Mongoose Salvo Sport review£599.99

Off-road fun despite suspension issues

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Mongoose’s three bike entry-level Salvo suspension line starts with the Sport here, but the same frame and cockpit are used on the £999 Elite model. It’s these basics that make the Salvo one of the better riding bikes at this price point, despite a slow rear shock and our limited love for the front fork.

Ride & handling: Balanced handling for off-road fun

The size specific cockpit dimensions are pretty much spot on for cross-country/trail use. It's this combination of reasonable length (rather than over-long) stem and decent width bars, you notice straight away compared to the Salvo's peers. While the angles of the frame itself are relatively steep and the tyres slippery, there’s far more leverage and authority in your hands with which to control them. There’s decent communication of what traction there is through both ends too, so while softer compound  tyres are an obvious upgrade, you can at least make the most of the Kendas that are fitted until you’ve got some spare cash.

While cable stretch and cam flex means you can’t use immediate bites of brake to steady and steer the Salvo, there’s decent power after the initial pause. As usual on cheap full suspension bikes, the basic Suntour fork has a pogo stick-style rebound and harsh top-out clank when lifted or launched. The actual absorbing action is reasonably plush and smooth though, with a reasonable spring weight for less aggressive riders and a controlled bottom out bump.

The extra stroke of the 190mm long KS shock lets it suck up bumps and fair sized drops in a controlled manner too. Being able to drop the saddle right down also helps when you want to drop into steep trails or off of edges.  The non-adjustable rear shock rebound is very slow though so it soon packs down and gets overwhelmed on multiple hits and stepped descents.

With the bike’s hefty weight making pedalling a real chore whatever the shock setting, the 120 to 95mm switch is largely redundant and has the potential to become a real rattle-and-shake weak spot as the bike gets older. The overall ride is still much more controlled and capable than that of many other budget full suspension bikes. Despite limitations you could have a lot of fun on reasonably challenging trails if you’re patient on the climbs.

Frame: Well made, with floating shock mount

The Salvo chassis certainly scores well on ‘proper bike’ points. The head tube is oversized and ring reinforced to take a clean-looking ‘zero stack’ headset. The down tube and top tube both have a subtle curve – the down tube to allow for fork-top clearance, and the top tube to allow shorts-contents clearance – and they taper and change section type along their length too.

The rocker link pivots have pop-on rubber caps to cover the bearings and the whole back end is admirably stiff. That’s despite a slot in the rocker to let you slide the quick-release lever secured seatstays from a 95 to 120mm (3.7 to 4.7in) travel position without altering geometry. Forged seatstay and chainstay bridges give plenty of tyre space.

The asymmetric chainstay terminals continue forward past the main pivot to provide a ‘floating’ mount for the bottom of the long coil shock. The seat collar is quick-release for dropping it right down easily and there are mounts for a bottle. The plastic clips under the top tube for rear gear cable and brake hose are absolutely crap though, so ziptie them shut before you start riding.

Equipment: Well-specced for the price

Speccing a budget suspension bike is always going to be a case of carefully balanced compromise at best, but the Salvo Sport is reasonably – if not outstandingly – rigged for the price. The Suntour fork might have a clanging top out but it’s reasonably smooth in terms of bump response. The KS coil shock obviously benefits from more stroke to better suck up impacts than the units seen on the Salvo's peers.

The D section Alex disc wheels are sturdy enough and the tyres are something close to a useful tread, although plasticky rubber compound still makes them very dicey on wet wood and rocks. Quick-release axles front and rear enable easy car loading and puncture repair though. As ever, the cable discs lack the immediacy and sharp control of hydraulic brakes, but deliver reasonable all-weather power eventually. SRAM and Shimano gears with ‘proper’ trigger shifters are a definite bonus in terms of precision and shift speed, although the Suntour chainset doesn’t have replaceable chainrings. The saddle is decent quality, too.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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