Trek’s Gary Fisher HiFi – Review #17
Review & Images: Randy King
The 29er version of the Gary Fisher HiFi has been on my to-ride list for some time. Along with my curiosity, I brought some baggage with me into this short-term relationship. My best bike for three years was a 26″ wheel HiFi Deluxe. It helped me up my epic race game and went through 1,000’s of miles of mud and dust before coming to a sudden and calamitous demise when the frame broke in three places. These positive memories and nervousness about durability took turns coloring my opinion about how the big-wheeled version would ride. So, how did it go? Well, a bit like that … a mix of good and not-so-good.
Technically, there is no Gary Fisher HiFi. Gary’s bikes have been drawn into the Trek line-up, and now all that remains on the bike of Gary’s name is a copy of his signature on the frame. Hmmph, I say. I’ve met Gary Fisher (I know, I know, Jeremiah Bishop told me not to name drop), and it didn’t even take those meaningful 60-seconds for me to vote that Fisher should have his own line-up in the Trek conglomerate.
Along with the bigger wheels, the HiFi Pro I tested sports a few other differences from my former bike. Trek has opened up the suspension linkage design a bit. The bike also gets some upgrades, moving up to a Fox fork and adding three gears with the SRAM — 10 speed drive train. I tested the HiFi Pro model.
What I loved about my 26″ HiFi was its adapt-to-anything attitude. Above all, it was fun to ride. I am glad to see that this vibe is shared by the big wheel HiFi.
I chose the Witchback trail at Angler’s Ridge in Danville, VA for the test. This is a frequent up-and-down six mile loop with several short but gut-busting climbs and several quick and fast descents. A mini-rock garden and a small drop-off add to the mix to make it a good test trail for trail and XC bikes.
The HiFi Pro tackles climbs with aplomb and good manners. It is stable and tracks well even on sudden steeps. The Bontrager 29-2 Team Issue tires are a good combination of fast and grippy for a trail bike. The suspension is definitely more noticeable on climbs than it was on the 26″ HiFi – credit in part to the more open suspension design. It is also noticeable on the descents, where the HiFi has pretty good small-bump compliance without the harsh edge that sometimes plagued the 26″ bike.
What I didn’t like about my 26″ HiFi was its lack of durability. Durability is a key virtue in a bike that one hopes to ride for 100 KM or more at a time, over rough terrain. The first time the frame broke on my 26″ HiFi, I had to climb the side of a mountain to get cell phone reception, limp for several miles out of the woods on stiff-soled cycling shoes, with a lump the size of a baseball on my thigh from a crash earlier in the ride. Durability is good. Unfortunately, the big-wheeled HiFi seems to bring its fragility with it. After less than 5 miles, I noticed some noise coming from the linkage. Hmm. The bolt that connects the top of the shock to the bike had worked loose.
The 29″ HiFi has 100 MM of travel, compared to the 120 of the 26″ version. And despite what so many say, a 29″ wheel is not the same as suspsension. In another words, I miss that extra 4/5 of an inch of travel. In its absence, it makes the bike feel more racy and less rideable.
The $3,600 Gary Fisher HiFi Pro seems like a viable epic racer or enduro bike, and is up to frequent trail rides. While less “racy” than the Superfly 100, and costing less, it still feels less of a true trail bike than a high-priced bike meant mostly for going fast. A different set of tires and a wider riser bar might correct that, and you can get aboard a HiFi Plus for about $2,300, but stock the HiFi Pro feels like a long distance runner for those who can afford it.
© 2011 Big Mountain Riding