If you have been around cycling for the past 40 years, then you are more than likely familiar with the name Mongoose and probably fortunate enough to have had one of Mongoose’s first creations: The MotoMag Wheel, which was designed back in the mid-‘70s during the birth of BMX. The Mongoose brand really went big time in the mountain bike world in the late ‘80s when John Tomac decided to ride for Mongoose and help design their mountain bikes.
Fast-forward several decades and a few ownership changes and one thing remains the same, the name Mongoose lives on. The new Mongoose company offers a number of bikes for riders who want to go it alone (and save some money). This new program allows riders to purchase a bike directly from Mongoose and build it themselves. Call it mail order mountain biking.
All it took was a few mouse clicks on the Mongoose website and we had ordered up a $1399 Mongoose Meteore Sport ($1509.17 with freight and tax). The Meteore Sport arrived on our porch a few days later, and this is what we discovered.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Mongoose Meteore Sport fits the price range that serious entry-level riders gravitate towards when they are looking to advance to the next level of bike performance. A hardtail with front suspension at this price will also attract another growing demographic, high school cross-country mountain bike racers. The Meteore will allow a rider to challenge himself on intermediate-level trails and fire roads.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Meteore Sport’s frame is constructed out of aluminum with select tubes getting the double-butted treatment (tubes that are thicker by the frame junctions to increase strength). It sports a tapered head tube, again for added strength, and comes with a replaceable rear derailleur hanger. Our large frame came with two sets of water bottle mounts, which will accommodate two large bottles if needed.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
When you are riding a hardtail, the fork and wheels usually stand out the most. Mongoose chose the SR Suntour Raidon air-sprung XC suspension fork with a little over 4 inches of uncompressed travel and equipped with a remote lockout handlebar lever. A good-looking pair of 27.5-inch WTB (Wilderness Trail Bike) SX19 wheels were selected, along with a pair of Kenda Slant Six 30tpi 27.5x 2.1 tires.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Build-up: Anytime we mail order a product that has to be assembled, we get a little anxious. It all stems from past experiences with trying to put together a piece of Ikea furniture or that night-before-Christmas toy assembly.
We leafed through the Mongoose Bicycle Owner’s Manual and found very generic assembly tips that were wholly inadequate for anyone who is not mechanically inclined. It didn’t take long for us to ditch the instructions, which didn’t make sense anyway, and go MacGyver. Since the wrecking crew builds around 50 bikes a year, we have a distinct advantage. If this is your first bike-in-a-box purchase, you won’t be as comfortable and you will be on your own–although there are some helpful videos on the website. The list of recommended tools may also be a stumbling block for many new riders. If you don’t have a torque wrench, add $30 to your budget.
When we cinched down the front wheel and spun it to see if the brake disc would rub, it did. We quickly fixed the problem, but a rider who has not adjusted disc brakes will find this task better left to a bike shop mechanic.
Setup: Beyond the front brake caliper adjustment, the stem, handlebar, seatpost and pedal (pedals are sold separately, so add another $50) were fairly simple to assemble. The gears all shifted properly out of the box and were ready for the trail.
The SR Suntour Raidon fork did give us a bit of a challenge when adjusting the rebound. When we were fine tuning the rebound settings, the damper adjuster knob came loose and we had to fish out the adjuster rod to fit it back into our damper adjuster bolt. Once that was accomplished, we gingerly twisted the damper knob to find our desired rebound setting and left it alone, fearing that too much adjusting would break it. Furthermore, when adjusting the SR Suntour Raidon fork, we found very little difference between the wide-open (fast) and full-slow rebound settings.
Moving out: On the first couple of pedal strokes, the Meteore Sport felt a bit plain and basic. The WTB Volt Sport saddle is a nice touch, though, because it is very comfortable, and comfort is important on a hardtail.
Hammering: The drivetrain performed well and shifting was smooth. The shifter cable housing compressed slightly and a few turns of the barrel adjuster increased tension for sharper shifting. The Shimano SL-M610 Deore Rapidfire Plus shifters were a plus. The shifters allowed us to blast through the gears with our index finger or thumb without needing to take our hands off the bars. The front and rear Shimano Deore derailleurs shifted when commanded and did their job.
Cornering: The Mongoose Meteore Sport is kind of like a slumbering giant at slow speeds. There is nothing too exciting until you put the pedal to the metal on the singletracks. It surprisingly held its ground through fast rolling corners with very little wavering. A big contributor to the handling was the tacky Kenda Slant Six tires that seemed to bite right into our loose arid dirt. Another nice surprise was that the frame has just about the same measurements that you would find on a cross-country World Cup racing machine.
Climbing: The Meteore Sport hovers around 29 pounds, so you need to sit down, get comfortable, and grind away. One positive that helped on the climbs was the fork’s remote lockout, which helped with brief out-of-the-saddle efforts. The rear wheel did a great job of maintaining traction, even when the rider was out of the saddle. Again, the Kenda Slant Six tires and the slightly larger wheel diameter of 27.5 inches added to the overall footprint of rubber grabbing the ground.
Descending: There’s no real magic when it comes to descending on an aluminum hardtail. It is a harsh ride. You rely heavily on the stable geometry, the fork to soak up the big hits, and your wheel/tire combo. Our SR Suntour Raidon fork, besides the rebound challenge, performed well. It didn’t get twitchy when it came time to torque it in the corners.
It was helpful having the larger 27.5-inch wheel diameter, especially when negotiating rocky sections. On the bigger descents and at greater speeds, you learn your place on the mountain really quickly. The key is picking your lines carefully. This is not a bike for the lazy.
Braking: The Hayes Dyno Sport hydraulic brakes are responsible for slowing the Meteore Sport, and they have not let us down yet. The two-fingered lever is comfortable to use, and there has been no evidence of loss of braking power.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
We support any rider with that pioneering, I’ll-do-it-myself attitude. There is nothing wrong with going out of your comfort zone to assemble this bike. It’s the best way to really learn about your new ride. And, if you suffer a mechanical problem on the trail, which you will eventually, it will be a good thing that you know your bike so well.
The only downside is that if you face a mechanical issue that stumps you, your local bike shop is going to charge you full pop for repairs (compared to a customer who might get a break on service if he purchased the bike from the shop).
The one major drawback of buying a bike direct is that you never get to test ride it. This is still the number one recommendation we share with riders when they ask us for advice on a bike. A proper fit is just as important as the bike itself. Getting the wrong size can be a costly mistake. It can’t hurt to pop your head into your local bicycle dealership and see what they are offering for around this price.
If you know what size bike fits you, however, you really can’t go wrong with this well-spec’ed hardtail. While you have to assemble and adjust it, you will be hard pressed to find an assembled bike at this price that can match the Meteore’s components.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION:
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