When considering a new mountain bike, there are so many similar-looking bikes on the market being made by so many different companies, it is virtually impossible to (1) know where to begin; (2) quickly figure out which one or two products from a given brand might work well for you; and (3) determine what products from other brands might be the most similar and also worth considering.
So in our new “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand; highlight how each product stands out from the rest of that brand’s lineup; and help you figure out quickly and easily which bike might work best for you.
In our individual product reviews, we go very deep into the details of particular products. With these Brand Guides, the goal is not Depth, but Breadth. Our Brand Guides and full reviews are designed to complement each other — provide a broad overview of entire company lineups, and then also very detailed reviews of individual products.
Our mountain bike Brand Guides are presented by CBGTrails. Learn more and start planning your trip today at cbgtrails.com, then download the CBG Trails app for info on the 750+ miles of singletrack and 150+ trails in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley, Colorado.
Transition was founded in 2001. They were started on the idea of a rider based company that is approachable and open to all sorts of mountain bikers. For the last few years, they have been making their bikes with progressive geometry that is just now becoming widely adopted (i.e., they were ahead of the geometry trends in some cases). They make both alloy and carbon bicycles, and their bikes are all intended for off-road mountain use.
Transition calls their approach to bike geometry “Speed Balanced Geometry” (SBG). On their site, they say, “SBG ensures the bike maintains low speed agility, front wheel traction, and proper rider weight balance while actually increasing confidence in steep terrain and at high speeds.” What this translates to is that, for the most part, their bikes tend to have slack head tube angles, long reach numbers, and reduced fork offsets.
Transition is, well, “transitioning” away from the model-year format of presenting and labeling their bicycle lineup. So while our other brand guides are separated by model year, expect this particular guide to simply have the most up-to-date bikes from Transition.
Transition is currently based in Bellingham, Washington, USA.
Current Warranty (for the original owner)
- Frames released from February 2020 going forward have a lifetime warranty
- 3-year warranty for all other 2018-2020 frames
- “Crash Replacement Policy” (discounted frame parts for non-warranty situations)
- For more information, visit Transition.
Transition’s Suspension Design: GiddyUp and GiddyUp 2.0HH (derived from the classic Horst-Link / four-bar suspension design)
(For more on different suspension designs, see our Suspension 101 article)
Before we get into their specific models and build options, here are some things to keep in mind when deciding on which build level to go with, and why.
First, when looking at complete bikes, suspension and wheels are going to make the biggest difference in how a bike really rides. Spend money on those before other things like higher-end drivetrain parts, cockpit parts (e.g., stem, handlebars, etc.), cranks, etc.
Tires make an enormous difference in performance, but are cheaper and easier to upgrade, especially since they tend to wear down quicker than other components. Upgrading a lower-end front tire to something better — and saving the original for rear-tire use — can be a good way to improve a bike while still making use of the originals, since front tires are generally a lot more important than rear tires when it comes to traction.
Drivetrain parts can be upgraded piecemeal as they wear out, or if you just want to upgrade down the line. Higher-end cassettes are mostly just lighter, while higher-end shifters and derailleurs get lighter, smoother, and sometimes last a bit longer as you go up in price.
We’ll outline here the different models in Ibis’s MTB lineup, organized from most cross-country-oriented (XC) to downhill-oriented (DH). In other words, the bikes at the top of the list are optimized to pedal and climb uphill very well, while the bikes at the bottom are optimized to handle very rough, steep, and challenging descents very well.
We’ve included some notable information for each model:
Available build kits & their MSRP
- Best Budget Build: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people trying to spend the least amount without ending up with a build that’s going to immediately break or need to be upgraded.
- Most Performance for the Price: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people seeking the best balance of performance and cost. I.e., if you don’t need to get the cheapest bike, but you also don’t need the absolute lightest bike or all the newest bling, this is the build we think makes sense for you.
- Suspension travel (e.g., 100 mm of travel, 130 mm of travel, etc.)
- Wheel size (e.g., 27.5”, 27.5+, 29”)
- Frame material options (e.g., alloy vs. carbon)
- A brief description of what the bike was designed for and any notable design details.
- Some of the bike’s most direct competitors from other brands
- Which Transition bike it’s most similar to
- Reasons why you should buy it
- Reasons why you should not buy it
Transition Mountain Bikes
(Most Cross-Country-Oriented to Most Downhill-Oriented)
Transition’s shortest-travel adult bike, the Smuggler is a nimble, mid-travel bike that is more capable on the descent than its travel might suggest.
Don’t Bother If:
- NX: $3,999 – Best Budget Build
- GX: $4,999
- XO1: $5,999 – Most Performance for the Price
- Frameset: $2,999
- Santa Cruz Tallboy / Juliana Joplin
- Trek Fuel EX
- Giant Trance 29
- Kona Process 134 29
- Nukeproof Reactor 290
- Ibis Ripley
- YT Izzo
- Norco Optic
- Devinci Django 29
- Evil The Following MB
Transition’s best Quiver Killer. Updated in February 2020, this bike was designed to be the “most fun” bike in Transition’s lineup. Compared to many 140mm-travel bikes, the Scout has very progressive geometry (slack head tube angle, steep seat tube angle, long reach). This bike can accept a longer-stroke shock to bump up the rear travel to 150 mm. More like the Sentinel than the Smuggler.
Don’t Bother If:
Released in late April 2020, the new Sentinel has slightly more travel than the first iteration along with other small changes vs. the previous version. This bike could be converted to 140 mm of rear travel by using a shock with reduced stroke length. More like the Scout than the Patrol.
Don’t Bother If:
Transition calls the Patrol “our most versatile and popular bike in our lineup.” This bike is designed very much with the descent in mind, while still being able to pedal to the top. The Patrol is a bit more freeride-oriented than the Sentinel. The Patrol is outfitted with a coil rear shock on every model. More like the Sentinel than the TR11.
Don’t Bother If:
- NX Alloy: $3,399 – Best Budget Build
- GX Alloy: $4,399
- GX Carbon: $4,999
- XO1 Carbon: $6,199 – Most Performance for the Price
- Alloy Frameset: $1,999
- Carbon Frameset: $3,199
- Santa Cruz Nomad
- Yeti SB165
- Giant Reign
- Commencal Clash
- Rocky Mountain Slayer 27.5”
- Intense Tracer
- Nukeproof Mega 275
- Ibis Mojo HD5
- Devinci Spartan 27
Transition’s DH bike, designed for lapping the bike park and racing DH. This bike features Transition’s proprietary reach adjust headset, which allows riders to fine-tune the TR11’s reach length by +/- 5 mm.
Don’t Bother If:
- GX: $5,299 – Best Budget Build
- XO1: $7,299 – Most Performance for the Price
- Frameset: $3,299
- Specialized Demo 8
- Santa Cruz V10 27.5”
- Pivot Phoenix
- Trek Session 27.5
- Commencal Furious
- Kona Operator 27.5”
- Intense M16
- Nukeproof Dissent 275
- YT Tues 27
- Norco Aurum
- Devinci Wilson 27
- Mondraker Summum