Bike Review: $199 Mongoose XR200 Full Suspension

26er Pro Reviews

This review is brought to you by one of the mtbr.com content partners, Mountainbiketales.com

On Department Store “Cheapies”

Would it surprise you to know that month after month the most inquired about mountain bike models aren’t uber-expensive, cutting edge, technological wonders? In fact, far from it! It turns out that readers enjoy living vicariously through the media when it comes to the experience of hammering a $9,000 bicycle for entertainment much in the way we find ourselves reading tests of Ferraris and Lambos; cars we’ll likely never even drive much less own.

Yet when it comes time to buy a car, reading up on the Ford Fiesta suddenly becomes a lot more appealing and thus is the logic behind the fact that readers request, in fact beg for thorough, professional reviews of bikes available at their local big box shopping centers and sporting goods stores. We understand the desire. Times are rough and most of us are struggling just to put fuel in the car and pay for the week’s groceries. $6,000 for a recreational item is simply not in the cards- So why all the negativity surrounding department store “cheapies”?

There is no shortage of such information on the Internet offering persuasive info on the subject- forums filled with threads harping on excessive weight, unreliability of components, catastrophic frame failures and horror stories of improper assembly. Last year the MBT Test Crew pulled an upset when we picked up and thoroughly tested a $75 Next Parowan rigid steel mountain bike. The results really weren’t pretty! We concluded that for anything other than sidewalk cruising, the overweight steel-framed bike would have been in over its head and even with the luxury of having been built by our own professional mechanics; there were certain components (front brake for example) that never worked properly.

This all brings us up to the $199 Mongoose XR 200 being reviewed here and a company that you probably think you don’t know about (but actually do). If you have no concern about the history behind the Mongoose brand and the corporate moving and shakings that resulted in this bike, feel free to skip down below for the test itself. We won’t be offended, honest!

A Rich History

The Mongoose brand has a rich and colorful history in the bicycle industry that dates all the way back to the 1970s. For nearly 30-years, the domestic brand based in Madison, Wisconsin produced BMX and then later mid-level mountain bikes. Where things start to get a little fuzzy to the public is when the brand became a part of Taiwan bicycle manufacturing company Pacific Cycles (based in Hsin Wu, Taoyuan, Taiwan) back in 2001.

Pacific Cycles is actually a subsidiary of Dorel Industries; this becomes important in just a moment. After the merger, the Mongoose brand name was essentially split into two entirely separate product lines: low cost mass-market bicycles that could be found at department and sporting goods stores and higher-end models distributed through specialty bicycle shops.

For 2012 however, the plans for Mongoose have shifted slightly again. This time the higher-end bike shop models aren’t going to be available in the United States. Visiting Mongoose’s site reveals a pretty stellar lineup that is, sadly, inaccessible to us this year. The mass-market models are still alive and well though, and hence this very review born out of popular demand.

Dorel Industries is important because they have similarly merged with brands GT, Cannondale, Schwinn and most recently Iron Horse. More than just a brand-name conglomerate, the idea here is that the business practices of multiple brands under a single corporate umbrella could theoretically mix and match tactics to pass maximum savings onto the consumer.

Specs

The Mongoose XR 200 begins life as an aluminum one-size-fits-all tube set coupled to a 21-speed hybrid drivetrain (SRAM MRX grip-shifters mated to Shimano Tourney TX derailleur and gears). Braking comes in the form of a Promax DSK-400 manual (cable) disc brake in the front and Promax v-brake in the rear. Suspension duties are handled by a Zoom Element Racing Shocks fork and coil-over shock (3-inches of travel front & rear). Hubs and quick releases are Quando bits while the wheels and tires are presumably in-house brands.

All told the Men’s 26” XR 200 (26” refers to the wheel size only; the actual bike’s top tube measures roughly 21.5”) weighs in at 37 pounds with included pedals installed. A model identical to ours can be had for $199.

Shop Talk

As is always the case with our bike tests, we built the bike up in our shop and spent as much time tweaking and fine-tuning it to our specific needs as possible before field-testing. In the case of the XR-200, the suspension is only (spring) preload adjustable and hence extremely effortless to set-up. Without the need to pressurize air chambers for proper sag measurement, all that was left for us to fiddle with was the bar angle, stem height (by moving the included spacers above or below the clamp) and saddle height to suit each of our test riders. The uninterrupted seat-tube is certainly appreciated, as saddle-height range is quite munificent.

As stated in the spec breakdown, department store bikes can be difficult to pin-down size wise as most offerings (this one included) forego any sort of top tube measurement info in favor of wheel size. A 21” top-tube would typically put this somewhere between medium and large territory of most bike shop options though we should note that do to a generous bend in the top tube, the length alone can be a tad misleading (meaning a bit more compact in person than the spec sheet reveals). As always in these situations, try before you buy if possible, especially if you typically fall outside the norm as far as body types go.

Once set-up, the reach to the bars is fairly neutral; leaning toward the modern trail bike side of the spectrum (over the raked out stretch of a cross country configuration). The saddle is a tad bit harder than its bulk would suggest but our crew unanimously voted the cockpit as roomy and comfortable.

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  • Francis says:

    Great comment on the ‘bike build and assembly’. Often going through the build and putting it together properly will greatly enhance the performance of a department store bike.

  • Reformed Roadie says:

    I had a XR200 years ago…I didn’t have to pedal and it cost a lot more ;)

  • Andy says:

    Nice review. Didn’t come across as snobby and would hopefully enlighten beginners to the pitfalls of supermarket bikes.

  • kameraguy says:

    Wow, look at all the comments on this article. Never thought a $200 bargain-basement MTB would gather so much interest. With that said, great review and a way to go for not taking the elitist approach and being fair considering how much this bike costs.

  • Keith Baxendale says:

    Great range of responses here. I’ve just returned to mtb’s after a long long lay off. In North Wales we are lucky to have some fantastic routes around Moel Famau and Moel Arthur. I bought my first half serious bike – Muddy Fox Courier comp ( if you are old enough to remember this bike you probably have knees like mine) second hand from a lad who paid a fortune for it. This, like any other sport, has its snobs who always know best and sometimes have more money than sense. Cost V Functionality V style V comfort all play a part in the decision and I was always happy with my muddy and trust me it got battered over a 28 mile route up and down two mountains.
    It’s great to see low cost bikes tested – don’t do it as a one off make it a regular feature for those at entry level on a certain budget and want to invest in some basics. I always looked at Specialized from our local shop and stuck with a good frame that I could replace bits on as they fell off, broke or wore out.

  • Alex says:

    While I’m glad to hear that department store bikes are improving, I made the mistake of purchasing a department store Mongoose in the past, and I’ve learned my lesson. The main problem is durability, or lack there of. I’ve had the shock and a shifter break on the first bike, and the seatpost, a shifter, a wheel on the second. Paying to replace these components is very expensive – not to mention that having a component break half way through the ride seriously ruins your day.

    I had to fight the store to return the bike with the broken shock, got a replacement seatpost from my LBS, and decided to just leave the bent wheel and broken shifter as is. Then I bought a $1000 bike from my LBS and still ride that bike 12 years later. Over those 12 years I’ve only had to replace the stock suspension seatpost (suspension broke), the stock mechanical disk breaks (worked poorly due to bad design / defect), a bent derailleur hanger, and the middle chainring, the cogs, and the fork’s oil due to them wearing out.

    For new people starting out, learn from my mistakes. Yes, a $600+ mountain bike is much more expensive than a $200 one, but you get so much more bike for the money that you end up getting a much better value. That $200 bike will break down on you within a couple years, while the $600+ bike not only ride better, but will also give you many years of trouble-free riding.

  • RICARDO says:

    is funny to read all comments, the sport products commercialization push every body to get the expensive products, but think just a minute, the real and dedicated athletes looking for some average products that fill theyr own requirements, and you can see the FASHION Athletes having these expensive products just to show off, believe me I am a dedicated Athlete for more that 10 years .

  • 6sharky9 says:

    I would so take a mongoose XR-200 and build it up…if the review is correct in that it only weighs 37lbs then to me thats not bad at all considering all the steel used on it (seat post-Stem-handlebars etc..)..I can picture it droping 2 -maybe 3 pounds with upgrades easily..In comparison a $600 dollar Jamis XC weighs in at just under 35lbs..You can equipt this XR 200 with the same SR cranks and forks and tektro brakes and shimano alivio derailleurs and ezfire shifters/levers and it be just as good a bike as a more expensive name brand non depatment store bike if assembled and tuned properly.

    • cameron says:

      very true i think i am going to buy some more high end components and put it on this bike and also this bike is great for a 66cc motor and a sbp shift kit so you can have all the pros of a dirt bike and mtb in one but this is just what i am going to do

  • Bill says:

    I am 62 years old with a bad back and knees that are shot. But I ride to stay as healthy as possible. If you are a serious off trail rider I completely understand the need for a bike in the $600 to $1000 range. But for me I will stay on the paved 35 mile loop trail here in Vegas. It has 15% hills and for me is a workout. I have a young friend who has over $4500 in his ride. I do not give him grief about his bike that costs as much as some cars are worth and he understands my POS Mongoose is perfectly suited for what I do. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see a pro rider give an honest review of a cheap ride that a huge number of people like me are happy to have. Yes I ride a cheap bike, but isn’t that better than staying home watching TV and getting fat?

  • Alex says:

    I owned one of these for over two years and have put it through some of the wildest trails in Colorado with no issues. If you really think need to drop $1,000+ on a bike then you are just trying to look good than just have fun. This bike will hold up just fine to hard down hill riding. The weight is fine if you are man enough to put it on your back and carry it up the trail. No need for space age metals.

  • Patriot Ghost says:

    Too funny…bike snobs. I love it. Great review and nice job reviewing a bike on the Ford Fiesta portion of the spectrum. I have owned Trek, Giant, Specialized (LOVED that bike) and Diamond Back… oh yeah, Schwinn way back when too. Every sport has it’s snobs. And most of those snobs, if given any Ferrari – quality mountain bike, and raced a real pro riding THIS bike, would get their asses absolutely handed to them before they could say “Mommy I need to change my underpants!” We were back country snowmobiling a few years ago and one of the guys was on a two-up fan cooled 500cc sled and was always at the back of the pack. All day he whined,” if only my sled was fast and light like your guys sleds, nobody would have to wait for me”. The guy with the fastest, lightest, easiest to ride sled (about $20,000 full custom job) volunteered to switch with him. Guess who was STILL at the back of the pack. Guess who was still in front outriding all of us on the little 500cc two seater?

    For $200 this bike is light years better than my first Giant. Do I appreciate the high end bikes? Hell yeah baby, but I have six kids ($$$$$), two small businesses and I run my arse off nonstop with precious little free time to ride. Do I have the money for a lambo-bike? Not even close. But why would anyone care? If you have the money and it is that much of a priority to you, then rock on man, good for you. When I used to ride crotch rockets, we had Sunday morning rides and the one rule was, who cares what you’re riding, as long as you’re riding.

    I just picked one of these up at WallyWorld for $75 because someone had obviously returned it and Walmart hadn’t noticed that it had been used so they made me a deal.

    Ride. And wave or nod to those who are also riding. If you’re on a bike and I am on a bike we instantly have something in common. If you’re crashed or need a tool or a lift or help, I will stop and lend a hand regardless of how much your bike cost. And I bet you’ll do the same for me.

    Oh yeah and to the guy who wouldn’t even urinate on one of these mongoose POS bikes if it were burning by the road or whatever you said, chances are pretty decent that you are the guy at the back of the pack. It’s okay dude, you’ll grow out of it.

  • Thomas Donaldson says:

    I wish to purchase the XR200 Mongoose Full Suspension I am looking at on this web page ….. Please reply asap………..

  • solomon amfoh says:

    yeah i also use mongoose bike on campus and its really helping me a lot

  • 6sharky9 says:

    I posted a comment January10 2013 on here that I would so build up such a bike and here to say I found one new from a walmart unassembled and still in the box. I received it yesterday and im looking forward to assembling it myself and making some upgrades to it..It will receive Tektro Draco hydraulic brakes front and rear..Upgraded stem, seatpost,handle bars; an SR XCT V4 fork (100mm travel),XCT V3 crank, Sram X4 shifters and derailleurs….For those who still think it would be junk;remember these parts are the same parts that typically come on a 600-700 dollar LBS hardtail…Sad part is the bike Im donating all this from is a new 350.00 bike..go figure…Did I mention the XR200 is also getting a Brand new Manitou Air shock on the rear. .see ya on the trails :)

  • Will W says:

    Does anyone know where I can get a back rim for the xr-200, the inner gears are stripped, in other words pedal the bike and it doesn’t go anywhere

  • Loralee Schmalstig says:

    Reading up on the $75 out the door bike (mongoose XR-200) from a local pawn shop. I live in the Missouri Lake of the Ozarks area on 700 acres and need to get around. I plan on keeping it and think it will fit the bill. Great review. I will look to swap out my handlebar stem.

  • Michael says:

    Anyone still selling the XR200 for less than over $600 which is what amazon wants?
    The rest of the usual places claim to have it but don’t

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