Review: Transition Covert 29
It feels like a lifetime since I have sat down to write about a bike. Probably because I’ve been having too much fun on the Transition Covert 29er that we’ve got our hands on for review.
If you cast your minds back to my review of the Commencal Meta AM2 29er you will remember that I am a firm believer in the bigger wheel size and I can’t really see any reason why more people who ride around trail centres aren’t onboard wagon wheelers yet but that is a different article for another day.
We bumped into Sean from Surf Sales (The UK Distributor for Transition) manning his stand back at the Fort William World cup and we hatched a plan to review the Covert 29. It hasn’t seen a lot of coverage on any other press outlet in print or online for one reason or another and we wanted to change that!
As with most engineering in the world. If something looks right it usually performs right. I was hoping that the Covert 29 fell in that category.
It certainly looks awesome and not like one of those bike that smacks you in the face and says “I’m using massive wheels!” The low rise wide carbon bars state the real intention of this bike though. It wants to go fast, jump high, rip turns so hard the tyres fall off the rims and still pedal back up the other side.
On the spec side of things… I don’t think that there’s a single part that I would upgrade from how the bike arrived with us and that’s pretty rare. Then again it’s the highest model on offer from Transition with a pricetag at an eyewatering 5125.00 with this build.
Where does the Covert 29 really fit?
The 26” Covert has occupied the 160mm trail weapon slot at Transition for the last few years but for 2013 they decided to introduce the Covert 29 and then Transition pretty much realigned the rest of the trail bike range to squeeze it in including a redesign of the Bandit 29 to give a bit more clarity between the bikes.
Transition settled on 140mm travel, a shortish top tube and tweaked angles from its 26” brother for the Covert 29. In the world of the 29er it’s 68° head angle puts it at the slacker end of things but then this bike doesn’t have intentions like most other 29ers. The complete package adds up to a bike that’s stable, fast, fun and is just dying to be thrashed.
It also has what I would refer to as a “desirable part list” straight from the factory! The model we have got our hands on is the “Build 1” otherwise known as the mutts nuts ($$$). No expense has been spared from the Easton Haven Wheels to the Carbon Bars, XT/XTR drivetrain and Fox Float CTD Boost Valve forks and shock. All this could be yours for the grand sum of over £5000. There’s no denying that’s a hell of a lot of money but you can’t deny you are getting a hell of a lot of bike for your money!
Frame: 6061 Heat Treated Aluminum, 140mm, tapered headtube, 12×142 axle
Fork: Fox 34 Float Fit CTD Kashima
Shock: Fox Float CTD Boost Valve Kashima
Wheels: Easton Haven 29 UST
Tires: Schwalbe Hans Dampf
Brakes: Shimano XT
Cranks: Shimano XT
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR 10spd
Front Derailleur: Shimano XT
Shift Levers: Shimano XT
Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb
Handlebar: Easton Havoc Carbon
Stem: Easton Haven
The Covert 29 we had featured Fox’s awesome 34 140mm travel CTD Fit Kashima coated forks with trail adjust and the Fox Float CTD Adjust Boost Valve Kashima coated shock which have plenty of adjustment but for me still raised a talking point.
Up front I find it impossible to fault the Float 34’s. Set your sag correctly for your weight, 6 clicks of rebound and hit the trails. The Trail adjust feature is brilliant for someone who tends to be a bit more aggressive and wants either a bit more support from the front end or someone who takes it a bit a easier and wants a plusher ride when in the “trail” mode that added a whole new aspect to how I set up and consequently rode the bike.
The rear end of the bike was a bit of a different kettle of fish.
The Fox Float CTD Adjust Boost Valve Kashima coated shock was plush enough alright but unless you were taking it easy I was just blowing through the rear travel like no ones business.
It’s either a combination of a too lighter tune or just too much volume in the rear shock that was causing the problems but I find it a bit frustrating that when the bike is being spec’d out with the help of Fox the factory set up is only going to work for you if your less than about 11 stone or you ride the bike like a complete fairy.
It’s something you could very easily sort with a volume spacer kit for about £25 or a custom tune but I find hard to stomach when this exact model costs in excess of 5000 of your english pounds.
I feel the word thrashing is getting thrown around alot in this review but thats exactly what the bike requires to get the most from it. For me, the shock isn’t up to it.
Everything was absolutely flawless but I wouldn’t expect anything less. The shifting from the Shimano XT/XTR combination was crisp and effortless with the chain being kept in check with the brilliant clutch rear mech and MRP 2X guide. It keeps everything quiet and for me a quiet bike is a fast bike.
Shimano I-spec mounted shifters and XT brake combo made for a tidy handlebar setup. It’s a shame that couldn’t be said for the cabling!
The cockpit was roomy but it was hard to make all the hoses and cables coming from the controls not look like a mess. Internal cable routing would be the only answer to this one for me but Transition only provide this on the Carbon Covert. Something they will hopefully address across the range for 2014!
Shimano’s XTR Rear mech was flawless. Crisp shifting, no weight penalty and looks the business!
It sounds silly but getting a bike that correctly fits you is 100% my first port of call when testing. I would like to think that all bikes I ride with the intention of review start with the same base feeling so that you can genuinely feel and distinguish the differences between them. Even with the big 29” wheels(Which do actually still feel quite big for my squat 5 foot 8 frame) I felt like the bike as a whole was working really well for me.
The harder you rode it, the further you leaned into the turns and the less time you spent braking the more the bike as a whole played into your hands and the wider your grin became.
Larger wheels provide more grip. There’s absolutely no doubting that, especially when you can get your tyre pressures dialled. There is more rubber in contact with the dirt and consequently for smaller, lighter riders this can make 29ers feel a bit cumbersome and almost like your not reaching the ragged edge with a bike. It’s a hard one to explain as most of the time you may still be traveling the same speed as your 26” wheeled buddies but just in a whole lot more control.
I started to experience this with the Covert 29 but when I’d settled in got off the brakes and took a heap sized spoon of man up I re discovered the ragged edge and oh boy was that faster and more fun a lot of other trail bikes. I had one of the most fun afternoons I’ve had on a mountain bike in a long time. Blasting through bracken and drifting loamy turns I finally understood how the Covert worked, What it was good at and how I could make it work for me. In time spending more time on the bike it was on the whole more of the same and I really struggled to find anything wrong with it for me apart from the rear shock set up.
It only makes me think how awesome the Covert 29 could be if you could set the sag correctly on it!
The bike was great in the air on more freeride type lines and was pretty good at pedalling thanks to Fox climb mode on the suspension and the Schwalbe Hans Dampf’s with a suprising lack of rolling resistance from what is quintessentially a soft compound intermediate tyre. It gobbled up the dreaded false flat fireroad climbs which normally would of had me grimmising!
As big wheeled bikes go the Covert is about as aggressive as they come in the geometry stakes. That slack head angle and small cockpit mean the bike is just crying out to be ridden as hard as you can.
It’s fun, fast and long meaning its stable at high speeds hurtling fire road but pop the seat up and stick it in the granny gear and the Covert 29 will still climb with the same speed and composure only seen in much more cross country focused bikes.
I hate to use the “one for all” term but I genuinely feel that’s what the Covert 29 can provide. It’s a complete big wheeled quiver killer.
What a ride!