Mongoose describe the Switchback Sport as a “solid hardtail mountain bike for ﬁrst-time trail riders”, but as with pretty much all bikes in its price range it’s designed to be able to turn its hand to urban utility and commuter duty too.
Ride & handling: Balanced handling makes for a conﬁdent ride
With its semi-slick tyres and tall stem, the Switchback Sport doesn’t look like it’ll be entirely at home on the trail. Appearances can be deceiving though, and it turns out the Mongoose is surprisingly capable off-road. While the upright stem looks a little odd, it’s merely compensating for a low front end – the bars are actually at a pretty sensible height and there’s ample cockpit room to shift your weight around.
With dry conditions during the testing period, the minimally-treaded tyres didn’t prove much of a hindrance either. On hardpack trails, at beginner speeds, they’re not at all bad, and the low rolling resistance goes some way to offsetting the inevitable weight of the bike.
Start pushing, and the tyres get interestingly drifty, and they’re fairly hopeless in anything resembling mud. But the low price of the Switchback means it’s still good value even if you factor in a new set of rubbers early on.
Frame: Sturdy chassis with neat details
The Switchback clearly has dual-use intentions, as evidenced by the presence on the frame of both a kickstand ﬁxing plate and disc brake mounts. The general style, though, is deﬁnitely mountain bike, with a low-slung frame and big, square-headed tubes up front.
The frame is further reinforced at the down tube/head tube junction by a substantial gusset – and chunky snaked stays at the back. The head tube takes a zero-stack semi-integrated headset, which is fairly unusual on a budget bike. Rack and mudguard mounts add versatility.
Equipment: SR Suntour fork is no great shakes, and tyres don’t like mud
The SR Suntour suspension fork is all-steel, with skinny stanchions, a welded-on brace and simple spring/elastomer internals. It’s heavy, ﬂexible and bouncy but if you’re not used to a decent suspension fork then you’re unlikely to notice. There’s no adjustment, but it’s quite ﬁrmly sprung which stops plunging and the top-out is relatively gentle.
The Prowheel chainset isn’t quite as well ﬁnished as the Suntour and Shimano units found on some other bikes at this price, but it works well enough. You get the usual budget Shimano transmission parts, and the Promax V-style brakes do an adequate stopping job.
The rear freewheel is a 14-28-tooth unit. This delivers seven evenly-spaced ratios so you never hit the shifter and end up in a surprisingly spinny setting. The downside is that you don’t get a really low gear for steep climbs like on a 14-34. The 42/14 at the other end though, is a bit weedy and you may well spin out on the road – something like a 12-28 freewheel would be more versatile.
The wheel package mixes Formula hubs with Alex rims, that include a handy wear indicator, shod with Innova Hardpack 2.0in semi-slick tyres. They’re a reasonable volume, which adds comfort, but are pretty minimally-treaded.