrain. This bike is a blast to ride, combining the attributes of a much longer travel all-mountain machine with the spry manners of a light trail bike. The overall sense of stability is aided by the commendable stiffness of the frame between the wheels, and the Giddy Up link rear suspension is highly capable across a broad range, inviting the inevitable “feels like it has more travel than it really does” cliché. It is remarkably composed in wheel-eating terrain and would make a great go-to bike for backcountry rides in big mountains made entirely of head-sized rocks. The Scout, regardless of the landscape it is thrown into, is confidence inspiring and telepathically easy to ride.
Complaints? The internally routed cables rattle around in the downtube a bit. And, as mentioned earlier, the wheels are porkers. Shelling out a few hundred bucks down the line, it’d be easy to lop a couple pounds off the bike with a modest wheel upgrade alone. Then it’d really scoot uphill. It could also be argued that for this spec at this price, one could find one’s way into a carbon-fiber bike. But then, it wouldn’t be this bike. And this bike is awesome, just the way it is.
TRANSITION’S TWO CENTS | When we were working on the Giddy Up project, the obvious choices were the Patrol and the Smuggler. We figured we needed a third bike to round out the line, so we just looked at what everyone else was doing at the time and just did the opposite. It all took shape in about 20 minutes without much thought put towards it. Actually, that’s not really how it went at all. We designed each bike with the other models in mind and, in ways, each bike’s differences would complement one another. The Scout is our version of the mini-shred rocket and the hardest bike in our line to classify. Dare I say the ‘stepchild’ of our line and most often overlooked. The best way to get it is to ride it. We’re stoked Mike understood the bike for the way that it is. Cable rattle? Yes, we’re listening, to the rattle and to the feedback. –Lars Sternberg, Transition Bikes