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.
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.
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.
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.
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.