Mongoose’s Switchback series offers three bikes to tempt new riders, all based around the same aluminium frame and Suntour fork. Our test Comp sits smack in the middle of the line-up, losing out on the Expert’s disc brakes but bettering the Sport’s basic seven-speed transmission. It shows trail riding potential but is held back by its basic suspension fork.
Ride & handling: Handling is great despite an unfashionably long stem
Although the Switchback bucks the short stem/long top tube trend, the lanky stem doesn’t upset the bike’s handling as much as we thought it might. In fact, the Mongoose is a willing and compliant trail companion, offering a decent blend of comfort and point-and-go immediacy that’ll suit beginners without holding things back as the pace picks up.
It’s not a particularly light bike, though – a fact which becomes obvious on long climbs and hard out-of-the-saddle efforts. The Switchback’s biggest problem is that perennial entry-level Achilles heel: the cheap fork. The frame may hint at burly toughness but the fork’s wimpy build and all-but-ineffective internals do no more than take the edge off low to middling speed hits.
Any attempt to push hard on rough, fast trails is met with an offputting clanking from the fork’s harsh top-out and a front wheel that’s not particularly keen on going where the rider’s pointing it. It’s disappointing. But worse than that, there’s no way around this for the aspiring Switchback buyer – every bike in the range has the same fork.
Frame: Tough frame build bodes well for long-term durability
A huge box section formed by the head, top and down tube joints is further reinforced with a substantial gusset, making a front end that’ll stand up to far more abuse than the average Switchback rider is likely to dish out.
Square section stays continue the stiff-n-strong theme out back. A full set of rack and mudguard eyelets and a kickstand-compatible chainstay bridge dent the hardcore image slightly but hint at the dual use to which most Switchbacks are likely to be put.
Plugged into the front is an unashamedly basic Suntour M2025 fork. This is an even more pared-down unit than the M3010 that finds its way onto many entry-level bikes, with an overly stiff initial stroke and barely adequate seals.
Equipment: Hefty build contributes to a relatively high all-up weight
Promax-branded rim brakes do a perfectly adequate job of bringing the Switchback Comp to a halt. Given the bike’s rather hefty all-in weight of 14.5kg/32lb without pedals, we’d stick with these rather than stump up the extra for the disc-equipped (and therefore heavier) Expert.
The eight-speed Shimano transmission works well and it’s good to see pukka rubber labyrinth seals on the hubs. The wide, comfy own-brand saddle does a good job of mitigating the frame’s rear end stiffness out on the trail.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine.