With fat polished and lacquered 7005 alloy tubes and plenty of well executed welding, the Mongoose looked a very competent machine. A chunky gusset at the top of the lightly shaped down tube, a lack of brake bosses and classy internal headset just added to that sleek and purposeful look, but we were concerned about the oversize top tube and seat/chainstays — would they prove too much? Cable routing is along the top of the top tube, meaning it should stay out the way nicely, but some complained of the aesthetics involved.

At around a pound heavier than the Fox shocks on some of the other machines, the Recon Race are weighty beasts. They are also cheaper, so this is where Mongoose has cut back with its budget. On the trail we found the first few rides a bit of a sticky and heavy experience, but once bedded in, they started to perform much better. We ended up liking their smooth travel and confident tracking, and a nice touch was the bar mounted lockout lever which we ended up using more than we thought we would. But in a precarious position on the bars, most thought it was only a matter of time before the fragile plastic broke off.

With good old Deore hubs on a fine quality WTB Speeddisc rim, the wheels should last, but would benefit from an upgrade when they finally wear out. Downright strange, however, was the choice of Kenda Small Block Eights — resembling fat BMX or trials tyres with lots of tiny blocks, they looked suicidal. Strangely they didn’t fare as badly as we thought on the trail, but got easily overcome by thick, wintery mud. They just let go and were a hazard.

The tried and tested combo of LX and XT was in charge of chain shoving, moving over that excellent LX chainset. Nothing to complain about there at all. As with the Marin, Mongoose had specced the superb and easily adjusted Hayes Strokers, although unlike the Marin they had opted for the more usual alloy lever instead of carbon. They performed well throughout the test and became a firm favourite of the riders with a comfy lever shape and plenty of power and feel even when the going deteriorated into wet and deep mud. The lever shape just fell into our fingers and action was smooth and predictable.

With Easton EA50 more or less throughout the bike, there were never going to be a lot of complaints in the componentry department. Good, competent gear with a durable finish and sensibly lightweight. We thought the bars, at a fraction over 25in, could have been a bit wider, with at least the option to chop slightly, but otherwise there were no hassles. The WTB Rocket V Comp saddle was just the right side of fat for our peachy bottoms, so provided comfort on long rides.

In terms of the parts bolted to the Mongoose, everything was in place, everything looked good and felt fine, so it should have been a bike in demand. The brakes felt good and stopped well, the forks bedded in to become a really nice trail fork and the drivetrain was the usual Shimano performance. It just wasn’t popular though, with most riders reporting back a distinct lack of feel and energy to the ride. Maybe it was the straight, oversize tubing used or maybe the material itself, but each time someone took the ‘Goose out they came back uninspired.
It did the job, took you along the trail and the components all worked in an efficient way, but just didn’t feel like it had any finesse or character about it.

It’s a shame for such a well put together, competently-specced bike not to get a good review, and if it was ridden on its own the drawbacks wouldn’t be quite so clear. When put side by side with a load of bikes that have clearly spent more time speccing custom tubes and tuning the ride though, we just didn’t feel it was cutting the mustard. You wouldn’t go wrong buying this bike, but we felt there were better on test.