From suspension platforms to component specs, parity is rampant in mountain biking. Therefore, to stand out in the crowd brands seek to set themselves apart with bike geometry. Which, although isn't often obvious to a casual rider's eye, reveals itself where it matters—handling and ride quality. Horst-link suspension bikes utilizing a rocker link to drive the shock aren't novel, yet Transition's rendition incorporates what they refer to as Speed Balanced Geometry. Their 'SBG' offers a slacker headtube angle and reduced offset fork along with a steeper seat-tube angle for more central rider weight distribution, which claims to result in more stability at speed, plus the omnipresent marketing propaganda phrase 'confidence-inspiring' performance. Mumbo jumbo aside, Transition's 29er trail bike offering, the Smuggler, applies their geometry principles to this versatile category.
Diving into the aluminum-framed Smuggler's details, it has 120 millimeters of rear-wheel travel mated with a 140-millimeter travel fork. It is offered in three complete builds ranging from $3,000 to $5,000, plus a frame and shock only option for $2,000. Our $4,000 GX model test bike features Fox's 34 Grip Performance line fork and DPS Performance Elite shock, plus SRAM's GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain. Additional SRAM components include the RockShox Reverb dropper post and Guide R brakes. Other notable componentry includes e*thirteen's TRS rims and Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II tires.
While this makes for a sturdy build, it's hidden by crisp handling and dialed suspension performance. For being on the hefty side of trail bikes, the Smuggler is a stable climber with excellent traction on technical singletrack and little unwanted suspension movement. On rough singletrack climbs, running the Fox shock in the open setting improved rear-wheel traction, however on smooth ascents employing the shock's pedal mode lever propelled the bike forward with noticeably improved efficiency. Rather than feeling sluggish, the Smuggler rides like a quality bike that's built to last, and with proper service will be running strong several years down the road.
Transition trail bikes have become known for their aggressive, descending-oriented handling and the Smuggler rings true in that regard. Simply get the Smuggler up to speed and it charges through rough terrain with the stability and ease of a bike with considerably more travel.
Riders who aren't hung up on a bike's weight, yet are looking for a versatile trail bike that's stable, durable, balanced and tuned to be ridden aggressively, the Smuggler is the real deal.
Q&A with Lars Sternberg, marketing for Transition Bikes
As you can see in the write-up, a lot of us enjoyed riding the bike during the Bible sessions. Who does Transition see this being the perfect bike for?
The Smuggler is the bike in our line which most riders with a cross-country background might gravitate towards. However, the aluminum frame construction and durability is on par with the rest of our Giddy Up V2 lineup, so it feels more capable than a typical 120-millimeter-travel 29er. That said, it is a favorite of our riders and customers who like to ride aggressive, double-black trails, but also like to add extra bonus mileage and link multiple runs together. The perfect Smuggler customer is one who enjoys being out on the bike longer than most, appreciates the peppy nature of the shorter travel suspension, and doesn’t want to carry around extra travel while sampling a mixture of trails.
The trail and all-mountain categories continue to converge on one another. How does Transition see the Smuggler fitting into the scene given today's current terminology?
This is a great question. We don’t like to categorize our bikes by wheel size, suspension travel, or geometry. We feel we really have two bikes in our line; a shorter-travel trail bike, and a longer-travel trail bike. Both with 27.5-inch and 29-inch wheel-size options. The travel and geometry is adjusted slightly between them to account for the wheel size differences. This optimizes ride feel and fun factor. We have lifelong downhill riders and racers who prefer the shorter travel options, yet more trail and XC-oriented riders who like the longer-travel options. We don’t want to classify a bike to position it toward a certain type of customer. We’d rather make them all perform in a manner that works for everyone.
How does Transition tune their suspension design to achieve a unique ride quality to differentiate it from visually similar rocker-link and Horst-link pivot bikes, which might not be obvious to a consumer?
Simple—for fun. We’ve had a long history of single-pivot suspension design, which is easy to tune, has good ramp, and was fun to ride. When designing and perfecting our Giddy Up suspension kinematics, we wanted to maintain this same ride feel, while improving performance. We didn’t want to over-engineer the system with anything it didn’t need. When we ride we want our bikes to be able to handle anything, and make you smile in the process. We love all aspects of riding and we don’t want to have to flip levers or make adjustments in between. So we craft a suspension tune that is capable of providing a fun experience throughout.
Anything Transition would like to add in regard to the Smuggler?
Don’t be fooled by the suspension travel or geometry. It’s easy to pigeonhole a bike by its numbers, so I’d highly recommend anyone entertaining a Smuggler as their next bike, to get out and ride one before picking one of its longer-travel siblings.