Transition Bike's products have a reputation for downhill performance. Traditionally Transitions are not flashy and are instead optimized for technical trails. Uncomplicated... almost businesslike, but not looked on as bikes for climbing. This is strange given that the owners of the company spend a lot of time self-powered. The Bandit is Transition's first foray into the "trail" category (more on what that might mean later). It's meant to balance uphill and downhill while maintaining Transition's personality of minimal downhilling compromise.

Generally available to the public in late 2011, the Bandit will probably be one of Transitions' last attempts to stay away from model years as consumers have been confused by mid-year offerings. Not to make excuses, but this review is not overly tardy. I only had the bike in late August and have now had 40+ rides on it, through late summer, fall and some winter rides.

To summarize, Transition hit the sweet spot for trail bikes with the Bandit. The Bandit is best described as playful. Super poppy but which you can throw around. These are hardly characteristics that you'd associate with the 130mm rear suspension that is now considered to be short/medium travel. The Bandit's downhill fun factor does not detract from its uphill ability and it is a competent climber. Couple these positive traits with a comparatively reasonable price and you have a high-value package for a rider that wants one bike to do it but with an uphill bias.

Riding in Pemberton, BC.

Carmel Forest in Israel. Video by Bandit fan - Guy Bar

Transition Bandit 2

  • The Fox suspension is fantastic. Reliable and tuneable. The front fork was particularly stiff making me feel a lot better about Fox's 2012 offerings (this was a 2011 fork with 2012 internals).
  • Bandit is a "cheap air" machine; fun & playful. Sedate descenders might not get the most out of it.
  • Eminently competent climber.
  • Lots of room for upgrades
  • Lots of room for upgrades (but too be fair; this is a value-priced bike)
  • Not everyone is going to like the Euro colours (I like the paint but am a photowhore)
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.

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.


I elected to test the Transition Bandit in the Bandit 2 build kit. The size Medium (18) tested weighs in at 28.2 lbs (The Bandit 1 weighs in at 26lbs but is $1600 more). . Stock components are workmanlike as befits the Bandit's relatively modest price (US$3,149 / CAD$3,199) but note that core components (front fork and rear shock) are the same across the line. From Transition, the Bandit 2 Build Kit's highlights are as follows:

Rear Shock: Fox RP23 BV Kashima (7.5x 2.5)
Fork: Fox 32 Float 140 RLC Tapered w/Kashima QR15
Stem: Truvativ AKA 60mm stem
Handlebar: Kore Torsion Trail 740x35mm
Headset: FSA Gravity 1/DX Pro
Crankset: SRAM S1400 GXP 10S 175 38/24
Brakes: Avid Elixr 5
Tires: Kenda Small Block Eight 2.1 Folding
Seatpost: Truvativ Stylo
Saddle: TBC Park N Ride Diamond Stitch
Grips: ODI Cross Trainer X Lock-on
Cassette: SRAM PG-1050 10SP 11-36
Wheelset: TBC Revolution 25
Rear Shifter: SRAM X7 10SPD
Front Shifter: SRAM X7 2SPD
Front Derailleur: SRAM X7 HIGH CLAMP
Chain: KMC X10.93
Pedals: Not Included

I made some changes which dropped a half pound off 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:
  • Chromag 70mm Ranger stem and Acute bars (700mm)
  • Gold Chromag QR, gold seatpost and Chromag DT Lynx saddle (gold components make you 1.7 % faster)
  • Maxxis Ardent 2.2 front tire
  • Occasionally a Joplin 3 seatpost whenever I could tolerate the slop

Riding in North Vancouver, BC


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. 12x142 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 2x10 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)