In a Nutshell
Transition’s TransAm pairs throwback simplicity with modern geometry
Travel: 0 mm (rear) 150 (front)
Wheel Size: Mixed 29”
Head Tube Angle: 64°
Frame Material: Chromoly 4130 Steel
It’s a sensible steel hardtail, nothing is new, that’s the point! Ok, ok, that’s an oversimplification, but still… Transition’s TransAM has been bopping around in a variety of configurations since 2009, back when all the wheels were 26” and more of the hucks were to flat. That bike was drool-worthy. Back then I was a grom, hanging out at the shop too much, and one of the wrenches had one set up singlespeed that he raced the whole gamut of disciplines from cyclocross to DH on. He was one of those naturally gifted riders who makes everything look cool, and he made me lust after that TransAM.
More recently, the TransAM was a 29” wheeled “all-mountain” hardtail with a 120 mm fork, 68° head tube, and 2x drivetrain that Bike covered here. What’s stayed the same through the years is the TransAm’s dedication to versatility. It’s not the “perfect” bike for any one thing, which means it’s a great bike for everything. And now it’s back, with modern geometry and two new colors, ready for whatever kind of riding tickles your fancy.
Sizing and Geometry
While its geometry isn’t fully analogous to any one model in Transition’s full suspension line, the TransAM has very typical Transition geometry, and by the numbers is somewhere between a Smuggler and a Sentinel. It’s worth remembering that hardtails don’t sag like full suspension bikes–they get steeper with a rider on board, since only the front end of the bike reacts to that weight. So the TransAm’s 64° head tube looks right on the money for a do-it-all bike, and its 76.5° seat tube will steepen up under sag.
The TransAm will be available in four sizes, from Small to XL, with reach numbers ranging from 430-510 mm. All sizes share the same 425 mm chainstays, although they are sliding, so you get a little over a centimeter of possible length adjustment. Stack heights on the TransAm are notably a little higher than on Transition’s equivalent full suspension bikes, which should help when things get steep.
While it comes stock as a full 29” bike, Transition says you can drop a smaller rear wheel in there and run it mullet with a longer travel fork. And honestly, that sort of experimenting is part of the appeal of bikes like this, to me at least. Drop the fork travel, throw skinny XC tires in, and go breathe out your eyeballs. Or throw a Zeb on the front, a wide 27.5” rear tire out back, and go chase your shuttle buddies around. No rear suspension, no excuses.
The geometry comparison that immediately comes to mind for me is Kona’s Honzo ST and ESD. The TransAm splits the difference between those two bikes geometry-wise, with a little bit of a bias towards the more aggressive geometry of the ESD. I’ve been riding a Honzo ST with a -2° angleset for the last year, which gives it very similar geometry numbers to the new TransAM and I absolutely love that rig as a simple do-it-all second bike.
The TransAm uses a sliding dropout configuration, mated to a SRAM UDH, which means you can play with the spectrum with drivetrains, from hyphy Transmission to simple singlespeed. Cables are routed externally (except for the post end of the dropper cable), the bottom bracket is threaded, and there’s room for up to 29x2.5” tires out back. All choices you’d want to see on a hardtail like this one.
There are two sets of bosses inside the front triangle, so you can run a bottle and a tool wrap, or two bottles with an adapter to bump the upper one higher.
The one small hitch, which will only apply to some folks, is that the TransAM takes a 30.9 mm dropper post. That’s fine, but it does mean you can’t just swap posts willy-nilly with other Transition bikes which take a 31.6 mm post. Probably not an issue for most folks, but for myself and my friends, our hardtails often become backup bikes for a full suspension rig, and it’s nice to have full parts interchangeability there.
Finally, the big frame “feature” that sets the TransAm apart from the Honzo ST for me is its more generous front triangle. For bikepacking or for folks who just like the flexibility that a frame bag brings, the Honzo ST doesn't have much capacity; the TransAm has a much more spacious front triangle.
Build Options and Spec
The TransAm will be available in two colors, as a frame only and as one complete build. The chrome colorway adds $100 onto the price of either a complete or a frame. The frame only option costs either $799 or $899 depending on color, and the complete build runs $2,599 or $2,699. For reference, the OG TransAm cost $2,325 in 2009. According to this handy calculator, that $2,325, adjusted for inflation, is more like $3,282 in today’s dollars. Similarly, the latest version of the TransAm ran $700 for the frame only in 2015, which translates to $885 today. All that to say: inflation sucks, bikes are expensive, but the TransAM presents a decent value proposition.
The complete build comes with a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, SRAM’s DB8 brakes, a 150 mm Marzocchi Z2 fork, OneUp dropper post, WTB ST i30 rims, and EXO+ Maxxis Assegai and DHRII tires. On paper at least, that’s an eminently rideable spec. Yes, a Shimano or Microshift drivetrain might offer a little extra bang for your buck, but if you’re really obsessing over value/dollar, a frame-up build that makes use of some second hand or used parts makes more sense.
Sometimes bike release announcements pop into my inbox and leave me clutching my head in my hands, unmotivated and demoralized. Yes. I’m privileged to write about bikes for a living, and I love this gig, but honestly, writing up previews of exorbitantly expensive e-bikes that I’ll never ride and that I never even want to ride is not what gets me up in the morning.
But steel hardtails with fun geo at a reasonable price? Now you’re speaking my language. I’m out on my Honzo ST pretty much every day, running errands, commuting, popping skids, and taking trail laps when my full suspension bike is out of commission or I just want something different. I love bikes like this. Their only limit is your imagination. Build them up however you want, ride them hard, put them away wet, and complain less.
These are bikes for folks who understand that it’s not about the bike, it’s about the attitude. Singlespeed it, throw some slicks on, and race your local cyclocross series. Throw a huge fork on it along with some meaty rubber and get sendy. Sew up a frame bag, strap your camping gear to your bike, and wander off into the woods. Or just leave it stock and do all of those things. Go ride your damn bike.