Gary Fisher Marlin Disc GS women's bike £600

Wolf in sheep's clothing

BikeRadar score 4/5

Once overshadowed by the much-loved and discontinued Big Sur GS, Gary Fisher’s Marlin GS is now the top end bike in Gary Fisher’s Genesisters (GS) range. It’s an understated looker but take it to the trails and it will rip all day long in a way which belies its modest appearance.

Ride and handling: A little careful upgrading will make the most of a great bike

Unusually for a female specific bike that brings the bars closer to the rider, the Marlin doesn’t feel cramped or crowded in any way. The rangy top tube lets you stretch out with your body weight balanced in the sweet spot between the wheels.

While this is initially counter-intuitive for riders who are used to the super-short, super-upright position of other female-specific frames, you’ll soon find yourself carving through curves with gay abandon with masses of grip at your control.

A few elements of the Marlin’s spec felt a little bit clunky out on the trail – the Avid cable disc brakes needed constant tweaking, RockShox’s Dart 3 fork was distinctly unsubtle and the Bontrager Jones XR tyres were lacklustre in every condition rather than outstanding in any one.

Switching to something equally big but smoother rolling, like Bontrager’s XDX, will make the most of the tight, light hardtail feel. Despite these issues, at £600 you’re getting solid parts on a sparkling frame and the smooth, balanced ride that results is definitely worth investing some upgrade cash in.

Frame: Unusual geometry could be ideal if you find it hard getting a bike that fits

The Marlin GS is designed with a slightly tweaked version of Gary Fisher’s G2 geometry in mind. It keeps the increased fork offset, which reduces trail to give light, fast steering responses, matched to a proportionally shorter and more compact top tube, bringing controls within easy reach.

It’s not quite as sit-up-and-beg as some other female-specific frames and makes a good option if you’re taller than average but still find that standard frames place the controls too far away for comfort.

Butted and hydroformed 6061 aluminium tubing is topped off with tough, cold-forged dropouts and there’s an unusual third set of bottle bosses below the down tube – too low for a Crudcatcher and too cruddy for bottles, though.

A semi-integrated headset means the handlebar height can be kept very low, which is a bonus for shorter riders, though those of a loftier stature will need to add a stack of spacers.

Equipment: Basic kit does the job but a better fork and wheels would let the frame shine

Avid’s BB5 cable disc brakes allow Gary Fisher to deliver all of the advantages of discs without going to the expense of hydraulics: great mud clearance, no wheel worries and good performance in mucky conditions, though you’ll need to take care of them if you’re a frequent wet weather flyer.

We’re fans of the basic Shimano hubs specced, too – though they’re not light, cup-and-cone bearings will last a long time with regular servicing. Mechs and shifters are functional Deore and ironwork is robust Bontrager SSR, wiith WSD grips and saddle polishing off the package in comfort.

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