Sometimes bikes are beyond logic.
There’s nothing logical but something magical about the Transition Smuggler. On paper it shouldn’t really work. On dirt it’s a different story.
Transition Smuggler 4
What attracted you to the Transition Smuggler?
I’ve always had a thing for short travel bikes with 29er wheels, mostly because where I ride in Surrey the trails just aren’t rocky. I don’t need to lug around extra weight, and the ride will be all the better for it — snappier, less wallowy, better to pedal.
Until recently though, that’s meant getting a bike with less aggressive geometry than an equivalent long-travel bike from the same manufacturer. Then along came the Smuggler, with its short travel — 115mm on the rear and a 130mm suspension fork — and slack geometry, it’s really long, the ride is low and the cockpit isn’t cramped.
Did you change anything straightaway?
Yep, a fair amount. After one ride I ditched the KS eTen Integra dropper post — it worked fine but with just 100mm of drop it doesn’t sit me up high enough and it’s really not appropriate on a size XL bike. Before I’d even done that though I whipped out the tubes and squeezed in some sealant instead, losing a bit of weight in the process.
Was the bike easy to set up?
Yes, I ran the shock at 30% sag and set the rebound about middle, and it proved spot on. Later testing with the ShockWiz suspension tuning gizmo confirmed this was about right for me. The RockShox Yari fork felt a bit spiky to start with, so I removed both the Bottomless Tokens that came as standard inside, and it instantly felt plusher and more refined.
How did it ride?
Like there was a whole lot more travel at the back than a mere 115mm. This has got to be testament to Transition’s excellent GiddyUp suspension design, but also to the bike’s geometry — low and long — that makes the bike stable and fast. Of course there were times when I remembered the short travel, and popped the O-ring off the shock on drops.
Did anything break or wear out?
Nothing of any significance wore, wobbled or went crack. The Smuggler is a burly beast of a short travel bike that seems to shrug off rough terrain where a noodly bike would become unrideable… of course there’s a penalty for that, the 35lb weight of the bike when it’s stock.
If you could change one thing about your longtermer what would it be?
It works better with 10mm more travel on the front, I know this because I tried it with a brilliant Fox Float 34.
Propping up the front end higher slackened the head angle and also gave me a little more control over the front end. The Smuggler 4 comes with a Yari fork, so if you’ve got this bike we urge you to spend £33.80 on a new airspring shaft and try for yourself.
Would I buy this bike? The Smuggler is a ton of cash, £2,800 for a bike with this spec is too much money, and it weighs 35lb. If I were a sensible buyer I would opt for the frame and shock only and build it up lighter for a little more money. That said, I love the way the Smuggler rides, and although it’s a ridiculous thing to say, it makes my soul sing. It manages to walk that fine line between being playful and fun, yet also confident and steadfast, a loyal ally when you’re hunting down good singletrack. How can you put a price on that?