Surefooted and fun, but heavy for the travel you actually get
Mongoose’s Teocali has been a regular award winner in the lower priced full suspension categories ever since it was introduced. The unique Freedrive suspension system might add weight, but its essential plushness and high traction propulsion is what shines once you hit serious off-road. Even Suntour shocks selling us short on travel doesn’t dampen the Comp’s enthusiasm for serious terrain – and all for £800, too.
Whatever the price, the Teocali (and other Mongoose Freedrive bikes) has one of the most complex frames around. The egg timer head tube and straight round top tube are conventional enough, but then it all goes nuts. The hydroformed seat mast section meets square legs which straddle the shock and then mate onto a cold forged lower brace underneath.
The high set down tube gets a big plate gusset to support this section, while the whole back end is one big forged piece housing upper and lower pivot mounts. Then you’ve got the separate Freedrive element. Bear with us as we get a bit primary school, as the best way we can think of describing it is saying that it’s just like a metal rabbit.
Still with us? Good, then imagine said rocking rodent sitting on top of the bottom bracket shell and reaching forward to hold its upturned toes at the main pivot. Now, while Greenpeace are looking the other way, slot the shock into one of two large piercings in its ears to give either an alleged 120 or 146mm travel.
Thankfully for our descriptive process, the rear subframe is all simple, square section pipe with forged windowed dropouts and a small vertical strut following the curve of the wheel. Another short linkage then joins it to the rabbit instead of a fluffy tail. This lets the ‘Freedrive’ bottom bracket bunny rock back and forward independently of the main frame as the suspension rises and falls, allowing a rock-swallowing high main pivot position without massive chain tug and pedal interference.
Come to think of it, stoically secure sums up the whole feel of the bike pretty well, too. Having unearthed the suspension shortcomings on our pre-flight checks, we headed straight for the long flight of steps that treats clanging, under-travel forks with no mercy and braced ourselves for the horror. By halfway down though, we were still perfectly in control. There was no jackhammering misery and the bike was floating the drops and switching lines with calm and collected confidence.
The more we rode, the more our smiles grew, too. At over 34lb with pedals on, it’s no sprinter or rapid climber and the Freedrive system means a slurred, stretchy chain pedal feel. It does deliver incredibly consistent ground contact and traction though, with no chain tug to put you off spinning smoothly. It feels almost like you’re pedalling into a generator that powers an electric motor at the back wheel, but there’s no doubting it works superbly on evil terrain.
Despite some attempts to shame it, the suspension never got badly flustered, even by big stuff either, only occasionally slamming through to the clang when properly bullied. Handling balance is boosted by the mid-length, upright stance, which suits the steady but utterly surefooted persona of the whole bike. Tektro brakes and predictable tyres come into their own when it gets seriously steep or speedy.
Despite some potentially serious suspension shortcomings, we never felt we had to compromise on test trail or line choice when we were out on the Teocali. Considering the budget and the extreme selection of terrain we’re willing to throw bikes down, that’s a big compliment.
With any lower budget bike there are compromises – especially if you’re using a complex frame like this – and with Mongoose it’s in the shape of SR Suntour’s new Epicon fork and shock. The good news is that both units are reasonably smooth and both have external rebound damping that actually does control the return. The bad news is that while the fork gives 140mm of travel when unpressurised we struggled to get more than 100-120mm when we were riding before it spiked hard and stopped.
Even at full stroke in the ‘146mm’ position the rear shock only coughs up just over 100mm too. Luckily this isn’t as terminally grim as it sounds though as we’ll explain later. We’ve no complaints about the rest of the kit, with the basic SRAM and Shimano transmission mix turning and shifting okay behind the FSA chainset. Kenda’s Nevegal tyres are a popular all-rounder too, but while the 2.1 rear gives more mud room, we’d keep pressures high to avoid pinch flats on rocks and ledges.
No complaints whatsoever about the Tektro hydraulic brakes though, which did a great job of stopping the bike’s hefty momentum with ample control whenever we asked. Mongoose finishing kit is all well-sized for optimum confidence and control too, with the stoically secure twin bolt seat post being a particular highlight.
There’s no escaping the fact that it’s packing a few more pounds than we’d like, which really drags on climbs or group rides/races, but if you want increased control and confidence on properly technical terrain, this is a good way to spend £800. If there’s any way you can afford it, the £1299 Elite adds all the travel you’re supposed to get via RockShox Pike forks and shock and loses a lot of lard, too.