The Transition Smuggler lands itself smack dab in the middle of just about everything. It’s one of those do-it-all bikes with a Transition flare. It’s relatively lightweight, climbs quickly, and certainly packs a punch on the descents. I’ve got a lot of praise and a minor gripe or two. So stick around to see if the new Smuggler is the bike for you.

Transition Smuggler Geometry and Details

I hesitate to use the word “compromise” because most people are going to have some negative emotions with it. But that’s not at all what I’m trying to convey here. As I come up on my 10-year anniversary, I’ve come to find that compromise can be rather important. Questionable marital advice aside, I think it’s a good thing when it comes to bikes too. I want to start calling this category of do-it-all bikes the “compromise category.” I’m not speaking poorly of the bikes when I say this. Instead, I see it as praise. A bike that gives up excelling at one extreme or another in favor of being perfectly acceptable at almost everything, in my eyes, is a winner. In fact, I’d argue it’s the best category of bikes. That way, I don’t have to have a half dozen bikes sitting in my garage. I can have one bike that’s going to get the job done just about anywhere I take it. The Smuggler is an excellent compromise bike. 

The Smuggler falls right in between the Spur and Sentinel. With 130mm of rear wheel travel and a 65° head tube angle, it’s right where I’d want a nimble trail bike to be. It’s stable enough without going overboard and nimble enough without feeling sketchy. It has size dependant chain stays, a healthy reach number, and a proper steep seat tube angle. All in all, the geo on this one is dialed. And it shows out on the trail. 

Let’s get into how it rides.

Transition Smuggler Review


Two main things stood out to me on the Smuggler while climbing. The first is suspension efficiency. Now, I owned a Sentinel a year or two ago and absolutely loved that bike. It was a good climber, but it wasn’t what I’d call ultra-efficient. The Smuggler departs from that suspension feel in favor of much snappier ride quality. It’s significantly quicker on the pedals and has a noticeably better pedal platform. The Smuggler feels much more like the Spur in that regard. In fact, it doesn’t feel all that far off from the Spur in terms of acceleration and efficiency. Where the Sentinel did a better job was in traction and control on the rougher climbs. While the Smuggler provides a good amount of traction, I noticed the rear wheel slipping on some looser climbs, especially the rocky and bumpy ones. I’d also argue that a decent part of that could be the tire selection. The Smuggler comes with a Maxxis Dissector, and the Sentinel comes with a Maxxis Minion DHR. Keep in mind I don’t have the stock tires on my Smuggler, but I’ve kept them as close as possible to the stock Maxxis configuration. Either way, the back wheel on the Smuggler bounced around a little more than I’d like on the rough climbs. 

The second standout feature of the Smuggler is the geometry. The bike fits like a glove. I’ve got freakishly long legs, and on most bikes I ride I have to slam the saddle forward on the rails not to feel like the seat tube is too slack. That’s not the case here. The seat tube felt plenty steep, the reach perfect, and the front-to-back balance of the bike spot on. It leads to a very comfortable and effective climber. The geo is nimble enough, too,  that tighter switchbacks and corners aren’t much of a problem. 

All in all, The Smuggler does a great job of getting you to the top of the mountain—and it does it pretty quickly.

rear shock on transition smuggler


I’ve seen a trend these days in 130mm bikes being overbuilt. Recently the Yeti SB135 and Santa Cruz 5010 came to mind. They put a pretty sizable emphasis on downhill performance and stability. It can be a double-edged sword. Those bikes descend incredibly well but are also a bit heavier and slower on the climbs. The Transition Smuggler doesn’t seem to do that at all—and that’s a tad surprising given Transition’s style. The Smuggler rides pretty much exactly how you’d expect a moderate geometry, 130mm travel bike to ride. It corners well, jumps pretty well, carries speed on mellow trails nicely, and even tackles some rougher terrain, albeit at slower speeds. It doesn’t try to be bigger and badder than it is.

Let’s start with the suspension performance. Just like most everything else about the bike, the suspension platform is fairly moderate. It doesn’t wallow, yet it’s not harsh—it sits right in the middle. It’s plenty supportive for pumping and cornering. My favorite thing about it was how well it maintained speed on lower grades and easier terrain. You don’t have to fight the bike or work like a cross-fitter to carry speed on blues, greens, and mellower black diamonds. In fact, I rode some flow trails with a pal on a Santa Cruz Megatower. He’s a much better rider than I am, but I could put some distance between us on the flatter, straighter bits. I could have pulled away in the corners, too, If I sucked less at bikes—but that’s a me problem. The suspension makes pumping and jumping pretty nice too. I found myself more easily clearing doubles I’ve struggled with in the past.

The Smuggler’s handling is pretty spot on. It’s quick without feeling sketchy. The bike is just long enough to feel stable in rough terrain and bumpy corners, but it’s not so long that it is tough to manage. Again, the theme here is compromise. I rode a decent amount of high-speed, chunky terrain, and the bike never flinched. It obviously didn’t have that deep, cushy feel that a bigger bike would have, but it didn’t feel like it was hanging on for dear life at the ragged edge, either—the bike could have gone harder. On smoother trails, it really came alive. Cornering on the Smuggler is a blast. I did notice a fair amount of frame flex which can be sweet and sour. On the sweet side, you get a little more comfort out of the frame, especially one with only 130mm of travel. On the sour side, the bike can get a bit wandery as you push into a corner or up the lip of a jump. I don’t know which way I’d rather have it, to be honest. I can appreciate a little give to my frame as it can make the bike feel less harsh. But I also really appreciate ultra-sharp handling bikes. Either way, the Smuggler is on the softer side.

All in all, the Smuggler is an energetic and competent descender—It does it all rather well.  I’d be happy enough riding it on flow trails and jumps as well as steeper rougher terrain from time to time. 

Transition Smuggler Comparisons

I fully intend to compare the Smuggler to the new Santa Cruz Tallboy and Yeti SB120 once I’ve had a chance to get time on those bikes. For now, the closest bikes I can compare it to are the Santa Cruz 5010 and Yeti SB135. Both of which aren’t going to be an apples-to-apples comparison, given the differences in wheel sizes, but it should be close enough.

Transition Smuggler vs Santa Cruz 5010

The 5010, in my mind, is far more focused on the descents than the Smuggler. It shows in how the suspension feels on the climbs as well as the descents. The Smuggler feels like a quicker, snappier climber than the 5010. It comes out quite a bit lighter on the scale too. The 5010 would be my pick for riding rough and rugged trails as well as for hitting jumps. Both are incredible in the corners, but I might have to give the win to the Smuggler.  

Transition Smuggler vs Yeti SB135LR

While the standard SB135 would be a better comparison, I only have time on the LR version. The SB135 LR feels quite a bit more stout than the Smuggler. It rides bigger and deeper. The Smuggler feels faster on the smooth climbs, but I’d give the technical win to the 135 for its traction and agility. On the descents, the Smuggler feels faster and quicker. It likely holds its speed better, too, especially on smoother trails. I’d take the SB135 for jumping. 

Who is the Transition Smuggler for?

I’d happily recommend the Smuggler to the person who wants a quick climbing trail bike with a balanced nature on the descents. I think there are harder-charging short-travel descenders, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a quicker bike in the category. It holds its own in rough terrain for the riders who enjoy living on the edge, yet it won’t penalize the folks who just want to go cruise on easier trails. It’s great for riders who like corners, jumps, and flow trails—in fact, it might be the best option I can think of for those riders.

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