Mongoose, born a BMX brand, have been alive and kicking for 28 years. That's longer than MTB history. Inevitably, there have been a fair few changes over the years, but we reckon the current reincarnation is the best yet. The bikes in the '06 range look extremely well sorted and great value for money. The Teocali Elite, with its two distinctly different rear suspension settings, sits in the middle of the three-bike Teocali range.
There are some design and function similarities between the Teocali and GT's i-Drive, which isn't too surprising because they share the same parent company, Pacific Cycle. Both brands use a floating drivetrain, linked to the main frame and the swingarm, but the similarity ends there.
The frame architecture of the Mongoose has a strong emphasis on standover clearance and a shock setup that allows you to choose between 120mm and 150mm (4.75in and 5.75in) of travel. Swapping between the two requires 4mm and 5mm allen keys and takes a few minutes, but it's worth the effort. The settings produce very different ride responses that suit the bike's abilities on both pedally XC trails and radically lumpy high-speed technical terrain.
The Teocali's 6061 aluminium frame is tough and purposeful but not very pretty. The tubes and the box-sectioned swingarm are reinforced where it matters, there's plenty of mud room around the big 2.35in tyres, and the two main loaded pivot points use quality bearings. There are a couple of potential problems. First, RockShox's Ario 2.1 air shock gets mud from the rear tyre dumped on it constantly; more time will tell if the seals can cope with this. Second, the shock placing limits seatpost drop - an issue if you like dropping the saddle out of the way for tackling steep descents.
We got on well with the RockShox Revelation 409 fork, although this one comes without the U-Turn travel-adjust dial option. The dual air spring and Motion Control damping make for a super plush and easy-to-tune action; the compression damping, on top of the right leg, goes all the way to lockout and the rebound damping, under the same leg, is very effective. The tuning, and the 130mm travel, works well with both travel settings on the rear shock.
Shimano's Dual Control shifters aren't to everyone's liking, but most riders who've tried them overcome initial reservations pretty quickly. The single unit for both brakes and gears is a choice/replacement cost issue - the wrist flick shift action simply takes a while to get used to. Functionally, they're hard to fault, but they do seem more in need of spot-on adjustment than Rapidfires or SRAM triggers. The Truvativ Firex crankset, SRAM chain and Shimano cassette complete the drivetrain package.
The wheels are excellent: Sun's super tough medium-weight rims, tight laced with black spokes to Shimano LX hubs and shod with Kenda's grippy, great-in-harsh-conditions Nevegal Tomac signature treads. We like SDG's Bel Air saddle and I-Beam seatpost too (the post is long enough for riders up to 6ft on the Medium bike). Truvativ's oversize XR stem and 685mm (27in) easily-trimmed riser bar are some nice spec choices too.
As we've already mentioned, the Freedrive rear suspension design has similarities to GT's i-Drive system. The 'floating' linkage on which the bottom bracket is mounted almost completely isolates the shock and the brake from pedal forces. You feel a tiny kick between the pedals and the shock when the shock is active, but it's not enough to disrupt power transfer.
In short, the Teocali accelerates and climbs far better than you'd expect a bike with this much suspension travel would. This is especially notable in its 120mm setting: with the air pressure in the shock left the same as in the long setting (you can fine-tune it to suit your weight/ride feel preferences), the shorter setting is very stable under load but still deals well with the bumps. The progressive compression damping dial on the fork obviously allows you to tune out climbing bob too, so if you want the Teocali to climb like a rigid bike (albeit a 14kg rigid bike), it will. On raggedy climbs, the suspension and excellent tyre traction allow you to claw your way up just about anything. In the 150mm rear travel setting, the 130mm (5in) of fork travel and a super-soft back end soak up everything from pitter-pattery surfaces to big drops and very dodgy line choices.
The Teocali's weight is reasonable for a bike that can take a lot of punishment. Sure, it's a little slower on steady climbs than a typical short travel bike and the high bottom bracket position makes the handling feel a little ponderous on slow-speed technical terrain, but you can more than make up for that in the fun to be had when the terrain gets gnarly. It's also an excellent £1,299 worth. We wouldn't change a thing.