If you’re a self-proclaimed bike snob like myself your first reaction to being asked to ride a bike sold at Walmart is probably to turn up your nose and shudder in fear. After all, I own helmets that cost more than most of the bike sold in the big box stores. So when I was asked to test out the the Beast from Mongoose a agreed, although with a bit of trepidation. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a bike that is almost completely devoid of features and it’s most notable calling card is a set of fat tires that are unlike anything most of us have ever seen before. Despite my reservations however, I ended up having a great time on this bike, proving that when you put aside your preconceptions, even a $200 bike can surprise you.
If their is a more aptly named bike on the market today, I don’t know what it could possibly be. The Beast is big and bulky and its fat tires definitely make it a stand out from nearly any other bike you’ll come across on the road or the trail. When fully assembled, including kickstand and old-school chain guard, the bike tips the scales at about 48 pounds (22 kg). That is absolutely massive. So much so, that I don’t believe that my current road bike and mountain bike weigh that much combined. The Beast is built like a tank and its steel frame feels incredibly solid. That means it can survive just about any road or trail conditions that you can throw at it. In my time with the bike I didn’t get the sense that it was in danger of falling apart or that Mongoose had cut corners on its construction.
Riding the Beast is certainly a no-frills affair. It is a single speed bike with 26″ wheels and cruiser brakes. I haven’t rode a bike that didn’t have hand operated brakes since I was a kid and actually momentarily wondered how I was going to stop the Beast once I got it going. It didn’t take long to adjust to the old school breaking system, but I’ll admit there was a moment of panic before it dawned on me how the brakes worked.
The most notable feature on the Beast, at least from a visual stand point, are the massive 4-1/4″ tires. They actually look like they’ve come off a small car and on more than one occasion I had someone stop me to take a look at them. Those tires provide a bit of a floaty ride but they also allow this bike to simply roll over just about any obstacle. They’re designed to roll through snow and sand without any problems and I’d say they perform surprisingly well. I can’t attest to how well it rides in the snow (It’s still quite warm here in Austin), but I did ride through sand and deep sawdust, without missing a beat. Those big tires practically ignore rocks and logs on the trail too and they still manage to transition back to the road without too much of problem.
As you can imagine, a bike with a heavy frame and gigantic tires isn’t exactly a speed demon. If you’re looking for a fast ride, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Likewise, this isn’t the most agile of bikes either. Those big tires won’t turn on a dime and they certainly wont take the sharpest of corners. But then again, when they are capable of simply rolling over just about anything that gets in their way, the point is mostly moot anyway.
Clearly Mongoose didn’t have high performance in mind when they built the Beast, they were simply looking to create a bike that is fun to ride. If that was indeed their aim from the outset, I’d say they succeeded. While riding the Beast I found myself pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable it was to roll down a trail with relative ease. I’m sure that on more than one occasion I pedaled along with a goofy grin on my face as my big, oversized tires crushed everything that dared to get in their way. It’s a pretty satisfying feeling.
That isn’t to say the ride was all sunshine and roses. There were a couple of aspects of the Beast that made it a challenge to ride for extended periods of time. For instance, I wasn’t overly fond of the stock seat that comes with the bike. After an hour or so I found myself getting very uncomfortable in the saddle, even while wearing padded shorts. The lack of gears and heavy weight make it tough to pedal the bike up any kind of substantial hill as well and on top of that the frame doesn’t feel like it is designed with taller riders in mind. I’m over 6’2″ in height and often felt kind of cramped, even with the seat extended to its highest point.
Despite these issues though, I did find myself enjoying the Beast far more than I would have expected. Sure, its big, heavy and ponderous and yes it lacks any kind of amenities that I’m use to on a bike. But in spite of all of that, it is still fun to ride, and isn’t that one cycling should be all about? Sometimes in our rush to get the lightest, fastest and most tricked out bikes, we forget how important it is to enjoy riding just for the sake of riding. The Beast strips away all of the features typically found on a bike and just gives you pure two-wheeled experience. There is something to be said for that and I think a lot of riders will have the same experience with this bike that I had. And since it only costs $198, you won’t break the bank adding a Beast to a garage already filled with bikes.
It’s hard not to like this Beast, even when you try.
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