Transition Smuggler GX review

Short-travel bike with long-travel attitude

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £4,800
Transition Smuggler GX in orange

Our review

More playtime than a kindergarten from this lip-boosting, corner-shredding play bike
Pros: Descends like some 160mm bikes and packs way more pop; reduced-offset/long-reach ‘Speed Balanced Geometry’ is all it’s cracked up to be
Cons: You’ll want to flick the shock into ‘trail’ mode for extra tightness on flowy flatter trails and climbs
Transition’s target market is cool kids mucking about in the woods, rather than riders closer to mountain biking’s Lycra-clad roots. This means its low-slung trail bike is progressively-angled, ships with a burly Fox 36 fork and feels like it has a lot of travel.

Transition Smuggler GX frame

The carbon fibre Smuggler didn’t go into production until Transition had nailed the alloy version, and it uses the same ‘Speed Balanced Geometry’ (more on that later) and ‘GiddyUp’ suspension.

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This is a four-bar, Horst link design, which drives a long-stroke (for a 120mm bike) metric shock. Transition recommends running 32 to 35 percent sag – more than on most short-travel bikes – to help it track the terrain and deal with holes as well as bumps.

Everything is carbon, from the chunky mainframe to the rear stays and kinked rocker link. The low, swooping shape means that, even on the large, with its 475mm reach, there’s zero interference from the frame, no matter what shapes you throw.

Many riders will be glad to see a threaded bottom bracket shell, and there’s rubber chainstay and down tube protection to shrug off hits and keep things quiet.

While the fat rear stays give good mud clearance at the sides and bottom bracket junction, the seatstay brace runs fairly tight to the tyre at the top.

Transition Smuggler GX kit

Transition Smuggler GX full suspension mountain bike
Transition uses the same ‘Speed Balanced Geometry’ as the alloy version
Mick Kirkman

Fitting a 36mm-stanchion fork on a 120mm bike gives away the Smuggler’s game plan. Fox’s 36 Performance model features its latest, well-controlled GRIP2 damper, and has the shorter 44mm offset (rake) that’s part of Transition’s SBG concept.

It has 20mm more travel than the rear and feels super-supple, thanks to its EVOL air spring. The extra negative volume does make it ride low in its stroke though, so harder riders may need to add volume spacers to get a balanced front-to-rear feel.

The bar, stem and grips are all sorted, as is the 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, but the RockShox Reverb dropper uses the cheaper, older, ‘plunger’ style remote, which feels stiff and primitive nowadays, and also gets in the way.

While the Stan’s Arch S1 wheels are on the heavy side (2.4kg (f), 2.72kg (r), inc. tyres), and feel less zippy and quick-rolling compared to other bikes also on test, the Transition’s price advantage over similar bikes leaves plenty of room to upgrade.

Transition Smuggler GX ride impressions

Male cyclist riding Orange full suspension mountain bike in woodland
The Smuggler really eggs you on, combining the feedback of a tighter, poppier rig with the ability to be rallied at warp speeds in serious terrain
Mick Kirkman

If your idea of a good bike is one with maximum flickability, it’s hard not to have fun and push the limits on the Transition.

Riders prioritising efficiency and climbing pace will find little advantage over longer-travel rigs in terms of trail pace and urgency though. That’s not to say the Smuggler is a slouch, and it has a perfect, upright climbing position thanks to its steep seat angle.

But peak downstroke power is less direct than on more pedalling-focused bikes. Flicking the climb lever on the shock does tighten things up though, and calms the (minimal) pedal bob fighting gravity too.

At the fun parts of any trail, climbs are soon a distant memory. Regardless of your level of riding experience, the extra length in front of you and the calmness of the steering in the steep sections (partly due to the reduced offset) put you fully in charge.

male cyclist riding orange full suspension mountain bike in woodland
It has the silkiness and muscle you need when pushing hard downhill
Mick Kirkman

The Smuggler really eggs you on, and expert riders will love the way it combines the extra feedback of a tighter, poppier rig with the ability to be rallied at warp speeds in serious terrain.

It may only have 120mm of travel, but it still has the silkiness and muscle you need when pushing hard downhill. It feels supple and lively, but always supportive.

The Smuggler performed less well in sharp ‘bucket’ turns, though. There’s a subtle weight tip forwards in the deepest G-outs and the rear wheel gets a little left behind at the apex, rather than slicing and firing you out perfectly.

You could probably remedy this with tweaks to your riding position and the sensitive Fox 36 fork.

Transition Smuggler GX specifications

Transition Smuggler GX in orange
Everything is carbon, from the chunky mainframe to the rear stays and kinked rocker link
Mick Kirkman
  • Sizes (*tested): S, M, L*, XL
  • Weight: 13.97kg
  • Frame: Carbon fibre, 120mm (5.1in) travel
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float GRIP Performance, 140mm (5.5in) travel
  • Shock: Fox Float DPS Performance Elite
  • Chainset: SRAM Stylo 7K DUB
  • Bottom bracket: SRAM DUB
  • Cassette: SRAM GX Eagle XG-1275, 10-50
  • Chain: SRAM GX Eagle
  • Derailleurs: SRAM GX Eagle (1×12)
  • Shifters: SRAM GX Eagle
  • Hubs: Stan’s NoTubes Neo
  • Axles: 15x110mm Boost (f), 12x148mm Boost (r)
  • Rims: Stan’s NoTubes Arch S1
  • Spokes: Alloy, butted
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 3C EXO 29×2.3in (f), Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C EXO 29×2.3in (r)
  • Wheel weight: 2.4kg (f), 2.72kg (r), inc. tyres
  • Stem: Race Face Æffect R, 40mm
  • Bar: Race Face Chester 35, 780mm
  • Grips: ODI Elite Flow
  • Headset: FSA No.57E
  • Saddle: ANVL Forge
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth 150mm dropper
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide R, 180mm rotors

Transition Smuggler GX geometry

  • Seat angle: 75.8 degrees
  • Head angle: 66 degrees
  • Chainstay: 43cm / 16.93in
  • Seat tube: 45cm / 17.72in
  • Top tube: 62.5cm / 24.61in
  • Head tube: 11cm / 4.33in
  • Fork offset: 4.3cm / 1.69in
  • Bottom bracket drop: 3.5cm / 1.38in
  • Bottom bracket height: 34cm / 13.39in
  • Wheelbase: 1,213mm / 47.76in
  • Stack: 62.4cm / 24.57in
  • Reach: 47.5cm / 18.7in
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  • Price: £4,800 / US$4,999 / AU$6,559