Park City post-Labor Day is a bit of a ghost town, at least up the hill at Deer Valley where we where based. I won’t complain, I’m not really one for crowds. Most journalists arrived Thursday afternoon, checked into the Goldener Hirsh hotel and headed down to a pleasant outdoor reception.The basic schedule was laid out for us, 3.2 beer was consumed, dinner was eaten and bedtime soon followed.
Friday morning breakfast was followed by a Power Point presentation on the new full suspension bikes. This was actually more interesting than expected, with input from many Fisher folks, including Travis Brown (former Olympian and current Trek/Fisher R&D honch), Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Heather Irmiger (husband and wife racers, current USA Cycling XC and Marathon champs), and of course Gary Fisher (former hippie, current weirdo). This is the the 10th year for Fisher 29ers, and there was a good bit of history to hear about before the suspension designs were discussed. We also received a packet of drawings and faxes between Gary Fisher and Mark Slate of WTB discussingÂ the design and geometry of the first prototype 29″ Fisher hardtails. Interesting reading for a bike geek like me, particularly the 16.5″ chainstay specification.
The image above is the new Rumblefish frame, but since all three platforms (Superfly, HiFi, Rumblefish) have similar features it is a good reference to discuss the technology shared by all three. Starting at the head tube, the E2 headtube (1 1/8″ top, 1.5″ bottom)Â is designed to increase stiffness with more weld area and bigger diameter tubing. The bottom bracket is a press-in BB95 standard, for, you guessed it, increased stiffness! The main swingarm pivot has been moved back to shorten the swingarm for uhhh, stiffness. The rear end gets the ABP (Active Braking Pivot). The ABP helps to reduce rear brake induced suspension harshness, keeping the tire stuck to the ground when braking over rough terrain. Dropping the pivot from seatstays to concentric with the axle allows the hub to help share some of the load, which leads to the rear end being less flexy. And by less flexy I mean stiff. Of course. See a theme here?
The aluminum bikes use fluid-formed tubes, similar to the Roscoe (reviewed here). The carbon Superfly is full OCLV, made in the USA. And full carbon means full carbon, no aluminum inserts for the BB or suspension mounting. There is a bunch of other tech stuff, but I’ve hit the highlights for now. More info for those inclined is on the Fisher site, and videos of Gary too.
Time to talk about riding. First up, Superfly 100.
A racy build all around, carbon post, Race X-lite wheels, X-0 components, flat bar. The stock XR-1 1.9″ tires where swapped out for 2.1″ XDX, set up tubeless, and the foam grips where traded in for a set of more substantial locking ones. Travel was 110mm rear, 100mm front.
We started out climbing, and with the RP23 platform set at 2 out of 3 it moved out in a efficient manner. I didn’t bother with the fork lockout, but I’ve become pretty adapt at seated climbing on full suspension bikes and find I rarely use it on any bike off-road. Once we transitioned to more rolling terrain I felt a bit sketchy, but after stopping and dropping some pressure out of the XDX tires the Superfly came into its own. At 25 pounds or so (estimate from my finely calibrated right arm) the Superfly felt racy with very little nervousness, what little was there I attributed to the narrowish bars. Some of us managed to find our way onto some black diamond trails on the last run of the day, and the Superfly handled the wooden ramps and stunts very, very well for a race bike.
We didn’t ride the HiFi, but it is marketed as an aluminum version of the Superfly 100 with mostly identical geometry and similar XC orientated component spec.
Dinner was eaten in town, a few weak drinks were had in the hotel bar, team rider Willow Koerber showed up (3rd at World Championships, at 5’2″, on a 29er she had ridden for less than a month) and Gary played us a tune before bed.
Saturday morning the lifts were open and the body armored masses showed up. We got on some bigger bikes too, the Rumblefish.
Touted as a trail bike, the Rumblefish shares a frame with the HiFi, but nothing else. The Rumblefish moves away from the XC game with bigger tires, rims, front axle, fork travel, handlebars, etc. The other big difference is the Dual Rate Control Valve (DCRV) rear shock. Our Roscoe review goes pretty in depth about it, I’ll just say where the Superfly feels taut and speedy, the Rumblefish feels plush and forgiving even though they both run the same travel, 110mm. The 15mm axled, 120mm Fox fork slackens the head angle and raises the BB slightly, which is a good thing for handling and clearance on rough trails.
The riding position on the Rumblefish was more upright than the Superfly, and rightly so. Most XC bikes are all about being fast on the climbs and flats, while the Rumblefish is more geared toward gobbling up rough terrain andÂ enjoying the downhills. All that said, the singletrack climb we started on was pretty easily dispatched, and the 36 tooth rear cog kept me comfortably in the middle ring. There was a bit more bob in the rear going on, even with the platform on, but again, good form and a steady spin made it a non-issue for me.
The first section of downhill was a fun bit of singletrack, with tight turns, some narrow sections and a few man-made kickers to catch some air, just what the doctor ordered for what Fisher calls a technical trail bike. Flip the rear shock to open,Â let’er rip!
Looking back on the ride, the Rumblefish was a very intuitive handling bike for me. Didn’t over-shoot corners, was stable in the air, not floppy at low speeds. I don’t want to get to ahead of myself here with too much praise after a single ride, so I’ll just say I was pretty bummed when I rolled back down the hill to the demo tent. I was ready for more riding.Â For those hoping for a 29″ version of the 140mm Roscoe, this isn’t it. Not that Fisher won’t do one ever, but they are still waiting on a fork that can match the quality of rear travel they are capable of producing. But don’t fret, the Rumblefish seems pretty able to give the Roscoe a run for its money in most terrain trail bikes encounter.
Back to the hotel, shower, pack, check out, hang out a bit more, shuttle to SLC, flight to Chicago, run for connecting flight home, start crunch time for Interbike! I can’t imagine us not doing a longer term test on at least one of these bikes, and I’m already angling to put my name on a Rumblefish. As someone who was less than enthused with Fisher’s former full-suspension offerings, that’s saying something.
More images in the Press Camp Gallery.