Mongoose Cachet Review – $150 Walmart Bike
Those decrying the Mongoose Cachet, a $150 complete bike available through Walmart, as the end times for the fixed gear and urban scene are missing the point besides not being very mindful of recent history. Case in point—the first bike to get me in the woods was a Huffy White Heat back in the early 90’s when I was about 12 years old and when mountain bikes were really first entering the public consciousness, ushering in a late 90’s-00’s boom that has yet to bust. Hardly marking the end of an era, this could mark the real beginning. Countless kids now have a bike within reach that looks cool to them and may just hook them for life.
Back to that point, by not trying to be anything it isn’t this bike ends up looking better than some other color-matched bikes out there costing 10x as much. The black and white is simple and not overwhelming, with the stickers applied over the paint and just aching to be peeled off.
The parts are far nicer than I at first pictured, and arguably nicer than some of the $250 level bike shop singlespeeds that exist. The aluminum frame and steel fork seem good enough, and feature a 1″ threaded headset as expected. The stem and bars are aluminum, with particularly cheap single pivot caliper brakes and steel three-piece cranks. The wheels are the real showcase part, with a deep section rim with machined sidewalls and a wear indicator, and 48-hole Quando branded flip/flop hubs. Yes, that’s a real-deal fixed hub featuring a reverse thread lockring. No cog—you’ll have to visit a bike shop if you want to go fixed. The 44×18 single speed gearing even makes sense for most city riding, and the metal caged pedals and plastic clips are a nice touch. It even has new-school looking BMX grips and a chain tensioner on the drive side. Whoever spec’d this bike was doing their homework, and aside from the brake calipers leaves little to be desired considering the price.
One size fits most, if you’re looking at the Cachet you’d best hope the solidly “medium” sized frame fits. The top tube is about 55cm long, with a 51cm c-t seat tube and a 32.5″ standover height in the center of the top tube. It may not be an ideal fit, but people from roughly 5’5″ to 6’0 can likely ride the bike reasonably comfortably as long as they can safely stand over the bike. The bike has middle of the road geometry—long 440mm chainstays handle comfortably while a 290mm high bottom bracket prevents pedal strikes. I’m unsure of the exact head and seat angles, but it honestly doesn’t matter at this price level as long as the bike rides as it should. There is nothing extraordinarily good or bad to report about the ride—it goes where you point it, the wheel doesn’t feel like it wants to flop over, at no point does the bike feel unpredictable. Convinced the end is nigh? Further evidence—remove the brakes and the Mongoose Cachet has clearance for barspins.
Much is being made about the quality of the bike out of the box, and in fact our bike shipped with the incorrect size seatpost. While this bike is certainly of about the lowest quality anyone should consider riding, the condition of the bike out of the box speaks more of the big-box model of selling disassembled bikes than anything else. Shop quality bikes routinely arrive with incorrect parts, items broken in shipping and components completely out of adjustment. Part of the premium shop price is paying for the knowledge to spot and fix these problems before the consumer has a chance to realize they exist. The Cachet needed some fine tuning and routine brake adjustments like anything else, but I’d question the ability of someone with limited bike knowledge to get the Cachet working to its potential.
The bike is what it is—the absolute entry level single speed road bike you can get. In my opinion the fact that it looks “cool” and reflects the past 5 years worth of trends in city riding is more a statement on the growth and staying power of urban cycling than anything else. Getting new people hooked on bikes is a good thing, and the Cachet may be the first ticket for a lot of them. For too long bikes in this price range have been clunky mountain-bike-like bikes that were so full of bells and whistles that no matter how much you worked on them they were barely tolerable to ride. By keeping it simple the Cachet overcomes that problem and actually has the potential to encourage people to ride more rather than less. If you’re looking at the bike from the perspective of someone with $300 carbon shoes prepare to be full of criticisms. Don’t get me wrong—it is cheap, parts will break if you ride it hard or for lots of miles, no matter how well it is adjusted it will never ride as well as higher quality bikes. But keeping in mind that it is $150 for the entire bike and the potential to deliver a good time on two wheels to more people I must say I’m impressed.