Transition TR500 Review by Mike Kazimer on Pinkbike!
Since their inception, Transition has gained a reputation for creating durable, no-frills machines, designed with the knowledge that can only come from years of real world riding experience. The TR500 is the successor to both the TR250 and the TR450, and features adjustable geometry that lets riders build it up in multiple configurations. Everything from a mini-DH / bike park ripper with 180mm of travel all the way to a downhill race bike with 203mm of travel is possible, and adjustable chainstays allow the bike to accommodate 26” or 27.5” wheels. Given Transition’s location squarely in the heart of Sasquatch country, it’s fitting that they also expanded their size range, adding an XL option for riders whose proportions mirror those of the elusive beast. There are four different complete build kits offered, in addition to a frame only option. Our test bike, outfitted with a Fox 40 FLOAT, DHX RC4 and Shimano Saint brakes and drivetrain retails for $6199 USD.
• Intended use: DH / Freeride
• Wheel size: 26″ or 27.5”
• Rear wheel travel: 203 or 180mm
• Aluminum frame
• Fox 40 FLOAT 203mm fork
• Fox DHX RC4 shock
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL
• Colors: orange, pearl green, raw
• Weight: 37.5 lb (size M)
• MSRP: $6199 USD
Constructed from hydroformed 6061 aluminum, the TR500’s frame has a modern, low slung look, aided by the fact that the linkage that drives the rear shock is hidden inside the split seat tube. Internal cable routing adds to the look as well, with the rear derailleur housing and brake line entering at the integrated fork bumpers and traveling through the downtube to their respective destinations. Both travel and geometry adjustments are available on the TR500, although Transition has done an excellent job of making them as inconspicuous as possible, thus avoiding the whole Erector set / science experiment look that can arise when companies decide to go down this route. In addition to the two shock travel positions, there are chips in the rear dropouts that can be flipped to set the bike up with either 434 or 442mm chainstays, although 27.5” wheels can only be run in the 442mm position. The bike’s head angle and bottom bracket height can also be altered by flipping the chip that’s located where the seatstays mount to the rear shock linkage, giving riders the option of choosing between a 63 or 63.5° head angle and the corresponding -10 or -4mm of bottom bracket drop. Other highlights include a threaded 83mm bottom bracket, a tapered headtube (useful for riders who decide to run a single crown fork), and ISCG 05 tabs for running a chainguide.
Hidden behind the TR500’s split seat tube is a short link that joins the rear swingarm to a vertical link that drives the rear shock.
Like its predecessors in the TR range, the TR500 uses a link driven single pivot suspension layout. A short link connects the one piece rear swing arm to a forged link that is situated in between the split in the seat tube. The link that drives the rear shock has two mounting positions – the upper position is the 203mm setting, and the lower sets it at 180mm. Transition has slightly changed the dimension of the rear shock linkage in order improve the feel of the rear suspension, with the end goal being for the bike to feel consistent through its travel, giving it a smooth ramp up as the shock nears the end of its stroke.
Travel 203 or 180mm
Rear Shock Fox DHX RC4 Kashima
Fork Fox 40 Float RC2 FIT Kashima
Cassette Shimano 11-25t
Crankarms Shimano Saint
Chainguide e*13 LG1+
Rear Derailleur Shimano Saint
Shifter Pods Shimano Saint iSpec
Handlebar ANVL Mandrel 800mm
Stem ANVL ARC direct mount
Grips ANVL Punch
Brakes Shimano Saint
Wheelset TBC Revolution 150
Tires Schwalbe EVO Magic Mary
Seat ANVL Forge chromo
Ridding the TR500
The TR500 has the ability to make short work of the most chopped up and blown out trails while also possessing a flickable and playful side that came out on smoother, jump riddled trails.
The Whistler Bike Park is the ideal place to rack up the vertical while testing a downhill bike, containing a wide variety of runs featuring everything from seemingly endless jump lines to trails brimming with roots and rocks that are challenging aboard any bike. Our test TR500 arrived with 26” wheels and set in the short and slack position with 203mm of travel, giving it a 63° head angle and a 434mm chainstay length. This ended up being the configuration the bike remained in for the duration of my time on it, simply because it felt so well balanced and matched to the terrain in the bike park there wasn’t any need to alter it.
There are some DH bikes on the market that are incredibly demanding to ride, requiring such a high level of rider input that it can feel like work simply trying to get around a corner at anything less than the speed of sound. Those bikes are best reserved for riders whose primary focus is getting down the hill as fast as possible, not seeking out the little side hits and bonus features on the way down. Luckily, the TR500 falls on the more mild-mannered side of the scale, with an easygoing nature that doesn’t require World Cup racer level skills to make it come alive. While it usually takes a few laps to figure out a bike’s little quirks and handling characteristics, with the TR500 this ‘getting to know you’ period lasted maybe half of a run. Maybe. After that, it felt as if I’d been riding the bike for months, not minutes. It’s an incredibly intuitive bike to ride, and it didn’t take long before I found myself plowing into the rough stuff at full speed without a second thought about the bike’s handling.
Don’t take the term ‘mild-mannered’ the wrong way either – this bike has plenty of gumption, and easily handled the trickiest lines that Whistler had to offer, whether it was steep, fall line rock rolls into loose, sandy corners or gunning it through off camber root sections. The TR500 has the ability to make short work of the most chopped up and blown out trails while also possessing a flickable and playful side that came out on the smoother, jump riddled trails like A-Line and Dirt Merchant, a combination that makes it well matched to the demands of a bike park. Taking a look at the numbers to figure out how Transition managed to make a bike this fun reveals measurements that aren’t radically different from what we’ve come to expect from a modern downhill bike, but it’s the way all of these numbers work together that make it such a treat to ride. The slack head angle keeps it composed and stable at high speeds when everything turns into one big blur, but at the same time switching lines or making quick maneuvers to evade basketball sized rocks doesn’t pose any trouble thanks to the relatively short chainstays and low center of gravity. Even at slower speeds on tighter, twistier trails the bike was quick and lively, diving in and out of corners without any sluggishness or lagging.
Whether it was blasting through berms or charging down rock faces, the TR500 kept its calm.
Geometry and frame design play a large role in how a bike feels on the trails, but on a downhill bike suspension is also of the utmost importance, especially given the high speeds at which obstacles need to be dealt with. The combination of the TR500’s Fox 40 FLOAT in the front and a DHX RC4 in the rear felt extremely well matched, working together as a cohesive unit to filter out those brake bumps that can wreak havoc on unprepared hands and forearms. Fox’s claim that they’ve increased the compliance of the 40 FLOAT’s chassis is a welcome one, and on the trail it rang true – the level of stiffness has been reduced from ‘bone-jarring’ to ‘just right’. Previous versions of the 40 could be a bit brutish, and it often seemed like the fork had its own idea of which direction to go in. This feeling is a thing of the past, and the 40 FLOAT strikes an excellent balance between stiffness and suppleness, with a stroke that feels like it combines the small bump sensitivity of a coil sprung fork and the progressiveness of an air spring. The air bleed ports are also a nice touch, a quick way to let out any air that builds up due to heat or pressure changes.
Although air sprung forks like the 40 have become more prevalent, especially among downhill racers, the same can’t be said about rear shocks. The current offerings are getting close, but the feeling of a coil sprung rear shock is still tough to match. The DHX RC4 felt like a high end coil shock should, and silently worked to smooth out the most jarring of impacts, the kind that come from landing way too deep off of a drop, or trying to double up a section of roots only to land a half a wheel length short. The setup for both the fork and shock was straightforward, and minimal tweaking was necessary once the base settings were dialed in.
Built up with a Saint gruppo and a mix of ANVL and Transition branded components, there’s not much that we’d change on the TR500.
• Shimano Saint brakes / drivetrain: It’s hard to go wrong with Shimano’s Saint parts group – everything from the brakes to the rear derailleur are well designed to hold up to the rigors of DH riding. The brakes are particularly impressive, with an excellent lever shape complete with dimples for extra traction in the wet. Even though they share many of the same design attributes of the less expensive Zee brakes, the Saints require less force to reach full power, providing an extra level of control that makes it possible to enter corners faster and to wait longer before giving them a pull.
• ANVL Components: Our test sled came with a slightly different build kit that what Transition normally offers, with a smattering of ANVL Components offerings (pedals, stem, handlebar, grips) installed on the bike. I’m a fan of thin, low profile grips, so the thicker Punch grips wouldn’t be my first choice to wrap my hands around, especially since they also have an extra portion of rubber at the front for additional cushioning that ended up being more of an annoyance than anything. Luckily, ANVL offers a more traditional, thin lock-on called the Rasp that is thinner and without the ergonomic shaping. The pedals were grippy, thin, and concave, meeting all of my typical criteria, but since I haven’t put enough miles on them to comment on long term durability, look for a review sometime in the future once they’ve been dragged through the mud and bashed on a few more rocks.
• Transition HD wheelset: The TR500 rolls on Transition’s house brand wheelset, which uses 32 hole, aluminum rims laced up with a 3 cross pattern to a set of sealed cartridge bearing hubs. It’s pretty basic stuff, but it also held up without any spokes coming loose or major dents in the rims, a feat that can be difficult to achieve given Whistler’s wheel eating trails. If anything does happen to the wheels, replacement parts should be easy to find and rather inexpensive, a reassuring thought considering the toll that bike park riding and DH racing can take on components.
The TR500 is something special, a downhill bike that feels familiar right out of the box, with impeccable handling that reduces the time needed to unlock its secrets and increases the amount of time available for pushing it as hard as possible. When you’re spending hard earned dollars on lift tickets or race entry fees, the last thing you want is to waste time trying to relearn all the little handling quirks of a bike every time you roll it out of the garage. That’s where the TR500 shines – just hop on and start charging, and the TR500 will get the job done in style, whether it’s roaring across the finish line, or whipping sideways over a floaty booter. While it may not garner the same amount of press as the carbon race steeds of the World Cup circuit, that doesn’t mean it’s any less capable, and the adjustable geometry allows it to be configured to meet just about any rider’s needs. – Mike Kazimer
Available in stores now!