Transition Smuggler NX first ride review£3,349.00

Trail rig that hits harder than its travel

Transition's Smuggler might share the 29er wheel size and similar short travel to cross-country bikes, but its geometry and intentions are about as far from the head down, uphill-focused set as can be.

Transition Smuggler NX spec overview

  • Frame: Aluminum, 120mm travel
  • Fork: RockShox Revelation RC Solo Air, 140mm
  • Shock: RockShox Deluxe RT
  • Drivetrain: SRAM NX 11-speed, Race Face Aeffect cranks
  • Wheels/tires: Novatec hubs, WTB STP i29 rims, Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR II 29x2.3in tires

RockShox handles the rear with a Deluxe RT damper
RockShox handles the rear with a Deluxe RT damper

Base-level parts feel as such

Transition frames are known for their rowdy ride feel and, unfortunately, their weight, and an aluminum Smuggler (size Medium) comes in at a decidedly not svelte 3.9kg / 8.8lbs. 

Yep, a good old threaded bottom bracket
Yep, a good old threaded bottom bracket

Slap on some durable but hardly weight-conscious parts and it doesn't take long before the 13.6kg / 30lb barrier is long passed. On my scale, the size Large Smuggler NX weighs 15.45kg / 34lb.

Cranking the Smuggler up to speed, that heft was felt. Add in the big, chunky Minion tires front and rear, and acceleration felt like a chore.

Knobby and tough, Minions are proven performers
Knobby and tough, Minions are proven performers

First ride impressions: confidence inspiring

It's common for raked-out bikes to feel floppy at the front wheel at low speed; like the bike wants to flop over and take a nap. The Smuggler doesn't have this bad habit. 

Transition's Speed Balanced Geometry takes the standard longer, lower, slacker trend a step further. A shorter offset fork (42mm vs 51mm) pulls the front wheel back towards the rider. This is said to allow more traction, better steering response, and enhanced front wheel feedback. And it seemed to work.

See that 42mm offset number? That's the magic to the Smuggler's party vibes
See that 42mm offset number? That's the magic to the Smuggler's party vibes

Climbing uphill, the Smuggler didn't have that wandering, always needing to be corrected feel about it. It wasn't fast, but it didn't require excess concentration like some slack bikes can. 

On the downs it's noticeably different. The bike wanted me to lean forward onto the front wheel and drive the bike from there as opposed to how a Specialized likes being steered from the bottom bracket. Both are fun, just very different. 

It certainly didn't feel like a 120mm rear travel bike either. Its manners and fearless demeanor seemed more in line with a 140mm or 150mm travel bike. 

Along those same vibes, pitching the Smuggler into the air was met with calm, self-assured flight. I'm excited to see where this leads. 

Other than that, I have some suspension tweaking to do before I can really delve into the ride details. 

Transition Smuggler NX early verdict

The Smuggler is an interesting ride. While its hefty build doesn't align with its modest suspension travel, its clear this bike wants to go fast, steamroll techy sections and be pushed harder than most low-travel trail bikes. 

Transition Smuggler NX pricing and availability

Transition's Smuggler NX has 29in wheels and 140/120mm of front and rear travel
Transition's Smuggler NX has 29in wheels and 140/120mm of front and rear travel

Transition offers five Smuggler builds, two carbon starting with a $4,999 (international pricing TBD) GX build, and three alloy models kicked off with this £3,349 / $2,999 NX kit in for test. Both the metal and the plastic frames are available separately as well. 

Transition Bikes can be found at local bike shops or purchased through Transition's site.

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Age: 39
  • Height: 6'3"/190cm
  • Weight: 175lb/79kg
  • Waist: 34in/86cm
  • Chest: 42in / 107cm
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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