Transition Bandit 29er First Looks

29er Pro Reviews Video

Frame

The Bandit 29er frame is 6061 aluminium alloy with some custom hydroformed tubing to add stiffness and remove weight. Building on the Bandit, the 29er frame borrows the same ethic of trying to be as compact as possible (eg. the rear suspension assemby which is compact ostensibly to reduce flex). Suspension stays in the “no-fuss” category using the same linkage-assisted single pivot design used throughout much of Transition’s line.  Here are some highlights

  • Sizes are M/L/XL (18, 19.5, 21)
  • Aluminium frame in black, pewter or an euro-tastic bright green
  • Tapered internally welded headtube and tapered tubes throughout the bike
  • Hydroformed tubes (toptube and downtube) – increases strength while decreasing weight
  • ISCG 05 chain guide tabs (good for Hammerschmidt or a chain guide)
  • Dropper post cable routing
  • Enough room for a conventional water bottle mount
  • Clearance for a 2.4 rear tire
  • Sealed cartridge bearings in all pivots
  • 12×142 dropouts in later models but with frame adaptors to convert to 10x135mm rear dropouts so you have the broadest choice of wheelsets (Why don’t other bike companies do consumers the simple courtesy of doing this????).

The effective top tube length is a bit on the short side for medium bikes coming in at 571.5mm (22.5″). I could have gone either with a medium or large but prefer technical trails so opted for the smaller frame (more geo numbers are at the Bandit page). To add a bit of room in the rider compartment I added a seatpost with a bit of layback.

The Bandit29 employs a lot of the design philosophy that should be old hat to 29er watchers but bears some repetition. In terms of geometry Transition seems to have focused on marrying the compact, low, slack attributes that characterize their bikes (and arguably contribute to why Transitions’ are thought of as downhill-oriented bikes) with 29er tweaks. In general the short top tube lengths are necessary to avoid a limo length wheelbase and consequent slow handling. The seat tube angle is pretty steep, which takes away from the “effective top tube” length, but doesn’t change the way the bike feels when standing up climbing or descending.

Some specific examples of geo tweaks follow:

  • Relatively short wheel base. Accomplished by various things like bending the seat tube, and shortening the top tube (hence the reference to compact geos). This, in my opinion, is a big contributor to why this bike feels so playful.
  • Relatively slack head tube angles. For the aggressive downhiller in some of us.
  • Relativevly steep seat tube angle. For the climber in some of us.
  • Short’ish head tube. Couple that with a zero-stack headset to get a front end that isn’t too tall.

The charts below offer some comparable geometries among the 29er full suspension bikes that I’ve either tested or ridden (with comparisons to their 26″ wheeled cousins). Hopefully they are useful as a quick reference to check geometries.

29er full-suspension geometries. Includes only bikes that I have tried

29er hardtails geo (and Banshee Prime) from eurospek of MTBR

A little more on the 12×142 rear axle is worthwhile since it not only speaks to Transitions’ design philosophy (adds strength and stiffness without adding weight) but also adds colour to Transition’s customer-centricness. To see a better image of how the dropout system will work, check out the closeup photo of the cassette below, There are two black aluminium dropouts on each side of the rear axle. Simply exchange the 12×142 axles for 10×135 axles and you can use your legacy wheelsets. Wait, there’s more! Transition ships its bikes with an aluminium axle that is threaded on with allen keys. You can use any axle though with its dropouts including, for example, the Shimano axle which would slide right in.

This means that if you have a rear hub that can’t be converted or if you want to share wheels between two bikes (many people have a light and heavy wheelset which may or may not be compatible) you can do so. This kind of customer-centric user-friendly thinking may sound like something obvious but sadly this is not so in a bike industry which makes a mockery of the term “standards”. Not all bike companies offer interchangeable dropouts on their bikes (examples who do include Trek, Transition, Yeti, Intense – please let me know in the comments if there are others who should be applauded). Other bike companies have basically told you, the consumer; we don’t care if you have legacy wheelsets or legacy hubs. You’re just going to have upgrade. Why the consumer puts up with this is beyond me.

The frame is priced with only the 142mm dropouts and bolt on axle. The 135mm x 10mm dropout ends are purchased seperatly and will be approximately $ 70 for the set.

Preliminary impressions

I’m sensitive to the fact that many people are salivating over the Bandit 29er and might not want to wait for a full report or opinion about the bike. There are already reviews aplenty on the web. Always consider the fact that many reviews are from people who’re emotionally invested in their purchasing decision so consider that when making your own decision. Of course there’s lots of discussion about the Bandit 29er on the MTBR forums and a faiirly detailed piece about the bike from Jason Fuller on NSMB so use these as data points. If you have specific questions about my preliminary impressions ask in the comments or on the forums and I’ll do my best to answer honestly.

Upper Dales – Seymour

Lower Dales – Seymour

Aftertaste – Seymour

Suffice it to say that the Bandit29er is a capable climber that will go uphill but without a lot of snap and pop (unsurprising given its weight). Point it downhill and the Bandit29er shows its true pedigree. The Bandit29er gives ground to its 26″ wheeled relative in terms of sheer playfullness and the ability to chuck the bike around. However, it has a stealth element to it that’s hard to describe. You might not think you’re moving that quickly but then you’ll catch and pass riding partners without putting in huge efforts. Fast relatively open trails, hits and run-outs with good sight lines, steeps without abrupt jerky corners; these are the Bandit 29er’s strengths. If that describes your local riding terrain and if you’re someone who attacks downhills, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bike that’s more fun that this offering from Transition.

Review, photos and videos by Lee Lau (unless otherwise noted)

About the author: Lee Lau

Lee Lau calls North Vancouver and Whistler BC home. He's had over 15 years experience riding bikes mainly in western North America and in Europe. Unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, he actually enjoys riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.


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  • Steve says:

    Niner’s RIP9 also has interchangeable rear dropouts. Thee RIP9 comes with the standard 10×135 rear dropouts but you can buy the conversion for 12×142 or even 12×135 maxle…

  • HawaiiFi says:

    @Lee, if it were your money which one would you buy, the Transition 26er or 29er?

    • LeeL says:

      Hawaii – for my trails (ultra-technical, low-speed, not a lot of momentum) the Bandit 26. But remember I only have a few rides on the 29er

  • walter italy says:

    Hi LeeL. I am exchanging my large Tallboy C with a Bandit 29 large. It seems that the wheelbase will be longer, but not the chainstays : how about cornering ?

    • LeeL says:

      Walter,

      I really like my Tallboy M for cornering but from the geo chart I posted it looks like the Tallboy L has pretty conventional wheelbase numbers. Honestly, I’d be guessing how the Tallboy performs. I can tell you that the Bandit 29er in M is not as nimble as my Tallboy in M.

  • jay says:

    Hi Lee -nice write. So my trails are like yours – chunky and tech. You said you’d pick the bandit 26 over the 29…….pretend you have the 26 bandit and your tallboy (not sure what fork you run) in front of you. Which is getting the bulk of your riding time?

  • LeeL says:

    Jay – the Tallboy is a 24lb light bling machine with pinner wheels and tires. The Bandit is way more value-oriented with tougher components. I’d drop the Bandit 29er off things without a thought that I’d rider the Tallboy around. So kind of a tough question to answer if you know what I mean

  • chris says:

    LeeL- how about a ride comparison between the Bandit and Lunchbox

  • Ryan says:

    LeeL- I live on the Big Island and I am looking to upgrade my GT Sanction 2 to a TallBoy LT or a Bandit 29er. I’m 6’1 175lbs, I ride hard DH, but I am participating in the XTERRA on Maui this year and need a climbing machine. Any suggestions?

    • LeeL says:

      Ryan – i”ve only hiked on the Big Island and never biked there so would be guessing as to what bike you’d need. The B29 climbs well if you have a light wheelset but for it to be light and strong it’d have to be $$$$. Hope that helps

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