Tech feature: Gary Fisher 2009 introduction, July 21, 2008
Confidence-inspiring. It's already close to being an over-used description for medium-travel mountain bikes but it's the best way to describe Gary Fisher's new Roscoe range of 140mm travel mountain bikes.
Roscoe slots into the mountain bike bestiary somewhere between all-mountain bikes and trail/cross-country suspension bikes. It's light enough that it'd work for 'here for the beer' endurance racing, controlled enough for anything you'd encounter at a British trail centre and stiff and capable enough to handle Alpine shenanigans and still get you back to the top of the mountain.
I've just finished a four-hour, 45km ride in the forests above Durango Colorado on Roscoe and my first ride impressions of the new platform are overwhelmingly positive. This is a tightly-coupled, blisteringly accurate machine that never feels marshmallowy despite its long travel.
Its reaction to even the gentlest descent is 'wha-hey!' as it bounds off down the hill at breakneck speed, leaving you to make important decisions like whether to take the sensible line or the silly line. If you're up for it, so is Roscoe.
It behaves itself on climbs too, pedaling like a much shorter bike as its unfit, jet-lagged Anglo-Australian test pilot wheezes up climbs in the thin mountain air. I walked a bit today, but none of it was Roscoe's fault. Being able to drop the fork from 140mm to 100mm travel with the Fox TALAS feature was a big help there, calming the bike's slight tendency to wander on climbs.
On the final descent, as Roscoe and I got used to each other, I started deliberately taking ugly lines, bowling over sets of babyhead rocks to see if the bike would misbehave. "I'm a well-dialed six-inch travel suspension bike," it scoffed as it ploughed over these trivial obstacles. "Ask me to do something hard."
Deep inside Roscoe
Gary Fisher has worked closely with shock maker Fox on the Roscoe. The Fox shock and fork package at its heart helps give Roscoe its pace, while Fisher's frame design brings precision.
Up front, there's a new version of Fox's 100-140mm Float TALAS fork, with adjustable damping from its RP24 ProPedal damper and 15mm through axle. The steerer is the E2 design from sister company Trek and tapers from 1 1/8in at the top to 1 1/2in at the crown race. This increases fork rigidity and steering accuracy, as the steerer is where most of the flex in a fork actually happens.
Rear suspension comes courtesy of Trek's lovely Advanced Braking Pivot (ABP) design, which puts a pivot round the dropout to keep things fluid under braking. It's pushing on a Fox/Gary Fisher exclusive, the Dual Rate Control Valve shock, which uses a twin air chamber to provide a highly tunable shock curve that Fox says has coil shock performance with air shock weight.
The frame is laid out to Gary Fisher's Genesis 2.0 geometry, but let's be blunt: only bike designers and sad gits who think they can predict a bike's handling from a set of numbers care about geometry. What matters is the handling, not the measurements and Roscoe handles with accuracy and panache, declining to be thrown off line by either trail surface problems or rider kludginess. (For those who really care, here's an Excel file with more numbers than you can shake a stick at. Go nuts.)
Joining the suspension technology together is a frame with carefully shaped hydroformed aluminium tubes to enhance rigidity. The wider bottom end of the E2 head tube is the secret ingredient in the Roscoe sauce, allowing a big down tube to beef the bike along its main axis of flex. A magnesium swing link connects frame, shock and seat stays and the whole rear end feels tightly coupled laterally.
Meet the new breed
Roscoe's not the first light, almost-six-inch-travel, do-everything-but racing mountain bike. This is a bike style that's been evolving for the last couple of years and with its accuracy and aplomb Roscoe advances the breed.
The three bikes in the Roscoe range will cost between US$3000 and $US5000.
Updates for the HiFi line
Gary Fisher has also tweaked the versatile HiFi range of 120mm-travel dual suspension trail bikes with all-new aluminium models and updates to the top-end HiFi Carbon and HiFi Carbon Pro.
The new aluminium frame is impressively light at a claimed 2350g including shock and the 'flattened bell'-shaped tubing (which is notably similar to Trek's Fuel EX) is expected to substantially increase frame rigidity over last year's mostly roundish pipes. There's also a new asymmetrical aluminium swingarm and co-molded carbon-and-aluminium seat stays to beef up the rear end and a larger-volume XV air can on the Fox RP23 rear shock for a more linear feel.
Carbon models get all-new co-molded carbon rear ends that reportedly drop 230g from last year's already-light chassis. Claimed weight is now just 2250g and torsional stiffness has supposedly gone up by 12 percent. Even so, upgrades to the aluminium models means there's now only 100g separating the two so weight is really going to have to matter to justify the cost: the HiFi Carbon will cost about US$4000, while the aluminium HiFi Pro, with only a slightly poorer spec will be about US$3300. Still, it's carbon innit?
Gary Fisher continues to characterize the HiFi as a trail bike with its 120mm of travel and slightly more stable handling but the top-end HiFi Carbon Pro's snappy frame and low weight will probably appeal to many racers, too. Those who want even sharper reflexes and a more direct-feeling rear end can still tap into the 100mm-travel HiFi XC which will continue on for '09.
Aluminium HiFis will cost between US$1800 and US$3300, while the carbon ones will be between US$4000 and US$6000.
Exact pricing for both new HiFi and Roscoe will be announced in August.
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