Like GT, Mongoose are a brand with a deep BMX heritage, which shows in their hardcore MTBs. The Fireball might be low on their jump bike menu, but it still packs an excellent frame and highlighted componentry pack for a confident kick-ass ride on dirt, street or wherever else you take it.
You're certainly getting a great frame for your money here as it's the same frame as the top line Hardball. The big square headed main tubes get an embossed Mongoose logo for extra pimp appeal, and there's a neat shallow gusset underneath the thick wall head tube. The flat-topped top tube drops away steeply for maximum crotch clearance, with a seatpost quick release for easy height adjustment.
The monster block profile seatstays run almost parallel down to the back wheel, while even deeper rectangular chainstays link to the bottom bracket with solid slab sections and welded pipe bridges. The real winning details on this frame are the massive open box horizontal dropouts. These come complete with neat screw-adjusted wheel carriers that also hold the rear mech plate.
The Fireball is perfect for use as a single gear set-up, and slotted brake mounts also mean easy alignment on either geared or singlespeed set-ups should you decide to upgrade to discs at a later date. Cable/hose mounts for discs are all present and correct, although the above top tube routing carries a small risk of catching your feet if you don't 'step through' high enough. The frame certainly has all-the-way upgrade potential as your riding progresses.
It's quickly obvious that the Fireball is slightly weightier than the other bikes here, but that translates into a fantastic feeling of total security in sketchy ground situations and reassuring stability in the air. It has no trouble getting every bit of drive you can supply through to the back wheel either, and it kicks hard off start lines or out of corners. The high bottom bracket also lets you get the power down even when you're right over in a turn.
This does show up the slight fork and wheel flex when you're powering hard with the front wheel on the floor, but otherwise it's a very accurate and sure-footed ride. The fork was also better than the GT's over rough singletrack, ungroomed trails and street sections, with the extra 20mm smoothing out step edges and roots alike, and there's no excess bounce or top-out/bottom-out clunk, which helps underline the confident and trustworthy feel of the bike.
Handling angles and weight distribution are excellent, with the compact top tube letting you really throw your weight around in the air or on the ground. Over-sized bars keep you fully informed of what's going on at ground level and the same is true of the massive rear stays; don't expect any cushy comfort from them if you decide to head out on a longer ride though.
The Mongoose Fireball is ideally equipped for shorter, more aggro adventures. The frame is premium quality and apart from the weather sensitive V-brakes and slightly baggy wheels on our test rig, there are no obvious weak links anywhere in the spec, despite the price tag.
Take it down the jump trails, grind and drop round town, huck the local Shore or DH spot, or just play around on whatever terrain you fancy, and the Fireball will feel grounded and fun. While it might be a little heavy out of the box, it's certainly worth upgrading all the way up to Eric Carter pro race spec with better forks and brakes.
The good thing about this package is that there's nothing crying out for an immediate change. It's the only bike of the four with V-brakes, but unless your rims are rolling through muck constantly, they actually feel sharper than most cable discs.
The wheels are ready to take discs anyway, though they did feel slightly baggy under real stress compared to the ultra-stiff frame, but the genuine Stick E compound Kenda tyres add masses of cornering confidence and all-round grip. Again, a bolted rear wheel gives security at the expense of convenience.
The stiff Mongoose-branded oversize cockpit also delivers plenty of clear pilot information, and the saddle and seatpost are equally fine. The Truvativ Ruktion double ring and bashguard cranks, with reinforced external bearing Howitzer bottom bracket, are ideal for this kind of hard usage bike. We weren't that fond of the forked lever SRAM shifters, but the short cage of the Suntour mech reduced chain rattle, a nice touch.
Suntour Duro forks give reliable, if basic, shock absorption, but the slight extra leg length of these 100mm travel units means a more flexy feel than the 80mm version on the GT. Again, the super stiff frame tends to emphasise that. You get a bottle cage mount for thirst quenching between runs too.