2022 Transition Spire Review
Transition launched the Spire, a new platform for the brand, in June of last year. I got my hands on one in October, and since then it has been ridden everywhere from the Whistler Bike Park to very pedally technical XC missions. I have to give Transition a couple props off the top. The bike comes in a box with a Boombox motif, and huge "Engineered to Party" motto, which sets a mood before you even see the bike. Transition's ethos seems to be entirely about having fun, and as far as I'm concerned, that's entirely the point. Next I like the name. Naming new things is hard, and I think Spire is an awesome bike name. I've already gone over all the spec and details of the bike in my First Look article. For the TLDRers I'm testing the carbon frame, GX build-Spire that retails for $8,299 CDN. Since we got all the nerd stuff out of the way, I'll be concentrating on my opinions of the Spire, and in particular how it rides, in this article.
My first impressions of a bike always focus on how it looks. Call me shallow, but your first interaction with any bike is with your eyes, and bikes these days have to look good. I love the clean, simple lines of the frame but I'm not wild about the primer grey colour on the Spire I'm testing. I mean, the grey is fine for a muted, inoffensive tone, but I prefer some colour. I do however LOVE that purple the carbon Spire is also available in. The graphical additions are understated, and I think they work well with the lines of the Spire. The only possible improvement would be a little more visual differentiation in the Spire from Transition's other bikes. Folks always recognized the Spire as a Transition, but many thought it was a Sentinel or a Patrol. Build quality0wise the frame looks nicely put together. All the finishing details are well executed. Fit and finish of all the other components to the frame are flawless.
Sizing and Geometry
I picked the size XL Spire and in the high setting this means a wheelbase of 1,322 mm with a 63° head angle. In each of the sizes, the Spire's wheelbase is on the long side, with an aggressively slack head angle. The wheelbase of the XL I'm on is equivalent to the longest modern trail bikes* out there, and Transition makes an even longer 1,352 mm wheelbase XXL Spire. Kudos to Transition for making a bike size for the properly tall folks. The seat post angle is relatively steep, keeping my weight forward in the chassis on steep climbs, so the front wheel rarely wanders or feels light. Even with the steep seat tube angle, the roomy front centre keeps the seated climbing position comfortable.
The long front center on the Spire allows for ample room to move my weight around when descending, which makes the bike feel stable and planted. While Transition doesn't alter the rear center with each frame size, there are two different rear centre lengths for the five sizes; 447 mm on the Small, Medium, Large and 453 mm on the XL and XXL. A different size on each would've been nice, but I think the compromise Transition has chosen works well. I like the 453 mm stay on the XL, and I think this would be too long on the smaller sizes. I found the ratio of front center to rear center rewarded a centered body position when descending.
There is only one geometry adjustment on the Spire, and it's a Low or High setting. In the High setting the head angle is 63° and in the Low setting the head angle is 62.5°. I really like how the Spire rides in the Low setting in the bike park, it's just so stable and fun at high speed. But on the slower, more technical trails beyond the park I preferred the slightly higher ground clearance and steeper 63° head angle. Since most of the review period was after the bike park was closed, the Spire spent most of its time in the High "Steep" setting.
*Note - Tim is a downhill racer, a breed of riders that refer to anything without a dual crown as a 'trail bike.' - Ed.
I'm impressed with how efficient the Spire is to pedal. You wouldn't think you're on a long travel bike. Transition claims a bike weight of 33.3 lbs for the medium, I measured the XL at an impressively light 33.5 lbs with a heavier-duty Super Gravity front tire, bottle cage and pedals. With the Climb Switch on, and with the lighter, harder compound Schwalbe tires, the Spire feels almost effortless to move around. Even climbing technical terrain I thought the Spire was easy to pedal. The longer length and slack head angle is going to make the Spire less agile, but I found I was able to get up moves / features I normally struggle on. The 30 tooth chain ring, paired with the ultra-wide 10-52T cassette made the steepest climbs a breeze. The bottom bracket on the Spire is relatively low, so while I liked the pedal clearance of the 165 mm cranks, I'd personally like to see 170 or even 175 mm cranks on the larger size Spires.* The Spire did a great job of minimizing unwanted suspension motion while pedaling when the shock was in the open mode. The climb setting on the Super Deluxe is fairly firm, which further improved the Spires pedaling efficiency.
*Maybe my preference for longer cranks is old school, and I realise this is a horses for courses thing, but for a number of reasons I prefer a 175 mm crank on the trail bike.* We can debate the details in the comments! With Transition already spec'ing size specific bars, maybe bikes should have size specific crank lengths too?
*Told you - Ed.
Transition's ethos of "Engineered to Party" and moniker of the Spire being a "nimble bruiser" are spot on.
In a word, the Spire is a party! It has a sporty, supportive feel, but with enough travel to take on the roughest tracks. While the length and slack head angle gives the Spire fantastic stability, it also has a wonderful eagerness to it. I think Transition nailed the spec of the the Super Deluxe shock. This is the first air sprung bike I've ridden in a long while where I liked the stock volume spacer spec. The Spire offered good support at sag, felt surprisingly supple, and ramped nicely deeper in the travel into a mellow bottom out. I was constantly surprised at how supportive and sporty the Spire would feel on relative benign sections of trail, which you'd expect to translate into a harsh mess when the trail got rough, but it just doesn't on the Spire.
The Spire frame is reasonably stiff, but it's not the stiffest thing out there. I have some witness marks from the tire rubbing the stays, but I think it strikes a nice balance. I like the long wheelbase of the Spire and I find the length makes the bike easier to ride through rough or steep scary technical features. You'd expect a long, slack bike like the Spire to be slow and tough to turn, but I found the Spire a joy to turn. I found I could ride with a neutral centred body position through almost anything on the Spire. It's easy to weight the front tire enough to hook through flat corners, and I never felt like I had to move my weight far from centre to unweight the rear end into a cutty, or to prepare for a large jump.
A combination of the reasonable weight, and supportive nature, the Spire was a breeze to pop and jump. I found myself picking far off landing zones, and popping off small features to see if I'd make it, just because the Spire is so much fun to get airborne. Transition has done a good job of adding sound damping bits to the Spire, that resulted in a relatively quiet ride down even the roughest lines. I like quiet bikes, and while I normally put rubber tape on the frame to quieten things, this wasn't required on the Spire. The durability of the Spire seems excellent. Through a very wet fall and winter the Spire saw alot of use in the rain. No issues to report with any of the bearings / pivots.
Suspension: the Rock Shox Zeb and Super Deluxe were great as to be expected.
Brakes: the Code RSC brakes were awesome, and love that the Spire comes with a 220 mm front rotor.
Seating: some may love the 210 mm drop OneUp post, but I found this was actually too much drop for my short legs. Thankfully it's easier for me to reduce the drop than it is for those with long legs to stretch the drop. The OneUp post did get sticky towards the end of the review, and likely needs a simple service. The house brand ANVL Forge saddle was comfortable, and durable.
Tires: the stock Schwalbe Soft Magic Mary was too hard for service around these parts. After a few rides I switched this for a softer Ultra Soft Magic Mary for the remainder of the test. For a 170 mm bike coming from the Pacific North West I think this is the biggest miss on the Spire part spec. I was concerned the newer Speed Trail casing rear tire might be a bit thin for use around here, but I was pleasantly surprised with no punctures or issues over the test period (which was not gentle).
Wheels: the Stans Flow S1 wheels were surprisingly good. A couple small dings here and there, but these held up really well. Tires were easy to install and remove.
Cockpit: I liked the bar and stem, and really liked the Sensus Lite grips.
Drivetrain: The GX Eagle drivetrain was flawless over the test.
As mentioned earlier, I think the front tire spec should be softer to better match the intended use of the Spire. The paint is on the thinner side, and after a few months of riding there is a large area of exposed black carbon on one chain stay. This is obviously caused by heel rub, but for reference I've never worn through the paint on a bike like this before. Wrapping the Spire might be a worthwhile investment. Not a bad bike if those are my biggest complaints!
Fork - Rock Shox Zeb:
Air Spring - 75 psig* with 3 tokens.
Compression - 4 clicks out Low Speed, 3 clicks out High Speed.
Rebound - 8 clicks out.
Shock - Rock Shox Super Deluxe:
Air Spring - 210 psig* with stock tokens
Compression - 4 clicks out
Rebound - 3 clicks out
*Tim is an engineer and apparently "psig" is engineer for PSI
The Spire makes an excellent argument for an aggressive do it all bike. I'm going to avoid any of the well worn clichés and say that I'm impressed with how easy the Spire is to pedal around all day, while still being perfectly comfortable smashing the bike park to bits. I've long said an aggressive 150 mm travel bike is the ideal middle ground, one bike for most folks. The Spire makes me seriously rethink that position. With how well the Spire pedals, reasonable weight, and aggressive geometry why not have this with more travel? It's just so much fun to ride everywhere. The Spire doesn't have the sheer bump eating capability of the pedalable high pivot bikes, but it's probably easier to live with as a daily driver with how easy it is to pedal around. Transition's ethos of "Engineered to Party" and moniker of the Spire being a "nimble bruiser" are spot on. I can't believe I'm saying that a GX build bike at $8,299 CDN is good value for money, but looking around at other comparable carbon bikes, the Spire seems well-priced. I think the Spire geometry, sizing and builds are well judged by Transition, and should suit a wide range of riders. It's hard to find many faults with the Spire. If you're looking for a new bike, regularly ride fast, rough, steep trails, and frequently pedal to the top, I'd recommend checking out the Transition Spire. It put a smile on my face every time I rode it.
Height: 183 cm / 6'
Weight: 89 kg / 196 lbs
Ape Index: 1.055 / +10 cm
Inseam: 81 cm / 32"
Preferred Riding: Enduro and Downhill
Bar Width: 800 mm
Preferred Reach: 500 - 520 cm (but this is stack and head angle dependent)