Transition Bikes usually mock me. Looking at the Patrol 2 as it poked out from the rest of this year's test bikes with its massive wheelbase, I was convinced it was sneering at me, and I prepared to once again fall short of tapping a bike's potential, only to be reminded just how much I suck. Instead, I had a couple rides that redefined what I thought I was capable of as a rider, and that changed what I considered to be defining 'buy/don't buy' aspects of bike design.
Here's what I mean: The Patrol 2 is aluminum. Anecdotal bias implies that aluminum is heavier and more dead-feeling than carbon fiber. This is not the case here. The Patrol is lively and remarkably playful, in spite of the beef implicit in the 7.8-pound frame weight. It is also stout, solid, plush and impeccable at sucking up all kinds of terrain, while still being a capable pedaling machine. Its 155 millimeters of rear travel is plush where it needs to be, but progressive enough to swallow big hits with ease. The Patrol 2 is long. As in, a 47.6-inch wheelbase for our large test bike. As in, it should take an act of Congress for it to change direction. Wrong. The Patrol is super-fun to rip turns on. I quit worrying about numbers because I was too busy laughing. The Patrol 2 is slack–65-degree head angle meets 75-degree seat angle and 24-inch toptube. That's why it is so long. Normally I wrestle with slack bikes because I ride too far off the back like an aging refugee from mid-1990s XC races. For whatever reason, I felt like I could do no wrong cornering on this bike. It definitely lets you know just how long and slack it is when trying to muscle around uphill switchbacks, but is still pretty damn well-behaved.
Bottom line? In a few short rides, this bike had me hitting lines I had been afraid of all week and tearing up my old playbook that dictated I'd never own anything slacker than 67 degrees or longer than 45 inches, or that wasn't carbon fiber. Admittedly, the price on our test bike would've put us close to carbon fiber with similar spec in other brands (RockShox Pike fork and Monarch shock, SRAM X01/X1 drivetrain and SRAM Guide RSC brakes), but I really couldn't care less. This bike will make anyone a better rider.
Q&A with Lars Sternberg
Before this year's test bikes rolled into our barn, we had questions about them–some of the same questions that you might be asking yourself when you start poking around at a new bike. Here's what Transition Marketing Projects Manager, Lars Sternberg, had to say about the blue-collar version of Transition's answer to the all-purpose, all-mountain machine. –Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
Vernon Felton: When you guys were designing this bike, who was the ideal rider you had in mind for it?
Lars Sternberg: We design bikes that we want to ride, period. I can’t answer this question specifically about the Patrol, you have to look at the entire Giddy Up line up to understand this in full. All of our Giddy Up bikes can be ridden on the same trails and terrain, however you will get a different experience from each of them.
The Patrol is our most aggressive trail bike, and is meant to be the all-purpose daily driver. It makes for a great race machine, but is not intended for that specific purpose in mind. The patrol is meant for the rider who goes out on an hour and a half, quick, post-work rip at their local trail network, and then enjoys it on a 40-mile 8,000-foot, all-day ride on the weekend, which includes long climbs and great descents that could be ridden on downhill bikes.
VF: Are there conditions in which you feel this bike really excels and, if so, what specific design attributes of the bike make that so?
LS: Around here (Bellingham and surrounding areas) we have a great mixture of terrain and different kinds of trails, which have very different personalities. Reverting back to your earlier question here, this is the bike we all wanted to fully enjoy all these different riding areas. Bellingham, the North Shore, Squamish, Whistler, Mt. Hood region and so on.
There are a few areas around here in which you can shuttle, but for the most part you need to be able to get yourself to the top and not hate it. And the Patrol does just that. It can be ridden like a downhill bike, but performs like a mid-travel trail bike when riding yourself to the top. The Patrol also doesn’t mind being periodically loaded onto a chairlift and ridden down Garbanzo.
VF: Are there any aspects of the frame design that you guys are particularly proud of? If so, what are they and why?
LS: It’s funny, one of the basic details we absolutely required was a downtube water bottle mount. This is a must-have feature when you’re nicking out for a quick rip and don’t need to be carrying a pack, and so frequently overlooked.
We also feel this is one of the best-performing, long-travel, aluminum trail bikes out there at the moment. It’s really hard to go wrong with a well-thought-out alloy bike. They are durable, low maintenance and provide a great ride. The geometry of the Patrol really inspires you to push yourself without feeling like you’re riding over your head. The suspension platform provides a very stable and neutral ride whilst still encompassing our primary objective–FUN!
VF: Component spec is always a tricky thing to nail–what were you aiming for with the spec on this bike and how did you achieve it?
LS: This is our #2 Patrol, so you don’t get some of the Carbon trick bits you get on the #1. It is slightly heavier than the top-of-the-line option, but not by much. This is a no-frills bike for the savvy mountain biker. It will hold up to years of abuse, and still leave you some change in your wallet for a couple trips for said abuse.
VF: Are there any details/features on this bike that you think are particularly critical to its performance that might be easily overlooked by consumers at first glance?
LS: The most important thing about the Patrol setup is having the sag set correctly. The sweet spot is 35 percent, which is quite a bit more than suggested sag on its competitors. But this is one of the things that makes the Patrol really sing. In our experiences at demo events, we’ve receive a lot of skepticism from people when setting the bike up for them like this. The reward for this is the look on their faces when they bring the bike back. The Patrol is intended to have a bit of ‘negative travel’, which is relatively uncommon on a 6-inch travel trail bike, and this is where the magic happens. Amazing traction and grip when pushing the limits, without feeling like you’re compromising its travel.
VF: There are a metric crap ton of good all-mountain/enduro bikes out there these days–what sets the Patrol apart from some other models people might be looking at?
LS: The Patrol was designed by a group of guys just like you. We are very passionate about bikes and have a full spectrum of riders on tap here at Transition, from weekend warrior to professional racer. The Patrol is meant to provide the same experience for all of us, which, in turn, includes all of you. Our main focus when riding is fun, and this is what you get.