If Kevin could have taken pictures this is what he would have taken; Darrin getting loose – courtesy of Transition Bikes
Normally I have the resources to grab a friend and talk them into going out and taking pics with me for reviews. The percentage of nights I was sleeping in my own bed and not traveling while I had the Bandit was somewhere between zero and eight. I prioritized ride time over anything else squeezing in whatever I could get during that period. So I unfortunately don’t have much outside of stock photos and some artistic awesomeness of my own as far as things to look at.
I agreed to put some ride time in on this bike because Lee thought it would be funny. I am the proto-typical downhiller/dirtjumper type who’s always talking smack about 29ers and the people who ride them so I agreed to the novelty. There were only two or three bikes being made that I’d even consider bothering with based on geometry numbers, and Transition’s Bandit 29er was one of them (Kona Satori and Specialized Stumpy EVO the others). Put simply, for me to plop my butt on ANY road bike misplaced in the woods it was going to have to have a bottom bracket lower than the axles and a short rear end. Chainstay measurements are relative when talking about road bikes but the Bandit looked reasonable to me. And to be honest, I just kind of trust Transition. They have one of the higher mustache rates of most small businesses in the US outside of Pawn shops and Hunting supply stores and most importantly, they have dirtjumps outside the office. There’s nothing that indicates a company’s dedication to their own sanity than some dirtjumps outside.
If Kevin could have taken videos of himself riding the Bandit 29er this is what he would have shot (he’s the rider in blue)
I rode the Bandit 29er pretty much exclusively for about a month and a half. I got lots of time in Tahoe and a little in Mammoth Lakes/June Lakes area where it’s a little less rocky but much more loose. The most striking and surprising thing by far any downhiller experiences when hopping on a well thought out 29er is exactly what I experienced. Yup. It’s a bike. It goes up. It goes down. Contrary to everyone telling me I’d be flying off trails out of corners and getting caught up in switchbacks, it just never happened. In fact I was immediately comfortable on the thing. It just fit. And with the ability to go super low with bottom bracket heights between big wheels, this bike had something a lot of people work hard to achieve…..a really planted feel. With your feet rotating a circle that has a center below the axles, there’s a stability and calmness offered that’s rarely found in most 26” wheeled trail bikes. This is mostly because the majority of people whining about hitting their feet on climbs tend to be pretty vocal. It can be done with smaller wheels, it just isn’t and people are too whiny about learning how to time their pedals on climbs and have no idea how much more stability can be achieved on the descents. But it can be done easier with bigger wheels because the effective contact patch of the bigger radius wheels achieves the same goals as all those short wheelbase Jeeps used off road. The less room there is for an obstacle to to reach between the wheels, the better effective clearance you’ll get. Here’s a highly technical diagram to illustrate this.
That’s good. And I really really like that about riding this bike. I pedaled up and over things a little more sloppily and could get away with it, and being literally between two gigantic wagon wheels instead of over them, made the bike really comfortable.
Now the reality check. Crappy tires are crappy tires. There’s no magic voodoo involved in a slightly bigger tire patch that makes a crappy tire work better. So when you go to look at buying some burly treads for big wheels and realize that they all look like shit made for bike paths, file that away somewhere in the back of your mind so you can spit a full beer in the face of tire manufacturers who absolutely refuse to make real tires for 29” wheeled bikes. That’s certainly what I did when I got tired of sliding way too far outside of turns on trails I ride weekly and would just flat out end up in the woods because the lame Maxxis Ardent treads have no place in high alpine desert riding after a weak winter. That’s not the “big wheels don’t turn” phenomenon I was warned about, there’s just no traction. It’s dusty here and those tires just suck. And the best part is, when I went to BUY some other tires for this bike, I realized that yes, in fact, every single 29” tire made these days would probably do well in the Tour de France on pavement. Don’t send me emails about some stupid WTB tire you have on your 29er. I looked at it. It doesn’t work. You just haven’t figured it out yet because either you ride a 29er and probably don’t go that fast, or you just ride somewhere that gets some semblance of moisture at some point in your life where tires don’t matter that much. The entire time I had this bike, I got really really comfortable on it, but just knew that I was riding sections of trails slower because there was just no traction to be had with these tires at the speed I was used to. That’s incredibly unfortunate but I do know that some of the more aggressive and extremely popular treads for 26” wheels are about to be embiggified™ for the road wheels. It only took 10 years for good frames and good tires to exist in this wheel size but hey, we’re almost there.