-160mm front and rear travel
-As calm and stable at speed as a full-29-inch enduro bike
-Reasonably comfortable on long climbs
-The high geometry setting is actually usable
-Remarkable value, in a category with few high-value options
-Not the snappy mixed-wheel experience some may be looking for
-Fans of rear lockouts might wish for a firmer setting
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Some bikes just don’t make sense to me. Often that may be because I’m not their target audience. Aggressive hardtails like the Norco Torrent are meant for riders with more skills and healthier knees than I’ll ever have. But more often, I find that some bikes simply aren’t sure who their target audience is. The Scott Spark attempted to combine trail-bike softness with XC-bike snappiness, and it struggled to deliver either. In an attempt to please everyone, the message is often lost.
That is absolutely not the case on the mixed-wheel, value-minded, and (for now) alloy-only Transition Patrol. This bike knows what it is. Its medium is its message. Every aspect of this bike complements the next. The result is a ride that is remarkably sure of itself, and nothing feels out of place. That’s especially true of the entry-level Deore build that I rode, but as always, I’ll cover spec and value closer to the end.
The Patrol was one of a handful bikes that went exclusively mixed-wheel last year. That set it apart from bikes like the Kona Process X, which relies on a flip chip to accommodate a 27.5” rear wheel. Or the Orbea Rallon, which uses an entirely separate linkage component. Transition didn’t totally commit to the concept, though, given that they only offer the Patrol in alloy. But that decision happened to be consistent with Transition’s tongue-in-cheek launch video behind the alloy Sentinel and Spire, so we’ll let it slide. And more importantly, the Patrol’s alloy frame was consistent with the intentions of the bike itself.
The Patrol is a bruiser. It’s not particularly snappy or light-under-foot. It’s not the sort of big bike that wants to be your only bike. It is a plow. And at first, I didn’t expect (or necessarily want) this bike to be a plow. Mixed-wheel bikes have extraordinary potential for snappiness and light-under-footness, so I was worried this may be yet another bike that couldn’t make up its mind. But as I said, everything works together perfectly on the Patrol.
First, it’s a long bike. I tested the XL so, like, of course it’s long. But compared to other similar packages, the Patrol’s wheelbase is about 18mm longer than that of the also-mixed wheel Santa Cruz Bronson. It’s 14mm longer than the Orbea Rallon, which is actually a bigger-travel bike than the Patrol. It’s even a stitch longer than the all-29-inch Pivot Firebird. I had expected the smaller rear wheel to reel in the Patrol’s rangy ride. Maybe make rear-wheel steering easier, or break traction more readily. But nope. Riding the Patrol is like piloting a two-person jet ski. Its movements are somewhat muted, and changing directions is an act of leaning more than turning. This takes some getting used to, but once we started to get along, the experience made immediate sense. I felt like I was nestled deep into the bike, and I could focus on line choice and speed while the bike did the rest.
This sensation was aided by the remarkably low bottom bracket. I won’t bother quantifying the Patrol’s BB height against that of the Bronson, Rallon and Firebird. I don’t have to. The Patrol is low. Even with the specced 165mm cranks, I was clipping pedals in the bike’s Low setting. And this got me excited. Unlike nearly every other bike that features a flip chip, I preferred to ride the Patrol in its high setting, not its low setting. That means that riders who are pushing the Patrol to its limits on the descents can ride the Patrol they deserve to ride. Meanwhile, kooks like me who are doing 6,000-foot backcountry loops on the Patrol can get a slightly easier-to-live-with seat angle and head angle while still having a bike that will allow us to do no wrong on the descents.
Add in the way the suspension feels, and all of the Patrol’s ingredients really start to come together. The forgiving stance is paired with an equally forgiving leverage curve. While the previous-generation Patrol gave up some appetite for chunder in favor of being a slash-ready park party, this Patrol is a bit more businesslike. That makes sense, given that the shorter-travel Scout recently stepped 10mm closer to the Patrol’s turf. It’s only natural, then, that today’s Patrol took a step in the same direction. And it expects you to keep up.
Once you get it up to speed, there’s a point-and-shoot feel to how this bike handles high velocity and high consequences. Whenever I was in the mood to pop from a rock on the left into a vague transition in the highside on the right, the Patrol would be tolerant … but not enthusiastic. It seemed to be asking, “Is that the best you can do?” And this, 800 whole words into my review, is where the mixed-wheel part of the mixed-wheel Patrol starts to come into play. Transition intended the Patrol to be more than a sled. There are plenty of sleds out there. Personally, I like sleds. If I’m going to ride a big-travel bike, I’m going to ride one with big wheels, front and rear. But the Patrol, thanks to its long, low and plush chassis, does a remarkable job at being a sled. But there’s this little bit extra in there. When the terrain gets steep, and when you have no choice but to creep backwards from the centered position the bike wants you in, the Patrol suddenly becomes more capable than it would be if it had matching big wheels.
There was something magical about taking the Patrol down steep terrain. It allowed me to just let go of the brakes and, immediately thereafter, let go of my worries. In the most crucial of situations, the Patrol’s geometry, suspension and wheel size came together perfectly. The long wheelbase, low bottom bracket hungry suspension, and even slightly heavier weight were all exactly what I wanted. The Patrol went wherever I pointed it, even when stretched behind the saddle, holding on for dear life. In fact, it did so better than any bike I’d ridden before it.
Not surprisingly, this all means that climbing on the Patrol will be not quite as inspiring. I found myself relying on the lockout, which didn’t actually add much support. This is not the sort of enduro bike that will encourage you to push any harder than you need to. The seat angle is nice and steep, the cockpit nice and roomy, and it’s up to you to handle the rest. I had no reasonable complaints when pedaling the Patrol up techy singletrack, but whenever there was a fire-road alternative, I was happy. Calmly pedaling without a time limit is what this bike was made for.
On the other hand, riders who want a mixed-wheel bike that will reward them for hammering up every climb, can look to bikes like the Santa Cruz Bronson. It’s a bit shorter travel, of course, but that paired with its VPP suspension offer a pretty impressive return on investment for those who want to spin to win. But the Bronson starts at over $5,000. You can get into the Patrol I tested for under $4,000. And honestly, I think the $3,800 Deore build I tested may be the purest manifestation of the Patrol’s potential. Its 12-speed drivetrain seems only to be lacking in the most last-minute, high-torque shifts, happening mostly on the sorts of technical singletrack climbs this bike won’t be spending most of its time on. The matching Deore brakes would have a little more bite with better pads and rotors, but it truly just that initial bite that I found lacking. They stopped me when I wanted to stop. Most importantly, though, the suspension holds up. The new Float X shock carries on the more supportive intent of the DPX2 shock, while suiting the DH-ready nature of the Patrol. And the Marzocchi Z1 fork is … Well, it’s a Fox 36, which is all you need anyway. If you need more, drop a Grip2 damper in there. Most riders who jive with the best of what the Patrol has to offer don’t need the ultra-light, ultra-efficient platforms that other brands are offering at twice the price. The moments when I was having the most fun on this bike were not the kinds of moments that needed lighter weight or more precision. They just needed speed, traction and control. All the things the Patrol expertly brings together.