A dirt jump bike should be part of every mountain biker’s quiver. It will provide endless fun for riders of every skill level and will mix up the standard afternoon trail ride. While it’s easy to be intimidated by the “dirt jumping” name and extreme photos that often represent it, the bikes designed for jumping are some of the most versatile mountain bikes out there. Simply cruising around an empty parking lot can provide hours of entertainment for avid riders, as well as those who are completely new to two wheels. Try to manual across one parking spot, then two, then three and so forth. It’s easy to be consumed by the simplicity of the experience, as the bike is passed around among a group of buddies for a friendly manual competition.
There are currently a number of bike parks and pump tracks being built from coast to coast. Near every town, a group of driven riders has built a pump track of some sort or they are in the process of making it happen. We’re seeing pump tracks and skills courses popping up all over the place here in Southern California, and areas that don’t yet have one have created Kickstarter campaigns in hopes of collecting the necessary funds. If your area doesn’t currently have a bike park for multiple skill levels, we strongly recommend you try to find out if there are any groups pushing to get one. There’s a good chance you’ll be in luck.
Pump tracks provide exercise that can be enjoyed by everybody, from Little Sally to Grandpa Fred, at his or her own pace. Pumping from one corner to the next, riders can build their skills by increasing their speed, leaning lower in corners, manualing between bumps or even gapping them once they’ve become a master of the track. Pump tracks are rarely a standalone feature and are usually accompanied by some sort of jump line. Proper builds provide a line of small rollers that are lined up next to larger jumps that progressively require more skill. Roller lines span out next to small tabletops, which progress to tabletops with lips, followed by smaller doubles and eventually true dirt jumps with vertical lips.
While the ride quality of a trailbike is highly dependent on the components the bike is spec’d with, dirt jump bikes are far less finicky. Having a simplistic brake setup without rear suspension or any shifting components, dirt jumpers are about as bare bones as bikes come. Therefore, they have no problem surviving over a decade of use and can often be found on used, for-sale websites, like Craigslist, in the $200–$400 range. If you’re not very knowledgeable about the mechanics of a bicycle, we suggest you have a local bike shop look over anything you’re thinking about buying. It’s a no-brainer to have a dirt jumper on hand, considering its affordability. We also have groups of friends who have all pitched in for a single dirt jumper because riding pump tracks and jumps is so exhausting that each rider is usually ready to take a break as soon as the next one is itching to pump some berms.
Moto-inspired whip: With a background in motocross and BMX dirt jumping, our test rider felt at home with the Transition BLT completely perpendicular to the landing. We should probably mention he’s also a Cat 1/Pro cross-country racer. The BLT is built for a rider of any style.
With all that in mind, used bikes have to start somewhere. Transition sent us its BLT (Banks, Lips and Transfers) bike to check out one local pump track after the next. It left us with an even greater appreciation for the massive amount of effort builders put into creating their own rendition of the perfect bike park. Our style and technique would improve each time we hit the park, while our dirty jeans, wide smile and incredibly sore upper body were dead giveaways of a good time had.
ALL THE DETAILS
The Transition BLT is designed for those who like to be playful atop their steel steeds. Its steep, 70-degree head tube angle and short, 15.3-inch chainstays make it easy to throw around and nimble from one lip to the next. For those constantly looking to grow their bag of tricks, it has the tightest geometry of any bike Transition produces. Even SRAM’s entry-level hydraulic DB1 disc brake has more than enough power to bring the BLT to a halt at the end of a jump line or after laps on a pump track. The creak of a Press-Fit bottom bracket would be unbearable on a frame that sees as much strain as a dirt jumper. Therefore, Transition stuck with a much-appreciated, 73-millimeter threaded bottom bracket shell. Slipped wheels were a daily occurrence in the horizontal dropouts of our childhood jump bikes, but the BLT combats this using tapered dropouts that essentially lock the axle into place. The 0 millimeters of bottom bracket drop was our favorite aspect of the geometry, as it enabled us to pull up a wheelie with ease and practice keeping it up through sections of bumps.
ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS
While 100 millimeters of fork travel is certainly more common on dirt jumpers from other manufacturers, Transition decided to slap an 80-millimeter-travel RockShox Argyle RC on the front of the bike. Photos of riders launching high into the air may make you wonder why a shorter amount of travel would be beneficial, but that’s simply coming from a traditional mountain biking train of thought. Dirt jumps and pump tracks have baby-smooth surfaces and transitions that are forgiving. Unless a rider charges into a jump with far too much speed and lands in the flat, 80 millimeters of travel is more than sufficient to provide control and support. We loved how the Argyle RC fork simply required us to set our desired rebound and then forget about it.
Schwalbe really hit the nail on the head with its Table Top tires. They delivered plenty of high-speed rolling ability and had a tread pattern that provided ample traction on the grit-over-hardpack surfaces that make up the bike parks in our area. Whether connecting with a landing a little off-kilter or leaning low into a pump-track berm, the Table Top tires kept us hooked up and able to focus on the next obstacle in our path. Pumping them up to 40 psi provided a smooth ride that enabled us to trust our traction and throw our weight around without worrying about sliding out.
ALL THE SUGGESTIONS
The awkward angles of the Kore Rivera handlebar were immediately apparent from the moment we jumped on the bike. With 10 degrees of backsweep and 2 degrees of upsweep, one of our testers even mentioned the OE handlebar making the BLT feel like a “dirt-jump cruiser.” Add the 65 millimeters of handlebar rise and the handlebar left us feeling wobbly and unstable throughout our testing. While handlebar-rise preferences are very subjective, and some riders may enjoy the massive amount of rise in the stock bars, we still suggest upgrading to a bar with 50 millimeters of rise or less, as well as a maximum backsweep angle of 5 degrees. We’d eventually want to upgrade the crankset to one that provides a more solid contact point with our feet, but it certainly didn’t detract from our riding experience during testing.
In the end, our suggested upgrades are easy to achieve and may even be included in the price when purchasing from a bike shop. Even with one test rider at 6 feet tall with a long torso, the size-large felt stretched out and left him positive the 1-inch-shorter reach of the small would have been more suited to his riding style. We suggest the Transition BLT for the rider who enjoys riding in style on each and every one of his or her bikes but doesn’t necessarily want to shell out $2000 or more for a comparable bike from other manufacturers. Want to build one up yourself? The frame set can be purchased separately for a small fee of $400.
Colors: You have your choice of Rooster Red or Cold Steel.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION:
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345. Available from the Apple Newsstand for reading on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
Contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org