Transition Bikes PBJ XL 2021 Mountain Bike Review

Transition Bikes PBJ XL 2021

Reviews / Hard Tails

Transition Bikes 93,233

At a Glance

The bike industry is a bit strange these times, with availability of any type of bike a major challenge. How it normally works is the media requests a bike model to test with the brand. They’d be happy to send the bike out, and after a few weeks of riding, razzin’ and evaluation the bike is returned to the brand. The article gets written up and goes out to the readers for information and entertainment.
These are different times however. With the entire world population going out and buying any kind of bike they could get their hands on in 2020, all shops, distributors and brands are left with empty warehouses and fat pockets. Although it’s great to see more people discovering the joy of riding bikes, it does present a few challenges. One of them being the complete lack of test bikes. Here at IMB we like to think in solutions however, so we went out and bought the Transition PBJ in our local shop. Cracked the porcelain piggy and walked out with a shiny new bike to Pump, Berm and Jump our way to happiness. Oh and of course write up why we went for the Transition, and what our thoughts on it are after riding it for a good few weeks.

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The brand

Transition is a rider owned company based in Bellingham Washington, USA. Kevin Menard and Kyle Young founded the company in 2001, and have been working steadily on building a strong brand, while trying hard to not get too serious. With core riders at every level of the company, you can clearly see this back in the products, and it’s nice to see a brand out there not just in it for the dollars. They’re also focussed on giving back to the riding community, supporting several projects to get more diversity on the trails and helping out trail advocacy groups.

The bike

Although the bike world is mainly filled with 27,5 and 29 inch wheeled bikes these days, in the dirt jump and pump track specific bike segment 26’’ is still alive and well. There is a decent offering of these bikes by the main brands, and some specialist brands alike. With a budget between the 800 / 1800 GBP/USD/EUR you can find a nice bike with a strong frame, burly wheel set and some suspension forks to take out the sting of a bad landing.
The rider owned Transition has the PBJ, which stands for Pump Berm and Jump in their line up ticking all the boxes for a high end fun machine. With a retail price of 1599 GBP / 1599 USD / 1799 EUR it is in the upper price segment of dirt bikes, but it comes with quality parts to match. But we’ll get to the specs later. What’s more interesting with the PBJ is the geometry. This is basically the only dirt bike that's available in an XL, making everyone over 185cm / 6’ happy with a reach of 465mm. None of the other brands come even close to a roomy cockpit like the Transition. Also the ‘short’ and ‘long’ models have a longer reach than most of the competition out there, giving the bike a more stable feeling on the ground and in the air.
The frame has a high quality finish with great attention to detail, and there are 3 different color options to choose from. The legendary 4130 Chromoly steel has been used for the frame for its strength to weight ratio with a very high tensile strength to handle the imminent abuse that's the fate of a dirt bike.

Spec

The build is high quality with a RockShox Pike DJ 100mm up front. Having an air fork means better adjustment and a lighter front end, making manuals easier and nose diving on jumps less likely. Nice detail is the FSA headset with an external lower cup. Not only does this handle impacts better but are also more durable than integrated headsets. If you do want to have more options to slow yourself down you can retrofit a front brake. The single speed wheelset is made up from Joytech hubs and Kinlin DDT32 double walled rims. Now before you start yelling ‘cheap Taiwanese crap’ it is good to know that Kinlin has been making rims since the late 70’s and Joytech actually has 3 factories where they produce a whopping 26 million hubs a year. So it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing and it shows as the eyeletted rims are still straight after numerous times of coming up short on jumps. The hubs come with sealed bearings, and as this isn’t a bike you’d ride in horrible wet and muddy conditions anyways they should last a long time. The Maxxis DTH tires provide the cushioning and grip.
The saddle / seat post combo is a sleek looking Velo Pivotal post with a Transition DJ saddle. The handlebar and stem combo is from Spank finished off with some Velo single clamp grips. To get you moving, the KMC K1 Wide chain handles the power transfer from a 25T chainring to the 12T cog. Cranks are a set of steel Samox BMX cranks. The bike comes without pedals.

The ride

The roomy top tube is a game changer, especially for tall riders. It really gives space for moving your body around on jumps and corners. The bike really feels stable in the air and on the ground and the steel frame is nice and forgiving when landing the jumps, but stiff enough to rail a berm at mach speed. The extra space on the front makes for easy X-ups and tabletops. But, as you would expect from a long bike, doing tricks requires a little more commitment than usual. The XL version tested also has 400mm chain stays, which make the bike harder to manual. The other sizes available have a shorter 388mm CS, so this is mainly a thing on the XL. Once you get used to the ride however you’ll be battling it out with Wynn Masters on Manual Monday in no time.
Braking isn’t really a thing on a dirt bike unless you chicken out on a line, but the Sram Level brake gets the job done. It comes equipped with a rear brake only, and unless you take the bike to places it’s not meant to go, the 160mm disc does a fine job of slowing you down.
The Maxxis tires have a low rolling resistance and plenty of grip on the Velosolutions tarmac. Out on the dirt they can be a bit sketchy, but what else would you expect with a tread pattern like that? The Pike forks are easy to set up, and really smoothen out the ride. As they’re air forks, you can easily add pressure if you want a stiffer ride, or even lock them out completely with the compression adjust.
One thing we couldn’t get used to were the grips. They are thin, and made of hard plastic like rubber. Although this is great for toughening up your hands, they’re far from comfortable. Still this is an easy fix.

The verdict

The PBJ is a sleek looking fun machine for a fair price. Frame quality and parts spec are great, and will definitely last you a long time. Other than swapping out the grips for something more comfy, there’s nothing we would change on the bike. If full on dirt jumping and tricks are your cup of tea, you might want to have a good look at the geometry before ordering. If you’re a taller rider who loves lapping the pumptrack and sessioning dirt jumps the PBJ is definitely the ride for you.

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This review was in Issue 64 of IMB.

For more information visit Transition Bikes

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By Jarno Hoogland
Jarno's life has revolved around two wheels ever since he swung a leg over his first BMX at age 4. After a BMX and DH racing career, he moved on to work for bike shops, distributors and brands before ending up in the editors seat at IMB. Based in the ultimate testing ground in the Swiss mountains, he runs his guiding operation and makes sure every IMB issue is filled with top notch content.

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