Transition Bandit 29 Review

29er All Mountain Trail

If Kevin could have taken pictures this is what he would have taken; Bandit 29er in the subalpine – picture courtesy of Transition Bikes

29er diatribes aside, the Bandit is a really smooth ride. It came with a Kashima coated RP23 rear shock with an external sleeve (this increases air spring volume) and this combo has what most call a very ‘linear’ feeling ride. It gives up its travel pretty easily. I kind of despise this sort of suspension setup on any bike I plan on jumping or pumping a bunch but it has its place in fast chattery terrain. I did feel like it blew through its travel a little too easily on harder impacts but that’s a personal preference thing. Setup stock, it remains really supple on rough climbs. Out of curiosity, I put in a volume reducer spacer for the shock and did prefer the ride. You can get a kit of 3 different sizes from fox for about $25 if that suits your fancy as well. One thing the suspension of the Bandit did surprise me with was just how easy it was to manual (that means ‘wheelie without pedaling’ if you own a 29er). Even with longish chainstays, a low BB and big wagon wheels, it’s no problem at all for my 5’ 9” lank to get that thing on its rear wheel and stay there. It probably has something to do with science, but that stuff is hard.

The frame did bob a little bit under pedaling loads, and this was easily remedied by some switch flipping on the RP23. I preferred to keep the suppleness on climbs around though so I just left it wide open. The suspension compression under mashing the pedals was there but not anywhere near enough to be a deal breaker.

This is what people Lee’s and my height look like on any 29er.

Okay, back to 29er diatribes now. With big wheels comes big lateral leverage. When I got the bike, it had been beaten on some rough North Van trails so I had to true them up a bit. Even so, I shit you not, I knocked them out of true again in a corner. It was a hard corner but also something I ride several times a week. But the shape of the wheels was different after that corner. I’ve never in my life had that happen. When I got home I trued them up again and to Transition’s credit, they build their wheels with 2.0 spokes so I could tension the crap out of them. I did this. Life got better. The bike tracked a little better and I felt like I could lean on them and feel where the wheels were going to be. I got a chance to fondle some ENVE wheels a buddy of mine had who’s by no means small in stature or a gentle rider. He’s an ape, but a very competent bike riding ape who knows equipment. And he showed me his rear wheel he rode on a flat for an 8 mile descent and the thing barely had a few dings. Trying to flex them, they were as stiff as any dh wheel I’ve ever built. I hate to say it but for wagon wheels, this kind of thing is even more important. My buddy praised the ENVEs and I could see why. If I were keeping the Bandit as my primary trail ride, I’d be looking at a pair of these.

If Kevin could have taken pictures this is what he would have taken; Kyle getting rowdy - picture courtesy of Transition Bikes

Something worth noting is that since I’ve put a taint spanker on my personal ride (that means adjustable seatpost), I’d kind of gotten used to using the thing pretty regularly. I still don’t think I need it per se, but it’s a nice guilty luxury. Call it the ability of big wheels to roll over things, call it the low BB, whatever, I never felt like I needed to lower the seatpost on the Bandit. It’s low enough, it’s slack enough, and gosh donnit, it rolls over things. Never once did I feel like the seat was keeping me from getting my weight back far enough to plow over some rocky steeps even at full climb height. This struck me as remarkably awesome.

One of the most informative juxtapositions in testing a bike is giving it back and getting back on your own ride, on which you’ve personalized every detail. The guilty pleasure of just how stiff my normal trailbike is (a 2011 Turner 5.Spot), reminded me why I built it the way it is. Some of it is wheels, some of it is the frame itself but the Bandit had just enough wobble in quick direction changes and hard corners that there’s no way I’d own that bike without at least dropping some serious coin on wheels. The frame flexes a bit but if I could limit what was happening in the wheels, I’d be a happy camper. As received, some changes would have been in order. I certainly did miss the planted between the wheels feeling that’s just not possible with most, if not all normal production 26” wheeled bikes available right now.. Even with the big somewhat flexy wheels, the Bandit just does something for stability at speed that my bike will never do. If you’re a die hard 26” rider, this above anything is the big reason to look at one of these bikes. If you’re a 29er convert already, I’d be surprised if you’d ridden a bike that feels quite this stable yet able to put you over the rear wheel manualing or yanking the front end out of a tight corner as nimbly.

Follow Transition Bikes owner Kyle Young and product and international sales manager Sam Burkhardt as they show everything you need to know about the Bandit Two9 full suspension trail bike.

Transition is changing up the Bandit 29er design for next year to avoid too much overlap with their coming 29er Covert. It’ll have 130mm of travel but the word from Transition is that with a 140mm fork, you can duplicate the geometry of the 2012 B29. That’s a good thing because other than the wheels and maybe a little more beef on the rear end, there’s not a whole lot I could see changing for the better in this frame. Tire and wheel issues aside, Transition done real good on the frame.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

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  • gurzang says:

    Honest, and therefore much appreciated review. I especially enjoyed the part about tires.
    My chubby and knobby Nevegals 2.2 for sure make my BigTop feel heavy on the road (I prefer to pedal my way to the trails than drive), but once on the trail I´am really happy with them. Mountain bikes are meant to be abused, not to be ridden carefully so please give us fat knobby tires and strong wheels!!

  • Paul S. says:

    Nice review and this is one of the four 29ers I am considering for next spring. But I can’t agree with what you are saying about the variety of 29er tires. They are out there except obviously not in the DH category, but for every other type of riding for which 29ers excel, the current selection is way more than good enough.

  • Rusty says:

    Try the Hans Dampf 29er. Should be knobby enough for ya

    • KB says:

      That’s exactly the kind of ‘non-design’ I’m talking about that plagues 29″ tires. Knob vomit in no particular arrangement doesn’t make a good tread. It makes a self defeating tread.

      • Rusty says:

        I’ve been running the 26″ Hans Dampf on my 26″ covert for quite some time now and find them superior in many ways to the DHF’s I was running. The trails I ride have a lot of corners in rapid succession and I find the HD superior in transitioning from one side to the other.

        Not sure I understand your tire preferences, I’ve found the HD to be a tad better than the nevegal and the minion as an alrounder for enduro type riding. What tires aside from the minion and the high roller meet your criteria?

        • KB says:

          Despite Lee’s comments on the facebook page, I’m not actually that big of a fan of the HR2. It’s a good tire but the wimpy sideknobs get irritating once the tread gets a little worn. There are a few key things that make a good tire (in ANY type of dirt), the most important being enough space between their knobs to actually let them do what they’re supposed to do. Treads like the HD with knobs all over the place become something akin to a completely round semi-slick at speed. Turn your bike upside down and spin one of the wheels really fast. Stand at one end of your bike and look at the profile while it’s spinning. It’s totally round, with no room for dirt to get to the sideknobs and let them bite. That’s how your tire behaves at 25mph. There’s a reason that treads like the minion DHF are so popular…..that’s the biggest one.

          Treads like the HD work fine at low speeds where all those little knobs can get penetration. But at speed it’s a different story. And once they break loose it’s over, there’s very little controlling it. It’s so dry where I live all summer sliding through turns is a part of life. Being able to control that realm with a tire that drifts controllably is huge. If it rained here in the summer it would be much less of an issue. And if you don’t live somewhere dry and dusty it’s much less of an issue. But tires show their weaknesses pretty quickly in dust bowl conditions.

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