Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fat Bike Shootout: Budget vs. Beauty

26" Mongoose Dolomite Men�s 7-speed All-Terrain Fat Tire Mountain Bike, Navy Blue/Red 

Ever wonder what a brand new, $250 fat bike from Walmart would ride like? How do you think  it would compare in a shootout versus a $3000 Surly Moonlander? Last week, on a night ride with the local Blind Creek Bike Club, I had the opportunity to test ride both and my findings may surprise you...or not.

A quick glance at the Mongoose from Walmart leaves a person somewhat impressed. The bike looks just fine. Of course, the big question is whether the ride would end up being in the same league as it's "good from far" looks. My first ride was on a parking lot. Here's the initial impression...

  • rolls all right.
  • doesn't seem too unwieldy...rolling around a parking lot.
  • the cranks are loose, as is one pedal, so the pedaling is wobbly.
  • handlebar is loose.
  • for some reason, the steering feels "heavy", as though the tire wants to flop over when you turn the bars. Upon closer inspection, the owner noticed that the forks were crooked. It was as if someone took the fork ends and moved them slightly to the side. They were still parallel, just no longer perpendicular to the ground. Hmmmmm....that's not good.
  • braking is very poor. Reefing on the levers gave the distinct feeling that they were about to snap off.
But, despite that, I thought that the bike, with a tune-up, could be a serviceable short distance commuter.

How would the bike handle itself on singletrack? That's where the massive difference between the carbon forked Surly and the Mongoose Dolomite became apparent. Riding the Mongoose up any kind of incline was torturous. I am guessing that it weighs over 50lbs. Handling on the short, flowy section I rode left a lot to be desired, as did braking. I wonder whether fine tuning the  tire pressure would improve the steering and overall handling of the Mongoose. Immediately after sampling the trail with the Mongoose, I took the Moonlander for a rip. What a difference. The Moonlander feels like a fleet mountain bike in comparison. The trail feels flowy, like it should, and inclines are completely manageable.

The verdict? If you want to ride a cheap bike, don't ever try one that's good. If all you and your riding buddies ever had to ride were Mongoose's from Walmart, you could have a gas with them. But the minute you try something like the Surly, you'll be ruined for the ordinary.

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