Transition TR250 Review 2011 & 2012

Words: Toni Walbridge

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Introduction
The TR250 is Transition’s latest offering for the growing mini-DH segment. It joins rank with the Intense SS2, Morewood Kalula, and other mini-DH bikes which differentiate themselves from traditional freeride bikes by mirroring the configuration of a full DH bike, but in a more compact package. These bikes are not generally as friendly for pedaling uphill which explains their growing popularity with users of lift-served bike parks and shuttle trails. In place of versatility, mini-DH bikes typically offer geometry and suspension designs that excel at descending and particularly on modern jump trails and smoother DH courses. The TR250 borrows heavily from the design of the TR450 in look and suspension design but is trimmed down for a lighter, snappier feel. If you’re interested in learning more about the TR450, be sure to check out our review on that bike as well.

TR250 Video overview with Kevin Menard

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In hand, the TR250 is a beefy frame, it looks like a WC DH frame that has been hit by a shrink ray. It is the polar opposite of those spindly, long travel XC bikes often billed as “freeride” bikes. This isn’t to say that the 250 is either overweight or unrefined, at 3814g (8.39 lbs) with powder coat, it’s weight is quite respectable. The 250 is clearly built to inspire confidence on the descents and still give the rider a platform to style it up.

[Check out our weights section to see how the 250 compares]

Add in a Vivid-Air R2C at size 8.5×2.5 and the whole package rings in at an almost svelte 9.55 lbs. One quick look at the details of this frame and it’s clear that it is the result of much refinement. Following in the steps of the TR450, Transition has again pushed clean lines, highly machined linkage, and a no frills approach to DH design. This ain’t a Dirtbag.

Vivid Air (click to enlarge)

The CNC work on the links is practically art and all tucked neatly inside the seat mast. There are even geometry adjusting chips packed in there. Just don’t plan on adjusting the rebound on your shock without first unbolting it. My only qualm with this design is that mud can pack into those pretty links. It doesn’t seem to affect performance but it can be a pain to clean.

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In terms of adjustability, the TR250 has quite a range. Travel is adjustable to 160 or 180 mm through 2 shock mount points in the linkage. Chainstay length is adjustable between 16.9″, 17.15″, and 17.4″. Head tube and bottom bracket height are also adjustable in .5º increments from 65º/14.25″ to 64º/13.75″ through the linkage much like the TR450.

multiple geometry chips come with the TR250 just like the TR450

You can then swap out the other adapters (see above) into the linkage below to achieve a slacker setup, or a steeper one.  Consult the geometry chart to see the exact figures.

stock factory chip setting

Geometry -

The frame is a linkage actuated single pivot design much like the TR450. This allows Transition to adjust the suspension’s rate through the linkage. Video below shows how the 450 moves which has a similar setup on the smaller TR 250.

This all adds up to a tremendous number of setup options to suit a wide variety of styles and terrain. To accomplish this, Transition employs a clever “chip” system at both the rear axle and within the suspension linkage. The chips in the foreground of the photo below are for the suspension system. There are also centered chips but they were mounted in the frame at the time I took this photo. In the background, the rear axle along with the centered chips on the left side and offset chips on the right side are shown. It’s easily the cleanest geometry altering design on the market.

TR250 axle adjusting system (click to enlarge)

At the dropouts we have internal cable routing, locking hardware on the axle, and a design that avoids the often clunky look of fully replaceable dropouts to achieve chainstay length adjustment. It can be a hair bit tricky getting the chips and axle all lined up during wheel installation, but still is a tidy representation of adding adjustability without too much complexity. The the rear axle employs a lock screw to keep the axle from working it’s way loose. You can see the screw in the center of the dropout in the image below. For the duration of the review it worked just fine but the small screw could easily get lost in a trail-side tube change or have its small allen interface mangled due to its small size.

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The build
So I went all out on this build for my version of the ultimate mini-DH bike. This means that I spent time picking parts that would add up to a decidedly more playful machine that my full DH rig. This is the build that I would spend my summer days lapping the Whistler Bike Park on, if only I had that much vacation time. The spec here is all about creating a real gap between the TR250 and my full DH bike. I chose the lightest components that would be up for the constant abuse that comes with 20 lap days in the bike park. The Fox Float 180 RC2 Kashima was an easy choice up front. The Float is light, very tunable, has adjustable travel (internally), and has been completely reliable despite a few very big rider errors. Another big decision was wheel set. I needed something light and quick accelerating but knew I’d have no tolerance for flexy, weak-kneed hoops. Industry 9′s Enduro rims laced up with their DH spokes provided an 1873g wheelset fit for the task. They needed just a couple wraps of gorilla tape and a bit of Stan’s to seal up tubeless with the stellar Schwalbe Muddy Mary tires. I pounded these wheels through Southern Utah super-chunk rock gardens all spring, botched more than a couple big jumps and they took it all in stride. I9 has done their homework on using these rims. Carbon bars on a bike meant for DH abuse are still a bit controversial in some circles but Easton claims the Havoc carbons are the strongest bars, carbon or aluminum, that they’ve ever built. At 237g they fit right in with my theme of light and strong parts to keep this rig feeling lively. If you’re looking to read more about the build, check out the Project Article on the T250.

The hourglass shape of the tapered headtube is visually appealing and dead sexy. That’s a 44/49mm setup so you have the option of running an Angleset should the built-in adjustments not meet your needs. I’ve gone with a Cane Creek 40 series with carbon top cap and spacers, gotta look the part, eh?

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The cockpit includes Chromag’s latest freeride stem, the HiFi, clamping Easton Havoc carbon bars with ESI Chunky grips. Those are Formula The One brakes in a 203/180 configuration, and a 10 speed X0 shifter. The reach is quite short on the 250 at 380 mm for the medium which lead me to source one of the shorter saddles out there so I could still throw in X-up’s. A WTB Devo Ti/Carbon mounted to a Thomson post fit the bill perfectly.

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Not much to say about Saint cranks, they are the gold standard in this segment and look the part. The 83mm bottom bracket paired with the 150mm rear wheel spacing means you can swap your DH componets over to the 250 quite easily.

The Straitline bash held up surprisingly well to the Utah rocks and the guide is silent as claimed. I grew to appreciate the lack of any pulleys with bearings to fail. I have found the perceptible drag on the Straitline guide to be no greater than on a pulleyed setup. Since Straitline employs a very simple, flat back plate, fitting to most frames is a breeze. This generation of the Twenty6 pedals were light and grippy wtih a revised axle that removed all perceptible axle play. This set held up through this test. Note the 250 derailleur internal cable routing as it enters the chainstay, a very nice touch.

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Tire clearance is generous, that’s a 2.35 Schwalbe Muddy Mary which actually measures a bit larger than a 2.5 Maxxis Minion. It’s in there with plenty of room to spare for excellent mud clearance. Transition’s Pacific Northwest roots shine in this department.

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There’s that internal routing popping out of the chainstay again, quite slick. Part spec also includes a 10 speed short-cage SRAM X0 derailleur, KMC X10-SL chain, and an 11-28 SRAM OG-1090 cassette. The cassette ended up being one of my favorite touches on this build. The range of the 11-28 gave all the top speed I needed while still having enough gear to pedal flat and uphill sections and it came in at a mere 178g to boot.

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Riding Impression
I kicked off this riding season with a few trips to the desert. In my experience, there is no terrain that is harder on bikes than the Southwest desert can be. Few smooth transitions, little actual dirt, and lots of rock. This terrain literally can rattle bikes to pieces. Shiny new rims can look like stop signs after just a few runs. It’s harsh down there. I started right out pointing the TR250 through some pedal clipping, wheel destroying, super-chunky DH. With the head-tube/bottom-bracket geometry in the middle setting and the chainstays in the long setting, the TR250 was impressively fast and stable. At a 14″ bottom bracket height, it was no problem sneaking in pedal strokes through the mine field. It’s not going to win races in the rough against a full DH bike but it’s absolutely no slouch. If you’re the type of rider the prefers to hang off the back and plow through chunk, your impression might not be so glowing. But, if you’re the type to skip from rock top to rock top, you’ll no doubt be more than happy.

I made back to back runs with both the stock Fox RC4 and the Vivid-Air that I replaced it with. Without getting off on a long winded discussion of the nuances of rear shock performance, I’ll say that both dampers work very well with this frame. Both pedaled well but I preferred the RC4 in the chunk but the Vivid-Air shined in the flow. Considering the intended use of this frame, I have been swayed by the performance of the Vivid-Air and it has become the permanent spec on this bike despite a few reliability issues. In fact, I’d go on to say that this frame was simply made for an air shock. The ability to quickly tweak the setup for rough DH and then back to polished jump lines really helps make the 250 an effective all-around gravity sled. A little later in the spring I also had the opportunity to try out a Cane Creek Double Barrel for a few days. Compared to the Vivid-Air and the Fox RC4, I was not able to reach quite as an efficient feel while sprinting but traction in the mud and loose improved notably. I’d strongly consider the Double Barrel as my shock of choice if I spent my days in mud over wet roots and rocks but I preferred the Vivid-Air down the jump lines.

Vivid Air (click to enlarge)

The old Redbull Rampage venue is a typical spring stop for our crew. We headed over to get some flight time. This is one place where the TR250 really shines, it pops off jumps quite a bit easier than a full DH bike but still allows for quite a bit of rider error before just spitting you off. I played around with several shock and geometry settings, progressively moving from a softer, longer, and slacker setup to firmer, shorter, and steeper. It became apparent that the greatest value in all of the adjustments Transition has provided is that you can really setup the TR250 to suit your own definition of gravity hooliganism. A bike that can be many different things is a great fit for a segment of biking that is barely defined. It’s notable that no pivots loosened or developed any play during my ride time on the TR250, everything remained torqued without even a hint or creaking.

Fun hip in Virgin, UT (click to enlarge)

It seemed that nearly every time I had this bike out this spring people kept asking me if I thought it could be their “one” bike. Understandably, most people might not be looking to drop $2,499 on a frame that isn’t downhill specific but it does help shorter or younger riders find a better fitting bike. I wouldn’t have bothered with a trail ride except that the question came up time and again. So, I threw a Reverb on it, put it in the steepest/shortest geometry settings and took it for a ride on my favorite loop at Gooseberry Mesa.

TR250 AM riding (photo: Adam Riser)

Goose is a desert singletrack playground with not too many extended climbs, but lots of pedaling and lots of tech features. Here’s my take: if you live somewhere where 80% of your riding is lift or shuttle served, or your trails are fairly flat, then you might do OK with the TR250 as your all-around ride. On the tech ups and downs of Gooseberry it performed well, but any time there was steeper or sustained climbing, the 250 was clearly out of it’s element. It’s shorter seat tube height can quickly limit its height without a dropper post as well. So, there you have it, and it’s probably what you expected to hear. It does have some limited all around capabilities but it’s best to keep this beast pointed downhill.

As the snow melted and our local jump lines opened up, I noticed that 7″ was more travel than I’d really like for most of the lines I was riding. So, I dropped the Float to 160 mm and set the Vivid-A to the 160 setting for a few weeks. In this configuration, I ran the chainstays in the shortest position for snap out of corners and off steep lips. I complemented the short chain stay setting with the middle head-tube angle and bottom-bracket height. I also firmed up the suspension a little in this mode, shooting for an efficient and jump line friendly feel. And the 250 delivered, big time. Where most bikes I’ve ridden only feel good in one or two of it’s settings, the TR250 actually has several useful setup options. Boosting a local step-up, the TR250 delivered good pop while still being very forgiving. I had a lot of quality time in the air on this bike. Perhaps the only real drawback of it’s multiple personalities was the fact that I racked up a lot of down time turning wrenches to test its multiple personalities. Running this bike in 6 & 6 mode one day and 7 & 7 the next is a recipe for a lot of hours in the garage and saddle respectively.

TR250 (click to enlarge)

MSRP
2499.00 USD

Weight
Complete Build: 32.82 lbs
Frame only: 3814g

In summary

  • Hit’s its mark as a mini-DH platform; capable, not cumbersome
  • Several useful setup options allowing the rider to fine tune for his style and air time
  • Simple, solid, reliable design.
  • Absolute blast to ride in a variety of terrain, this bike really put a smile on my face every time I rode it

Worth Mentioning

  • The size medium felt a hair short in the reach, I’d prefer it with another 10mm to give a little bit more reach as well as more X-Up clearance and other aggro moves.
  • A bit of mud can collect in the linkage, some sort of a minimal guard might be nice for wet climates
  • The rear axle lock screw has the potential to strip or be easily misplaced
  • Depending on the shock you run, access to rebound adjuster can be tight

Conclusion
Fun Hog! That’s probably what I would have named it. The TR250 is a ridiculously fun ride that is functionally and aesthetically dialed. If you spend most of your time in bike parks or on shuttle runs, the TR250 should be on your short list if you’re looking to style your way down. This is multipled if you tend towards a more playful style as opposed to riding as fast as possible at all times. The Transition crew has turned out a top shelf machine here with and if you can swing the $2500 entry fee I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Toni puts the TR250 into the berm (click to enlarge)

Learn more, see all the colors, and see where you can purchase the TR250 and other Transition bikes at http://www.transitionbikes.com/