2015 marks my third year racing for Pedals Bike Care, after 2014 being somewhat marred by a serious head injury at the start of the year I only managed a few races throughout the year. However, after a solid winter of training and some savings in the bank I will be racing a lot more this year and hopefully making a bit more noise as I do it. I will be competing in most rounds of the Scottish Enduro Series and four rounds of the Enduro World Series along with a few other select events. On the weekend of the 28th/29th of March I took part in the Tweedlove Vallelujah event and this marked the first outing for me on my new bike, a ‘Safety Orange’ Transition Patrol. This was my second race of the season, having raced the SES Round 1 at Innerleithen on the shop’s Banshee Spitfire demo bike, a great bike but having owned a size large last year the medium proved a little cramped over the race weekend! Still better than not racing and I managed a 13th place in Elite in my first outing in that category.
At the beginning of the week it was uncertain whether I would race, but the search for a late entry proved successful and after a bit of a last minute build from James after the bike arrived two days before the race all was sorted. I went into the shop on the Friday around midday to collect it. Having selected the Transition Patrol Build 2, we agreed to upgrade the wheels to some Hope Pro 2 hubs on WTB KOM rims. A couple other changes to the stock bike included the addition of some ODI SDG grips – a personal favourite, and also changing out the Scwalbe Rock Razer rear tyre for something a little more Scottish Sludge friendly.We also fitted the MRP AMg Chain Guide for full chain security and for those chainring rock moments that tend to occur when you are hanging on a technical stage.
The build of the bike as stock is pretty dialled with the fantastic SLX brakes on stopping duties and a Sram X1 drivetrain meaning a nice easy bottom gear for the transitions and a decent top gear for sprinting down fireroad (stage three I’m talking about you). Rockshox Pike upfront and Monarch Debonair out back also a great choice. Only negative for me is the rather long 175mm cranks, perhaps it is my XC and Road background but 170mm cranks are more my cup of tea. I’ll probably change them out for something a little shorter in the not too distant future
After getting the bars cut down from a monstrous 800mm width down to a manageable 760mm, the bike was ready to roll. After a couple skids, endos and wheelies round the block I immediately felt at home on the bike. A quick setup of suspension pressure, two magic tokens into the Rockshox Pikes and an extra spacer under the stem and I was ready for the weekend.
After arriving in Selkirk Saturday morning myself and two friends headed out for a lap of the circuit, as stage 1 was removed from the race due to the weather we headed up to stage two which started at the top of The Three Brethren. First impressions climbing the bike was that it put me in a very comfortable climbing position, the size large felt spot on in terms of reach and the seat angle being suitably steep put me in a great position for spinning the pedals. Standing just under 5 Foot 10 and being surprisingly lanky for my height the bike felt the perfect size, I know I tend to favour slightly larger bikes that allow me to run a nice short stem, having ridden and owned mediums in the past I know they don’t fit quite right, this size large Patrol felt ideal. A lot has been made about the Giddy Up platform being a big improvement over Transitions old platform. Having previously owned a Transition Bandit I can definitely vouch for this improved pedalling. I still felt the need to flip the lever to pedal mode for prolonged smooth climbs as I often move in and out the saddle while climbing but happily rode the suspension fully open for singletrack climbs and rolling terrain with no noticeable pedal bob.
First time riding the bike in anger was my first practise run down stage 2 and hitting the early turns in the stage and letting the bike slide felt fantastic. The bike felt super stable at speed but I felt comfortable throwing it from one turn into the next. Transition definitely know how to make a fun bike. The bike felt super solid and predictable and I quickly forgot about it and could focus on the trail.
Practise of stage 3 and stage 4 passed without major incident, first crash on the bike came on stage 3, a wee crash in practise being a good indication that I need to reign it in a little. Stage 4 featured some extremely tough pedalling at the start, a few tricky flat bogs and off cambers before dropping into an extremely technical rutted mess. I was thankful for the 150mm drop Reverb seatpost that came with the bike which meant getting off the back of the bike was nice and easy.
All in a great first ride on the bike. I was delighted with the bikes on the ups and the downs and I felt ready and excited for race day.
A pasta dinner and an early night in the van ensured all was in place for Sunday.
After being set off at 8.55am the weather was a lot milder than predicted and it was nice to remove the jacket going up the first climb, it remained in the bag for the rest of the day. I managed a largely uneventful race and rode solid and consistently throughout the stages.
Stage 2 (9th Senior)
The sun was shining at the top of the Three Brethrens and I sprinted into the stage and nailed all the top turns and the narrow high speed pedal passed without issue. The bottom section was a bit loose with a few clipped out wild moments but a solid stage in testing conditions, the overnight rain definitely helped this stage as it thinned out the mud a little. Having dibbed at the end I almost flipped the bars trying to roll away again as the heavy braking to stop had caused both my wheels to fully succumb to the mud and both wheels were fully clogged.
Stage 3 (6th Senior)
With the filming drone buzzing overhead I again sprinted into the stage and kept it smooth over the first turns, I felt quick on the traverse and remembered to slow down for a tricky multi line right hander. I maxed out the bikes top gear sprinting down the slightly longer than remembered fire road then dropped into the bottom section and kept it smooth to the line. Taking my best placing in the race in the process.
Stage 4 (7th Senior)
In practise I decided this stage was all about pacing, the top section was a technical pedal weaving through the trees with rock gardens, roots and mud in plentiful supply. Easy to go to deep and end up burst and lacking focus further down. I kept it smooth and felt pretty fit up top, whilst the middle bogs were a bit of a slog but I managed to stay on the bike throughout and emptied myself on the last incline before dropping into the muddy ruts that awaited. Again a few wild feet unclipped moments but largely solid and I crossed the line happy to have no major incidents. Another good stage that had a bit of everything. Standing at the end watching other riders this stage thoroughly captured the spirit of enduro with some chaos, carnage and camaraderie unfolding as riders piled up on the last two turns.
At the end of the weekend I ended up 7th Senior and 10th Overall out of 383 finishers. Happy with that as I am getting closer to those top boys. It says a lot for the Transition Patrol that I happily jumped onto it and raced it consistently over 3 very testing stages. I felt strong and fresh on the last stage after two big days out on the bike and the bike handled everything the race threw at me. It is a ridiculously capable bike and I cannot wait to ride it at some other venues. Next event is the Student Downhill Championships at Innerleithen. Looking forward to tucking in the elbows and slapping some turns there.