Transition Bandit Review

26er All Mountain Trail Pro Reviews Video


The Bandit is Transition’s take on a “trail” bike. This of course, begs the question; what is a trail bike? In my opinion, a “trail bike” is what bikers used to call an XC bike before XC got the (negative) connotation of lycra, paved boring non-technical trails and aggro quasi roadies. Perhaps an appropriate definition can be found in wikipedia which characterizes “trail bikes” as bikes that evolved from XC bikes with geometries that are slightly slacker. Trail bikes are thus suitable for somewhat more technical terrain than xc courses, yet are optimized for climbing.

The Bandit’s frame has many of the refinements that Transition now seems to have incorporated as part of their standard manufacturing processes. In general, its a well-finished, thought out frame with clean welds, nice paint & flowing lines. Here are some highlights

  • Sizes are S/M/L/XL (16.5, 18, 19.5, 21)
  • Aluminium frame
  • 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
  • Completely straight seat tube. Can accommodate long seat posts yet drop the seat all the way down too.
  • 10x135mm rear dropouts in earlier models. 12×142 dropouts in later models but with frame adaptors so you have the broadest choice of wheelsets (Why don’t other bike companies do consumers the simple courtesy of doing this????)
  • Enough room for a conventional water bottle mount
  • Clearance for a 2.4 rear tire

The geometry for the Medium Bandit 2 is relatively conventional. Head angle and seat-tube angle are 68/74. Of note, 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).

Bandit XC and Uphill Performance

The Bandit is your basic single pivot design. General criticisms of that design are that single-pivot bikes are plagued by excessive bobbing when climbing. Having ridden my fair share of such bikes I’ve preferred to withold judgment until I’ve ridden the bike. Not all bikes are created equal and not all single pivot bikes are created equal.

At the outset, I’ll note that the Bandit is a “regressive rate” bike (according to Kyle of Transition this refers to linear travel to start with and progressive traits at the end of the shock stroke). My experience was that tuning the rear shock to the rider’s individual biases was paramount to getting the bike to perform. My rear shock (a low compression tuned RP23) had 150psi of air, 2 clicks in of rebound and was run with 30% sag. Based on this tune there was some bob on fire roads or smooth climbs. However, small bump absorption on more rooty or bumpy trails was very good and the Bandit would absorb small features and not hang up or bounce around. Tuned for 25% sag (ie a tad more air pressure – 160psi), the Bandit was better on smooth or fire road climbs but would be bounced around somewhat on small features. Since I rode the Bandit on mostly technical trails, I tuned the bike accordingly.

The Bandit is a very capable seated climber. I left the Kenda SB8 on the rear despite my reservations about its lack of meat and found the bike to have tremendous traction. Consider that it’s a 27.5lb bike (not light by weight-weenie or “XC” standards) yet I could climb it 700m up a fairly windy technical Pemberton trail and then use that same bike to descend another rocky, steep tech trail. I hope that vignetter conveys what I think the Bandit is all about. In particular the Bandit has a nice characteristic when applying power that’s very useful for tight climbing switchbacks. If you apply power abruptly its back end will engage quickly, and the rear tire will dig in as the rear end weights and the front end unweights. If you time your pedal stroke on a tight corner so the power stroke is at the correct portion of the corner you can wheelie the front end around the corner yet the rear end won’t lose traction. You have to time the power stroke so you don’t bash your cranks or BB into a root or the corner apex or whatever. This playfulness of the Bandit (ie its ability to be moved around under you) is something that I thought would be useful only for downhills yet was very positive for tight uphill moves.

I’ll note that standing climbing was a bit less quiet as I could definitely feel the bike move around and crack the rear tire loose when working it hard uphill out of the saddle (but again remember that I tuned the bike accordingly). As noted before, I’d engage propedal to quiet the bike down in those situations.

On one more note, this was my first experience on the more budget oriented Truvativ Sram offering cranks. The 2×10 38/24 gearing feels fine. There were no mis-shifts even under load. The crankset isn’t even particularly heavy so it seems to be just another intelligent Transition spec to keep prices down.

Bandit Downhill Performance

As mentioned previously, I chose to ride a medium even though the large Bandit (23.5″ toptube) is still almost the dimensions of what I’d typically ride. Accordingly the Medium sized Bandit has a small rider compartment which fits my bias. I ran a 70mm stem and slightly wider bars than stock. I’d also add that the Kenda SB8′s are as terrifyingly bad on rooty technical trails as they look. I switched to a 2.2 Maxxis Ardent even when I was running the Bandit in dry conditions and could have easily used the beed for a Minion DHF when rains started in the late fall in BC. A word on the front fork. I was initially a bit dubious as I thought the Fox 150 was an underdamped noodle. Yet the 140 variant was quite a bit better in the things that matter ie stiffness and performance. I set up the Fox 140 at 70psi for 25% sag. 3 clicks in of compression (note that in doing so I decreased spring pressure from suggested settings).

To sum up downhill impressions, one would be astonished to find that any Transition didn’t go downhill well. Unsurprisingly I found that the Bandit punched well above its weight class. The Bandit felt tight, compact and was a playful descender. I keep throwing in little airs, whips and bar-tweaks and was constantly looking for rootballs or humps of dirt to get cheap air. It’s that kind of bike

As with uphill performance rear suspension tuning made the world of difference. Kevin and Kyle warned me that the Bandit would suck me into going faster and faster but that I should remember that its still basically a trail bike. Setting the Bandit’s rear suspension up with 25% sag (see settings above in the uphill portion of this review) I bit pretty hard on Vedder Mountain (fast, smooth, bermed trails) chasing a local. After launching a smallish drop (3 – 4 feet?) into a retardedly smooth berm but with a bit of flat landing. I proceeded to pancake and bounce the Bandit which made it a bit difficult to contemplate making the berm. In that splitsecond to get my sh& together I highsided the top, nailing a tree. The Bandit was OK but this was my first big crash in a long time. When tuned appropriately for my intended purpose (downhill bias), the Bandit was a changed bike. Predictable on steeps, an agile singletrack performer, a well-mannered jumper and fantastically easy to move around under you. It’s got a precise front end for downhills probably attributable to the stiffness of the frame, fork and beefy wheelset combo. A bit of rear-end brake jack is noticeable in steep loose downhills which no doubt is not helped by the doubtful traction of the SB8 . Typically I don’t mind the rear end wandering but that Kenda tire is something else for lack of bite.

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

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

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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  • Mark M says:

    I purchased a 2011 Bandit frame last a few months ago and am super happy with this bike. I agree with most of this review. However, the reviewer claims this is “basically a single pivot design.” This is totally wrong. There are four pivot points and four “bars” (the frame itself being one of them), so this is “basically a 4-bar pivot design.” Did you check with Transition before making this claim? Other than that, good review.

  • Pringle says:

    Sorry Mark, it is a single-pivot suspension with a linkage actuated shock. The wheel path is dictated by the single-pivot. The linkage actuation lets them keep side loads off the shock for smoother travel, and gives them flexibility in tuning the shock rate through the travel, but it’s still a single pivot and has the inherent pros and cons of such a design. Single-pivot isn’t an insult though, they do have their good points. Nice review, btw. I too have a Transition single pivot bike.

  • Tom says:


    Sorry to tell you this, but the Bandit is not a 4 bar design. The main element that make s bike 4 bar is the rear picot being located on the chainstay in front of the dropout, not on top of the dropout. Specialized own the patent on this design, called the “Horst Link:”

    The reviewer is correct.

  • leel says:


    Reposting as the earlier response did not show up. Thanks for the comment. The Bandit is a single pivot. It’s a variation sometimes known as a linkage-driven single pivot. I didn’t get too much into the technical details since it’s out of the scope of the article but let me know if you need clarification.

  • Mark M says:

    Thanks for the explanation all. I stand corrected. I was giving wrong information on this from somebody else.

  • Helena Juhasz says:

    Thanks for the info guys. Obviously I am biased in my opinion about Transition, but I’ve had such great riding experiences on these bikes, that I can’t speak highly enough about their designs. I’ve found my 250 pretty good at climbing Fromme, so I’m keen to check out one of their bikes that’s actually supposed to go uphill too.

  • Chris says:

    Thanks for the review. Really interested in this bike. What size did you ride? I’m you’re height, so I’m interested in your thoughts on sizes.

  • dan j says:

    hi there, in case i missed it what size was the demo bike? as it says the rider is 5.11 and in the pic the frame looks to be medium, just curious thanks.

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