Transition Syren Review – Women's Specific Freeride

26er Pro Reviews

  • Test Rider name: Tiffany Allmandinger
  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’6”
  • Inseam: 33”
  • Weight: 135 lbs
  • Bike: Transition Syren
  • Size: M
  • Kit: All Mountain Build Kit
  • Syren Frame with 2010 Fox Racing Shocks – DHX 5 AIR Rear Shock $1,626.00 USD
  • Parts Kit – All Mountain $1,279.00 USD
  • www.transitionbikes.com
Pros:

  • Stable
  • Great build kit
  • Excellent fit
Cons:

  • Rear end loses traction on high frequency terrain at speed
  • Wheelie happy
  • Inefficient pedaling

Introduction –

I’ve been lucky enough to test a third bike in the Women’s specific free ride category, the Transition Syren – MSRP = $3623. For the past 3 months I’ve ridden it up down and sideways, both here on the central coast trails and at Mammoth. As with the previous bikes, the Norco Vixa and the Kona Minxy, I’ve pedaled them up hills, I’ve shuttled to the top of descents and I’ve played at the local jump parks. In my previous review I provided some background information on my riding history and style, but in case anyone is new to these reviews I’ll restate it. I’m not a hucker, I’m also not into getting huge air. I’m more of an all-mountain, Super-D, long technical, fast descent sort of rider. I’ve typically ridden 5 – 5.5″ travel single ring bikes along with a lot of single-speeding on my hardtail. I’ve done my fair share of racing, both in college and out and still absolutely hands down, love to ride. I’ve done my best in the review that follows to channel 13 years of mountain biking experience into, I hope, a helpful guide for women thinking of getting a free ride bike. If you have questions I’ll do my best to answer them, and if I can’t I’ll research it until I can. Happy reading.

First glance –

Fresh out of the box, the transition looks fantastic. It’s bold, beefy, black and beautiful. The head tube looks incredibly slack and the billet linkage looks like it’s ready for anything that I’d be brave enough to throw at it. It’s well made, the welds are clean and the enormous head tube looks immortal. The suspension is juicy, with a generous Fox 36 160 Float R on the front accompanied by a Fox DHX Air 5.0 in the rear. Aesthetically, it’s certainly the best looking bike of the three. It’s quiet and unabashedly tough and definitely looks ready for some adventures.


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  • pinkrobe says:

    That is easily one of the best, most helpful reviews of a bike I have ever read. My wife was looking at the Syren, but went with something else. Thanks for helping us dodge a bullet!

  • Paulmeister says:

    It amazes me how many folk release bikes with no adjustable travel. I love my AM bike with PIKES.

    Great review.

  • ChuckC says:

    Wow, this is the most thorough and in-depth bike review I have ever read. Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed approach you took to this bike. The reasons that you do not like it may be the same reasons I go with this bike. It’s like a freeride trainer!

  • Mr. P says:

    Great write up!

    Sounds like a lot of the negative traits were due to the large volume DHX air. I’ve had the same shock, and had very similar complaints. I then went to a different shock (coil) and problems solved. Climbing over-sag, sagging into turns, poor rear traction, wallowing, all gone. I’ll bet putting a small volume air chamber would solve the issues = a simple and cheap fix. A lot of posters have had similar results.

    For a claimed beginner bike (which is a great concept), Transition should include easy to understand suspension set up instructions… for beginners.(!) Rather than the expert, “go figure it out”. A simple card would do.

    Come on Transition, just a few more details! I want to see more chicks rocking the trails!

    P

  • Nicholas Poetker says:

    Great review!
    Im sad to hear all the complaints but also agree with Mr.P.
    I have rode alot of bikes and have tried alot of different shocks to see how they feel. For example my current bike is the transition bottle rocket and have had 3 different shock on it so far. I too started out with the fox DHX air 5.0 and never felt like it did the bike any good. Alot of your complaints were the same.
    I always felt either too soft or to hard no matter how I set it up.
    Well, I then bought a roco coil and fell in love on the first ride. It made the bike into the bike I was wanting. After two years on the coil I switched it out for the roco air. At first it felt weird but now I totally love it. Its light,plush and takes big hits with no problems. Pluse the tst is so easy to use and it feels great on climbs locked out or half way on jumps and mellow trails.
    Overall Im just trying to say that the suspension plays a key roll in how the bike rides front and rear.
    But, very good review I enjoyed reading it alot.
    Even though Im not a woman.
    This bike is intresting to me because I live in Japan and alot of my friends are guys but little Japanese guys who always complain that their bike is too big or heavy. So, I think it might be a great Freeride bike for little guys as well.

  • Boyakasha says:

    I had the exact same problem with my Bottlerocket. I just couldn’t get the DHX air to work the way I wanted it to. I swapped it out for a RP23 and problem solved.

  • GettingRad says:

    “engineer at Transition” I’m pretty sure there are no actual engineers at Transition, probably why they couldn’t help with the shock set up. Fantastic review.

  • Sam says:

    I would like to comment on the shock adjustment situation.

    It is true that reaching the boost valve or bottom out adjustment is essentially impossible when mounted on the bike. However, that was a trade off that the extremely compact frame created. Thankfully neither adjustment are typically messed with once set, compared to a rebound or propedal adjustment – both of which are easily reached.

    I am not sure who you talked to about the shock setup, but getting the air pressure and sag set is basically a guessing game. As far as the other adjustments go the reccomendation would be 125psi in the boost valve (minimum pressure) and the bottom out adjuster left wide open. The frame itself ramps up quite a lot and this is the most linear adjustment to the shock.

    On the Bottlerocket we have switched to the small volume DHX Air from the standard sleeve. The feel is much better with the more “progressive” small volume shock.

    For what it is worth, we do not actively push the All Mountain kit on the Syren. In fact customers would pretty much have to beg to get that kit. A FR single or double kit is the standard option.

    Thanks for the review!

  • April says:

    Hmmm, I think setup is everything on this bike. I’ve had my Syren for awhile now, and am not a beginner and LOVE it. I had a 9″ travel DH bike used mostly for Whistler that was great, but that amount of travel swallowed me up on some sections and wasn’t as versatile as I would have liked for all of the Whistler Park Terrain. I’m fairly small at 5’4″ tall and 120 pounds and needed a bike that I can control rather than having it control me. I built my Syren up to be a mini-DH bike with a Fox DHX 5.0 and Fox Vanilla with no expectations for pedaling. With the DHX, the suspension feels bottomless and tracks over the gnarliest terrain. I do find limitations on the 6″ travel fork at times, but have learned to compensate. This bike feels much more butter smooth than my old 9″ travel bike. I’m not a huge hucker either and prefer riding down gnarly, rooty, rocky terrain. The bike eats up the terrain, tracks beautifully, and makes going off drops almost effortless when I do decide to do them. Its a shame that people build this bike up to be an all mountain bike as I can see how they would be disappointed in that case–it is not for pedaling, and the coil suspension is what makes this bike shine. I plan on racing more DH races on it this year, so we’ll see how it stacks up.

  • VanHalen says:

    This is a very nice and honest review. I was in that exact spot, where I had outgrown the short travel bike, and needed something bigger. I stumbled upon a bike demo out at the trail for Specialized, told them I wanted a 6″ travel bike (I didn’t have a clue about their line-up at the time), and they gave me a $8k Safire. I took it on my regular trail and hated it! It felt even twitchier and steeper than my current bike! Which was confirmed after googling the geometry. They didn’t like me very much when I gave them my honest opinion about the bike, why on earth would you want that much travel when it handles like an XC bike. Any WSD bikes I looked at had really crappy build kits, so just like April said in the previous comment: setup is everything. After doing some research I decided to go with the Covert (Transition), and piece my own parts onto it (including an adjustable travel 160mm fork). I’m still in the process of building it, but I’m pretty sure this is the way to go. It should fit more into that grey area in between XC and Freeride, called All Mountain, going both up and downhill, my build will lean more towards freeride…

  • EndlessTrails says:

    Thanks for such an in-depth, thoughtful, and detailed review.
    This sort of detail can really help decisions, for no matter what your overall feel is, others can see what may or may not fit them, and what may be major contributing factors to the bike’s behaviour, and their own needs.
    You have lots of experience, and it shows. It is also good that you explain where your boundaries are. You make an great analysis.
    I live on the North Shore, been riding since the first trails were built here. It is unfortunate that you couldn’t experience that bike with a different rear shock.
    Many people, once they start riding our \bumpier\ terrain, and doing small drops, run into a wall with this rear shock. It seems to just blow through most of its travel, then almost stop dead, before moving on. Its compression damping is just weird. You can hear it when they ride, and many pinch flats result, but they aren’t bottoming out. I’ve had such people switch over to the DHX 5 coil, and they say it is night and day; for behaviour, control, and feel. They can go much faster for the rear follows the ground, and doesn’t skip or slam on bigger bumps or small drops. It also doesn’t sag as much in mid travel on g-outs/transitions. I have video of the behaviour of the air shock on a nice stunt – it just suddenly dips and makes the bike go all loose. Even the custom shock tweakers here, have found major issues with this shock on the 6\ style of bikes.
    Taking that and the design of the bike being one for confidence in steep terrain, I think you’d feel much better about its riding, with a different shock. As long as you weren’t too focused on flatter trails, but more on steeps and Shore style stuff, you might give it a much better grade. With a caveat about riding XC on it. ;-)
    I’ve broken many rear shocks, and have had the \lucky\ opportunity through that, to try as many as 3 different rear shocks on my frame, and one of the shocks with three different custom builds. It can be a more subtle difference than what a fork makes, but it can make a bigger difference in how the bike feels. At times it makes a surprisingly major change in the bike.
    I think the main thing about the syren, is it is designed for lighter people, and comfort. Hence the very squishy, rapidly firming, rear end, and the short light front end.
    It is an introductory freeride bike in terms of size, comfort, and weight – but it is setup to allow for riding some pretty mean trails, with ease. Just perhaps not being muscled through the chunder at your speed – certainly not with that rear shock. :-) You were in the wrong part of the travel at critical times.
    If you were to be pushing it a little further than your usual riding style, it might have been more apparent. Though it is hard to tell if it is the frame, or the shock. More experience on your part with this shock, or past experience with switching shocks in the same frame, might have helped.
    Thanks for your work – it is super-good quality!

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