Mongoose Bikes: The Story Behind the Legendary Bike
Skip Hess founded BMX products inc. in 1974. It started as a budding venture from his own home in Simi Valley, California.
At that time motor cross racing was gaining popularity and kids were trying to imitate the bike jumping stunts. I did that too when I had my first BMX, and it was a blast.
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The History Behind the Brand
The story goes that Hess’s son was among the multitude of kids who had their regular bikes damaged while doing the mini motor cross maneuvers. Dads were welding and realigning the twisted wheels, but Hess had a different idea.
He noticed that motorbikes had an impressive sturdy wheel, and Hess thought why not? He took the design and material of that wheel and introduced Motomag to the world of bikes.
Skip Hess wasn’t just an innovator, he has a racing background of both cars and bikes. His colleagues recall that he was always inventing something new, and this time it was a modification in the part that was damaged most: the wheel.
He also had a businessman’s mindset, and as a way to promote his revolutionary invention, he got the bike racing team to use his wheels. This gained a lot of attention, and in no time at all the Motomag was the next big thing.
These super sturdy wheels opened the door to tougher rides, and that exposed the weaknesses in the other components of bikes. The strength of regular frames and suspension systems couldn’t compete with the performance of the Motomag wheel.
Hess saved the day once again and created a strong frame to accommodate the newfound power of his wheel. This is when the first Mongoose BMX bike was born. Promoting the new bike was done by putting together a mongoose racing team. I can’t think of a more brilliant idea.
By the 1980s, Mongoose was huge in the United States, especially in BMX racing events, and Hess being the agile businessman that he is, he grabbed the opportunity to expand worldwide starting with the UK.
The UK BMX racing team is now legendary. They speak passionately about their experience with Mongoose and the way Hess always listened to them and understood their needs. In design and in life, it’s always the little details that make a big difference.
Mongoose wasn’t just on the leading edge of change, they created it. Mud bikes, scooters, freestyle, street style, were all much more than passing fads. They were cultures that kids everywhere embraced and associated with Mongoose.
Around 1990, Mongoose reached its pinnacle. It had a huge production line and an impressive range of bikes and hybrids. They won numerous championships and sponsored even more. They were all over the TV and the names Mongoose and BMX were everywhere.
They still assisted the other brands and their racers. They built parts and components that needed the high fidelity only Skip Hess could offer. He never bragged about this, the racers from these other teams, later on, told these stories.
In 2010 the internet became a thing, and kids were watching closely the madness their peers uploaded. Mongoose didn’t let that opportunity slip by, and they made some interesting deals with those web sensations to try out their products and broadcast their verdict. Again it was huge.
Who Owns the BMX Brand?
Bmx changed hands a few times. In 2001, Mongoose went into a merger with a bigger entity, Pacific Cycles, which is based in Taiwan but operates worldwide. In 2004, Pacific Cycles was acquired by the Canadian colossus Dorel Industries.
Pacific Cycles and Dorel industries were propelled by the momentum of Mongoose's reputation. It’s thus surprising that they made the decision to introduce a mass-produced version of the BMX into the market.
This is the turning point in the 40-year history of Mongoose. For the first time, Mongoose wasn’t associated with being the first in class. This unfortunate event was oddly turned around! Let’s see how in the next section when we talk more about the BMX culture.
The BMX Culture
Four generations of kids know and love the Mongoose BMX. Today there are numerous active societies sharing BMX riding experiences, a museum that celebrates its history, and a whole community dedicated to remodeling the mass-produced ‘Walmart BMX’.
In the early days of the BMX, Skip Hess demonstrated how the viral spreading of an idea happened. As soon as he came up with a simple solution for his kid’s bike problem, he spread it around the block, then came up with the brilliant idea of utilizing bike racing teams.
The cooperation with the racers was a constant synergy, where Hess asked the young bikers for their opinion and involved them in the development and production processes. They became his biggest fans and talked proudly and affectionately about Mongoose and BMX.
The young racers eventually became legends, and some of the models are named after them, like the Tomac Signature mountain bike, which was co-designed by the young rider John Tomac.
In 1987, he rode the first mountain bike, a week later won a championship, and then he was invited to the factory to participate in making a bike named after him.
Kids everywhere wanted to be them. The phenomenal rise of BMX sparked energy and hope worldwide. BMX was on every kid’s wishlist. Up to this day, the legacy that started with Skip Hess is going strong.
Mongoose bikes: Variety, Design, and Performance
The Mongoose line spans a broad spectrum of bikes, and they do well in all categories. They are one of the good bike brands in the cycling industry. There’s the BMX of course, then there are the cruiser, urban, and mountain bikes, in addition to some hybrids and experimental models.
Some of these models, like the scooters, were a result of a glitch but did really well in the market! The one thing all these bikes have in common is an aggressive riding style. It could be related to the terrain or the nature of competition, but the end result is the same. They’re tough bikes.
Bikes usually create a generic all-purpose model, but Mongoose digs into the needs of individual bikers and offers a whole range of bikes to suit every riding style. They do this by talking to the people, especially enthusiasts.
To demonstrate this, here’s an example: they have mountain bikes that are well-suited for paved roads. These are made for riders who commute with their bikes but prefer the mountain bike style.
They offer a mountain bike that’s safe to use on downhill slopes, and another with a sturdy but very lightweight frame made for dirt jumping. Most bikes don’t go that far into catering to bikers' lifestyles.
The braking system, suspension, and frame are the cornerstones of the Mongoose bikes design. This is one of the main reasons behind its legendary fame. It’s sturdy and safe. This also translates into a cost bracket that’s quite high.
Mongoose - popular Bike Models
As we mentioned before Mongoose focuses mostly on Mountain, BMX, and pavement bikes, in addition to a couple scooter models. Most Mongoose bikes come in four sizes ranging from small to extra-large. Below are some of the most popular bikes offered.
This bike features a Dual-Sport aluminum frame and an SR Suntour NSV suspension fork. It also comes equipped with Shimano Acera/Altus drivetrain and Altus shifters. The bike, considered an urban/pavement bike, is ideal for rough roads.
This 11-speed bike is a hybrid that can be used for dirt trails and roads. It features a Gravel Grinder double-butted aluminum frame and a 23mm rear thru-axle, allowing for clearance of 40c tires. The bike comes equipped with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors. The bike’s Shimano STRS-785 STI hydraulic brake and shift levers allow for instant stopping, keeping customers safe.
A BMX bike, this bike is perfect for smaller riders. It features 20” wheels, a 20” top tube, and a 7.5” handlebar. The bike consists of a HiTen frame and fork, built under a 25x9 gearing on 175mm crank arms.
A similar model, the Legion L10, is great for first-time BMX riders.
This mountain bike features an aluminum dirt jump frame with horizontal dropouts. It also comes equipped with a Manitou Circus Comp 100 mm travel fork, in addition to a 20 mm thru-axle.
The bike, built for durability, features a KORE Rivera stem and rims. Tektro Novela mechanical disc brakes provide top-notch control while headed downhill. Customers will set comfortably upon the bike’s pivotal saddle.
A few short words don't really do this brand justice as the Mongoose bikes are more than just a brand. There’s a documentary about its history, and I really recommend it to anyone interested in the making of bikes and legends.