Mongoose Tyax Elite £450

Capable trail hardtail

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

The Tyax Elite is proof of the way bike prices have risen. When we tested it a few years ago it was £280. It was a cracking bike then – and it still is.

The wide handlebar, well-behaved fork and hydraulic disc brakes make the Tyax Elite unusual in its price point as a bike you can enjoy any wheels-on-the-ground descent on – once you switch the tyres to something that will hook up in the mud. It’s not a particularly heavy bike either, at 13.4kg (29.4lb, without pedals), so you can winch it up the hill again too.

Ride & handling: Great for trail centre blasts but uncomfortable for longer rides

Steering is sharper than you initially expect because the Tyax Elite’s beefy tubes and big handlebar mask the fact it has fairly old-school cross-country orientated geometry. The wide bar does keep turns and drops in check, though, and helps give the bike a more can-do attitude.

The solid-looking back looks like it'll give a rough ride and lives up to expectations, so the bike is better for short loops than all-day outings. At the front, it’s a different story. The Suntour XCR fork starts smooth and becomes more buttery with time.

By the end of the test, we were getting almost all of its 100mm (4in) of travel with no noticeable bottoming out. A worry that there was play in the stanchions turned out to be a knocky and loose headset. Reassembled with grease and carefully torqued, it worked fine, but we were concerned that the problem might redevelop in time.

The Tyax Elite is listed as coming with toothy Kenda Komodo tyres, but our test model arrived with 2.1in Kenda Small Block Eights. These are great on a race bike, not so good on a trail centre bike. One of our testers snowploughed the bike into a wooden post on a slippery descent when the mud-freighted tyres surfed like slicks, and Ian narrowly missed doing exactly the same.

We’d have preferred all-round tyres like Kenda Nevegals (which cost much the same as Small Block Eights) for a budget trail bike like this: they’ll actually grip in mud, even when banked over a bit. More width would also be useful for added bump absorption.

Frame & equipment: Well damped fork tops a great spec for the price

The Tyax Elite uses a reinforcing curve at the head tube instead of a chunky gusset. Its aluminium tubes are burly, with the down tube flaring wide at the head tube for maximum stiffness and drop-off resistance. Stays are solid looking too, while the head tube is a zero stack one with semi-integrated headset.

A cursory glance might peg it as a shorter and slacker angled budget hardcore bike. It isn’t. It does have a trail-centre friendly big bar, but it uses cross-country angles and has a roomy reach.

While there are eyelets for a rear rack and/or mudguards, they’re inaccessible because the dropouts are cowled. So the Tyax Elite isn’t ideal for dual use as weekday work bike.

The fork is a hydraulically damped Suntour XCR, like you get on bikes costing a couple of hundred pounds more. At this price point, ruled by randomly rebounding pogo sticks, it’s a steal. Yet a decent 24-speed drivetrain is squeezed into the spec, along with hydraulic disc brakes.

Tektro Auriga Comps aren’t special as hydraulic discs go, but compared with the inefficient cable discs that some bikes have at this price point, they’re very good indeed.

Square taper cartridge bottom brackets have been relegated to the entry level by Octalink and then external bottom brackets, but we didn’t notice any lack of stiffness here and it will be cheap to replace when it dies.

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