Although it may not be quite as light as last year's model, the 2008 Elite is still smooth, responsive and seriously traction-rich. Most impressively, this is a bike with an XT package at a price where LX is generally a highlight.
Strengthening gussets have been added to ensure the frame meets tough new CEN standards, but otherwise there are no significant changes over last year's bike.
The long low front end is mated to the mirror-image low rear subframe to create a sleek chassis. Even the interlinked, multi-pivot knot of the Freedrive suspension system looks pretty neat. The short shock lies horizontally in an open cradle for easy Pro Pedal lever access, while the rear end is straddled by the forged and windowed base of the seat tube.
Mongoose has done a neat job of downsizing the Freedrive system without losing any of its obvious characteristics. Basically, the bottom bracket hangs between the mainframe and rear subframe, effectively halving the influence either end of the bike has on its action. The result is consistent ground connection even with only 100mm of travel, and the bike finds traction in almost any situation.
There's very little interruption of pedal rhythm when it takes a hit, leaving you completely free to keep the power down across rocks, roots and cobbles. A low bottom bracket means you'll have to back off over the big stuff or risk busting your pedals, though. You'll also have to get used to a slight 'elastic' chain feel from the Freedrive as payback for the plush. It's particularly noticeable on smoother surfaces, but flicking the Pro Pedal damping on adds a sharper top note for sprinting if it really bothers you.
Mongoose targets this bike at marathon racers, and the long top tube stretch and relaxed geometry really come into their own as the day goes on. It's not the fastest tree weaver or most incisive line cutter, but it doesn't need constant control corrections when you'd rather be conserving energy. The stable feel, low-slung weight and sturdy fork give it a reassuringly planted on fast descents, too.
Like we said at the start of this review, though, the Canaan isn't the lightest bike in this test, but you do get a hell of a lot of bike for the weight that it is.
Although most of the excess weight is in the frame, the hefty Recon fork doesn't help matters. It's stiff enough to tackle stuff head-on though, and overall manners are controlled and complementary to the planted bike feel.
The full suite of XT kit you get fitted is remarkably good value, with impressively powerful Servo Wave braking and outstanding hub life among many highlights. Easton finishing kit is a bonus too, although you'll need to include a set of more wintery/all-round tyres in your budget for year-round use.
Smooth, well shaped and balanced for longer, faster rides - and remarkably well equipped for stopand- go riding - the Canaan sounds a mean marathon competitor. Excess weight stilts both its ultimate speed and upgrade potential, though.
© BikeRadar 2007