Bike Review: $199 Mongoose XR200 Full Suspension

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Moving out on the Mongoose XR 200 is best done in a gear-range lower than expected with frequent upshifts as opposed to starting off high in the cogs. The gearing is such where the bike’s heft can be compensated for by selecting wisely and building a steady cadence. Like most bicycles at this price point, it finds its sweet spot on hard pack, paved bike paths, gravel roads and the occasional asphalt commute. There was a time about a decade ago when big brand store mountain biking equipment was so inadequate that it came with a warning label disclaiming that it was not actually intended for off-road use. We’re very pleased to report that those days are behind us; at least as far as this particular model is concerned.

Does this suggest the performance goes south the moment you leave the bike path? Not at all. Despite what you may have read, heard or suspected, we were able to take our XR 200 test bike through a decent variety of off-road conditions and returned to the trail head quite unscathed (as did the bike). Among these were some sections of twisty single track, a sandy lakeside trail system and a rooty technical park with multiple stream crossings. If you were hoping we would have used this test as an opportunity to read about a budget bike snapped in half on a downhill run, we’re sorry to disappoint but this is 3-inch travel territory here; regardless of cost.

The steering is sharp and precise and the bike holds a decent line assuming the ground isn’t overly sloped. Climbing and descending can be a bit of a handful on account of the bike’s overall weight. Surprisingly, the front brake is up to the task of getting the bike slowed down in a hurry with decent modulation after burn-in (which took several hours for us). The rear however, like most v-brakes we’ve encountered, can be a bit more like a light switch (off or on- and when on, dragging the tire). We found the best formula here was to scrub speed with the rear but allow the front manual disc the lion’s share of bringing the XR down to cornering speeds.

Suspension is a mixed bag here.. Both the front and rear show signs of adequacy that are often drown out by a caveat. The fork is decent at picking up trail clutter once the seals break in (and this took us two solid days in the saddle to occur) but, like most of Zoom’s products we’ve encountered in the past, tends to pack up and hang in its travel over successive hits. Considering there are only 3-inches to begin with here, losing an inch and a half can be detrimental. The simple answer in this situation would be to increase the fork’s rebound to make it return to full-travel quicker but keep in mind this unit is preload adjustable only.

The rear end fairs a bit better thanks to the fact that the chassis makes use of a faux-bar linkage configuration. Remarkably the platform is decent at nullifying pedal bob and eliminating brake-jack but there’s only so much a linkage can be expected to do given the low-tech shock it is attached to. The 3-inch coil over feels overly stiff and lacks small bump compliance. If you happen to have an older air shock lying around (or can even justify buying a new budget unit like a Suntour Epicon), there is massive performance to be gained thanks to the rear-end design of this chassis.

Odds and Ends

Don’t let the generic tires throw you for a loop; we’re convinced that a major tire brand (Kenda perhaps, based on the compound and tread pattern) provides the meats to Pacific Cycle. We found the tires to be quite capable in many of the east coast conditions we use to torture bikes of all prices and disciplines.

The wheels however are definitely a budget spec and bring with them increased rolling resistance. We didn’t knock ours out of true during testing but imagine it would be possible if heavy rock traversing or pavement trickery happen to describe your idea of a good ride.

Surprisingly, the first item we would upgrade would be the handlebar stem as the stock unit is fairly thin at the welds. We know from experience that Pacific Cycle stocks several of their other Mongoose branded bikes (Deception 29” for example) with much beefier stems and think the XR200 would benefit greatly by incorporating same. Fortunately a quality aftermarket stem is a very affordable upgrade.

Conclusion

Bike snobbery in the media is nothing new and purists looking to eek every performance advantage out of bicycle and body will scoff at such hardware but the fact of the matter is we’re always glad when steps are taken to introduce the thrills, excitement and enjoyment of off-road bicycling to a wider reach. Years ago department store hardware could hardly survive a parking lot demo much less true trail riding but this bike is proof that technology trickle-down is making obsolete the concept of getting to sample some dirt on anything less than a high-end, purpose-built bicycle. Perhaps one of our test riders put it best: “The weight is a tough factor to ignore and makes itself felt on the trails but the bike performed better than expected in just about every category. Any complaints I had in the saddle were offset by the simple fact that the entire thing cost less than the set of pedals I bought last month for my race bike.”

Of final purchase consideration, we cannot discount the fact that many of the shortcomings associated with department store bicycles throughout the years are a direct result of improper build and set-up. The simple reality is that the same guy who stocks shelves on Monday, gathers shopping-carts on Tuesday and unloads the truck on Wednesday probably isn’t qualified to build your bike on Thursday. We have the luxury of an in-house mechanic here at MBT to make certain the bike, which we ordered directly from the factory, was assembled and properly tuned. While most bike shops would prefer you simply purchase your bike directly from them, it may be worth a few extra bucks to have them assemble, go over, and possibly swap out components to accommodate your body/ riding needs after picking up a department store bicycle.

This review has been brought to you by Mountain Bike Tales magazine.

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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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