2016 Transition Smuggler 1

Bike: 2016 Transition Smuggler 1

Size Tested: Medium

Build Overview:

  • Drivetrain: Sram X01 / XX1
  • Brakes: Sram Guide RSC
  • Wheels: Easton ARC 27
  • Fork: Fox 34 Factory
  • Rear Shock: Rockshox Monarch RT3

Wheels: 29′′

Travel: 130mm Front / 115mm Rear

Blister’s Measured Weight: 28.6 lbs (13 kg) without pedals

Reviewer: 5’9”, 155 lbs.

Test Location: Boulder City, Nevada

MSRP: $5,999 as built

Noah Bodman reviews the 2016 Transition Smuggler 1 for Blister Gear Review.
2016 Transition Smuggler 1.

[Editor’s Note: We first looked at the Transition Smuggler in our coverage of Interbike 2015.  Now that bikes are starting to hit showroom floors, we’re taking a look back at everything we rode.]


Interbike’s outdoor demo is located at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City, Nevada. It’s a fantastic network of trails, and it’s a great escape from America’s neon bunghole (Las Vegas). The trails we spent most of our time on were relatively fast, with a fair amount of sand and some pretty rocky sections.

Having said that…

Riding bikes at a demo is always kind of tricky. For starters, we’re unable to get as much time on each bike as we like–our test durations are measured in minutes and hours, not our preferred time frame of weeks and months. One good ride can tell you a lot about how a bike handles, but it certainly doesn’t allow for the customary, in-depth, Blister analysis.

Demo days also don’t generally permit the time needed to get each bike dialed to our liking. A quick suspension setup and fiddling with the bike’s ergonomics gets it most of the way there, but it’s certainly not dialed. We also take the bike as we get it, so things like bar width and tire selection may not be optimal.

So while we believe it’s important to be upfront about the limitations of reviewing bikes in such settings, there is also merit in riding a slew of bikes, back to back, on the same trails. Subtle differences that might not become apparent if our test rides happen weeks or months apart are able to come to light, and each bike’s attributes may be more easily identified.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the Transition Smuggler


The Smuggler was high on the list of bikes I wanted to ride at Interbike this year; I’ve been spending a lot of time on Evil’s The Following, and I wanted to get a comparison between the two. Like The Following, the Smuggler falls in with a few other aggressive 29ers that feature relatively slack angles and a penchant for pillaging rough trail.

Noah Bodman reviews the 2016 Transition Smuggler 1 for Blister Gear Review.
Noah Bodman on the 2016 Transition Smuggler 1.

Like most of Transition’s trail-oriented bikes, the Smuggler uses the “Giddy Up Link” rear suspension that they debuted last year. It’s a horst link design that bears some basic similarities to a Specialized FSR link. But, like most rear suspension designs, the devil is in the details, and the Transitions ride a bit differently from their Specialized counterparts.

The Smuggler is still only available in aluminum, although with Transition’s recent debut of the Patrol carbon, it’s not a stretch to expect to see a plastic version of the Smuggler in the future.

The Build

The Smuggler that I rode at Interbike was the top of the line build, and as one would expect from such a build, everything worked extremely well and there’s not much extra weight hanging off the frame.

The XX1 / X01 drivetrain is always appreciated, and Transition is nice enough to include a set of RaceFace Next SL cranks, which are plenty stiff and crazy light. Shifting was spot on, so no complaints there.

After a quick adjustment of the air pressure to set sag, the Monarch RT3 rear shock is pretty damn good right out of the gate. It’s not the most tunable rear shock, but it’s my favorite of the straightforward, non-adjustable air cans.

Most of the companies out there seem to be running Pikes for this sort of bike, and the less expensive builds of the Smuggler have Pikes. But for this top of the line build, Transition went with a Fox 34. While the Pike is certainly a very good fork, the 34 seems to have a bit more support through the mid stroke, and it’s a little less inclined to get crushed on hard hits.

The Smuggler was rolling on some Easton ARC 27 wheels, which run on a DT Swiss 350 hub. Like any bike that’s designed to be ridden fast and hard through techy trails, the wider rim is appreciated to give a bit better support for the tires in hard corners. And speaking of tires, Transition specs a Maxxis DHF / DHR II combo, which is pretty tough to argue with.

My only real complaint on the build was the Anvl Forge saddle. Saddles are, of course, a matter of personal preference, but whoever it is that prefers that thing has an ass that’s shaped way differently than mine.

NEXT: Fit and Geometry, The Ride, Etc.

18 comments on “2016 Transition Smuggler 1”

  1. I have been looking at the following all year but can’t quite wrap my head around a 120mm 29er being capable enough to replace my Yeti SB66. Is a “Following” review coming and if not how does it handle say Porcupine Rim, Rockstacker & Jacksons, Horsethief Bench?

    • Yup, a full review on the Following should be up on the site in the next 2 weeks or so. Here’s the executive summary: when it comes to tackling technical and rough trails at speed, it’s the most competent 120mm travel bike I’ve been on. It’s leaps and bounds better than the more “traditional” bikes in this class. Compared to a longer travel bike, it’s a bit less forgiving just due to the shorter travel, but the bigger wheels help make up for that to some extent. And compared to the more traditional bikes, it can be a handful on tighter, slower trails, but that’s entirely manageable.

      I would definitely not hesitate to ride any of the trails you mentioned on the Following. I’d even go further to say that, if I were racing the Whole Enchilada with a choice of any bike out there, The Following would be right near the top of the list (as would the Smuggler, for that matter).

  2. i’ve put about 4 months of steady riding in coastal BC (including the shore and some trails in Whistler) on my Smuggler and i think you are pretty much bang on in your assessment. good (but possibly not great) climber, and a stable yet nimble ride. short stays go a long way on 29ers in particular. with a 140mm fork it’s a bit more capable and confident on trails more suited to ‘enduro’ (there i said it) bikes but can hold it’s own. i generally keep up to most guys where i live on most trails unless we’re doing the steepest rowdiest lines. then i’m held back a bit in the speed dept, and that’s a good thing as far as i’m concerned. the ‘enduro effect’ is getting a lot of my mates injured with max speed obsession down DH lines…

    • I’m definitely envious of your time on the Insurgent. I didn’t get a chance to ride it, but that thing looks super sexy.

  3. Noah, have you spent any time on the new Ripley ls? If so how does it compare with these two? (Following/smuggler)

    • Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to ride either the Ripley or the Ripley LS. The original Ripley seemed much more XC-ish, but the LS definitely looks interesting.

  4. Great review. I have a carbon Specialized Enduro 29, and while it is an amazing bike, I feel it’s just too much bike for the type of riding I do. I’m looking at either the Smuggler or the new SJ 29 as a replacement. Any thoughts?

    • Hey Johnny,

      First, a significant caveat: I haven’t ridden the Stumpjumper 29; I’ve ridden the Stumpy 650b, and I’ve ridden the Enduro 29 so I think I can take a pretty good guess as to where it lands, but take this for whatever it’s worth.

      The two bikes have pretty similar geometries in terms of head tube angle, BB height, and chainstay length. The Smuggler is longer in the front end and has a steeper seat tube angle. That’ll keep your weight a bit father forward both while seated (good for steep climbing) and while descending (good for attacking a descent).

      Both suspension designs are pretty active – they do a great job of absorbing small bumps, but neither are super efficient peddlers. On big hits, I’d say they’re in the same ballpark.

      The Stumpjumper will almost certainly weigh less (although by how much depends on the model / build spec.). The flip side of that is that the Smuggler is definitely a stiffer frame.

      The Smuggler doesn’t have any proprietary stuff on it, which is good when parts eventually need to be replaced. It also uses a threaded BB shell, which means it probably won’t start creaking right away. Both of those points are areas where the Stumpjumper saves weight though.

      Getting around to the point: both are great bikes, and they’re pretty similar. I’d be really surprised if anyone loved one and hated the other. If you’re the kind of person who drifts sideways into rocky corners and/or you’re generally hard on your equipment, I’d go with the Smuggler. If your bikes tend to last you a while and you like to keep the weight down when possible, I’d go with the Stumpy.

      Hope that helps!

      • Thanks for the input Noah. I had a chance to demo a Smuggler this weekend at a Transition demo. A lot of what you said was right on the money. I rode the same trail on my Enduro 29, then on the Smuggler. The Smuggler was definitely “poppier” and a bit more lively. I did notice the lack of travel compared to the Enduro, but it’s not really that fair a comparison. The Enduro eats everything up, and makes me feel like a better rider than I am! But in the end, I think that although a great bike, the Smuggler isn’t what I’m after. I’m not hard on my bikes, nor do I ride excessively hard. From what I’ve read in reviews, the new Stumpy will give me most of what I love about my Enduro, but in a slightly smaller package more suited to my riding style.

        I do agree on the proprietary bits though…that is the one thing that really bugs me about the Specialized. Nut, it’s a trade off for an otherwise outstanding bike.

  5. Been looking at the smuggler. I’ve got a 2013 bandit 29, 120mm rear, with some slack bushings and the addition of a 150mm pike has got me down to a 66deg head angle and man does this thing rally. So much fun in so many places. Long travel pikes have transformed this bike into a beast. I can’t see how the smuggler can be better (although that safety orange for 2016!!! Damn it’ll look better) thanks for the review

  6. Hey there, great review. Just a question. Did you ever ride the Bandit 29 from Transition? I was wondering how that compared to the Smuggler. I’ve got a Bandit 29 and was looking at the Smuggler or shrinking the wheels to a Scout.

    • Hey Ben,

      Unfortunately I never got a chance to ride the Bandit 29. The Smuggler is definitely lower and slacker, so I bet it’ll descend with more confidence than the Bandit. And while this is a bit of a generalization, I also find that Transitions newer bikes (Smuggler / Scout / Patrol) pedal more efficiently than most of the older bikes. I’m not 100% sure that holds true for the Bandit, but I’d say there’s a pretty good chance.

      As for the Scout, I’ll be posting up a mini review of that bike in the next week or two. Executive summary: it’s a killer bike, and of the 120-130mm travel 27.5″ wheeled bikes, it’s maybe the best I’ve ridden (the Santa Cruz 5010 is close though). Compared to the Smuggler, I’d go with the Scout if you want something a little more playful off of jumps and that’s better for slaloming through corners. I’d go with the Smuggler if you’re looking for an all around trail bike that’s great for big, long rides, but is still a ton of fun on descents.

  7. Hi Noah,

    Very good review! How do you see the smuggler for bikepacking adventures? Kind of Colorado, Kokopelli trails? I’m looking for a comfortable bike for the long haul. Other suggestions?

    Many thanks and happy trails!!

    • I think the Smuggler could be decent for bikepacking, but it’s probably not the first full suspension bike I’d pick.

      1) It doesn’t have all of the waterbottle and panier mounts that a more dedicated bikepacking bike would have, so you’ll have to get a bit more creative with attaching bags, and you’ll also likely end up carrying more on your back. But most of the more dedicated bikepacking bikes are hardtails, so maybe that one’s a wash.

      2) The Smuggler is a great all around bike that’s comfortable and efficient enough to be a great option for longer rides. But, primarily due to its slightly slacker geometry, it’s less climbing oriented than something like a Devinci Django 29 or Salsa Horesthief. While the Smuggler is a better descender than either of those bikes, it might be less than ideal on long climbs when loaded down.

      3) The Smuggler can’t take a front derailleur (at least not without some creative jury rigging), so it’s not as easy to get the easier gears you might want for bikepacking. Sram Eagle could assist with that, but it’s expensive and it’s not available as a stock build on the Smuggler.

      So yeah, the Smuggler is a sweet bike, but if you’re looking for something for bikepacking, I’d probably look elsewhere. For something roughly comparable to the Smuggler in terms of travel, I’d probably put the Salsa Horsethief at the top of my list – the geometry is a little more climbing friendly and it can take a front derailleur, but it’s still fun on the way down.

  8. Thanks a lot Noah, I appreciate your comments!
    Truth is even though we can demo some bikes, it is hard for people like me to try all these bikes, so comments and feelings that you might have are very appreciated.
    I will take a look at the Devinci and Salsa. Keep testing and telling more about bikes, great job that you’re doing. Thanks again and happy trails!


  9. Any thoughts on the Smuggler vs. a Kona Process 111? I had an opportunity to ride a 2015 Process 111 a few weeks back and thought it was brilliant. I haven’t ridden a Smuggler yet, but both bikes are on my short list. I’d certainly need to size up to a large in the Process 111. I’m 5’10” and the medium felt cramped.

Leave a Comment