Having read our very own Seb Stott's article on fork offset, Transition's Lars Sternberg was inspired to start experimenting himself, altering fork offset and head angle until, finally, Transition's 'Speed Balance Geometry' was born.
- The Transition Patrol NX is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
Transition Patrol NX frame
The latest Patrol frame now comes with an even slacker head angle (mine measured 63.6 degrees) than last year's bike, and is designed to work in conjunction with a fork with a shorter offset, which, in this case, is 37mm (the same as was used with 26in wheels) rather than 42mm (RockShox) or 44mm (Fox). The idea is there's more high-speed stability when it counts, but without dulling agility when tackling slower, more technical sections of trail.
Along with the slacker head angle and shorter fork offset, Transition's Speed Balance Geometry needs adjustments to other measurements to help make it work effectively, including the frame's reach.
My Medium test frame sports a reach of 450mm, which makes it longer than many other bikes, though it's not quite as lengthy as the likes of Radon's Swoop or Whyte's G-170.
The effective seat-tube angle also gets adjusted and steepened and now sits around the 77-degree mark on the Medium frame. Finally, the stem length gets reduced by 10mm across all five frame sizes, meaning all Patrols now sport a stumpy 40mm number up front.
It wasn't just the geometry that received a makeover for 2018 either, with the new Patrol using an updated Giddy Up 2.0hhh suspension design. It continues to use the four-bar design but with an increase in rear-wheel travel from 155-160mm and gets tweaked to increase pedal efficiency, as well getting made a little more progressive towards the end of the stroke to help resist bottoming out. Transition has also switched to a trunnion-style shock mount.
Other details to note include the integrated rubber frame protectors, which help to silence and protect the frame, along with increasing the width of the rear axle to 148mm.
Transition Patrol NX kit
The Patrol NX is fitted with functional rather than flashy kit, though there are a few details that disappoint when you consider the price tag. The lack of Matchmaker to integrate the gear shifter to the brake lever means the cockpit isn't the most cohesive. While the brake/gear shifter position (on the right-hand side) meant I had to compromise slightly and reach that bit further for the shifter.
SRAM's smaller, twin-piston Level brakes are the source of another moan. There's adequate bite on flatter trails, but when you start riding the Patrol even remotely close to its limits, they simply lack the punch and power required to handle the speeds this machine is capable of. Ride anything that's rough, long and steep and your hands will soon pay the price.
Onto the positives it's good to see a dependable set of tyres in the shape of the Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II, even if they are of the faster rolling, dual-compound variety.
Transition Patrol NX ride impressions
While the 15.44kg Patrol NX is by no means a featherweight in its category, its steep seat-tube angle and the shock's low speed compression lever means it feels pretty easy-going and more eager than expected when spinning up long, steep climbs.
The 11-speed 11-42t NX cassette might not offer the same range as its pricier 12-speed Eagle counterparts (a spec choice I'm seeing more of at this price), but paired with the 30t chainring, I made it up every climb without too much huffing and puffing.
Okay, shifter positioning on the bar isn't the best and the overall feel of the shifts isn't as slick or as light as Shimano's Deore equivalent, but I had no real issues with the transmission during testing.
Drop into the first descent and you'll soon see where the Patrol shines. The active back-end spits out rear-wheel traction and soaks up the hits in a smooth, composed manner, even when dragging the brakes into chopped-up turns.
Things feel calmer and easy to control as you pilot the Patrol into ever uglier terrain. As you snake from section to section and navigate roughed-up turn after turn, it's easy to notice how tranquil things feel through the bars as you sit back and let the pummelling commence. It's here where things start to come a little unstuck.
While the frame's geometry and downhill bomber feel encourage sheer hooliganism, you'll soon notice the lack of bite in the brakes which, after a good few runs, will have you backing off as your hands start to fatigue.
The brakes aren't all to blame here though as the Race Face 35mm bar and stem feel stiff too. And while the Yari fork is capable, it can be a struggle to smooth out the bigger, high-speed repetitive hits and it feels outclassed by the back-end of the bike when things get really rough.
That's not to say the Patrol NX won't match the speeds of pricier bikes — as it will — it's just that the front end isn't as comfortable, which makes a big difference after a long day on the hill.
While the Patrol feels more at home pummelling down full-on downhill trails, it's also happy being thrown from turn to turn where it'll hold its line confidently with precision, or bounce from lip to landing on more jump-riddled trails.
Even with the stable, super-slack head angle, I had no issues weighting the front wheel through loose, unsupported turns. There's enough support out back to ensure the ride feels well-balanced and allows you to load the bike through the pedals when you really want to work the trail for a bit of extra speed.
In this build though, I can't help but feel like I'm not getting the most out of the frame and am yet to find the Patrol's true limits.
- BikeRadar would like to thank Life Cycle Adventures, Sanremo Bike Resort, MET Helmets, Bluegrass Eagle Protection, Mercedes Benz and Brittany Ferries for their help and support during our Bike of the Year test.
If you're in the market for a new enduro bike, long travel trail bike or all-mountain bike, check out our reviews of those we've thoroughly tried and tested.
- Canyon Torque CF 8.0
- Bird Aeris AM9 GX
- Radon Swoop 170 9.0
- Nukeproof Mega 275 Pro
- Mondraker Dune
- Merida One-Sixty 800
- Specialized Enduro Comp 29
- Whyte S-150 S
- Giant Reign 2
- Scott Genius 940
- Trek Remedy 8