This is a "First Looks" article. Its intent is to give the reader an overview of Transition's Bandit 29er; a 130mm rear travel dual suspension mountainbike. An in-depth review canvassing, (among other things) the bike's uphill, downhill performance and nit-picking its abilities in excruciating details will follow ---- I promise!

The reason for such long-winded explicit babbling is that casual readers flipping through quickly will lambast "First Looks" articles for not having enough detail. Please be advised that the Bandit 29er is a new bike from Transition for 2012. I have had the bike for a grand total of 12 rides! While I realized that many other websites and magazine article writers will call it a day and proceed to write a definitive pronouncement with just a few rides that is NOT the way I do things and I accordingly refuse to crystallized definitive opinions about the Bandit 29er till I (and my guest author Kevin Bazar of Tahoe area fame) have given the Bandit 29er a thorough beating.

So, be patient. Take this for what it is; an overview of the frame and its components. Also some superficial first impressions about the Bandit 29er from someone who's had experience with a few 29ers and many many mountain bikes but who doesn't own the Bandit29er and who accordingly, is unbiased by not having invested money in it.


Transition Bikes is almost 10 years old. It was started by Kyle Young and Kevin Menard because of their passion for mountain biking and as a means of escaping their previous career paths at big bureaucratic telcos. Both the owners shared the same ethic of wanting to start a completely transparent customer-centric company where "the customers knew exactly who was running the company and why". Their bikes started as downhill-focused reflecting Kyle and Kevin's aggressive riding styles.

Increasingly Transition has branched out into bikes that are also climbing friendly. This is perhaps unsurprising given that the company and its customer base has grown. Despite this growth (in both sheer numbers of bikes produced and product line), Transition's bikes have managed to preserve their reputation as solid, uncomplicated, businesslike bikes optimized for technical trails. The Bandit was Transition's first foray into the "trail" category; balancing uphill versus downhill performance while maintaining Transition's bikes personality of minimal downhilling compromise. The Bandit 29er capitalizes on Transition's experience in pedally bikes and is the companies first foray into the 29" wheel category.

Lee Lau's biases

I am 160 lbs and 5'11" and have had over 15 years experience riding bikes in North Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, the Chilcotins and many other areas in B.C. and Alberta. I've also made many bike trips to Switzerland, Utah, Washington, Oregon, California and the Yukon (for example) so I've had some experience biking in a variety of terrain. My bias is towards pedalling up and unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, I actually enjoy riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.

My personal bikes are a Santa Cruz Tallboy, Pivot Mach 5, and a Specialized Demo 7. In the 29er category I've tested/reviewed the Rocky Mountain Altitude, Norco Shinobi, and (informally) a Lenz Lunchbox

This is a test bike that will be given back to Transition at the end of the test period. I am not sponsored by Transition and have no commercial association with Transition.

The Bike


There is only one build kit offered for the Bandit29. The size Medium (18) tested weighs in at 30.5 lbs but with changes I made, the test bike actually weighs 31.5 lbs . Stock components are workmanlike as befits the Bandit's reasonable price (US$3,549 / CAD$3,599).

Fox 34 Talas140mm forks are available as an option for an additional $100 USD. Both the stock Float 32 140 RLC and the optional Talas forks are black and tapered with Kashima coating.

Frame weight is 6.9 lbs / 3.1 kg (Medium Frame With Rear Shock). The complete weight of the Bandit 29er in Medium is 30.5 lbs / 13.8 kg
Bandit 29 Frame with Fox RP2323 w/Kashima$1599 USD$1649 CADPrice Varies
Bandit 29 Complete Bike w/Fox 34 Float 140 RLC F29 QR15 Tapered w/Kashima$3549 USD$3599 CADPrice Varies

Bandit 29 (left) meets the Bandit 26 (right)

Rear Shock: Fox RP23 BV Kashima
Fork: Fox 34 Float 140 RLC F29 Tapered Kashima QR15
Stem: Truvativ AKA 60mm
Handlebar: Kore Torsion Trail 740x35mm
Headset: FSA Gravity NO.57E
Crankset: SRAM S1400 GXP 10S 175 38/24
Brakes: Avid Elixir 9
Tires: Maxxis Ardent 29 x 2.25 Rear & 29 x 2.4 Front
Seatpost: Truvativ Stylo
Saddle: TBC Park N Ride Diamond Stitch Race
Grips: ODI Cross Trainer X Lock-on
Cassette: SRAM PG-1070 10SP 11-36
Wheelset: TBC Revolution 28 29er
Rear Shifter: SRAM X7 10SPD
Front Shifter: SRAM X7 2SPD
Rear Derailleur: SRAM X7 Medium Cage Carbon 10SPD
Front Derailleur: SRAM X7 HDM 2x10 38/36T
Chain: KMC X10.93
Pedals: Not Included
Optional Upgrade: RockShox Reverb Adjustable Seatpost

I made some changes which added a pound to the bike. In general, I tried to keep the changes to the bare minimum and only made changes that I felt any rider would make to personalize a ride. This includes:
  • Maxxis Ardent 2.4 rear tire
  • A Joplin 3 seatpost

Here are some random observations and notes about the components
  • The Fox 34mm 140 Float is aftermarket and sent to me by Fox for testing. What better bike to test it on? The lack of a 20mm through axle is beyond disappointing, More ranting about that in the full review. I will note that the 2012 implementation of the FIT cartridge has much better dampening than the 2011 version which invariably seemed to dive through its travel ending with a bottoming out klunk.
  • The Fox rear shock is 7.5 x 2.0 and is the Kashima-coated variation. Not much to say about it other than its the good old dependable RP23 that works just fine.
  • The SRAM front derailleur spec'ed in build kits is a dual cable pull. Current Shimano 10 speed XT and XTR front derailleurs are all dual pull as well so would work fine as replacements.
  • The headset is zero stack with 44mm top, 56mm bottom for tapered steerers. Obviously one can run 1.125" steerers with a reducer.
  • Applause for spec'ing a nice wide bar on the Bandit 29er. Those who wish to can cut them down of course.


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
  • 12x142 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 12x142 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 12x142 axles for 10x135 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)