Smuggler BT

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Smuggler BT
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Posted: Sep 22, 2019 at 18:26 Quote
Hi everybody. I am going to share my experiences and trials with the 2019 Transition smuggler. I originally bought an alloy version of the 2018 in blue as carbon wasn't available yet. Prior to finishing it Transition came out with the carbon frame so I switched to that for the weight savings. I ordered the "bone grey" version in carbon. As soon as I saw it in person I was not stoked on the color. It's a weird half step between white and gray and it just didn't sit well with me, but I had already ordered it and built it up. I went with a bunch of gold stuff every where to make it stand out. headset, bottom bracket, chain, brake fittings (Saint) and multiple gold titanium bolts. Problem is, I am not really a flashy guy and all the gold and the off colored frame made me hate the bike. It rode great, what little I rode it , but I just hated the looks of it. Sad, after I had spent a considerable amount of money on it.

Alas, the 2019 came out in a lovely shade of muted charcoal and another weird transition color I call "sun-faded muscle car".I had to have the charcoal frame. I sold the "bone gray" frame and picked up a "black powder" version. I then proceeded to get rid of all the gold stuff. Replaced by black, gray or silver. I was very happy with the aesthetics at that point. The build was decidedly burly. I wanted a short travel beast and set about building that. I ordered a Fox 36 set at 140mm and a factory DPX2. I installed Saint brakes with a 200mm front rotor and 180mm rear. Burly Praxis wheels, and maxxis minions. It came in at just a hair over 30lbs. I was pretty happy with this build for a while. Plenty capable for all my local stuff (Bend Oregon) including the bike park.

I have always been mostly an XC guy and used to race a fair amount. As I got older my riding progressed to include all the fun stuff, jumps, drops,jumps, tech,jumps, berms and did I mention jumps? (I like to jump) The smuggler could do it all, but I started to wonder "how much is too much?" What could I do with "less"? I regularly ride a 2012 Kona Honzo on all the same stuff I ride the smuggler on.A hardtail with a 120mm Pike and some carbon wheels is pretty fun around here. I decided to change the Smuggler more to suit my local trails. A little less "enduro" and a little more "pedal for days".

The Smuggler BT (Bend Tune) was born. I pulled the Fox 36 and replaced it with a 2020 Pike ultimate with slightly less travel at 130mm. This lowers the front end a bit and sharpens the head angle by about a half a degree making it a bit more responsive and shortening the wheelbase a smidge.This fork swap also saved me almost a half pound. I also traded out the DPX2 for the original, unridden fox DPS to see what the difference would feel like and lose another half pound or so in the process. I have been extremely pleased with the changes thus far and look forward to more experimentation. So far I don't think I have reduced its capabilities by much if any. It feels faster, but that's probably in my head. It still rips through rock gardens and chunk like it did before and it actually feels smoother throughout the travel. Both front and rear feel better to me. The 36 is the first Fox fork I have owned and I am still not that impressed. I love the way a Pike feels and the 2020 ultimate is fantastic in my opinion. I only have a couple rides on the new configuration, but I don't see going back to the 36 ever. I have a 140mm air spring if I want to return it to the original geometry, but I think I have found my sweet spot. I am going to continue this path of making it more "trail" and less "enduro" with a change of brakes to the Magura MT5 trail or possibly the Trickstuff Piccola (another half pound loss),possibly with smaller /lighter rotors. I will also swap the cranks for the Cane Creek E-wings to drop a little more weight. I hope to get it to about 28 pounds or less. I draw the line at XC tires though and I will always take a weight penalty for gobs of traction. My current faves are the Specialized Eliminator. The 2.6 is undersized in the most perfect way. And bonus NO YELLOW maxxis hot patch. I hate the color yellow and refuse to run maxxis tires any more.I have a couple more ideas for some further weight loss without giving up capability, but we'll see.

All my riding buddies are rolling around on 160mm plus and I regularly beat them to the bottom. Geometry is far more important than travel in my opinion and you should buy a bike for where you live and ride 90% of the time,not the occasional big trip to Whistler. The trend is happening with very capable bikes with less overall travel and better geometry. Bikes like the new Tallboy, the Ibis Ripley V3 and the Smuggler are so great for what most people ride and still have the ability to monster truck through stuff with a talented pilot. I think we will continue to see this trend grow and I predict we start to see "burly" bikes with less travel. Maybe as little as 100mm?? I wouldn't mind at all, ESPECIALLY if they start getting lighter. I have no desire to ride a 35 pound bike. Give me a nice light XC/trail bike with good geometry to haul A$$. So this is my Smuggler story. Hope you like it. I will add pictures if I can figure out how.

Posted: Sep 23, 2019 at 11:43 Quote
Interesting perspective - thank you for sharing!

Geometry and good tires certainly are the primary determinants of a bike's descending capability. Travel has a large role in managing speed, but every trail is different and I agree most people have more than necessary.

I also agree with the idea of making the bike as efficient as possible, though I feel weight plays a minor role here. To summarize my usual rants on the topic, a difference of two pounds, for example, is about 1% of total weight, which is the upper bound of how much the weight can slow you down - and that's only on climbs, neglecting all other factors. Two pounds is more likely to slow you down about 0.5% - again, only on climbs. It's surprisingly little. Geometry is, again, the main factor, with the bike's kinematics and the efficiency of the tires also significant.

If you're thinking of trying reduced travel, but still want capable geometry, the current leader is the NS Synonym. Or you could put an off-axis headset on a more traditional XC bike.

Posted: Oct 1, 2019 at 15:03 Quote
Thanks for sharing your experience.

I have a Smuggler as well and made the changes from stock to make it more enduro and less trail. More capable for my local riding in BC. I didn't want a full long travel 29er, I prefer the feel of a shorter rear end. And built it up with beefy parts and components so I don't break anything. Had rough experiences with lightweight wheels and brakes in the past.

Posted: Oct 4, 2019 at 17:38 Quote
I think you're right about the burly 100mm bike.

Posted: Oct 22, 2019 at 9:58 Quote
I've been wondering how much towards the XC end of things the Smuggler can get before its better off going for something like a new Ripley V4 or Tallboy 4. I have a Smuggler and its great, I've wondered if the SC or the Ibis with very similar geo/travel noticeably feel that much different than the Smuggler. Everyone says that the DW link pedals way better, in practice hopping on a Smuggler then hopping on a Ripley would the difference be immediately felt?

Posted: Nov 14, 2019 at 18:48 Quote
Update : I have since gone back to 140mm travel up front. The front just felt too low most of the time at 130mm. I raised the bars a bit without helping. 140 just feels perfect to me on this bike. I also put the DPX2 back on and realized how vastly superior it is.The DPS just falls on itself. It felt good at first on the smooth transitions I have a lot of locally, but would just blow right through the travel on bigger chunk. The DPX2 is WAY more composed. I also never feel a harsh bottom out. Still loving the new Pike. It just feels better in every way to me than the 36 it replaced. I am keen to try a 34 and see if the damping rates suit my "trail" intent more than the "enduro" rated 36. The Pike or 34 actually seem like a better factory spec to me on this bike. I probably would have said the opposite of that statement prior to putting a ton of miles on it this year, but a lighter weight, lighter damped fork suits the intent of the bike in my mind. I love this bike. The longer I have it and the more miles I put on it, it just gets better. I am a better rider on this bike, no question about it. It is the sum of the parts that I have carefully curated to create the best bike ever...FOR ME, which makes me feel more confidant and allows me to ride to my fullest potential. I love this bike.

Posted: Nov 14, 2019 at 20:45 Quote
garrisond5, What damper was in your 36? The FIT4 damper isn't my favourite and the GRIP is good - especially for the price - but the new GRIP2 is the one to try.

Posted: Nov 15, 2019 at 21:35 Quote
R-M-R
I had the grip2. I realize the overwhelming minority I am on this. I can't explain it. The closest I can get is the fox goes "thud" and the Pike goes "smoosh". It's just "springier". I can't explain it... POPPIER! that's the term the kids use.

Posted: Nov 15, 2019 at 22:09 Quote
garrisond5 wrote:
R-M-R
I had the grip2. I realize the overwhelming minority I am on this. I can't explain it. The closest I can get is the fox goes "thud" and the Pike goes "smoosh". It's just "springier". I can't explain it... POPPIER! that's the term the kids use.

They're both great forks and I wouldn't say the Fox is universally better, if at all. You're the judge of what feels good to you!

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