Mongoose always deliver good gear for your spend, and the Triple sits proud at the top of their Black Diamond range with some great kit detail.
The unique Freedrive floating suspension sets up a unique ride, but it's definitely more suited to freeriding than racing straight for the line.
The frame's narrow front end, big mass of linkages above the cranks and low slung rear mean it's visually a bike of two halves. Mechanically though, it's totally interactive, with the 'floating' bottom bracket moving in relation to both the front and rear ends as the suspension compresses. The multiple linkages are pretty tight tracking too, and we haven't heard of any excessive reliability problems.
The high bottom bracket feels tall until you've sessioned yourself into sync with it. Even with the telescopic seatpost you've got to be careful you don't drop the post on to the valve of the piggyback shock, although the super sloped top tube means standover clearance is OK. The 150mm spaced dropouts are fully replaceable so you can change them easily if they get damaged, and the clamped 12mm axle is easy to work with too.
Two rear shock positions give either 165 or 190mm (6.5 or 7.5in) of rear travel from the Fox DHX 4.0 unit. Unlike the DHX 3.0 shocks on the other bikes, the 4.0 also features external ProPedal low speed compression damping.
The other bikes in this test are out-andout downhill rigs but the Mongoose is much more freeride friendly. The RockShox Boxxer Ride fork features easy U-Turn external travel adjustment for altering steering angles or dropping the head angle for the long rides back up the hills. It still more than holds its own on descents and drops though, and you have to work really hard down stepped sections or rock gardens to make it unhappy. The telescopic seatpost is perfect for full-extension pedalling too, and we're big fans of SDG's single-bolt I-Beam seat clamp.
The Truvativ double chainring also lets you exploit the Triple's stunning traction on the way back up hills. Just watch the crank bolts on the new Howitzer bottom bracket though - the crank arms on our test model fell off with little warning, which happened on the Norco too...
Brakes are Hayes HFX-9 hydraulic discs and the V-7 180mm (7in) rotors give a slightly more subtle braking feel than 203mm (8in) version
The Triple looks different to the other bikes, and it rides differently too. Rather than sagging downwards, the pedals pull back slightly as the bike compresses, and they move back and forward slightly with any suspension action. Hard braking also tends to extend the suspension, and it can chatter over braking bumps.
The constant motion takes a while to get used to after the more static, stable nature of the other bikes, and our feet were constantly getting kicked off the pedals on the first few runs. Once you're used to it though, the permanent interaction gives a slightly elastic but undeniable power surge out of corners or rolling rhythm sections. It also gives remarkable traction for climbing, but that's not really an issue here.
The external ProPedal damping adjustment on the rear shock can also be matched with the Floodgate 'platform' damping on the fork for a crisper fore/aft feel when carving corners or pedalling. This means you can run a significantly softer shock than normal to provide small-bump plush and traction. Unfortunately, the shock was also slightly over-sprung for our test team (with an average weight of 11 stone), so the stroke had a very progressive feel, even with minimal boost pressure. This really helped when we were dropping from serious heights, though. In fact, the Triple proved to be a natural hucker with great poise and compression control even when we almost pancaked stuff.
This bike feels tall, but it's also got a very short wheelbase, which means you can easily snap turn or throw it around if you need to. That said, it definitely feels more nervous and sketchy than the other bikes as speeds increase. As a result, the Triple is much more suited to freeride than full-on race runs. The double chainset, front and rear travel adjustment and full-height pedalling make it perfect for scouting big-drop, sketchy-line stunts in the woods. Once you've found them, the Black Diamond Triple will have no trouble tackling the steepest and sketchiest lines and then winding back up for another go.