Mongoose Guide Expert review

An adventure bike built around fun, not speed

BikeRadar score4/5

Gravel bikes vary greatly, from light, stiff, carbon race machines to braze-on-equipped, long-wheelbase, steel touring rigs. Mongoose's Guide Expert leans heavily towards the 'let's pack up some gear and pedal into no man's zone' type of gravel riding. It is a fun bike and one that surprised me more than any test bike I have ridden in some time.

This is why I suggest a lower gear range for a bike like the Guide Expert
This is why I suggest a lower gear range for a bike like the Guide Expert

Mongoose Guide Expert specs

  • Tectonic T2 aluminum frame
  • 29 x 1.75in tires
  • Stash Pack frame bag
  • 11-speed Shimano 105; 48/32 and 11-32t
  • Internal cable routing
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
  • Sizes: 52, 54, 56, 58cm (tested)
  • Actual weight: 11.37kg / 25.1lb

Needs a clutch and more gearing

As is the norm, the Shimano 105 drivetrain shifted smoothly, but did bang and clack around since the rear derailleur was devoid of a clutch. And despite having a double chainring up front, the gear range was too tall in my opinion for the bike's intended purpose.

A bike like this doesn't need high-end speed, it requires low-end, hill-climbing grunt of something lower than a 32/32. Trail bikes these days often come with 32 x 10-50 (SRAM) or 30 x 11-46 (Shimano); this isn't a trail bike, but it does want to explore steep trails, and I was often wishing for something lower.

The Shimano hydraulic brakes were excellent with fine modulation, good consistency, and zero maintenance throughout the test. They also spin rub- and squawk-free, which was much appreciated.  

My adventures lead to many old mining shacks and forgotten zones
My adventures lead to many old mining shacks and forgotten zones

I found the saddle to be too wide, especially through the nose. If it were my bike I'd swap out the bar tape for something softer and tackier as well. 

I grew to adore the included frame bag. It's cavernous enough for a real pump, tube, levers, multi-tool, snacks, keys, phone, and light windbreaker. Or just a couple of beers. 

 But because of the bag there's only one bottle mount inside the frame, which was a drag. That said, there are attachments on the carbon fork. 

A laid-back ride

Sometimes you can tell how a bike is going to ride just by looking at it; other times it's a shock. The Guide Expert isn't fooling anyone. It looks long and tall because it is. 

To stretch out the wheelbase, the chainstays are vast and the head tube ratchets skyward as frame sizes increase. The distinctive top tube kink adds visual height to the tall front end as well. 

Even with the relatively large tires, there's a ton of room still between the chainstays
Even with the relatively large tires, there's a ton of room still between the chainstays

So how does it ride? Surprisingly well. I've been on a few very different gravel bikes this season, ranging from the silky smooth, titanium Why Cycles R+ beauty, to the let's-rip-some-legs-off, carbon Scott Addict Gravel 10 race bike, as well as the very confident Norco Search XR (full review in the works). 

The Mongoose is different than all of those. Its ride is relaxed, yet confident. Its 406.3mm reach is about the same as the 58mm Addict Gravel's 405mm and 60.5cm Search XR's 407mm, but the stack is much higher (630.1 vs. 602.2 vs. 620mm), so the riding position is much more upright. 

Adding to the upright confidence is the super-long rear end. Again, compared to the racing Addict Gravel, the Guide Expert tacks on an extra 38mm (460 vs. 422mm) on the chainstays. Norco's Search XR has 425mm stays. 

But it makes the ride so luxurious. Its Cadillac-esque wheelbase lets the bike cruise with a reassured confidence. 

It's not stiff either. The bottom bracket sways when you load the pedals, and the WTB i19 rims aren't going to be a sprinter's first choice. Still, it put a smile on my face and surprised me more than any bike I've recently tested. 

It can certainly handle the tarmac, but its home turf is decidedly gravel and dirt roads
It can certainly handle the tarmac, but its home turf is decidedly gravel and dirt roads

In a gigantic contrast to most bikes, the Guide Expert isn't fast, and it seems 100 percent okay with that. It's almost as if it begged me to slow down, to take it easy, and to look around a bit more. For me, that alone, makes the Guide Expert an exceptional bike.

Mongoose Guide Expert bottom line

The Guide Expert made me want to grow my beard out and cut off my jeans into some sweet jorts. I had visions of downsizing my life, of spending more time in the woods and moving about life at a slower pace. That's this bike's vibe. 

It's not fast, but it's not meant to be. It's not light, but that's not surprising. What it is, is reliable, fun to ride, and ready to rattle and bump around forgotten roads. 

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Age: 39
  • Height: 6'3"/190cm
  • Weight: 175lb/79kg
  • Waist: 34in/86cm
  • Chest: 42in / 107cm
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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