The $549 Mongoose Switchback Expert [Review]

The Mongoose Switchback Expert is an entry-level hardtail mountain bike that's available at Dick's Sporting Goods.

Given my profession as a mountain bike journalist and product reviewer, it’s not unusual for friends and neighbors to ask me for bike recommendations. And yet, few ever take my advice. Bikes are expensive, you see, and there are just too many options. To the uninitiated, a $400 mountain bike looks pretty similar to a $5,000 bike, so why wouldn’t you just get the cheaper one? Maybe even the Mongoose Switchback Expert, on sale at your local Dicks Sporting Goods department store.

This review is geared toward the casual or first-time rider, in all likelihood standing inside a Dick’s at this very moment, trying to decide if the Switchback Expert is a good purchase and if it’s worth the extra cost over the Switchback Comp. (Scroll to the bottom of the article if you don’t need all the details.) For core mountain bikers and regular Singletracks readers, I’ll save you some time: this is not the bike you are looking for.

Photo: Greg Heil

Mongoose Switchback Expert key specs

  reader rating (1 votes)

The Mongoose Switchback Expert is an aluminum hardtail mountain bike with 100mm of suspension travel up front. It has eight speeds and 29er wheels with 2.25″ wide tires. The hydraulic disc brakes are a more powerful upgrade over the mechanical brakes on the Switchback Comp, though generally speaking they’re not as easy to maintain or repair.

The bike has a clean, modern look thanks to internal cable routing and a short 40mm stem with medium-wide, 720mm bars. The geometry is fairly modern for a department store bike, with a 66.5° head tube angle and a 75° seat tube angle. The reach on the size XL I tested is 500mm.

Reviewer profile height: 190cm (6’3″) weight: 75kg (165lb) testing zone: Southeast, USA

It’s rare to see a bike in this price range offered in four sizes—small through extra large—rather than just one or two sizes. Like more expensive bikes, the Mongoose Switchback Expert specs smaller 27.5″ diameter wheels on size small bikes and 29er wheels on larger sizes. To find the right size, check that you can stand over the bike with at least an inch or more between your crotch and the top tube. Then, check that the seat can be set about even with your hip while standing beside the bike. I tested a size extra large and found it’s a pretty close fit, though even at full extension the saddle is a bit short for me.

With the included flat pedals, the Mongoose Switchback Expert weighs 33.9lb (size XL) which isn’t too far off what a more expensive full suspension mountain bike might weigh.

You could upgrade parts down the line… but don’t plan on it

One of the selling points of the Mongoose Switchback Expert is the tapered head tube, which the Comp version does not offer. The idea is that a buyer could upgrade the fork down the road to something better, but honestly it’s not going to be worth the expense. The SR Suntour XCE coil fork is truly entry level, and while it absorbs bumps in the trail it’s heavy and harsh compared to a more expensive fork with an air spring.

The problem with a fork upgrade, aside from the expense, is that you’ll likely need to get a new front wheel too since the included fork features a 9mm, non-Boost, quick release axle.

Tires are usually an inexpensive upgrade that can make a huge difference in the way a bike feels, but here again, buyers likely won’t want to bother. The included wheels feature narrow, 18mm rims that are even narrower than what you might find on a gravel bike today. For that reason, it doesn’t make sense to run anything wider than the 2.25″ tires specced despite what appears to be plenty of frame clearance. I like the WTB Trail Boss tires so my advice is to just keep ’em. The rims aren’t taped inside, and they’re drilled for Schrader valves, so IMO going tubeless isn’t really worth the hassle, either.

Experienced riders may want to upgrade by adding a dropper post to the Mongoose Switchback Expert. The frame features internal routing so you could install a dropper post yourself for about $199 or so. This is one change that could make sense for some buyers, though percentage-wise, it’s a big addition.

If part of your calculation for buying the Mongoose Switchback Expert is that you might upgrade parts over time, I say look at another bike. If you just want a bike that you’re going to ride as-is for as long as possible, the Switchback Expert could be the right choice.

I received my test bike directly from Mongoose and needed to do some of the final assembly myself. (Bikes are likely to be fully assembled when purchased from a Dick’s store.) The front brake hose on my bike was routed incorrectly from the factory and required removing the caliper to fix.

I’m not sure if this is what Mongoose has in mind for the Switchback Expert, but it’s a possibility. Photo: Greg Heil

Riding the Mongoose Switchback Expert

I took the Mongoose Switchback Expert on a few test rides on moderate but not aggressive trails at a reasonable speed. Smooth trails are a better choice than rough ones, especially when it comes to rocks and roots. The coil fork isn’t all that responsive, and unlike a fork with an air spring you can’t adjust it to customize the feel for your weight and riding style. I found I needed to keep my speed in check to keep the front wheel tracking and in control. If you want to ride trails as fast as possible, you’ll likely progress beyond the Mongoose Switchback Expert rather quickly.

However, if you’re like many of my non-bike friends asking for a bike recommendation and want to ride on the road, and maybe off road a little, the Switchback Expert could be a good fit. The drivetrain is generally pretty quiet when pedaling on smooth surfaces, though things start to clang the faster (and rougher!) you ride.

The Mongoose Switchback Expert is capable of popping off small roots and rocks in the trail, and it has proven to be durable on the landings. I worried about flat tires so I added a bit more pressure than I usually run on my other bikes—about 20-25psi—and I recommend buyers do the same.

The 8-speed drivetrain with a single chainring up front promises ease of operation, though some buyers might find the gear range limiting, especially on steep or long uphill climbs. My chain fell off the chainring on one particularly bumpy descent, but otherwise, it held up pretty well despite lacking a narrow-wide chainring or a clutched derailleur.

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Tried it? Tell us what you think about it.

There’s a slight wobble as the front wheel rolls, which I noticed right out of the box, and the wobble has become more pronounced over time. In my experience, this is pretty common for bikes in this price range.

The Mongoose Switchback is best for riding pavement, bike paths, and gravel roads. It’s fine for most green- and beginner-rated trails, though when it comes to trail riding, I recommend choosing smooth ones.

Should I buy the Mongoose Switchback Expert?

At the time of publication, the Mongoose Switchback Expert was selling for $549 compared to $399 for the Switchback Comp. If you’re deciding between the two, the Switchback Expert is going to be the better choice for riding a bit more aggressively, thanks to the more powerful brakes and one-by gearing. At its full retail price of $949, the Switchback Expert is overpriced. At the current $549 price, I’d say it’s priced about right.

The Schwinn Axum is a bike that’s priced similarly to the Mongoose Switchback Expert (the brands share a parent company), though it weighs more and is only offered in a couple of sizes. However, the Axum comes with a dropper post and features wider and more stable 2.6″ tires.

Compared to bikes from other major brands like Specialized and Trek, the Mongoose Switchback Expert offers a pretty similar value. The Switchback Expert currently costs $125 less than the Specialized Rockhopper and is the better choice, in my opinion, based on the geometry and parts specs. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the $739 Trek Marlin 5 Gen 3 is worth a look for its upgraded drivetrain, wider tires, and similar weight, though still no dropper post.

Finally, a bit of real talk: to upgrade beyond the entry level, I tell friends that a good hardtail mountain bike will cost around $1,000 (and up). For those who plan to ride a lot or have friends who ride, you’ll probably be happier with a more expensive bike than the Mongoose Switchback Expert.

Pros and cons of the Mongoose Switchback Expert


  • Internal cable routing for a clean look
  • Comfortable geometry
  • Simple and reliable one-by gearing


  • Suspension fork has a dead feeling
  • Few if any easy or worthwhile parts upgrades

Bottom line

Buying a bike is all about finding the right mix of price, performance, and yes, style. The Mongoose Switchback Expert strikes a fine balance for riders looking for an affordable and simple entry into the world of riding bikes off road.