Dirt Jump Performance
I look for park bikes that are snappy, stiff, and nimble. They need to be easy to move around in the air and easy to control in the split-second transitions between jumps. The ToP is nimble enough to toss around like a doll, yet surprisingly stable when lofted over big doubles. Compared to my old Trek, which was sluggish and needed to be muscled around, the ToP responds to rider input almost immediately. Its short wheelbase combined with a slightly taller front end make for fast reactions, perfectly suited for pinner lines and pump tracks. For tight, quick slashes, the ToP’s stiff frame delivers serious power. The bike rails tight berms, so much so that you may find yourself dragging the 32” bars.
What really surprised me is how balanced the bike feels when booted over larger double sets. It quickly became apparent dirt jumping is the highlight of the ToP. It doesn’t take much body English to put the ToP where you want it. In other words, the ToP reacts with minimal input. The low-slung top tube provides ample room for those who can style the bike sideways, and the steel frame absorbs sharp impacts and flat landings much better than my old aluminum Trek. It may weigh a bit more, but steel is where it’s at if you want a dedicated dirt jump / park bike.
In skate parks, I found that the ToP also inspired creativity. For small-town Idaho, the McCall skate park is pretty rad, and has a bowl section and a street section with some interesting transfer lines. Bowl-to-bowl transfers with steep lips tended to be a bit sketchy, having to force the bike up and over in sort of a jerky motion. (Again, hard to get that tall front end down after a vertical takeoff.)
Hip transfers are a blast on the ToP, and even undershot landings can be salvaged thanks to the stout frame and fork.
Manuals are where the stack height and wide bars come in handy. Pop out of a bowl and into a manual, and the ToP will stay there as long as you’d like. I especially liked the way the ToP can initiate a manual with almost no speed, a good trait of the tall front end.
Not exactly the sexiest features, but details that don’t go unnoticed are the flush mounted seat bolt and tucked away cable routings. The cable routing keeps the rear brake hose under the top tube, protecting it from flying body parts during tailwhips or barspins, and the flush mounted seat bolt (as opposed to a seat clamp that sticks out) will never catch on your pants—or worse, your shin. It’s apparent that the folks at Transition ride and build their bikes by thinking about the particulars that matter to riders who want to progress their skills.
Components-wise, the Trail-or-Park is equipped with parts you’ll never have to worry about replacing (unless you forget to throw a strap over your bike on the drive to Whistler). Transition spec’d the ride with every in-house component they make, including their Revolution 32 wheelset. I had seen these things around but never had a chance to ride them. First impressions: the freehub is loud, which is annoying to me, but maybe not to others. No need to yell “dropping” at the park, just back your cranks a few times and everyone will get the picture…
The Rev 32s have so far held up to all the abuse I’ve thrown at ‘em: bailed tailwhips, under rotated 360s, cased landings…. After two months, the tension feels good and the hoops are still true. Frankly, the only thing that’s come loose on this bike in the last two months has been the drive-side pedal.
Suspension forks for jump bikes really just need to absorb the massive forces associated with takeoff and landing. The Argyle RC 100 does a great job of that and, with 32mm legs and a Maxle Light 20mm thru-axle, is stiff and tracks through corners like a laser. I’ve been running the fork with the stock spring, rebound about two full turns slow, and compression five out of seven click deep. Rather stiff and fast, I admit, but this setting feels just right for pop and large impacts.
About the KORE Torsion 32” bars: These are the widest bars I’ve ever ridden, and despite my initial skepticism, I have grown to love them. Like I mentioned above, almost all my bikes (minus the cyclocross commuter) have 30” low-rise bars bolted on to shorter-than-average stems. Ever since the Deity Dirty Thirties came out, I’ve put a pair on each bike I own and never looked back. The Torsions make the Thirty’s feel like bus-dodgers your local mustache-toting hipster has on his ironically mismatched fixie.
The leverage you can generate with 32 inches is immense, something that might account for the instant-reaction feeling when jumping. On the down side, 32” is a lot of space to clear when bar-spinning, and I’ve found that when throwing tables or un-turns, I would hook the bar end into my shirt, resulting in a scare or two and several bails. I’m still riding the full 32” width, considered cutting them down to 31”, but will probably stick with the full-on girth for now.
All the other Transition branded parts are well built, and I don’t doubt they will hold up. The cranks are burly, pedals feel solid, stem is well machined, and the grips are comfortable. The Kenda Small Block Eights are fairly well suited for dual duty dirt / concrete, with their small tightly-packed square knobbies and round profile. I found them grippy enough on concrete not to slide around like most knobbies would, and, when pumped to about 50 psi, very resilient to pinch flats, even on metal coping.
The only thing I would change about this bike is the seat. For some reason Transition put a slim XC looking saddle on this bike, when an over-padded couch is preferred—especially if you plan on pinching it with your knees for any no-handed tricks.
The only other consideration that comes to mind is the 30.0mm seatpost, an odd and somewhat rare size that, if needed to be replaced, could leave you searching somewhat hard to find a replacement. Not like it matters much—seatposts on bikes like this are about as useful as screen doors on submarines.
After eight proven years, Transition has two new dirt jump / park bikes in the works to replace the Trail-or-Park for their 2013 line-up. More up-to-date angles can be expected, such as shorter chainstays and a taller BB height. Look for the PBnJ (Pumps Bumbs ‘n Jumps) to drop soon, along with an un-named mystery machine that’s got me all kinds of curious.
If you’re in the market for a do-it-all jump / park / pump track bike, definitely consider the Transition Trail-or-Park. It does exactly what it is designed for: schralping dirt jumps and skate park features. It is sleek and smartly designed for riders wanting to progress their arsenal of tricks. If the taller front end turns you off, you can always toss a travel spacer in the fork and change to a 0-degree stem. The short wheelbase allows for endless manuals and flickability in the air, while the 22.5” top tube and wide bars keep things stable in between lips and on the pump track.