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REVIEW

2021 Transition Spur Ridden on the Shore

Words Cooper Quinn
Photos Cooper Quinn & Dave Smith
Date Jun 30, 2020
Reading time

Let’s just get it out of the way: downcountry. That’s the last time you’re going to see that word in this review. This bike isn't it. Welcome to the world Transition calls all-country; I'm going with Slack-C.

There’s a pile of 29" wheeled, 120mm travel bikes out there with aggressive geometry equipped with everything from 130mm Pikes, Fox 34s and 36s; the Tallboy, Following, SB130. There’s another pile of 120mm bikes, sporting a Rockshox SiD or Fox 32 and geometry that quite frankly terrifies me; proper XC bikes. The Transition Spur finds a thin line between the two; 120mm at both ends, 25.5lbs*, and geometry more aggressive than enduro bikes 3 years ago. As far as I can tell, it’s the slackest bike on the market with a SiD (inevitably, someone in the comments will point me at some obscure Estonian brand that proves this wrong UPDATE: I wrote this before the new Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol SL was released, so now its a tie). At first glance, the Spur is a departure in many respects for Transition; a brand built here in the PNW by aggressive riders making what they wanted to ride. Until now they've generally made aggressive bikes designed to huck, smash, and cause mayhem. Even their shorter travel platforms like the Smuggler are a bit overkill for much of the world: big tires, big brakes, and big(ger) forks than much of the competition. The Spur is the shortest travel, full suspension bike in the Transition lineup, falling somewhere below the 140mm/120mm f/r Smuggler.

So can this svelte machine attract new customers, while staying true to the Engineered to Party slogan?

*this large review bike, sans pedals

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Riding the Spur through the patented Dave Smith dank machine.

Use Case and Ethos

I rode the Spur for a few weeks, and then had a chat with Lars Sternberg; someone far above average at bicycles, heavily involved in the 4 year development process behind the Spur, and marketing guru for Transition Bicycles. It was long, interesting, and really cemented a lot of my thoughts about the bike.

In Lars' words, it hearkens back to the NORBA days where you brought one bike to race the weekend. There'd be an XC race on Saturday, and maybe you'd change tires for the DH race Sunday. Mountain bikes were.... mountain bikes. There was none of the genrefication or bike niches we work so hard to define today. Maybe you even tried to hop your way though the trials course on it. The Spur is for everything.

And yes - this bike is for non-typical Transition customers. But also, its for all their regular customers, too.

Frame Details & Geometry

The new Transition design language looks fantastic; gone are the curved tubes and rounded corners, replaced with sharp radiuses, angles, and a much more modern look. This took entirely new manufacturing processes covered by Pete in his rundown of the new Sentinel. It comes in black-ish, and this matte color. Which is…. green? teal?

As you’d expect, it’s got Transiton’s Giddy Up suspension out back, although missing a pivot and relying on a flex-stay instead of a dedicated (and heavier) bushing or bearing. Listed weight for a medium frame is 2.45kg; for comparison this is roughly 300g lighter than my personal Rocky Mountain Instinct BC, and 600g heavier than the recently announced featherweight Specialized Epic EVO.

There's a load of well thought out details. The frame is angleset compatible, fits 2.4" tires, and while the derailleur has fully guided internal housing, the rear brake hose is fully external. The top tube gives massive standover, and there's tonnes of insertion room for long-travel droppers if that's your jam. A threaded BB and molded chainstay and downtube protection add weight and functionality. If you insist, you can reduce the rear shock stroke and take the bike down to 100mm. I have zero idea why you'd want to do this.

The geometry is all modern, and all Transition. It is, to be cliche, long, low, and slack - for a 120mm bike.

Setup was simple. Recommended sag is 25-35% as it is on most of Transition’s Giddy-Up bikes - I've settled in right around 30%. Ten minutes of faffing in the carport to get sag sorted and controls in a starting position, five minutes on the RockShox website plugging in serial numbers and base PSI find a starting point for damper settings, tubes were swapped out for the included sealant, and we were off.

There are four components that make the Spur’s intentions clear; fork, shock, front tire, and rear tire. All three complete bikes come with a 120mm SiD up front and a SiDluxe rear shock. This fork/shock combination weigh less than a 130mm Pike, combined. There’s a Dissector up front and a Rekon out back; both EXO Maxxterra (I'm also not going to review a bike based on tires, cockpit, or saddle - these are all personal and regional choices. Many/most riders will change these items throughout the life of the bike. But, they speak to what the bike was designed to do.). Clearly, this bike is meant to be get up hills in a hurry.

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Other than that, its a fairly straightforward component spec that balances being weight conscious and components worthy of the brands rider-forward ethos across all three build options.

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Progressive geometry on a little bike.

Riding the Spur
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There are no pictures of me climbing in this review. No one needs to see a fat man sweat up a hill. But trust me, the Spur climbs well.

As you’d expect (demand?) from a lightweight 120mm machine shod with fast rubber, the Spur has meant new PR’s on pretty much every climb its been up. Its not XC race geometry and the front end will wander a touch when the grade gets really ugly, but the moderately long rear center and overall wheelbase helps keep your weight centered, without being particularly detrimental on tight switchbacks. If there’s a limiting factor for technical climbing that isn’t my skill and fitness, it was the Rekon’s traction (the SiDluxe's climb switch is irrelevant unless you're on a paved road. Its a lockout.)

If there's a downside to how this bike climbs, its that it really encourages uphill flogging. I find myself digging deep into the pain cave for no reason other than the bike spurring me on.

Staying true to its Transition roots, the Spur descends a couple of brackets above its weight class, but it does have limits. Out of the box on the Shore its limited by rubber; you’ll run out of tires before you run out of geometry, suspension, or brakes. So, I changed rubber. And oh boy did we start having a party.

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Green does not mean grip. After three rolls of this feature on the stock tires, I told Dave it was time to move on. The Transition does slow jank well.

A 120mm bike is never going to be a full enduro/DH smasher; you’re not headed full speed into the rocks. It’s a bike that rewards line choice and precision. Often the easiest way through rough trail is off the ground, and the bike is happy to oblige. At full tilt, there's not a huge margin for mistakes. But, the geometry and suspension performance are such that as long as you remember what bike you're on, it'll take almost anything you can throw at it; steep, deep, and nasty. But... carefully. You don't have enough travel for unlimited traction; you also don't have the brakes to take advantage of it if you did (The G2 is an improvement over the Guide. They're basically the same price and weight as Codes. Get Codes.).

In anything less than than super nasty terrain, the Spur is in its element. On my home trails of Mt Seymour (and Fromme), the Spur is also comfortable. Its snappy, poppy, and lively; natural doubles and pulls you've never noticed on XC trails suddenly appear. Familiar corners show up at alarming speed, and it teleports from one side of the trail to the other. The SiD, SiDluxe, and rear suspension kinematics all provide good progression (~30% out back) and ramp-up giving reasonable small bump sensitivity and avoiding harsh bottom-outs. While the dampers are tiny and the rear shock will fade on long chatter-filled descents, I've been very impressed with the shock and fork.

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Some of the trails in this zone are about as old as purpose built mountain bike trails get on the Shore. Photo: Dave Smith

Conclusions

Overall, the Spur has been a blast. This really is a well rounded bike with no characteristics that are outliers. The geometry, layup, and components all work together. Its not an overly stiff bike, but its not unsettling, and sometimes feels like traction. Its got cute dampers, but they work well with the weight and layup of the bike. Its not all about weight either, with burlier components where you'd want them.

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There's no photos of me and the Spur off the ground, but its a bike that's quite confident in the air.

As for the one bike NORBA weekend quiver? I'd absolutely pick this thing to race any kind of technical XC. NIMBY, Back 40, BCBR; this is your bike. With a wheelset change and some brakes, you could race a lot of enduro courses. And while I wouldn't race most downhills on it, the bike is capable enough to ride all but the gnarliest courses, albeit carefully. (And as a reformed, mediocre, trials rider I guess it's better than what we were riding in 1998?)

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I thought this bike was for a different, new Transtion customer, and that's true. But I think it appeals to their standard base as well; I'm not unique as an aging, ex-downhiller who still enjoys some gnar, but also wants to pedal. If you're someone who looked at the numbers and spec on this bike and thought, "That sounds really cool", you're correct. Buy one.

I'm going to be hanging on to this bike through the summer; expect some modification to the spec, some other review parts, some big adventures, and lots of fun. And maybe even a comparison with another new and popular model in the same category.

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Comments

gubbinalia
+3 sk8r Dan Andrew Major
gubbinalia  - June 30, 2020, 2:14 p.m.

Cooper -- which tires did you switch to from stock, and why? Stickier compound, bigger knobs, stiffer sidewalls? I tend to dislike 1000+ gram tires on bikes in the short/mid-travel range just due to rolling resistance, though the Dissector has impressed me with its ability to grip and corner like a DHR II while rolling like an Ardent. Its main failing seems to come in the wet, when something like a Magic Mary or a Vigilante really shines. (I have been inspired by Mr. Major's insert-vangelism to try running foamies in my lighter XC wheels -- something I would definitely do on a bike like the Spur.)

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - July 2, 2020, 12:04 p.m.

Swapped the Dissector to the rear, and put an EXO DHF up front. 

Wanted to keep within the 'theme' of the bike, but the Rekon just isnt enough here in the wet. And agreed, i like the Dissector as a rear... I don't like it as a front.

Reply

Brigham_Rupp
0
Brigham_Rupp  - June 30, 2020, 3:05 p.m.

Solid review, and pretty much exactly what I expected to hear. Definitely want one of these in the garage next to the Sentinel.

Reply

cooperquinn
-1 bastian steinecker
Cooper Quinn  - June 30, 2020, 4:17 p.m.

Totally. Its a bike that does what it says on the tin. Get one to match!

Reply

velocipedestrian
0
Velocipedestrian  - June 30, 2020, 6:10 p.m.

I hope the long term testing includes a burlier fork and shock. (stiffer, not necessarily longer) Just to acid test the geometry trumps travel theory.

Maybe a works headset too? Since they put inserts in there... Rude not to.

Reply

bogey
+3 gubbinalia Dan AJ Barlas
Bogey  - July 1, 2020, 7:02 a.m.

This is the 35mm stanchioned Sid so it should be plenty stiff at 120mm travel. It’s more of a Pike-light than a Sid IMO.

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Dan
Cooper Quinn  - July 1, 2020, 11:15 a.m.

Totes this.

Reply

cooperquinn
+3 gubbinalia Dan Bogey
Cooper Quinn  - July 1, 2020, 11:15 a.m.

Honestly it probably won't, at least not fork. 

The fork isn't holding this thing back. And i wouldn't say a pike is massively "burlier", its the same size stanchions. I mean it is burlier, but it isn't? 

The rear shock... Maybe. Just for some additional fluid volume to slow heating. 

Angleset compatibility is interesting but like... Its already at 66 deg!

Reply

velocipedestrian
0
Velocipedestrian  - July 1, 2020, 3:06 p.m.

Interested in the angleset because my bike is 66° too, and I'm waiting for the package from works...

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - July 1, 2020, 11:15 a.m.

Honestly it probably won't, at least not fork. 

The fork isn't holding this thing back. And i wouldn't say a pike is massively "burlier", its the same size stanchions. I mean it is burlier, but it isn't? 

The rear shock... Maybe. Just for some additional fluid volume to slow heating. 

Angleset compatibility is interesting but like... Its already at 66 deg!

Reply

dan
0
Dan  - July 1, 2020, 1:14 p.m.

Meh. Why not pop for the Smuggler then?

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - July 2, 2020, 12:06 p.m.

Exactly. If you start swapping tok many bits on the Spur for bigger/heavier/burliet bits... You bought the wrong bike to start. And you're just going to end up chasing yourself in circles as you put a bigger fork on... And now you need bigger brakes... And now you need bigger tires... And now you need...

Reply

velocipedestrian
0
Velocipedestrian  - July 2, 2020, 4:50 p.m.

Fair enough, I withdraw my request for the fork and shock swap, but the angleset I'd like to hear about.

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Velocipedestrian
Cooper Quinn  - July 2, 2020, 8:03 p.m.

We're gonna monkey with some things!

Reply

DogVet
0
Hugo Williamson  - July 1, 2020, 1:01 a.m.

http://dirtynomad.com/dirty-first-look-santa-cruz-tallboy-4/

Worth a read of a similar bike, before you go into deep froth mode and get your bank card out!!

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - July 1, 2020, 11:17 a.m.

IMO Tallboy is a different bike. You might be cross shopping them, but you chose one over the other because you think it'll suit your purposes better, not because like... One has 'higher end' spec or something.

Reply

DogVet
0
Hugo Williamson  - July 3, 2020, 5:17 a.m.

Or maybe its related to how fast fatigue sets in when riding tough terrain on short travel bikes?

Fine if you fit and skilful and the bike doesn't get into a fight with ground, otherwise a fraction more suspension travel does reduces fatigue, and to a degree can get you out of trouble, given very similar geometry.

Reply

kurt-adams
0
Kurt Adams  - July 2, 2020, 7:53 a.m.

That Tallboy review was the best ever....too good!

Reply

UFO
0
UFO  - July 2, 2020, 2:18 p.m.

I totally agree the TB is in a notch 'up' from the Spur; the TB geometry and weight are just a tick short of the Hightower, so it's basically a HT that pedals more efficiently IMO but with less big hit ability.

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - July 2, 2020, 6:30 p.m.

You're maybe cross shopping them, but you end up picking one over the other for where you perceive it falls on the perceived spectrum. 

Is this less capable than a tallboy? Fair question. Dunno.

Reply

DogVet
0
Hugo Williamson  - July 3, 2020, 5:20 a.m.

stock bike with stock provided tyres, no question the Tallboy will be a better bike in gnarly terrain, once one starts altering the spec, tyres angle set brakes etc its no longer the stock bike, and as you say " you have chosen the wrong bike!!"

Reply

mrt
0
Mr.T  - July 3, 2020, 6:13 p.m.

I picked up the new Tallboy (alloy) tossed on a new 2021 Fox piggy back and did a helm 130/i9/XTR full build.  It is not nearly the bike it is replacing, a mkII Evil The Folllowing (aka MB).  I’m disappointed in the Tallboy not holding a flame to the Evil... the Spur and the Evil mkIII are both likely replacements later this year.   But totally underwhelmed by the Santa Cruz, mediocre vs the Evil and even though massively different than my Fugitive LT, still just disappointing.   Skip the Tallboy.

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