Gary Fisher were the ﬁrst mainstream brand to go 29er a decade ago, and now they’ve been integrated into the Trek brand. So has all the extra effort and upheaval behind the integration been worth it?
Ride & handling: Unusual but rewarding position
The bars create the biggest ﬁrst impression, putting your hands right back towards your lap for an upright ride position. At first it feels weird in a ﬂat-steering-wheel, bus-driver way. But give it time and the lightened yet authoritative feel helps the front ﬂoat over rough sections.
It also offsets increased front wheel weight when you're lifting the bike up steps or wheelying across ditches or off drops, and keeps weight back on steep descents. Fans of backswept bars will say their wrists have never felt better, although some of our testers felt the shortened reach restricted breathing and enthusiasm for attacking the trail.
While switching to a straighter bar gives a more aggressive ride position, the Paragon is still a more relaxed character than other 29ers. The light G2 steering and stiff fork axle/tapered head tube mean front wheel placement accuracy and line holding is good on ground the tyres grip on.
The long rear end means a wide turning circle and a less snappy feel in the tighter stuff, and you’ll soon run out of corner if you try and push the pace too hard on snaking singletrack.
The tyres and wheels aren’t particularly light, which means a slow heave out of tight corners or stalling situations. However, the whole bike is pretty fat-free. It climbs and accelerates well in middle and big ring gears. The Bontrager rubber rolls well, making this a fast and easy cruising bike for long-haul riding.
It’s not the stiffest in terms of pedalling feel, but that’s repaid with a smooth overall ride. The jolt-reducing effect comes from a combination of quality fork and well-shaped frame, plus ﬂex in the backswept bars and skinny seatpost.
The tubeless-ready compatibility of the rims and tyres mean softer, lower-pressure running is a couple of rim strips and squirts of sealant away. Lower tyre pressures would offset the tendency of the plasticky-feeling tyres to slide on harder, wet surfaces.
Frame: Well-suited to stiffness
As the top alloy-framed bike in the eight-strong Gary Fisher Collection hardtail range, the Paragon gets the most advanced hydroformed 6066 alloy tubeset. This includes a stubby top and bottom reinforced head tube for the tapered E2 steerer fork.
The down tube gets a subtle curve and expansion tweak behind the head tube. Both main tubes use a rounded geometric section that ends up ovalised at the seat tube for increased lateral stiffness.
The seat tube uses an extended top with three clamp slots to spread any potential crack/fatigue load, and there’s a bolted collar to hold the skinny 27.7mm seatpost.
Equipment: Unusual backswept bar
Out back, mid-section rectangular stays curve past crank and ankle areas to forged drop-outs. These include a rear-facing disc mount to reduce torque stress on the stays, although it’s still a heavier, ﬁddlier IS rather than post-style mount.
The braceless rear stays leave generous mud clearance around the tyres. Five frame sizes, from 15.5in to 23in, should cater for most riders. The Fox fork gets a 15mm QR axle with a custom 51mm G2 geometry offset at the fork crown.
Bontrager wheels and fat, low-tread tyres provide the rolling stock. The ﬁnishing kit is Bontrager too, including the backswept Big Sweep bar gripped in the short stem.
Whatever you think of the backswept bar, the Paragon is a naturally easy and efﬁcient cruiser with the appropriate kit to enhance its relaxed ride. Low weight and fast tyres make it deceptively quick, although it’ll come unstuck if you try and push the pace too hard on tight, technical trails.