The Mongoose brand has achieved a sort of mixed infamy in the mountain bike world. With a long and storied history of bike production, Mongoose now produces two distinct lines of mountain bikes: those that you might purchase at Walmart or Target, and those that you might find reviewed here on Singletracks.
These budget-friendly steeds (the ones you won’t find at Walmart) are capable of some hardcore trail riding, as Chris Akrigg has proven time and time again. The 2014 Salvo Expert 29er is one of Mongoose’s latest installments in their affordable-yet-capable lineup.
The Mongoose Salvo Expert is an aluminum-framed, 100mm travel, full-suspension 29er. With the stock build and a pair of SPD pedals installed, the bike weighs in at 32.1 pounds (about 31.2lbs without pedals). My size small test bike has a 406mm seat tube, 560mm effective top tube, and a head tube length of 100mm. The head tube angle on all models of the bike is 71 degrees, and the seat tube angle is 73.3 degrees on all models.
The Expert build of the Salvo comes stock with a 100mm Rock Shox Recon Silver fork with Maxle through axle and an X-Fusion 02 RLX shock. The shock features a 3-compression setting switch, including full lockout, which pairs well with the compression adjustment and lockout on the fork.
The 3×10 drivetrain is a motley collection of Shimano components: SLX shifters, LX front derailleur, M612 crank, Hollow Tech bottom bracket, and the crowning jewel: an XT Shadow Plus rear derailleur. Despite the wide assortment of different component levels, all of the Shimano parts jive together well. Also, the inclusion of a clutch-style rear derailleur on a bike of this style and price point is, in my opinion, fantastic.
Braking duties are handled by Hayes Prime hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors, and the entire package rolls on WTB Speed Disc i19 wheels shod with 2.0in Kenda Slant Six tires. Cockpit components are mostly Mongoose-branded hardware, which are color-coordinated with the rest of the bike.
Out on the Trail
Due to weather conditions and the limited amount of time I had to turn this review around, I wasn’t able to put this bike through my standard barrage of tests (which is why it’s only receiving a single review article). However, I was still able to log decent miles on some technical cross country terrain at Oil Well Flats in Canon City, giving me a good feel for this bike in a short amount of time.
With only 100mm of suspension travel, steep geometry, and the choice of light, narrow tires, this is most definitely a cross country mountain bike. In keeping with its cross country nature, the Salvo pedals spryly, and excels at climbing. Coming off of a recent all-mountain test rig, I found the aggressive climbing position and the pedaling efficiency quite refreshing. Despite the Salvo’s relatively-heavy 32-pound weight, I was able to power up steep, ledgy climbs aggressively, and I even pounded right up a very steep, sloping rock switchback turn. The Salvo felt centered and confident when climbing technical terrain at aggressive speeds, allowing for some serious body english to help negotiate obstacles.
Check out the Salvo in action on the rock roll/steep climb, here:
While descending, the Salvo was actually much more playful than I thought it would be. At first, I was concerned the narrow, low-profile tires would prove troublesome, but the Slant Sixes really surprised me. Still, if I had this bike for a long time, I’d mount a 2.2in WTB Wolverine (or similar) tire on the front, and keep the current 2.0in Slant Six in the rear.
While I did run all the way through the 100mm of suspension travel quite quickly in technical terrain (as you’d expect on a cross country bike), I never felt a harsh bottom out on the rear shock. I never pushed the o-ring all the way off the shock, but I did push it all the way to the end of the stroke. Despite its short travel, the plushness and the lack of a harsh bottom out make this bike feel a bit longer-legged than it actually is.
As I mentioned above, the Salvo was playful when descending, especially at medium speeds with ledges to drop and rollers to pop off of. However, when speeds approached the higher end of the spectrum, the 71-degree HT angle and 73.3 ST angle combined with the small tires and long stem made for squirrelly high-speed descending, and an extreme lack of confidence when taking air at speed. A few component changes (fatter front tire, shorter stem) could help improve handling at high speeds, but even then the Salvo will still be an XC rig through and through.
While I’ve mentioned numerous stats about this bike, there’s one that I haven’t mentioned: the price. $1,899.99, to be exact. At less than $2k, this complete bike retails for drastically less than many high-end frames. If you’re looking for a capable, decently-spec’ed, cross country trail bike in an affordable package, be sure to consider the Mongoose Salvo Expert 29er.
But wait! There’s more…
Has our review intrigued you? Do you fancy a Salvo for yourself, but without paying a cent for it? Our winter MTB review contest starts today and runs through the 23rd of December, and the grand prize is your very own Mongoose Salvo Expert! For more contest information and details on the runner-up prizes, click on over to the official contest page.
Many thanks to Mongoose for providing the Salvo for review, and for sponsoring our MTB review contest.