Have you ever used a product and thought, “Wow, the marketing department really nailed it when they were naming this one?”
The Mongoose Beast is just that – a beast – in both good ways and bad ways.
Fat bikes are all the rage these days and I have to admit that after demoing a Surly Pugsley last winter I was mildly obsessed. Unfortunately, my stay-at-home dad “salary” doesn’t allow me to add bikes to my quiver on a regular basis, so I just spent some time day-dreaming and moved on.
…until this year when my friend Cory Knight upgraded to a sweet new fat bike from Felt that he bought at roll: Polaris. Last winter he had purchased a Mongoose Beast from Walmart to satisfy his cravings for a fat bike. Was the Beast not good enough for him? Or, was it a gateway drug that inspired him to upgrade? I wasn’t sure, but I immediately offered to buy it from him and find out.
I had several purposes in mind when I bought this bike. One, I wanted a cruiser-style bike that I could ride around the neighborhood with my kids. Two, I thought it would be fun to take the bike out on the local mountain bike trails to add a twist to my regular rides. Three, winter is coming and fat bikes are supposed to be good for snowy rides. And four, I thought riding a heavy singlespeed fat bike would be a good way to make my off-season training a little harder, so that I feel faster in the spring.
Let’s start with the bottom line… if you are looking for a sleek, fast, trail-eater, then this is absolutely the wrong bike for you.
It is heavy – 46+ lbs. Steering this animal is like trying to drive an elephant by tugging on it’s ears. The coaster brake will bring you to a stop, but it does not provide the single-finger precision of a finely-tuned hydraulic disc brake. Climbing small hills can feel like summiting Everest. But, what did you expect for the cheap price?
However, not all is lost. This can actually be a very fun bike to ride in the same way that it would be fun to drive a Sherman tank or a garbage truck. (Have you ever played Grand Theft Auto and stolen the semi?)
This bike does one thing very well – it rolls over everything in it’s way. Who needs a fully-loaded suspension system when those big billowy tires will absorb the roots and rocks of the trail? I recommend staying on the path, but for the sake of experimentation I rode off the trail and didn’t miss a beat as I rolled across the forest floor. However, if you can’t roll over an object then expect to come to a complete stop. At one point, I tried to go over a log that was probably 8 inches in diameter. I was able to get the front tire over but couldn’t lift the rear-end of the bike and came to a halt with my front chain ring resting on the log.
I consider myself to be an above average mountain biker, but I could not bunny hop this monster for the life of me. I could muster small, short wheelies, but every time I tried to lift the rear end I felt like I was going to rip my arms off.
The inefficiency of this Beast, turns fairly simple singletrack rides into a much bigger challenge. Alum Creek State Park is not known as a hilly place to ride, but I had to dig deep to make it up the small slopes of the trail. Going downhill can be an even bigger challenge. I’m used to being able to feather my brakes to control my speed, but the coaster brake works the trail like a sledgehammer. I found myself skidding (and praying) as I went down short drops in the trail.
This bike is probably not intended to be a trail bike, but I think that riding it on the trail this winter will actually make me a better rider. It forces you to anticipate your moves. You need to figure out how to ride more efficiently. Pedaling, braking and turning all take more thought and effort. You will increase the power in your legs as you muscle up the slopes. Your upper body will get stronger as you guide this behemoth around curves. The coaster brakes don’t always allow you to back pedal your feet into a comfortable position, so you end up riding some of the trail goofy foot – thus, forcing you to use a different skill set.
It even turns riding around the neighborhood with your 6-year-old into a bigger workout. I’ve been riding with my two boys and this bike makes you want to seek out fun. Which grassy hills can I roll down? What curbs can I jump off of? Can I roll through that mud puddle or sand dune? (There are not a lot of sand dunes in Columbus, Ohio.) Where can I take this tank?
Riding this bike is kind of like riding a clunky cruiser – except its always challenging you to beat it up a little.
With the huge tires and the coaster brake, you feel like a little kid again. The whole world feels like it’s etched in new proportions. The bike makes you feel like you are cruising around the neighborhood on your BMX with your trouble-making friends. I’m looking forward to rolling around the streets of Columbus and finding some urban adventures to supplement my trail riding.
One technical issue that I have had with the bike is the quick-release seat post clamp. You really need to tweak it pretty hard to hold the seat in place. At one point on my last ride the seat post came loose and dropped out from under me. I tightened it up and was able to finish the ride without a problem, but this is one area of the bike that I would consider upgrading.
There are a ton of modifications that you could make to this bike to make it better, but if you start doing too many of them then you might as well just buy a nicer fat bike. It would benefit from lighter rims – well, lighter everything. Some people might like to change the gearing to make hills easier. But, I recommend just saying screw it. It’s cheap. It’s fun. Hop on the bike and just ride it.
Ride the trail. Ride around town. Smile. Be a kid.
Just don’t expect this bike to turn you into a Strava bad-ass.