The revived 2024 Transition TransAM is shiny enough to attract local corvids in your area, progressive enough to melt the mind of your uncle still pearl-clutching his Salsa El Mariachi, and balanced enough to set a new standard. Read on below as Spencer Harding runs the numbers and throws the book at Transition’s new hardtail MTB!
A few years have passed since Transition produced a TransAM (2016 being the latest iteration) so with this new iteration of the classic platform, they had to do some adjusting for geometry inflation. As one of the harbingers of long, low, and slack geometry with their Speed Balanced Geometry Transition had to push some numbers. The line must go up.
Let’s take a quick look at the difference in stats between the 2016 and current model TransAM (in size XL because that’s what I reviewed):
- +40 mm reach
- -2.5 degree ST angle
- +10mm stack probably from longer travel fork
- -5mm bb drop
- -60mm standover height
- +90mm wheelbase
First, reach has become a de facto means of measuring bike fit in these modern days of hella low standover. In a lot of ways, it gives a decent metric, but with a steeper seat tube angle and slacker head tube, both contact points move closer even as the reach increases.
In the case of the new TransAM, it feels like it prioritizes people with longer legs and shorter torsos. I ain’t putting anyone in a box, but if that describes your body, you may like how this bike fits over hardtails with more traditional geometry. So even with that extra 40mm of length, I would describe this bike as feeling less reachy than the numbers would imply (Travis discussed this more deeply in his recent article about seat angles). The TransAM had a 30mm shorter saddle-to-bar measurement than my Ripley AF even though the TransAM has a 10mm longer reach.
I truly enjoyed the proper head tube length and a less folded-over riding position. The steep seat tube angle allowed me to keep the front wheel weighted with a more upright riding position rather than relying on a more aggressive saddle-to-bar drop. This was an upright riding position that didn’t sacrifice descending prowess.
Second, Transition dropped the BB by 5mm with an estimated height of 320mm. I found this to give ample clearance for rock crawling without constant fear of pedal striking. Conversely, the extra low BB on the Kona Honzo ESD was the nail in the coffin for my interest in that bike. I loved the progressive geo (for the time) and extra long reach, but couldn’t justify the low BB. The TransAM strikes a great balance. I didn’t feel on top of the bike or overly deeply rooted in it.
Last, more travel and a slacker head tube angle means a longer wheelbase. The TransAM is long; no surprises here.
Ride the Lightning
Normally, I would split this section into two parts – one focusing on climbing and the other on descending. Instead, I will simply discuss the ride quality because I truly believe that Transition has created a very balanced bike here with plenty of climbing prowess and descending chops alike. I feel like this is a shining (literal) example of a modern hardtail.
The numbers may look extreme compared to your aging hardtail, but once a leg is thrown over the bike, the balance of it all is striking. I had expected to be wowed by the extreme nature of the geometry, only to be surprised by its balance and stability.
It should come as no surprise that a bike with such a steep seat tube angle and a rigid rear triangle climbs well, despite its heft (it weighs in at 33 lbs 4 oz for size XL). The steeper seat tube angle helps keep your weight forward and butt seated while climbing steep pitches. Even in technical sections, where getting out of the saddle was necessary, I found the geometry encouraging. When I needed to get back in the saddle, it felt closer than normal, even if only incrementally so.
The seat post feels like it has more leverage, with the extra few degrees of angle, when transferring impacts off bumps in the trail into my backside though. It’s a small differentiation, but it did feel slightly more harsh than my past experiences on hardtails.
The long dropper, low standover, and slack headtube angle come together to create plenty of descending prowess. Like many hardtails, you are only limited by your skill and pain tolerance. I found no rocky lines that the TransAM limited my ability to ride. 150mm of suspension will write some checks the rear end can’t cash, but that’s a long travel hardtail for you.
I appreciated the long front center for keeping the wheel way out in front of me on rocky descents, something that is more important than actual suspension for most of the riding where I live in Tuscon, AZ. Rarely do we have the space or trails to get going fast and air things out. My riding is typically slower while methodically picking through rock gardens and chundery descents. The TransAM was quite adept in these situations.
It sounds corny, but Transition’s Speed Balanced Geometry is surprisingly balanced. They did it. Climbing on the TransAM is spot on. Descending is on par with similarly slack full-suspension bikes as long as you don’t mind getting thrown around a bit.
The long wheelbase and steep seat tube angle do lend themselves to a more planted feeling. The fact that it’s a hardtail helps mitigate this personally undesired feeling that many enduro bikes have. The TransAM nonetheless felt less playful than slacker seat tube bikes, but with such a wheelbase that’s expected.
Money Where It Matters
I always tell people that, when buying a hardtail, you are mostly paying for the frame and the suspension. The TransAM frame is probably the biggest reason why you are buying this bike. You either love steel, single speeding, or shiny shit. Whatever you’re into the TransAM frame will be the deciding factor. The TransAM comes in one build package but two prices depending on the finish, $2699 for chrome or $2599 for blue.
With 34mm stanchions and paired-down Fox internals, the Marzoochi Z2 fork is great for the price point. I’m not a suspension microtuner, so the fork felt great to me—simple and smooth lockout with an easy setup. Considering the garbage steel stanchioned forks specced on many value-level hardtail builds these days I’m so stoked to see the Z2 on the TransAM.
While it isn’t exactly suspension, the OneUp dropper post is far from a take-off part. If you are going to make a bike with a low standover and long/straight seat tube for long droppers you better be speccing the bike with a long-ass dropper! Transition did this properly with 150mm for Small, 180 mm for Medium, and 210 mm for Large/XL. Even in an XL, I had some post exposed, but after hearing Travis’ thoughts on the 240mm dropper I doubt I would opt for the longer version.
My only meaningful gripe with the build spec was the handlebars. How is Transition gonna make this beautiful chrome machine for soaring through the wilds and then put 780mm wide bars with a 35mm clamp? The bike box said “Engineered to Party” not “built to stand at the front of the crowd with your phone out recording the show.” You should be opening the pit up with your 800+mm bars. You should be soaring on the wings of an eagle screaming “What the f*ck is a millimeter” with your yardstick wide bars (*air horns*).
In the end, I just added some Control Tech bar ends for an extra 40mm of width and the bike felt much truer to itself. There you have it; my hot take.
First and foremost, external routing. I love love love it. The sliding dropouts seem a bit lackluster compared to their paragon counterparts, but they serve their purpose. Want to run single speed or simply like longer chainstays? Done. The bracing on the back of the bottom bracket seems brutish and crude compared to the rest of the frame construction. Maybe someone snapped some chainstays in testing?
There are two bosses behind the singular bottle mount for a tool roll or other bolt-on strap bag. I wish they had spaced out the bosses so two bottles could be mounted on the very long downtube. One could still use a tool roll even if a bottle wouldn’t fit, but the larger sizes could take advantage of the space. I assume many people aren’t carrying two bottles in the PNW. lastly, it’s very shiny and that’s pretty damn sweet. Vintage Mongoose riders will rejoice. Maybe we can convince the wheelie kids to ditch SE bikes for these?
So what are my gripes with the bike? Only one water bottle is kind of a bummer for me in the desert, but framebags exist for bladders. The budget build is heavy in addition to the steel frame. I think this bike could shine (wink wink) as a custom build. Without sending the bat signal to Peter Verdone, how do I say I wish the reach were longer than it already is? The bike fit still felt a bit compressed for me. Wait, it looks like Mr. V already wrote about this bike, but I’ll refrain from linking to his article since the title is a slur. Spoiler alert: The bike he designed is way more better and longer.
Transition’s website states that this can be run as a mixed-wheel setup with a 27.5″ wheel in the back. The caveat? Slackening of the seat tube and headtube angle by about a degree. I don’t really count the ability to mess up the geometry to constitute a mixed-wheel bike.
I’m sure it would be a small geo change that I’d barely notice, but if Transition wanted this to truly be a mixed-wheel bike I think they could have engineered it that way. I am no bike designer, but if Transition angled the sliding drop out so you could control bb height between wheel sizes and make the closest position for 27.5″ wheel tukt to the seat tube, the middle position for 29″, and the rest for tensioning a single speed setup if needed. I say this as more of a critique of almost all bikes with sliding dropouts, not just the Transam. Diatribe over.
Who’s it For?
I think this latest TransAM and bikes with similar geometry will become a new standard. I feel conflicted about recommending this as a great starter hardtail due to its comparatively progressive stance. But, if bikes like this do become even more commonplace, and at a relatively affordable price, I could see this being someone’s first proper MTB. The geometry would surely be jarring for new mountain bikers, but once the rider is attuned to the fit it will allow them to progress significantly.
On the other side of that shiny coin, I feel like this platform will only truly sing with a custom build. If this isn’t your first mountain bike, you are probably coming to the TransAM with lofty ideas of pushing what you’re already capable of on your current bike. In this case, you probably want higher-end components for your lofty dreams and luckily the frame is available on its own: $899 for chrome and $799 for blue.
A third and more unlikely situation is “downgrading” to a hardtail like this from a full suspension. Were I not so enamored with my Ripley AF I could see myself often eschewing my full-suspension bike in favor of the TransAM. Three years ago this would have been the pinnacle of my bike dreams, but alas I have tasted the sweet squishy nectar. If you dream of less maintenance and plenty of capability, then the TransAM might be for you too.
- Balanced geometry
- External cable routing
- Value concentrated in spec for fork and dropper
- Durable tires
- One water bottle mount
- Sliding dropout could have been designed better for mixed wheel setup
- The blue colorway is not shiny
See more at Transition.