After years of turning out mid-travel bikes that languished competently but unspectacularly in the mid-ranking doldrums, Gary Fisher’s HiFi range of five-inch full-sussers has put the company’s trail bikes back in the spotlight.
Few bike ranges carry the weight of expectation of having been designed by an mountain bike founding father – and equipped, in the form of Keith Bontrager-penned components, by another – but the HiFi Pro wears its ancestry lightly.
Two features mark the HiFi Pro out. At under 28 pounds, it’s among the lighter five-inch trail bikes out there. But the biggest news of all is its proprietary G2 geometry, which sets out to redefine the way mountain bikes should be put together.
If the Fisher mission of redefining mountain bike geometry sounds familiar, that’s because the venerable Mr Fisher has been here before. In the late 1990s he introduced Genesis geometry, with its stretched top tube and shorter stem. Now, with G2, he’s reintroducing an idea pioneered by Keith Bontrager around the time that Genesis first appeared.
By increasing fork offset (using custom-built forks from Fox and RockShox), the trail (the distance between the tyre’s contact patch and a line drawn through the bike’s steering axis) is reduced. Shorter trail translates into quicker steering without, in principle, affecting any other handling characteristics.
Chassis: G2 writ large
In HiFi Pro form the new geometry is writ large in tidily welded aluminium, with a conventional-looking silhouette that allows room – just – for a large water bottle. Carbon seatstays plug into an asymmetric aluminium swingarm, which drives a Fox Float RP23 shock.
The shock’s compression damping is specced with a middling tune, but is also user-adjustable via the usual three-way dial and on-off switch. The carbon stays, incidentally, feature calf-clearing cutouts which, bizarrely, still clipped our calves occasionally.
Holding up the front is a vital component in the G2 scheme of things – a custom Fox F120 RLC with the increased offset that’s key to making the new geometry work. It’s a Fox, so it works brilliantly, of course, albeit with a slightly twangy feel when driven hard in the rough.
However, it’s a custom Fox, so expect your upgrade or replacement options to be very severely restricted if you want to retain the bike’s unique handling characteristics.
Ride & handling: attention-demanding but rewarding
Everything’s where it should be, centring the rider’s weight perfectly between the wheels and giving a good blend of comfort for the long haul and control for the short, sharp and steep bits.
Stamp on the pedals and the HiFi Pro’s relatively low weight translates into rapid forward progress, although that light swingarm doesn’t feel as stiff as some of the competition.
Back in the day, Fisher’s Genesis geometry yielded rather good handling, once you’d remembered to stop looking at the bike and concentrate on the trail.
But it did involve the rather unsettling feel of a distant head tube and stubby stem. That’s gone in the new incarnation.
In its place is a more averagely proportioned stem and top tube and that specially tweaked fork offset.
The rear end is happiest with a little ProPedal damping dialled in to help filter out the worst of any pedal-induced bob, but remains active enough to suck up everything from wheel-eating holes to momentum-sapping rootlets.
Handling up front is razor-sharp and intuitive thanks to the G2 tweaks, allowing instantaneous line switches whatever the speed or gradient. This is what G2 promised and what we expected: a light, lively and responsive ride.
However, while experienced riders having a good day – and that’s a pretty small subset – will revel in the HiFi Pro’s instant feedback loop, the rest of us might not have such a great time of it. This is a high-maintenance girlfriend of a bike, and she will demand your constant attention.
Doze off on the sofa in front of the footie with a beer in your hand and you’ll incur her wrath: ply her with constant attention and you’ll be rewarded with the ride of your life.
Equipment: low weight, good performance
Good performance at the lowest practical weight appears to be the HiFi Pro’s raison d’être, and its spec bears this out.
A healthy smattering of Bontrager components – including rider contact points, wheels and tyres – blends good looks with reliable function, while an XTR rear mech adds some showroom appeal.
We’d prefer to see quick release in place of the bolted seatpost collar, but otherwise there’s little to grumble about.
Summary: pay attention, Bueller
The HiFi Pro has something of a Jekyll and Hyde character, depending on your riding style and which side of the bed you’ve fallen out of.
For light, skilled and fluid riders with the patience and determination to stay focused, it’s a great way to dispatch vast swathes of trail at speed.
For the less experienced, or anyone suffering a bad day, be warned: this is a bike that’ll spit you into the weeds if your attention wanders for too long.