Transition Smuggler 3 - Dirt

Mountain Biking Magazine


Trail and Enduro Bikes

Transition Smuggler 3

A trail bike that's way more than the sum of its parts

The new wave of shorter travel yet hard hitting 29” wheel trail bikes are a hit with us here at Dirt and we’ve found a real love for the Smuggler from Transition. Read on and we’ll fill you in.

Words: Sean White Photos: Callum Philpott

The 2016 Dirt 100 is chock full of long travel 27.5” wheeled bikes, but you’ll notice that there are also a good number of well dialled 29ers that hold a place in those pages. For good reason too, as for many of us here, we more often than not will be rolling a bigger wheeled bike out onto the dirt when trail riding. We’ve found that the 29 inch wheel with up to date geometry and sizes and equipped with the right bar and stem set up really is the best tool for the job. There are plenty of sceptics out there, many of whom may not have spent enough time on the right bike to realise the potential benefits they can bring. The days of saying 29ers don’t rail corners are over. Right now, bikes like the Transition Smuggler, YT Jeffsy , Canyon SpectralOrange Segment and Norco Optic are setting a new standard for trail bikes. Fast, agile and very capable.

With 115mm of travel out back, you’d be right in thinking this Smuggler has its roots in cross country rather than hard hitting trail riding. Paired up with progressive geometry, good sizing and a 130mm travel RockShox Pike up front, this blend has won us over before with bikes such as the Kona Process 111.


We had a size large in to test which Transition suggest will fit riders from 5’9” to 6’3”, with a six foot rider being the ideal height. There is still a tendency for riders to size down to give better standover height but the Smuggler has a super-low top tube on all sizes and a relatively low head tube so there’s really no reason on this bike – at over six foot we’d be trying the XL, no question. Transition’s way of thinking when designing their gravity bikes filters down to the Smuggler, the shortest travel bike in their range, and the detailing is good. All sizes are built around a 50mm stem and a 760mm wide bar, with a short enough seat tube to run one of the longer travel 150/170mm dropper posts. A 780mm bar in the two larger size bikes would be a useful upgrade. The tidily welded aluminium frame sports good geometry and sizing too; a 1189mm wheelbase, 457mm reach, sitting around a 67.5 degree head angle on the size large. With a bottom bracket height of 335mm (with a 35mm drop) this bikes sits low and long, with the rider placed well for attacking the trail whether up, along or down. The head tube at 110mm is a touch low for us being nearer a medium on many similar bikes. Another 10mm (as per the Smuggler XL ) would hit the spot. It does however give the option to up the travel on the fork without upsetting the geometry and ride characteristics unduly. We’ve done the same to a Whyte T-129 test bike here at Dirt HQ with no issues.



With a proven ‘four-bar’ suspension system and a 142x12mm rear axle dishing out 115mm of rear travel, Transition choose to use one 436mm chainstay length on all four frame sizes. This approach is also used on the longer travel Patrol enduro bike, which also employs Transition’s ‘GiddyUp’ suspension design.

“No one at Transition wanted a suspension system that felt like it was locking out, or provided any ‘kick back’ in the pedals.”

Traction is great, with no lever-twiddling needed moving between descents and technical climbs. The RockShox Monarch RT3 Debonair shock digs in hard and provides heaps of grip, and with plenty of room for movement with the lengthy frame reach, stability is excellent too. The bike sits deep into its travel and with the low bottom bracket height a touch of care is needed to keep the bike at the right sag so you’re not clipping cranks on rocks and root.

Up front, the much-revered RockShox Pike RC Solo Air is part and parcel of how the Smuggler behaves on the trail. Many a bike of these intentions and travel would run with a weedy RockShox Revelation or Fox 32 with the hope that they would be up to the job. Transition know the score (hence the stock 50mm stem…) and choose the Pike, with its 35mm stanchions and well mannered damping to let the Smuggler open the throttle and charge into and through some serious rough ground. Terrain where folk would usually think longer travel (and smaller wheeled?) bikes would be far more suitable. Maybe so, but the combination of grip, stability and poise lets the rider push the big wheels through some nasty, rooty and rocky tracks, sampling some serious speed.


The Smuggler is available either as a frame or in one of four full build options. We have the number 3 build and it’s a good blend. We’ve spoken about the suspension units so what else have Transition seen fit to spec? Transmission is a 1×11 set-up from SRAM GX and being driven by a RaceFace Aeffect crankset. The Smuggler frame is single chainring specific and that suits the bike and its intentions just fine. A threaded regular bottom bracket makes life easy for long-term maintenance and a quiet life; a good move. Stopping power is from SRAM too, with Guide R brakes (more affordable versions of our favourite Guide Ultimates) giving both subtle modulation and stacks of power. 180mm rotors front and rear are a wise choice given the bike’s intentions.
The wheels, with SRAM hubs and Alex rims are adequate and up to the job but are neither showy nor overly light – but well built. Maybe, like the whole Transition philosophy, these will ultimately prove reliable long-term as they’ve not missed a beat so far. For 2017 this ‘Smuggler 3’ build will have RaceFave AR 27 rims as standard adding a touch more width. Shod with premium quality Minion DHF/R rubber from Maxxis, these high volume 2.3″ tyres are as large as the frame will allow and come into their own when the trails dry out.

An up-to-date and rugged spec is rounded off with a KS Lev Integra dropper post with internal routing and 125mm of stroke; a trail bike essential these days and spec’ed on all four Smuggler build kits. Again, with the 2017 models just around the corner, Transition are going with a 150mm stroke KS dropper on both the L and XL size bike builds. A good move.


Long, low and fast. The Smuggler hugs the ground and keeps a pace on, even in terrain that’s at the edge of its comfort zone. The stiff aluminium frame, balanced suspension and good shape all lend themselves self to pushing on hard. The Pike fork sniffs out and sucks up roots and debris with authority but when things get ugly the 115mm of rear travel starts to be felt. It’s at these times when another 20mm more would help keep things in check in challenging terrain and provide more comfort if nothing else – but would it take away that urgency and we love in this bike? At that sort of travel you’re into Stumpjumper 29er territory. The bike claws its way up climbs with little fuss and holds a line well on off camber chopped up tracks. A solid performer.


The Transition Smuggler was our pick of the short travel 29er trail bikes in the 2016 Dirt 100. Here’s what we said:

“If singletrack with ‘a dash of tech’ is your thing and you like to get the hammer down, you need to ride this bike. The Smuggler devours testing terrain, whether up, across or down. We found ourselves riding faster and further, adding in that extra loop, chasing fading daylight.”

Yep, that sums the Smuggler up well…

PRICE: (2016) Frame £1399.95, Bikes from £2699.95

Looking for a new trail bike? Check out our buyer’s guide HERE.


Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.