This Transition Sentinel vs Spire showdown is pretty similar to choosing a favorite between Cool Ranch and Nacho Cheese Doritos. They’re both fantastic and make you happy, but one turns your fingers orange, and the other doesn’t — that’s where my analogy falls apart a bit. The Sentinel has been a long-time favorite of mine, and I’ve recently been able to spend some quality time on the Spire, so it’s about damn time we do a Transition Sentinel vs. Spire showdown. Stick around to see which one is better for you.
I’m not going to spend too much time covering the specifics of each bike. We’ve already done that in the review videos. If you haven’t seen those yet, give them a watch and come back to this one.
Transition has a bit of a reputation for making a big, slack bike feel more lively and fun than it should. They make some of the slackest bikes per category, but once you throw a leg over one, you’ll quickly realize that they aren’t as unwieldy as they may appear on paper. I think it comes down to how they tune the suspension on their Giddy Up design. It’s soft off the top for traction with plenty of progression for good pumping support and bottom-out control. They are progressive enough for both coil and air shock options, but I generally prefer the air shock to keep the lively nature of the bike intact. I’ve tested a couple of coil options on Transition bikes, and I’ve generally felt that they lose a bit of their zest. To each their own, though. Some folks could be better off with a coil shock.
The Transition Sentinel is an ultra-slack all-mountain 29er with 150mm of rear-wheel travel. It has a 63.6-degree head tube angle making it one of the slackest bikes in the category. I’ve always described it as the bike that’s burly enough for anything you would ever want to ride without ever feeling too bulky. It’s aggressive when you want it to be without feeling slow and dead on easier terrain. Perfect combo if you ask me.
The Transition Spire is the Sentinel’s big brother. It’s longer, slacker, and packs a big punch with 170mm of travel front and back. It’s the slackest bike I’ve ever ridden at 63-62.5 degrees. It climbs better than it has business doing, especially on open climbs and fire roads. It’s about as smooth and stable as a bike can get in rough terrain. It craves steep and rugged descents. It feels exactly how you’d picture a 170mm bike feeling — plush and confident.
Transition Sentinel VS Transition Spire Uphill Comparison
Both of these bikes have a similar feel on the uphills. They strike a good balance between traction and efficiency. Neither one is a rocket ship on the climbs, but they hold their own in their respective categories. They’re the kind of bikes you can spend all day climbing on as long as you aren’t expecting XC bike efficiency and speed. They don’t call attention to themselves much on the uphills. Instead, they get the job done without any fuss. The most significant difference between them comes down to overall size, with the Spire needing more room to corner and maneuver.
The Spire doesn’t feel much slower than the Sentinel in terms of efficiency. The suspension and pedal platforms feel very similar between the two. Both bikes do an excellent job of providing traction on steep pitches and over rocks and roots. They also smooth out bumps and trail chatter very well. This makes them good technical climbers as long as the corners aren’t too tight — more on that later. Neither one is particularly quick to accelerate or ultra-snappy, but they perform as well as or better than most bikes in their respective categories.
The Spire weighs a little more due to the bigger, burlier component spec, but I wouldn’t say it slows it down too much. The Spire’s frame is heavier as well, adding around .5lb to its total weight. I didn’t find the Spire to be noticeably heavier than the Sentinel. Although, I did run my Sentinel with a Zeb Ultimate, which brought the overall weights closer.
Overall, the Sentinel does climb better, mostly due to the head tube angle not being as slack or the wheelbase as long. The significantly smaller wheelbase goes a long way in keeping the bike more manageable in tight, technical terrain. The front wheel wanders less and is easier to keep weighted. Both bikes have a similar fit and feel while seated. The Spire’s reach is longer, but its seat tube angle is steeper, keeping the seated position similar. Both bikes feel fairly balanced front to back as neither one has a particularly short chainstay length. The longer chainstays make it easier to keep both wheels weighted properly, whether the trail is steep or flat.
Transition Sentinel VS Transition Spire Downhill Comparison
Like on the climbs, the most significant difference between these bikes is the size. They have similar feeling suspension designs, similar ride qualities, and similar intended applications, but the Spire’s bigger size makes it much more stable when things get rough. On the other hand, the Sentinel’s smaller size makes it more well-rounded and lively.
I’d argue that most other bikes with this geometry this aggressive aren’t nearly as lively and fun as these two. The suspension design keeps both of these bikes feeling playful on the trail. The soft initial stroke is a common theme between them. They both have a very quiet and composed ride quality to them. Where they start to differ is in the midstroke. The Sentinel gives you a little more return on your investment when pumping and jumping. It’s easier to get airborne and better for pumping and cornering. The Spire, however, feels more bottomless on bigger hits and compressions. It handles rough terrain with more composure, partly due to the suspension and partly due to the geometry.
The Spire’s geometry is up there with the slackest and longest bikes. It can be a double-edged sword at times. It’s smooth and stable in the roughest terrain, but on slower speed trails, the length becomes apparent. The Spire isn’t the best for maneuvering in tight and twisty terrain, especially at slow speeds. That’s where the Sentinel does a better job. Because it isn’t as slack and long, it doesn’t become as unwieldy or sluggish on flatter trails. The Sentinel finds that sweet spot for me in the corners. It’s long enough to not feel squirrely, especially in bumpy corners, but not so long it’s tough to get it around a bend.
I think that both bikes will cover your butt even in the nastiest terrain around. The big difference will be in the speeds the bike will allow you to go. Obviously, the Spire will allow you to ride faster, take more aggressive lines, and have less regard for human safety. The Sentinel is no slouch, though. It will still handle that style of terrain and riding — you’ll just have to bring your A-game.
Who is the Sentinel For?
The Sentinel shines just about anywhere on the mountain. It’s an all-mountain bike, so that would make a lot of sense. It’s an excellent, well-rounded option, especially for folks riding a little more aggressively. It doesn’t require a heavy hand at all times to be fun, though. It’s happy enough to cruise on easier trails from time to time.
I’d recommend it to anyone who rides for the descents, even if they still do their fair share of climbing. The bike obviously leans more toward descending than it does climbing, so if you fall in that camp as well, this is going to be the bike for you.
Who is the Spire for?
The Spire picks up where the Sentinel leaves off. It’s for the absolute shredders. If you’re the kind of rider who not only makes their way down the most challenging trails around but is looking to ride them faster and better, the Spire is going to be your bike. It allows for a new level of aggressive riding. It’s not a one-trick pony, however. I’d argue that it climbs better than any other bike that can hang with it on the descents. It isn’t just a pure plow bike, either. It has the same engaging ride quality that has made Transition bikes so popular.
I’d recommend the Spire to the folks who rarely ride mellow trails. It’s for riders who enjoy steep, loose, rough, and rugged terrain on a daily basis.
That’s going to wrap this thing up. Both bikes are “Transition” to the core and are designed for having a blast on the trail. As always, feel free to hit us up if you have any questions. Thanks for sticking around.