PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Transition Patrol Carbon
Words by Matt Beer; photography by Dave Trumpore
When Transition dropped their 2021 Patrol, it only appeared in aluminum and sat in between two other carbon models - the boundary-pushing 170mm Spire and 150mm Sentinel. The alloy Patrol targeted riders who wanted a faster handling bike than the Spire, but more muscle than the Sentinel, however the frame weighed a beastly 4.63 kg (with a shock). That made me think there must be a carbon version on the way to trim some fat, at an added expense of course.
Retaining all of the same geometry and travel as the alloy Patrol, the carbon version drops 1.3 kg off of the frame weight and arrives in two new frame colors: a monochromatic “Moon Shadow” matte grey or red hot finish.
Patrol Carbon Details
• Travel: 160mm rear / 160mm fork
• Carbon frame
• Wheel size: Mixed
• 63.0º - 63.5º head angle
• 77.6º - 78.1º seat tube angle
• 442 / 440mm chainstays
• Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
• Weight: 15.2 kg / 33.6 lb
• Price: $6,699 USD as tested
Like two other bikes in this Field Test, the Patrol is also dedicated to a 27.5” rear wheel, although the chainstays come in two lengths, depending on what half of the sizing chart you stand on. That slots the mid-travel enduro-ish model between two other popular bikes in Transition's line up; the 170mm Spire, which pushes the boundaries in terms of long and low, pedal-worthy geometry, and the more contemporary 140mm travel Sentinel.
Transition distinguishes their frame angles and lengths as Speed Balanced Geometry - they were one of the first to figure out that short offset forks work best with 29" wheels and slack head angles. The Patrol comes set up with 160mm of travel front and rear, but can be bumped up 10mm at either end by swapping suspension stroke lengths. Sliding a 170mm fork on there will rake out the already slack 63/63.5º head angle even further.
When scoping out the sizing, you'll notice that the Patrol isn't available in the gargantuan XXL serving, like the other two previously mentioned bikes. That's because most riders above the 195cm range most likely want the extra stability that a 29" rear wheel offers and that's not something that the Patrol can accommodate anyways. Following a common and sensible trend, the chainstays do vary depending on the frame size; 434 for the small and medium, 440mm on the large and extra large.
External brake routing fans will be enthused to see that this line runs outside of the downtube while the rest of the lines are fully guided through the frame tubes. Other frame features include a Universal Derailleur Hanger and a top tube accessory mount, plus a straight 56mm head tube allows for all the geometry adjustments with reach adjusting headsets. I also appreciated that Transition spec'd a chainguide with a skid plate right from the get-go.
At the time of the test, Transition hadn't fully secured the component specifications but it turns out that the $6,699 USD GX build kit now listed is exactly what we rode, barring the OneUp carbon handlebar. Other than that, you'll have to decide between custom building a carbon frame, which starts at $3,699 and comes with a Fox Float X2, or resorting to the alloy options. The build was well chosen without going overboard on electronic components or exuberant amounts of carbon to satisfy our riding requirements. It turns out that high-performance brakes and suspension are the most important parts to bolt to your bike. TRP's DH-Evo brakes quickly became a group favorite and the Fox 38 Grip2/Float X combo, sans Kashima, worked flawlessly as we've come to expect. Climbing
Only a 160mm fork sounds like we might spend too much time on long travel bikes, but in comparison to the other enduro bikes in the Field Test, the Patrol does get a leg up because there is less squish. However, the 63.5-degree head tube angle did have other things to say while getting up there.
Flop is a loose term that comes up when talking about how easily the front wheel tips side to side. That effect is pronounced when a slack bike is pointed uphill due to the increased sag on the rear shock. I wouldn’t call it a problem, but it climbed similarly to the Commencal Meta SX. Turning through switchbacks requires extra attention so the front wheel doesn’t climb the banks of 180-degree turns.
Like the Meta SX though, the slack head angle is rescued by a steep seat angle and fairly long chainstays that keep the rider’s center of gravity still and central on the bike. The focus while navigating lies more in steering rather than sliding around the saddle to find traction.
Even with the climb switch on, the Patrol didn’t have the firmest platform when stomping on the pedals and getting out of the saddle. Fox’s Float X is a superb shock and maybe the Patrol had less anti-squat than I anticipated, but the cheater switch, as Mike Levy calls it, had a softer threshold than usual. Over small bumps though, it was actually relieving and offered more traction. If the shock only has a two-position climb switch, I’d prefer that softer threshold rather than one that mimics a hardtail.Descending
Considering the trails around Bellingham are fast, steep, and filled with tons of jumps, I wanted to grab the Patrol every day. Why? Well, it’s a close contender for what I’d look for in a long travel enduro bike that doesn’t get pigeonholed into any extreme characteristics. Suspension, geometry, and weight equate to a package that is happier to play versus race.
Transition have fine tuned the tried and true Horst link suspension layout over time on their bikes using varying travel brackets. There’s no quirks with the Patrol’s suspension dynamics. There isn't the bump erasing quality of a high pivot machine, but getting acquainted with this bike took less time than the Contra or even the Megatower. Transition has built in a moderate amount of progression that can accept a coil or air shock, too, so the 160mm of travel handled a few hucks without touching the bottom of the pool.
Geometry-wise, the head angle is aggressive, but not out in left field. The slacker 63-degree might let speeds run beyond what the 160mm fork can handle, although you can boost the fork and rear shock to provide 170mm of travel. I’d love to spend more time on the Patrol and tinker with these options because the blend between fun and fast is ever so close to being perfect.
The combo of a slim frame and small rear wheel let you toss the bike around with ease. Where other bikes, like the Contra or Commencal required more effort to get off the ground, the Patrol didn’t get bogged down while pumping trail features to pick up speed or sail over gaps. Although, there's a certain stature about the Patrol that reminds me of the Commencal Meta SX on the descents too, albeit, lighter and shorter. There’s plenty of front wheel ahead of you to push that front axle through braking bumps without feeling like it will tuck underneath you in corners.
Does that make it a suitable enduro race bike? Well, it does lose some muscle in rough, straight lines due to the decrease in travel and it’s not quite as stiff of a package as the Megatower, which could be a pro or con, depending on how “al dente” you like your ride. Where the Patrol Carbon really shines is in soft but steep terrain with plenty of berms to smash and jumps to blast - have you seen the product launch video
? This bike has Bellingham written all over it.