Winter tis the season for hot toddies and project bikes. So last year, when the rain started falling after a long stretch of nonstop summer riding, it was time to orchestrate the next build.
Now that the lifts are finally opening again, it’s time to unveil the latest project – this seasons new downhill bike. We’ll be using it as a test platform for Shimano’s new Saint groupo and whatever else comes through the door.
Once I had narrowed my choices down, I made my selection based on price. This Transition TR450 is a blast to ride and this frame was being sold at blowout prices to make room for the new model year. All the models have geometry chips to adjust the head tube angle and BB, but the newest revision also has adjustable chain stays.
One of the biggest trends in mountain biking today is adjustable geometries and convertible wheelsizes, which is great for the end consumer, but even without adjustable chain stays, my “old” TR450 is one playful bike. It’s like a big pup that doesn’t realize how big it is.
These Transition TR grips are a little larger than the ODI Ruffians, but they’re comfortable, and most importantly – match the headtube badge. They lock on using only one clamp, but I haven’t experienced any slipping issues.
The bars are held in place with a Raceface Atlas DM. It’s not the lightest but it offers a lot of versatility. Mounted upright it’s a 30mm stem, flipped, its 50mm long and sits 15.5mm lower. With this frame and fork combination, we only had enough clearance to run it in the 50mm setting. Thats A-ok, because the Manitou Dorado has a taller axle-to-crown than other downhill forks.
Front suspension duties are performed by a Manitou Dorado Expert. New for the 2013 model year, the Expert fork is a little heavier than the premium Pro model, but it retails for $400 less at $1,200 USD. The two forks share the same internals but a few cost cutting measures in the form of a different (heavier) aluminum for the fork tubes, less extensive machining, and shot peened rather than anodizes crowns and dropouts make for a quarter pound (122 gram) weight difference.
The Dorado has a 20 hour break in period but it already feels great with just a few rides. The only thing that’s really strange is peering down at the bottom out indicator. Down is the new up.
There’s a lot of great prebuilt wheels on the market but nothing beats building your own. You’ll find hand built wheels spinning on Hadley hubs on each of my personal bikes.
This older pair of 36 H hubs (which I cut out of Sun Double Track Rims!) needed a rebuild bad, so I bought them for a song, and stuffed them in the parts bin. Fast forward a few years and they’ve been paired with Mavic 721 rims, DT Revolution spokes, and DT brass nipples and spoke washers for a burly wheelset. It’s not the lightest or the flashiest, but it should last an entire summer of downhill runs without a visit to the truing stand.
These Saint Pedals have only been on a few rides but the TR450s low BB means they’ve already been pummeled by baby heads. At 486 grams they’re not exactly light, but there’s no reason to worry about long term reliability.
Stock, the pedals come with washers installed under the pins so “grippiness” can be customized. It didn’t take more than one run to realize that stock configuration was bordering on dangerous when charging through rocks gardens. After removing the washers and adding two additional pins ou the outside edge, grip is reminiscent of the old Shimano DX platform, if not slightly better.
A full Saint drivetrain puts the power to the ground. While the current Shimano Zee derailler is lighter, this Saint mech could scrape through all nine levels of Dante’s inferno and survive unscathed. Better yet, it’s eerily quiet and the Saint shifter has a crisp light actuation that rivals the feel of XTR.
If the drivetrain is exceptional, then the Saint brakes performance is sublime. Braking power is unrivaled but the feel might be a little to on/off for some.
While some companies are producing aluminum downhill bikes that weigh less than their carbon counterparts, the Transition TR450 is not one of those bikes. This little beast pig is built for fun and reliability.
Out of the box, our Manitou Dorado Expert came in at 6 lbs 11 oz (3033.4 gm), just under the claimed 6 lb 13 oz (3096 gm).
During most of the year, I pedal to the top of the runs, and a 11-32 XT cassette helps me get there. If I were racing, a close ratio 11-25 Ultegra cassette would save ~70 grams. A telescoping seatpost for full extension would also make climbs easier, but would be so hideous it would border on impractical. A cut down Thomson Masterpiece post from the parts drawer satisfies the inner weight weenie.
There’s a whole slew of air shocks that we’re eager to try here at BikeRumor, but there’s nothing like the feel of coil. A Ti coil would easily save half a pound over the stock steel Fox spring.
All told, with weight weenie Maxxis Exo (1.5 ply tires), the TR is sitting in the high 37 lb range. Not bad for an initial build considering the host of weight savings upgrades that could be made in the future.
See you on the lifts!