Since receiving an Ibis Tranny 29 in late June, I have flown with it from Alaska, raced it in the Downieville Classic, and in the ultimate test of durability, rode it for a week straight across 425 miles of grueling terrain with 47,000 feet of climbing between Lake Tahoe and San Francisco. There is no doubt that I have put this carbon fiber 29-inch hardtail through the ringer, and the Tranny 29 has performed flawlessly the entire way.

There are numerous endearing qualities to the Tranny 29, but none greater than its versatility. The Tranny namesake comes from the inherent transitional capability of its design. Because the rear triangle can completely separate from the front triangle, the Tranny 29 is an ideal travel companion that saves its owner from having to pay the extortion of bicycle airline fees.

World Traveller

Traveling home from Alaska this past summer, I packed the entire bike into a Ritchey Breakaway suitcase, and check it as regular luggage. To ensure that I didn't overstuff the bag, I took the rear triangle and put it into my carry-on, easily packing clothes around it. The process is so dialed now that I can build or break down the bike in less than an hour.

Unlike other travel bikes that sacrifice weight and handling for traveling convenience, the Tranny 29 sacrifices almost nothing in frame weight, coming in at a scant 3.08 pounds. The Ibis Slot Machine chain tensioning design further enhances the Tranny's versatility, using a sliding box behind the bottom bracket that allows it to be run as either a single speed or a geared bike.

Belt Drive

In order to include the Slot Machine feature while maintaining its short and nimble rear end, the Tranny 29 features asymmetric chainstays. As a bonus, a gap in the rear triangle seatstay wishbone where it meets the front triangle allows it to run a Gates Carbon Belt Drive system, the standard drivetrain when you order the "Unchained" build kit from Ibis.

Two Gears, One Chain

The 142x12 Maxle rear thru-axle greatly improves rear wheel stiffness-an especially important factor with inherently taller and flexier 29-inch wheels. But the Tranny 29 thru-axle featured another hidden benefit I discovered on our 425-mile trek. To keep up with my geared mates, I ran a chain-driven "dingle"speed setup, enabling me to change between a 32:20 climbing gear and a 34:18 flatland gear, using the same chain length without having to re-tension the Slot Machine. Thanks to the thru-axle, all I had to do was loosen it and pull it halfway out to generate enough slack that I could change over to the other gear without the wheel ever leaving the dropout.

Wide Open

Versatility in Setup

Let It DropAnother aspect of the Tranny 29's versatility is in suspension and dropper post setup. The Tranny 29 is designed to run either a 100mm or 120mm suspension fork depending on handling preferences and terrain. I opted for the 120mm setup, which gives the Tranny 29 a 12.3-inch bottom bracket height and 70 degree head angle, making it stable and comfortable on both climbs and descents. The rear triangle is designed to run tires as wide as 2.3 inches, and when combined with a 120mm fork and a dropper post, the Tranny 29 suddenly becomes a lightning quick and capable all-mountain hardtail.

Thanks to internally routed cabling in both the top tube or full stealth cable routing through the down tube, the Tranny 29 can cleanly accommodate dropper posts like the KS LEV with external cable setup or a fully stealth RockShox Reverb post.

Those planning to use the Tranny 29 as a geared bike can easily route full-length derailleur cable housing through the front and rear triangle for better shifting performance, and the cable routing ports can be unbolted from the frame to remove some of the frustrations inherent to internal cable routing. For those running a front derailleur, a direct mount setup keeps things clean and light. Thankfully, the folks at Ibis put function before form and kept the rear disc brake cable routing external so you don't need to bleed the brake to install it.

Continue to Page 2 for more on the Ibis Tranny 29 and full photo gallery »

Slammed in Verdi

Handling Characteristics

For four years I rode and raced the 26-inch version of the Ibis Tranny, and my biggest concern leading up to the release of the wagon wheel version was how much its handling characteristics would change. I've always had a distinct sensitivity to 29ers; their slower handling and cornering responsiveness always turned me off. But much of this had to do with geometry more than the size of the wheels.

Stinkin' Badges

Within minutes of jumping on the Tranny 29 for the first time and pedaling it around, I felt comfortable and almost forgot about wheel size. Thanks to its short 17.1-inch chainstay length, short headtube and 80mm of trail measurement, the Tranny 29 maintains the quick, nimble feel of its small wheel predecessor while offering the added momentum-oriented benefits of bigger wheels.


TheCommuting

Photo by James Adamson - dropmedia.tv

This dynamic was especially noticeable on TheCommute from Lake Tahoe to San Francisco. One of my riding partners, James Adamson, was on 27.5-inch wheels while Justin Schwartz and I were riding 29-inch bikes. Any time we encountered sections of chunk, even though James had a 150mm Rock Shox Pike on the front, he encountered more difficulty rolling through than Justin and I on our bigger wheels with 120mm Rock Shox RS-1 forks.

Rolling up the backside of a high speed downhill, Justin and I would effortlessly coast past James, and we were all riding the same WTB Trail Boss 2.25" tires. On long stretches of flat dirt road and pavement, the bigger wheels took a lot less effort to keep rolling, reinforcing the fact that 29-inch wheels are most ideal for hardtails that see long miles across rocky terrain.

Having a hardtail like the Tranny 29 that handles with the quickness of a 26-inch wheel yet maintains the rolling advantage of a 29-inch wheel makes me wonder why anyone would even consider at 27.5-inch hardtail. If the geometry is done right-as it is in the case of the Tranny 29-wagon wheels are the only way to go on a hardtail.

Backside Tranny

Over four months of abusive riding, the Tranny 29 Slot Machine has slipped on me only two times-both of which were after tightening the Slot Machine bolt without a torque wrench. But even with slackened chain tension, the rear end of the Tranny is so laterally stiff that I didn't drop a single chain on our 425-mile journey.

Playing the Slots

Perhaps the only thing I wish Ibis had done with the Tranny 29 was to keep the threaded bottom bracket of the Tranny 26. Although the Press Fit BB92 design of the Tranny 29 allows for more design versatility, it's more prone to creaking than its predecessor.

Photo by James Adamson - dropmedia.tv

Photo by James Adamson - dropmedia.tv​

Previous to the Tranny 29, my favorite carbon hardtail 29er was the Pivot LES. Both bikes handle with similar adeptness and weigh nearly the same, but in my opinion, the added travel versatility, belt drive compatibility and cable routing options of the Ibis Tranny 29 make it the most versatile and capable carbon hardtail 29er money can buy.

MSRP: $1,699.99 (frame only)

For more information visit ibiscycles.com.