Gary Fisher were promoting the advantages of big-wheeled bikes over a decade before any other mainstream brand. The sublimely smooth steel Ferrous is the ultimate singlespeed or geared evolution of their popular Rig singlespeeds.
It's the most sinuous and cat-like rough trail 29in cruiser we’ve ridden, and a prime pick for competitive marathoners or horizon-curious riders who think about the long game. More aggressive pilots who like to chop and change pace or push tight lines are going to find it the most frustrating noodle ever, though.
Ride & handling: Probably the most pliable, shock-absorbing hardtail we’ve ever ridden
The Ferrous's fat tyres and ultra-thin True Temper steel tubes iron out any smaller wrinkles in the trail, while the long thin seatpost acts like a leaf spring under your saddle. Those skinny tubes also let the bike swerve and writhe through random rock sections for as long as you can keep the momentum of the big wheels going.
While our Fox fork sample had an uncharacteristic top-out glitch, the 80mm stroke is enough to smooth out bigger lumps. Add relatively fast-rolling tyres and the Ferrous is an effortlessly efficient long-distance rough trail cruiser. Even on climbs it keeps your breathing a lot less stressed than you’d expect for a 28-pounder.
This outstandingly sinuous feel has its downsides, though: stomp hard on the pedals to inject pace and all you’ll do is tie the frame in knots and twist it out of shape. Instead you’ve got to gradually coax the bike up to speed and rely on the extra traction and ‘roll over’ ability to not lose too much speed in the first place.
The same willowy willfulness is obvious if you try to carve it hard through corners or force the front end to go over rather than around stuff. However hard you try to hold the bars there’s so much flex between you and the tyre contact points that it’ll always take the path of least resistance.
Frame: Classic True Temper OX steel tubes in an up-to-date package
At a time when the future of lightweight steel hardtails looks under serious threat from impending CEN safety standard legislation, it’s great to find a skinny steeler in classic True Temper OX tubing.
That said, big top and down tube gussets wrap halfway around main tubes behind the short externally butted head tube. Both the head tube and seat tube are short though, which lets in front end flex and means plenty of equally flexy skinny seatpost showing under the saddle.
It’s the rear stays that are most dramatically comfort-orientated though, with bridgeless chainstays tapering right back to minimalist dropouts. The curved tip seatstays are pencil thin too, bowing out so dramatically that it looks like you could fit a spacehopper through the frame, let alone any size of tyre you want. Ultimate tyre clearance is limited by the close clearance on the back of the front mech cage though.
The eccentric bottom bracket gives easy chain tensioning for singlespeed use and allows you to adjust the geometry. Two bottle cages should keep thirst at bay for a while, too.
Equipment: Solid rather than exceptional; boosted by Bontrager kit
With such a high-quality frame and fork (Fox F80 RL 29, 80mm) taking much of the budget, the overall component package is solid rather than exceptional.
After a decade of equipping Fisher's 29ers, Bontrager is the most experienced wagonwheel outitter around. This is particularly obvious in the Rhythm wheelset with its extra-wide 28mm rim. This adds a broad base to the already large air volume of the nominal 2.1in Bontrager XDX tyres, accentuating the smooth float of the skinny frame tubes even further.
The Big Sweep flat bar gives the breadth and relaxed wrist shape of a race riser without adding height to the big-wheeled front end. The short stem tops steering that’s been honed by years of geometry tweaks.
The compromises evident in the basic feeling but belligerently powerful Hayes brakes and the clunk, click SRAM X.9 gears – this sort of medium-level kit is a little out of place on a £1,500 bike – show just how expensive the high-quality frame is.