This past season I had the privilege of building two custom Transition Bicycles and understanding what's in a name.
I’ve been mountain biking for nearly 20 years now. It was only this last season that I took the turn towards full suspension. This is my story and I hope you like it.The spring of 2006 was when it all began. I had been riding my last hardtail for almost 12 years – I had taken great care of it but figured it was time to upgrade. This first led me to Pinkbike where I browsed the classifieds for used rides. It was fantastic but became a bit of a retail therapy as my riding and enthusiasm for bikes grew out of hand. I had to figure a way around it. My new toys were stacking up; I figured building the ultimate bike would help my cause. So I started to sell off my stable in hopes of creating my ultimate ride.
I took a good look at all the new bikes out there and the people who pimp them. The decision was simple; I contacted Transition directly. In browsing their line it once again became clear that I just can’t live with one bike alone, and so I ordered a Bottle Rocket and a Covert. I knew my style was suited for the Bottle Rocket though I just couldn’t let go of a lightweight bike. The Covert seemed to be a great choice and a perfect compliment. I ordered the Covert as a full bike and the Bottle Rocket with a few key Transition components. Both bikes were in for my own custom touch.
Upon arrival, it was like Christmas. I had these big boxes in my living room, bubble wrap all over and the smell of new bike filled the air. It was almost surreal as I looked at it all. I had bought my hardtail new in ’94 with all top end parts, but these bikes just blew doors off everything I had seen before
. Not only were the guys at Transition super cool, these bikes arrived easily and they’d obviously done their homework to be building these machines.
To add my touch, I had to get started.
In reading reviews, I had heard a few comments on the paint quality with Transition. Let me start with this first: it’s paint. Most bikes today are powder coated or anodized. Transition has amazing paint quality and by the looks of things, they even paint their logos on some of the frames and clear coat over it for a smooth finish. That’s detail. That’s quality. Too bad I wanted them to be a different color. Trust me, this story is not all about fun and games. Building a custom bike is a huge passionate hassle but I did not know this at the time. So I took the frames to pros who know paint. When I walked into their shop, they even thought I was weird for wanting different paint. At the end of the day, I still had to paint them myself. For all you weight weenies out there, go lightly.
So just in time for spring, I painted them yellow. Doing my best to not let any of the curious insects become art, I kept them in the warm sun to dry. Hanging them in anticipation the dogs gathered as we all took in the warmth. I was proud of my colors and I figured if I ever took a good tomahawk, they would be easy to find. At this point though, I realized that this is one of the more important things to let the professionals handle. At the end of the day, I spent more in time and lessons than a custom professional job. I also probably added weight.
Progressing towards their fruition, I had to face the fact that not only am I a rookie at paint, I am also a mediocre mechanic. Topping it out with a jittery case of butterflies, I contacted the guys at Oak Bay Bikes to help me out. Some work I would do and they would fix, other stuff I would just bring strait in. I had built a few bikes in the past and realized I was not exactly calm about my new rides. These were my dream bikes and knew that I could make them a nightmare with my shaky hands of worry. Sean and Cory were there for me.
So now they were built and ready to roll. Spec’d out to the ridiculous. ’07 Transition Bottle Rocket
Fox DHX 5.0 shock
Marzocchi 66 fork w/ETA
Avid Code brakes
Shimano Saint cranks
Maxxis Minion 2.5’s and more
Weight: Approx. 44lbs
’07 Transition Covert
Fox RP23 shock
Fox Talas 36 RC fork
Avid Juicy 7’s
Mavic CrossMax SX
Shimano Hone cranks
Crank Bros 50/50 pedals
SRAM X-9 drivetrain
Maxxis Advantage tires
Weight: Approx. 32lbs
The riding impressions: ’07 Bottle Rocket
Well, let's face it, the Bottle Rocket is full on. It is extremely responsive, perky and tracks like a DH bike all at the same time. Picking it up, you’d think it was going to bog you down on the flats and climbs but NO. The Bottle Rocket, set up with the ETA or not, climbs until I can’t pedal anymore. It is simply the best all around geometry I have ridden. It is extremely comfortable rolling into anything you can throw down, leaving open the door to unsuspecting bite. We exchanged vows twice this summer without going to Vegas; One broken elbow followed by a complete knee blow out 8 weeks later.
I realized I had embarked on a whole new ideal about riding.
The Bottle Rocket is not a bike you just climb on and go. This is a serious machine that will take you way past your abilities if you aren’t prepared. The way I can best explain this bike would be a parallel to motocross bikes. In comparing the Bottle Rocket to other bikes is like comparing a Husqvarna to a Japanese Motocross: they’re completely different animals. Set up right this can race 4X, Super D or tour a summer with Bush Pilot Biking.’07 Covert
New is where the Covert comes in. I live on some of the most buffed XC trails on the island. It gives me the opportunity to ride on those ‘not so fresh’ days and be home for a shower in no time. What I found riding the Covert is that there really is a magic number. I found that the way I built the bike up was way too light for me. The CrossMax wheels also needed a bit of rotational weight if they were going to track the bike in the air. What stood out for me was the amazing comfort of the ride. I could see this as being a fantastic endurance bike and full on race rig, easily. I hadn’t exactly built the Covert ‘as is’ and still got a lot more out of it than I expected. It climbs well, tracks smooth and doesn’t have that boxy ride like a lot of XC bikes. This bike is a real sleeper that I now have many plans for. You’ll see. It evolves with me as I build trails through the winter, nursing my injuries. Building trails, you will find, truly can be for the Covert and it is perfect for those long exhausting days. That’s a different story though.
To sum it all up with the bikes would take a lot more time and to be honest, won’t be done. What I look forward to the most is still the experience. All the places I think of to ride, the building of different ride setups and progression of my riding has taken a Transition. What the future holds for my riding can take any direction. For now, I ride easy and give back to the system. As this winter keeps me in the lowlands, I am hoping to tell the true story of what makes the Transition Covert the ultimate ‘trail’ bike.
Check out my friends at www.transitionbikes.com