Rider: Chris Muntz
2018 Santa Cruz Hightower LT
2018 Specialized Enduro 29 Ohlins Coil Edition
Yeti SB 5.5
Built like a tank. It's SLACK. While sitting on the bike the reach feels deceptively short due to the steep seat tube angle.
The Transition Sentinel is not the most efficient climber; the bike’s weight and intended use are quickly revealed on the climbs. Thirty-five pounds and Horst link suspension is not a recipe for XC wins. The seat tube angle and climb mode on the shock make the bike completely manageable on the climbs as long as you aren't in a hurry/race to get to the top.
Once the gradient points back in the fun direction, the first thing you notice is the bike’s willingness to initiate a turn. As soon as you drop your shoulder into the turn the bike immediately follows. This caught me off guard initially, and I was hesitant to commit at the level the bike was trying to. The second thing I noticed is the bike holds a crazy amount of speed. I overshot a jump that I've hit quite a few times due to this, and it was a pretty wild ride after. If it wasn't for the wheelbase and head angle of the Sentinel, it may have been a bad ending to the first outing. As the trail continued, I got used to how the bike cornered, and could tell I was riding something that I was going to really get along with. However, there were a few changes I needed to make first.
The first thing I changed was the set of TRP brakes. The bike came with 180mm rotors and there was straight up not enough power for my liking. They were changed for a set of Sram Code RSCs with 200mm rotors, which I like better for my application.
As far as the shock pressure, Transition is pretty far off the mark with their sag recommendations for more aggressive riding. They suggest 18-20mm of sag, so I started at 19mm. It bottomed violently multiple times on my normal trails and also felt like it got hung up in the rough sections. I went up 20 psi in the shock and it made the rear of bike hold up in the turns and stay on top of the bumps better than the previous setting. My sag is now 16-17mm. After these changes, I've never had such a stable ride from a bike. It also goes without saying it helped the climbing performance, too.
The Sentinel offers some of the most fun I've ever had on a bicycle. The turning is very intuitive once you adapt to the quicker feeling from the shorter fork offset. This bike can hit any line you choose, inside or out. I have ridden trails with awkward tight switchbacks and others with 25mph wide open corners. While not the ideal choice for super tight and awkward trails, the bike really held its own in them. The main limiting factor in these areas is skill. The bike was absolutely not holding me back. As long as you're willing to set up, lean in, and commit, the Sentinel will get you through it.
On faster trails, the bike really showcases its descending abilities. I believe that the head angle and fork offset really fight the deflection you normally get in fast rocky corners and allows a more consistent amount of positive front-end feedback. I have never hit corners as hard and fast as I have on this bike. During hard braking, there isn't any noticeable fore/aft deflection. In previous tests on different bikes, I found the Lyrik to be the least stiff fork of its competition. However, it seems to feel stiffer than it normally does in this head angle/offset configuration. The straight-line stability is the best I've ever experienced. This should be expected with the Sentinel being a beast at 34 pounds, with a 64-degree head angle, very long wheelbase, and the stiffest frame I have ever ridden.
The rear suspension performance is very good, not just for the 140mm travel bracket, but for any bike in the enduro/trail category. It's not as plush as the Ohlins Enduro 29 but it's close. The Sentinel is also significantly plusher than the Santa Cruz Hightower LT and Yeti SB 5.5. Stand up sprinting the bike is surprising. It isn’t quite as good as the Hightower LT or the SB 5.5, but close enough and much more efficient than the Enduro 29.
I ride with some people that could beat me downhill on a hardtail. I ride with some people I could beat downhill on a hardtail. No bike will take you from zero to hero, and no bike will take you from hero to zero. That being said, you need to ride what you enjoy, and what inspires you to ride. This is the most fun I've had on a bike in a long time and I can't quite put my finger on exactly what exact attribute is causing that, but it doesn't really matter. So I'm going to keep riding it, because it's fun!