The HiFi Carbon is a real standout bike, thanks to hyper responsive handling on one of the lightest and flexiest full-suspension trail bikes around. Did we love its whippet speed and wagging tail, though?
The HiFi was introduced in 2006 as the lightest ever Fisher suspension bike, despite the fact it has 26mm extra travel compared with the Race Day introduced six months before. For 2008, the new 110gsm carbon fibre mainframe cuts out even more weight to create one of the lightest chassis anyone makes.
Even before you get on the HiFi, just wheeling it about makes you realise how gobsmackingly light it really is. There are a few folk claiming their five-inch carbon flagships will weigh 23lb this year, but the HiFi is the first production bike we've tested that actually does just that.
Unsurprisingly, that means the gentlest pressure on the pedals is enough to squirt it up the trail like stepping on wet soap. Stand on the pedals or pull on the bars hard, though, and you'll realise how
flexy the frame is. Even under normal trail conditions, it'll wander and twang noticeably through turns or shift gears unexpectedly, but put the hammer down and it goes bananas. We managed a first-ever 'three gears in one go' ghost shift when sprinting out of one corner and cross-threaded it so badly across an inline log pile that it effectively did the splits and fired us clean into the brambles. The relatively tall bar and short stem combined with the turn-on-a-dime G2 fork tweaking, make it feel ultralight and a little bit fragile in the steering department, too.
The thing is, despite all these nervous twitches, we kept finding ourselves putting huge gaps into riders we normally can't lose on twisty singletrack. Looking down and being totally shocked by how big a gear we were in was another regular surprise, and when it came to long hill drags, the HiFi was just a thrilling licence to hurt people.
The feedback from the less aggressive test team members was overwhelmingly positive, too. Everyone was keen to point out the bike's unbelievable lightness and climbing prowess, plus an easy agility that made the least technical riders feel sorted on tight singletrack.
There's no denying the quality of the kit. The Fox forks and shock worked as well as they could to keep the bike on the ground, and XTR shifted beautifully when the frame was straight enough to let it.
While they're noticeably flexy, the Bontrager wheels play a big part in saving weight, and the tyres are usefully fast and tubeless-ready. There's room for further weight-saving by changing the other Bontrager kit items though, so a 20lb HiFi might well be a possibility.
The HiFi is very light, with hyperactive steering and more twang than a bungee, and it's a real opinion divider. If you're a powerful rider who values precision, then give the HiFi a wide berth. If, on the other hand, you're a less aggressive rider looking for a massive boost to both your climbing speed and singletrack aptitude, then it might well be perfect for you.