A LOT HAS CHANGED SINCE THAT FAMOUS CHROME MONGOOSE BMX bike dropped into Helltrack in the '80s cult classic RAD. Fastforward to today, and the mean-looking, matte-black, 7.5-inch Mongoose Pinn'R Apprentice is a good indication of just how much times have changed.
A late melt to the snowpack this season provided the Pinn'R with a slick, root-filled and rocky introduction to a modern-day Helltrack: Vancouver's North Shore.
Thanks to its 44-pound weight, climbing on the Pinn'R was a chore, and was limited mostly to fireroad access trails. But one look at the bike—with its rakish attitude, burly Marzocchi 66 RCV fork and 203-millimeter rotors—and it is clear this is no XC or all-mountain bike.
The goal of the bike's "FreeDrive" suspension design is to isolate pedal forces while still allowing the rear suspension to remain active. Despite the bottom bracket being in constant motion, I never experienced any instability on the pedals, and power was efficiently translated into more speed and more predictable acceleration on the trail.
The frame's geometry—a 66-degree headtube angle and 69-degree seat tube—held up admirably in tight, technical terrain. And even though the FreeDrive's efficient pedaling promises are best realized on bikes meant to climb on, I quickly found that the Pinn'R felt most at home on high-speed, wide-open sections of trail.
The bike felt responsive whether floating through rocky sections or railing into corners—an act complemented by the Kenda Excavator DH tires with Stick-E rubber. These tires loved to be ridden aggressively and hooked up well in highspeed corners.
Although the Goose's Fox Van R rear shock lacks the high-zoot features of Fox's DHX line, I was very impressed with how it performed. I was disappointed, though, that Mongoose didn't take advantage of the 1.5-inch headtube on the Pinn'R, opting to use reducers to accommodate a 1-1/8-inchsteerer-equipped Marzocchi 66 RCV fork instead of a 1.5-inch or tapered steerer.
As good as the tires hooked up, the SUN Ditch Witch rims took some abuse over the course of the test. The boxed rim profile proved susceptible to flat spots every time I unsuccessfully negotiated a rough line.
A slick-looking set of white Avid Juicy Three brakes matched well with the white FUNN Rippa stem and the custom Mongoose SDG Bel-Air I-Beam saddle. However, the I-Beam clamp never held the seat in place, and every awkward landing or g-out left the nose of the saddle pointing up a few degrees.
The "Apprentice" tag on this bike owes to the economical but respectable parts. The frame, however, with its beefy headtube and Maxle through-axle rear end, is the same chassis Mongoose uses on its high-end Pinn'R.
After three months of riding, I was impressed with the bike. Even though the parts lacked the high-end, lift-line appeal of more expensive freeride machines, the bike still offers a smart mix of functional and economical components. If you're after a high-value, freeride-worthy bike, then this is one worth a look.