Gary Fisher Big Sur GS - first ride £1000

Hard-riding women's bike

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Too many women’s mountain bikes have an excessively upright riding position that patronises and hinders rather than inspires confidence. The Big Sur GS is about as far from that as is possible while retaining a girl-friendly stance. We’d happily recommend it to any female rider looking for a hardtail that’s going to push their riding up a notch.

The Big Sur GS is the latest incarnation of Gary Fisher’s favourite Genesis geometry with a feminine twist. Dubbed ‘Genesisters’, it’s designed to suit performance riders.

Upgraded with lightweight wheels and a smattering of more sophisticated finishing kit, it makes a scorching race bike. As it is, it’s a great all-day trail bike if you prefer the speed and agility of a hardtail over full-suspension.

Ride & handling: quick & inspiring

Stable at speed yet ready to go at the twitch of a bar, the Big Sur is stunningly quick off the mark. Stamping down the power in sprints rewards with a quick getaway, and when you’re cruising along open trails it’s neutral and easy to spin.

The Bontrager Jones XR tyres appreciate a lower pressure than we’d usually run – dropping 5psi settled our nerves after some hairy moments on the dry, dusty trails they’re designed for. That said, we did love to rag this bike hard through loose corners which is testament to its inspiring character. Chatter over rough terrain is minimal for a hardtail, and there weren’t any jarring moments to make us reach for a bouncy seatpost.

Uphill performance is great, too, and the bike frequently goaded us into using a far bigger gear than usual – right up to the point where we tried to hit the really steep stuff with the same power. We then found that we had to get right onto the saddle nose to stop the front end wandering around and popping off roots, and while that’s fine for short efforts, it gets tedious on long climbs.

It’s a trade-off between speed performance and uphill ability that we can live with, though, because sinuous singletrack is where the Big Sur GS really performs and was where we found ourselves habitually heading.

Perfectly balanced through twists and turns, it’s clear that the Big Sur puts your weight in exactly the right place for leaning into corners. It really loves to hammer along sweeping trails, carving into berms before springing out the other side poised and ready for more.

Frame: great looks , great design

It’s easy enough to forget the contrived Genesisters tag as soon as you lay eyes on the bike, because it looks gorgeous. The luminescent turquoise paintjob was adored by male and female riders alike, and down tube decals are subtly pretty with no hint of girly flowers.

Closer inspection yields evidence of a highly evolved frameset underneath the paint. Gary Fisher’s top-end Platinum Series ZR9000 tubing mixes Zirconium 9000 aluminium alloy and 6061 T6 aluminum to give a light, strong base material. This is butted both inside and out before being subjected to a two-step heat-treating process, reducing weight still further and adding strength.

The result is a high-quality, if unusual-looking, frame. The external butting around the head tube is particularly beefy, and conflicts with the svelte looks while doing a good job on stiffness.

Geometry features a female-tweaked version of the Genesis system, which mixes a longer top tube and shorter stem with a relatively slack 72.2° seat tube that gets your weight back over the rear wheel for stability and traction.

We’ve been practising the short stem/ long top tube ethos for years, tweaking dinky Konas and the like to fit petite female forms. At 594.5mm on our 17.5in test bike, the top tube is still much longer than equivalent female-specific hardtails on the market. That’s great if you’re an experienced rider who likes an efficient riding position to get the power down, but will take some getting used to if you’re lacking in confidence.

Persevere, though, and the attack position will soon feel natural, as well as placing you in a better place to tackle technical terrain. There’s masses of standover height thanks to the extended seat tube, and cables run underneath the top tube to keep them away from shorts. Forged drop-outs look sexy, too, although bizarrely include rack mounts.

Equipment: slightly basic selection saved by fork

Initial kit inspection left us feeling a little disappointed. Drivetrain parts are Shimano Deore LX, with the obligatory Deore XT Shadow rear mech upgrade, while braking is taken care of by the ubiquitous Avid Juicy Fives with 160mm rotors. For a £1000 bike we might have expected more bling and less weight.

However, the addition of the Fox F100RL fork brightens things up. It’s a top-quality item that complements the frame, and a quick tweak of the air spring and rebound damping means it’ll remain capable whatever the rider weight. The lockout will suit the cross-country racer in you, while 100mm of travel fills in the gaps for the all-day trail hacker without jacking up the front end and reducing standover clearance too much.

Bontrager Select finishing kit is tidy enough, but again, we’d have expected a bit more panache at this price. The 28-spoke wheel package keeps things in-house and, shod with Jones XR tyres, they’re a competent and comfy ride, although more vulnerable to cuts and wash-outs than other rubber we’ve tried.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get on with the Big Sweep bars. They’re presumably fitted to keep the position low and racey, and at 620mm they’re nice and wide – but try as we might, we couldn’t find a way to make the extreme 12 degrees of sweep give a workable hand position for any of our testers. A low- or mid-height nine-degree riser should work just as well, and would be more comfortable.

A lighter, slimmer saddle at this level would reward technically competent riders, too – it would be much easier to get off the back of for steeps, and more comfortable when broken in than the heavier Bontrager LUX supplied.

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