Gravel bikes vary greatly, from light, stiff, carbon race machines to braze-on-equipped, long-wheelbase, steel touring rigs. Mongoose's Guide Expert leans heavily towards the 'let's pack up some gear and pedal into no man's zone' type of gravel riding. It is a fun bike and one that surprised me more than any test bike I have ridden in some time.
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Mongoose Guide Expert specs
- Tectonic T2 aluminum frame
- 29 x 1.75in tires
- Stash Pack frame bag
- 11-speed Shimano 105; 48/32 and 11-32t
- Internal cable routing
- Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
- Sizes: 52, 54, 56, 58cm (tested)
- Actual weight: 11.37kg / 25.1lb
Needs a clutch and more gearing
As is the norm, the Shimano 105 drivetrain shifted smoothly, but did bang and clack around since the rear derailleur was devoid of a clutch. And despite having a double chainring up front, the gear range was too tall in my opinion for the bike's intended purpose.
A bike like this doesn't need high-end speed, it requires low-end, hill-climbing grunt of something lower than a 32/32. Trail bikes these days often come with 32 x 10-50 (SRAM) or 30 x 11-46 (Shimano); this isn't a trail bike, but it does want to explore steep trails, and I was often wishing for something lower.
The Shimano hydraulic brakes were excellent with fine modulation, good consistency, and zero maintenance throughout the test. They also spin rub- and squawk-free, which was much appreciated.
I found the saddle to be too wide, especially through the nose. If it were my bike I'd swap out the bar tape for something softer and tackier as well.
I grew to adore the included frame bag. It's cavernous enough for a real pump, tube, levers, multi-tool, snacks, keys, phone, and light windbreaker. Or just a couple of beers.
But because of the bag there's only one bottle mount inside the frame, which was a drag. That said, there are attachments on the carbon fork.
A laid-back ride
Sometimes you can tell how a bike is going to ride just by looking at it; other times it's a shock. The Guide Expert isn't fooling anyone. It looks long and tall because it is.
To stretch out the wheelbase, the chainstays are vast and the head tube ratchets skyward as frame sizes increase. The distinctive top tube kink adds visual height to the tall front end as well.
So how does it ride? Surprisingly well. I've been on a few very different gravel bikes this season, ranging from the silky smooth, titanium Why Cycles R+ beauty, to the let's-rip-some-legs-off, carbon Scott Addict Gravel 10 race bike, as well as the very confident Norco Search XR (full review in the works).
The Mongoose is different than all of those. Its ride is relaxed, yet confident. Its 406.3mm reach is about the same as the 58mm Addict Gravel's 405mm and 60.5cm Search XR's 407mm, but the stack is much higher (630.1 vs. 602.2 vs. 620mm), so the riding position is much more upright.
Adding to the upright confidence is the super-long rear end. Again, compared to the racing Addict Gravel, the Guide Expert tacks on an extra 38mm (460 vs. 422mm) on the chainstays. Norco's Search XR has 425mm stays.
But it makes the ride so luxurious. Its Cadillac-esque wheelbase lets the bike cruise with a reassured confidence.
It's not stiff either. The bottom bracket sways when you load the pedals, and the WTB i19 rims aren't going to be a sprinter's first choice. Still, it put a smile on my face and surprised me more than any bike I've recently tested.
In a gigantic contrast to most bikes, the Guide Expert isn't fast, and it seems 100 percent okay with that. It's almost as if it begged me to slow down, to take it easy, and to look around a bit more. For me, that alone, makes the Guide Expert an exceptional bike.
Mongoose Guide Expert bottom line
The Guide Expert made me want to grow my beard out and cut off my jeans into some sweet jorts. I had visions of downsizing my life, of spending more time in the woods and moving about life at a slower pace. That's this bike's vibe.
It's not fast, but it's not meant to be. It's not light, but that's not surprising. What it is, is reliable, fun to ride, and ready to rattle and bump around forgotten roads.