Since its initial release in 2015, Transition’s Patrol has established itself as the hard-charging, long-travel option in their line-up. While it has received incremental updates over the years, the 2021 model has been thoroughly revamped. Currently only offered in alloy construction, the Patrol makes use of a 29” front wheel and 27.5” rear wheel. Further pushing the boundaries of progressive geometry, the new Patrol is hungry for the steepest, nastiest terrain you can put its tires in touch with.
This bike follows recent trends of going longer, lower, and slacker while maintaining the playful characteristics of the previous 27.5” version. From my first ride, I experienced a unique sensation of 80% of the bike being in front of me, maybe somewhat exaggerated by its mixed wheel design. On the trail, I found this translated into a bike that confidently holds its line over rough terrain and wants to slash anything slightly resembling a berm.
Available in sizes small through extra-large and with two size-specific chainstays, there is an offering to accommodate most any rider. At 5’10”, I fall right between the medium and large recommendations. I opted for the large as I’ve always preferred a longer bike at speed. From my first ride, the sizing was comfortable, feeling right at home with a 180mm OneUp dropper post.
From the previous version’s 64 degrees, the new Patrol has been slackened to a 63.5-degree head angle with an option to go even slacker to 63.0-degrees in its low setting. Growing further from its predecessor, the newest iteration has a longer wheelbase and slightly longer chainstays. The effective seat tube angle has been steepened to accommodate its updated head tube angle.
Stepping away from industry norms, Transition has designed the patrol around a straight 1.5” headtube traditionally seen on downhill bikes. Bike tinkerers will rejoice, as this sizing allows the Patrol to fulfill one’s wishes of experimenting with reach adjustment and angle sets with ease. As well as being dual crown compatible, the possibilities for adjustment are boundless. A long and low park bike running a dual crown is certainly within reason on this frame.
Located at the lower shock bolt, the Patrol’s flip chip has a drastic effect on the bike’s geometry and handling characteristics. Requiring only a 5mm hex and a couple of minutes of your time, switching between the high and low positions is far easier than other flip-chip designs I’ve encountered in the past. Moving from high to low has a slew of effects on the bike’s geometry, slackening the head tube angle by 0.5 degree, lowering the bottom bracket 7mm, shortening the reach 5mm, and an ever-so-slightly lengthening the wheelbase by 2mm.
I initially familiarized myself with the high setting the bike arrives in, before later experimenting with the low position. I found that both positions created uniquely enjoyable riding experiences. However, it quickly became apparent how the terrain impacted the performance and practicality of each setting.
Making use of Transition’s GiddyUp suspension design, the Patrol comes stock at 160mm travel using a 205mm x 60mm shock. For those looking for a little extra suspension, it is possible to lengthen to 170mm via a 205mm x 65mm shock. A 24% progression curve allows for a bike that is composed over small to midsize hits while offering gobs of bottom-out support when needed.
With a recommended sag range of 27% - 33%, I experimented with a range of air pressures in my Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate. I found running less sag lent itself to a snappier bike that liked to skip along the trail but was susceptible to becoming unsettled in rougher terrain. With less sag (higher pressures), I also experienced an oddly oversprung feeling off the lip of jumps, independent from the amount of rebound I was running. I finally settled on running 30% sag for its poise over repeated hits while having ample support deeper in its travel. While I may experiment with lengthening the shock or running a coil in the future, I never found myself wishing for 10mm (only 0.39") more travel.
The Patrol's seat tube angle creates an upright pedaling position that is comfortable for extended periods. When pedaling, the Patrol demands more attention to detail on technical sections of trail. Even with 165mm cranks, I quickly learned to be mindful of rocks and roots I would otherwise pedal right over with another bike. I reach for the lockout more often than not on this bike, as it creates a more efficient pedaling platform and saves the cranks from striking as often.
On steeper switchbacks, weighting the front wheel requires a little more effort as the bike tends to drift on occasion. This characteristic could be due to its slack head tube angle and smaller rear wheel. Having climbed nearly 50,000ft on this bike, it certainly should not be viewed as a lumbering sled that refuses to go uphill, only that it requires a little bit more rider input and attention to get to the top. Undeniably, it prefers miles of endless fire road over technical single track and will happily eat up gravel lap after lap.
Somehow Transition has created a bike that carries speed like a runaway freight train and changes directions as swiftly as a samurai’s blade. Having previously ridden 27.5” and 29” bikes, I was enthralled by the handling characteristics of a mixed-wheel setup. While maintaining the rolling capabilities of the larger 29” front wheel, the 27.5'' rear wheel possesses a liveliness that is omnipresent throughout a ride. Thanks to a short rear end, direction changes can be done at a moment's notice. Punching the pocket of each berm it encounters, the Patrol gains speed, slinging itself towards the next helpless turn.
I'm typically focused on getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, and the Patrol has brought a freshness to my riding style. Not wanting to leave a side hit untouched, it’s almost as if the bike gently guides me from one playful jib to the next. As soon as its tires leave the ground, I am enticed to throw a shape I have no business attempting.
When wanting to point and plow, the combination of a RockShox Zeb and generous geometry provide a bike that is hard to overwhelm. In a straight line, the Patrol will go faster than most can pilot it. Any rock or root smaller than a curb is shrugged off as a minor inconvenience on its quest for speed. Handling adverse terrain with ease, the Patrol is the type of bike that feels more comfortable the steeper the trail becomes. While highly capable on more flowing terrain, the Patrol comes alive on steep trails. Its slack head tube and smaller rear wheel combine to create a bike that is comfortable even when the trail isn’t.
The DH Debate
After four months of riding in conditions ranging from dry blown-out single track to relentlessly wet shuttle runs, I have experienced what the Patrol is capable of. When set in the low position the Patrol becomes a gravity hungry beast, best suited for trails that require very little pedaling and lots of braking. With a headtube angle identical to my downhill bike, it raised the question of how necessary a dedicated DH bike is. After spending two days testing my Patrol and Nukeproof Dissent on the same shuttle run I began to fully appreciate how capable the Patrol is. With a shorter wheelbase, the Patrol was more maneuverable than my DH bike yet still stayed composed at speed. While I am still a firm believer that nothing can quite replicate a dual crown fork and 200mm of travel, the Patrol makes a strong case for those that want one bike to rule them all. After all, the Patrol is dual crown compatible.
Transition has taken the already beloved Patrol and made it into an even harder charging, fun-having machine. It’s never a question of if the Patrol is ready for what lays further down the trail; the question is whether you are. Drawing inspiration from its immediate environment, the Patrol is best suited for those who seek out that laughably steep trail and then pedal right back up the fire road to do it again.