With its clean, pale gold finish picking out sharp detailing all over the frame, the Otero looks like an expensive bike. Unfortunately, promising performance was marred by bad quality control on our test sample.
The square-headed top tube backs on to an integrated headset head tube, and the seat junction gusset maintains strength too. The hanging rocker pivot and main chain-stay pivot also penetrate through the frame tubes rather than being welded on to the outside, which increases stiffness.
The asymmetric chain-stay terminals include a slotted forged bridge and fluted detailing, while rectangular chain-stays, seat-stays and deep webbed dropouts keep things structurally stiff. The seat-stays can be slid up and down a slot in the hanging linkage to give anywhere from 64-112mm (2.5-4.4in) of travel just by undoing a quick release lever.
On our test rig the bearings were loose in the seat-stay, letting it slide from side to side however hard we did up the QR. The top rocker and rear seat-stay pivots are sleeved bushings rather than cartridge bearings too. This is likely to mean a shorter lifespan in UK conditions, although ours survived the test period OK.
It might be the joint cheapest bike here, but the Otero still ticks all the spec boxes. The Suntour fork is competent rather than fantastic - fair enough at this price - and rebound adjustment is a useful feature. Tektro's fully hydraulic Auriga Comp brakes are powerful enough for cross-country work.
The Joytech/Alex wheels are light for the price and don't seem unduly fragile, despite a thorough thrashing. The Kenda Komodo tyres are new to us too, but wintered well. They're similar to the classic IRC Mythos, so traction should be good all year round.
Mongoose always deliver excellent value, but there are no miracles in equipment costing and the transmission is where the Otero runs at a minimum.
There's nothing wrong with the performance of the Alivio rear mech and rest of the Suntour kit, it's just a bit heavy and slow moving, compared to pedigree pieces. You only get an eight-speed block too, but overall gear range is the same as a nine-speed (11-32 teeth). However, the chainrings are replaceable, which isn't true of all cheap cranks.
The Mongoose-branded cockpit kit is all decent gear and the stem is just the right length to set up agile, involving steering. The super wide handlebar could probably be chopped down an inch though, and some testers found the WTB Sport saddle a bit broad too.
The immediately noticeable aspect of the Otero in comparison to the other bikes here is its relatively steep XC style angles and compact dimensions. The low integrated headset and almost flat bar also push your weight forward. This all makes it great for rapid direction changes and chucking round the single-track, with plenty of cornering traction in slippery conditions. There's little nose lift on steep climbs either, and the naturally stiff frame has the potential to transfer power and steering commands well.
The reasonably light wheels mean it picks up speed well, and the wide bar, short stem and naturally agile handling all add to the Otero Elite's infectiously enthusiastic ride character.
You need to push the saddle right back to get enough stretch for breathing space on long climbs though, and it can feel unnerving on steep descents. You also have to make a conscious effort to push your weight back to stop the fork getting overloaded and let the rear shock do its share.
The 100mm Suntour fork also benefits from running a bit of preload to stop it diving straight through its travel, but it definitely enhances rough terrain control and comfort. While the short stroke air shock doesn't pick up small stuff, you can definitely feel it smoothing progress over cobbled sections and drops.
Climbing traction is increased too, although there is a slight visible bob if you're really grunting the cranks round. You can slide the shock up to a shorter travel setting as a virtual lockout for long climbs.
Adjustable rebound damping on fork and shock tames their clunking top-out too, and with both ends balanced the Otero behaves like a proper comfort and control-enhancing suspension bike should.
Four bar or faux bar? With the rear pivots on the seatstays, this is effectively a swingarm or 'faux bar' bike with a simple rear wheel arc path rather than a true four bar. To be honest, as long as the performance of the shock matches the bike OK, it's not the big deal it was a few years ago, and the Otero Elite pedals and sucks up bumps fine.