Words and Photos by Anthony Smith
I've spent many years grinding up climbs on a heavy downhill rig not even suitable to ride to the corner store—all for the glory of shredding epic descents. Many companies claim they have a bike that can master both the ups and the downs, but accomplishing such a feat is easier said than done. Enter the 2009 Khyber Super, the latest offering from Mongoose in this all mountain category.
The Khyber sports 165 millimeters of travel in the rear and 150 up front, which may seem like a lot for a bike that's meant to pedal uphill, but winding down the ATA travel adjustment on the Marzocchi 55 tames the front end in snap. Combine that with the stiffest of five compression adjustments on the ROCO Air, and the Khyber climbs like a bike with much less travel
Another bonus for climbing is the FreeDrive suspension platform Mongoose uses, which does a great job of minimizing pedal feedback into the rear suspension, even with 165 millimeters of travel to contend with.
Shimano's SLX double-ring crank is perfectly suited for the Khyber, with its extra-stout construction and purpose-built 22/36 chainring combo. And don't worry about making the chain jump from ring to ring with such a big range between the gears, because the front derailleur has been specifically designed to work with a two-ring system.
A noticeable addition for the 09 Khyber is the inclusion of a tubeless ready wheel set from no tubes. The ZTR Flow rims are shipped with the necessary valves and sealant so you can ditch those tubes right out of the box and shed a bit of weight.
Now that we've gotten up the hill with a feathery, ably climbing bike, it's time to get back down—which the Kyhber Super is perfectly willing and able to do, even in a hurry. Wind out the travel on the 55 ATA and adjust the ROCO to a softer compression setting and the Khyber takes on a wholly different attitude. Additionally, Mongoose has spec'ed the Khyber with a Kind Shock Cobra R variable-height seatpost, which boasts a whopping 350-millimeter range of adjustment, nicely remotely controlled from the lever mounted on the bars. The addition of an adjustable height seatpost really helps to solidify the Khyber's cred as a true all-mountain bike.
Descending on the Mongoose was fast and stable despite the bottom bracket being in constant motion with the FreeDrive. Just as the suspension was efficient on the way up, going down was the same story. There was minimal feedback from any pedal or brake forces and the FreeDrive freely soaked up anything that came at it.
On the topic of the brakes, the Hayes Stroker Trails' lever feel proved problematic over the course of the test. Although the brakes offered all the stopping power necessary, they were chronically sticky at the lever and often times if felt as though they were not returning completely. [Editor’s Note: We've since learned that certain Stroker brakes shipped with an overly tenacious grease that impedes smooth lever action. After market kits containing a lighter grease and stronger return spring are available from Hayes free of charge to remedy the situation.]
Although I liked the Kenda Excavator DH tires I found them a bit slow on longer XC rides, and I did play around with different tire combinations to bring down the rolling resistance. As pictured, I spent a bit of time with a 2.35 Maxxis Larson in the rear paired with a Kenda Nevegal 2.35 up front.
This bike is definitely best suited for the rider willing to sacrifice a bit of weight and efficiency for a killer ride on the way down. Its build is a bit heavy, but once the bike is pointed downhill the weight penalty is soon forgotten. At $3,500, the Khyber Super is an excellent value for a durably, well-appointed all-mountain ripper.
Highs: adjustable seatpost; tubeless ready out of the box.
Lows: Heavy; brake performance was sub-par
More info: www.mongoose.com; also, check out the official bike rundown video from Mongoose product manager Darren Salsbury