Transition Syren Review – Women's Specific Freeride

26er Pro Reviews

Components –

Fork

The fork proved to be as supple and responsive as I had hoped. It was polite and efficient on climbs and ultra plush descending. It’s also incredibly stiff. The through axle kept the front wheel perfectly placed and the steering precise. It bailed me out of a few hairy situations to say the least. However, the brake dive was significant and could have been substantially mitigated by a low speed compression adjuster, as in the RC2, or having the fork sent out for an aftermarket rebuild from Push or CR1 engineering. My other complaint with the fork stems from the inability for me to use all of the travel. I was unable to access approximately the last inch of motion. Lighter riders may have the same issue as I did with this and changing the bottom-out characteristics would be something worth looking into. These are clearly not issues with the bike, just with the spec build.

Also, if fork replacement is potentially in your future, the Syren’s 1.5” head tube presents numerous options for a bigger, huskier fork upgrade. The freedom to choose between 1.125” and 1.5” steer-tubes may be of significant value for women looking for more generous travel on the front end.

Shock

The Fox DHX Air 5.0 has adjustable rebound, ProPedal switch for better pedaling efficiency – key for pedaling up hill, air spring and boost valve pressure and volume. Once assembled onto the bike, the boost valve air port is inaccessible through the rear suspension yoke. The boost volume adjustment dial is also tough to reach as it’s somewhat hidden behind the same linkage that blocks the air port. This made it extremely difficult to adjust the shock settings on the fly. No initial shock set-up documentation is provided with the frame except for the standard Fox booklet – generic for all bikes – and no shock set up advice was given both times I called Transition for help. I was told to follow Fox’s directions or call them directly. I don’t see how Fox would give me better advice on suspension than the frame designers themselves, but apparently Transition seems to think they can. I didn’t bother calling Fox. But to say I was disappointed with the customer service is an understatement. I even told them I was reviewing the bike but it didn’t matter. I was getting no love.

Brakes

Avid Juicy 7s are common fare for mountain bikes these days, and for good reason. They’re a more than adequate performer for the money and won’t kill you on a tough descent. The large 8″ front rotor on the Syren helps add bite to the overall stopping power and eases modulation. They will, however, fade and eventually wear out your arms and hands after a day on the lifts. For a medium length downhill, say 15-20 minutes, they’re fine. Anything longer than that and they slowly start to give up. A gondi ride up Mammoth helps them cool off a bit and regain some grab, but beware that they aren’t long for the world if your trail demands serious long term speed bleed.

As far as ergonomics go, the levers are easily adjustable for reach/engagement and as is expected, tuck snugly against the SRAM shifters for maximum placement flexibility. They fit my hands well and were simple to set-up for index finger actuation. The small diameter lock-on ODI grips are really comfortable and tacky, even without gloves, and worked perfectly with the levers to help maximize grip strength. Bulky grips are a significant factor in fatiguing little paws, but there wasn’t an issue with this set-up.

Wheels & Tires

TBC Revolution AM wheels provide smooth, effortless steering and control through rough rock gardens, steep chutes, drops, jumps, high frequency stutter bumps and tight fast corners. They’ve held up to all of the abuse I could possibly throw at them without developing any wobbles or deviations and without being clunky or heavy. The 20mm front thru axle is ultra quick to use and easy to remove on the trail and adds delightful stiffness to the front wheel. The rear hub has a standard QR and is sufficient for holding up to the demands I put it through.

Don’t be surprised when you get your first pinch flat though. I got mine fifty feet from my house on the bike’s maiden voyage. Light cross country tubes filled the tires with tenuously contained air. I replaced both with heftier tubes after the first pinch and staunched what would otherwise have been a continuous flat repair sentence. Thin tubes on an AM/FR bike aren’t worth the weight savings to suffering ratio. Change the tubes straight away and be happy. But don’t worry about having to change the tires. Maxxis High Rollers keep the bike firmly adhered to the ground. These tires work incredibly well in virtually all conditions. Even the shale at Mammoth couldn’t eliminate all of the tires’ grab. They don’t have any sidewall protection, but they’re tough and didn’t give me any problems – just unbelievable traction. You have to hand it to the Maxxis guys, they really know what they’re doing when it comes to tires. A big thanks to Transition for spec’ing the bike with Maxxis shoes. That was a great decision.

Saddles

Only going downhill on the Syren, the Transition saddle worked fine. But pedaling uphill for any length of time caused my physiology to throw an achy temper tantrum. It’s too narrow for me in the sit bone region and sort of feels like my pelvis is being slowly pried apart. The narrowness, though, is great for descending. The saddle tucks neatly between your knees without a bother and doesn’t catch on baggy shorts. If you decide to keep the seat and an all mountain ride is on the agenda be sure to wear your good chamois.

Drive-train

Bravo again to Transition for employing SRAM X-9 on the Syren. The drive train is crisp, light and reliable. All great things for a bike intended for quick shifts under abuse. The cranks are 175mm TruVativ Stylos which seem too long for a bike like this. I expected 170mm crank arms for added clearance and pedaling ease. During certain rocky situations I’d have preferred a shorter crank, but otherwise the longer arms were fine. Oddly enough, and I find this very odd indeed, the AM build kit comes with a triple chain ring. I challenge anyone to get a front derailleur to work on the Syren frame with a triple chain ring. It doesn’t, trust me. Don’t waste your time trying. After a few confusing conversations with Transition about this the clouds parted and they realized the issue. Their instructions were to replace the outer chain ring with a bash guard. I happened to have a spare one in my garage – (fortunately, since they didn’t offer to send me one) – so all was well. Perhaps they’ve changed that for future frame iterations, but for the version I’ve been riding it’s an incompatibility.

Since I enjoy a good pedal to the top of my descents having the appropriate gears is always handy. A Sram PG-980 11-32 9spd cassette easily provided enough gearing for even the steepest and roughest climbs around town. Adding a chain guide would be the proverbial cherry on top for an otherwise perfect drivetrain. The frame didn’t drop the chain very often, but the few times it did was a nuisance.

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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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