Ever played racing games on a console? I had a PS4, and spent a significant amount of time playing F1 racing games. I loved the fact that the tracks were based on the real thing. Even to this day, I can identify an F1 track just by seeing a few corners. Thing is, those games required a degree of dedication, you race the same track a hundred times before realising that if you just braked a little later in that corner, and hit the gas exactly on the apex of the next one, you could go flat out through the 3rd, and suddenly things were getting quick. I think this sums up my riding experience so far on the Smuggler. It’s capable of so much more than you expect. Yes, you can point and shoot, but the options open up with the increased ability to get a wagon wheeler to change direction on a dime.
Significant Geometry changes
A quick shout out to the thieving scum that stole my Bandit 29 – May the fleas of a thousand camels invest your nutsacks. But comparisons must be drawn. A long wheelbase on a 29er grants you instant stability by default. Especially at speed. Downside is you need to fight it through the corners – that thing wants to go straight – steam-train straight. The Bandit (and we are talking the original Bandit Two9) was light and fast in a straight line, but from that point on, you are mostly just a passenger. The first thing you notice on the Smuggler is the front feels light. New skool geo sees the rear wheel tucked right up close to the bb. With an offset downtube to make space for the front ring, discarding a front derailleur option all together. Shorter wheelbase means more maneuverability. Combine that with a light front end, and new options open up on the trail – because you go look for things to pop off – over or around. But it does take some getting used to – mainly because in my case – the bike is far more competent than the rider. Worth noting that even with a light front end, I have never had too much of an issue with the front lifting on the steep stuff.
Ok, I got some abuse for my pressure setting scribbles. Thing is, this bike could be considered as short travel by today’s standard. There 115mm of rear travel – and you want to make use of all of it. The revised Geo is so dependent on the suspension settings, I think it’s easy for the bike to feel lifeless without some attention. A few psi and rebound clicks can make a big difference. The 140 Pike RTC3 upfront does what it says on the tin. It has a tendency to dive through the travel, but tweaking the rebound seems to have solved that. I think I’m pretty close to the sweet spot on the shock. Its getting to the point where I can stop worrying about it and get on and pedal it.
I love internal cable routing. Its made me realise I have a stupid irritating creak in my helmet. Its so very gratifying to just hear rubber on dirt. I love wider rims. Tire profile looks better, its so much easier to get the tires on and seated, even with a hand pump on the trialside. I love 115mm seat drop. Getting the saddle really out of the way keeps me up and out of the saddle far more than before. I’m still thinking about the lack of an extender cog, but for now I’ll need to MTFU with the 1×10. It’s not a light bike, and requires graft up the hills, but boy – the return on investment is huge.
The Smuggler is a an Audi quattro rally. It’s a Labrador with a tennis ball. It’s Philip Glenister as Gene Hunt. Heck – its Emily Blunt. And I like Emily Blunt. A lot.