Transition Trans AM (frame only) review£345.00

Singletrack Samurai

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Considering their small size, Transition have a fiercely loyal group of fans. The Trans AM is their transmission and trail versatile hardtail, bred to tackle any ride on the menu. Neat detailing and a decent semi-branded build kit means it delivers on its design promises.

Ride & handling: Good design and Japanese steel creates a singletrack Samurai

Despite having a fairly long, cross-country style frame, the Trans AM's big tubes don't let any wobble or wallow in. Add the low weight and fast tyres, and the Transition is a rapid and pedal-responsive ride.

It’s not as snappy or light as an alloy bike but the steel frame adds an unmistakable surge and momentum sustain over chattery ground that you just don’t get from a tin frame. Having said that, it's also more likely to rattle your fillings and make your knees ache off a big drop or down wooden steps.

Its tightness and relatively steep seat tube put plenty of weight on the front tyre, letting us work it hard even on slippery roots. It has a sure-footed and anchored feel in the saddle, which means less sudden slip incidents to cope with.

The long top tube translates to a long wheelbase for a more stable feel on fast descents and high speed corners. The mid-width bar accentuates the cross-country feel of the Trans AM, but the angles, accuracy and strength to create a more agile chuck-about bike are all there if you choose a smaller size.

Good design and japanese steel creates a singletrack samurai: good design and japanese steel creates a singletrack samurai
Good design and japanese steel creates a singletrack samurai: good design and japanese steel creates a singletrack samurai

The chassis: Very tight, tough trail frame with easy singlespeed compatibility

BMXers, dirt jumpers and sword makers will all tell you that Japanese steel manufacturers have few rivals. The double-butted chromoly tubeset of the Trans AM certainly creates a tight feeling frame, although at over 6lb (2.7kg), it isn’t light. The extra heft gets you some neat hardcore detailing though.

The standout features are the super-thick cowled and horizontal slotted dropouts. These allow you to manage singlespeed chain length, or plug in the CNC machined alloy gear hanger, which also locks the rear wheel into place.

This is certainly a bonus in terms of crash repairability and rear wheel security. It does mean a real juggling act with the mech and chain, and loosening the rear brake calliper to get the wheel in and out if you puncture, though. which is a right pain.

Otherwise it’s a relatively straightforward, well executed frame. The ring-reinforced head tube is backed up with a deep 3D gusset onto the fat down tube. The sloped top tube/extended seat tube angle also gets an open ‘n’ section reinforcing piece, while the relatively skinny stays come forward to overlap the main tube joint.

Kinked chainstays give extra heel/crank clearance, while curved stay bridges give clearance for up to 2.5in tyres. Neat straight-through cable routing is another useful weatherproofing touch.

If it does get hot you’re going to need a CamelBak, because there are no bottle mounts on the frame. It has no ISCG mounts either. It comes in more sizes than many other trail hardtails though, and you get a choice of white, black or orange colour schemes.

Equipment: Available as a frame or with several build kit options

The Transition comes as a frame, but new UK distributors Surf Sales offer various build kit options. This is the all-mountain version and is a real SRAM-fest, including a Truvativ cockpit, seatpost and crankset driving ever-positive SRAM gears.

Avid’s Elixir CR brakes give ample power despite only a 160mm front rotor. The cup-and-cone CPS mount makes rear brake realignment easy after you’ve loosened it to get the rear wheel in or out.

Transition also provide a fair bit of their own kit under the TBC (Transition Bike Company) name. This includes the mid-weight, mid-width-rimmed Revolution AM wheels, an excellent square-nosed saddle and custom blue anodised grips and headset.

Fox’s superb coil sprung Vanilla RLC fork, with low speed compression and rebound damping, is a great match to the frame up front, although we’d choose the 15mm screw-through-axle version. Hard or heavy riders will appreciate that the fork comes fitted with the firm rather than medium spring as standard, even if skinny smoothies will find it stiff.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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