The Gary Fisher Kaitai is a do it all machine – an everyman’s bike, the one bike you keep easily to hand and use for everything. And it does it with a very impressive level of kit and in a slightly different way than most.
The Kaitai blurs the boundaries between street machine, tough city bike and light off-roader.
This is what the mountain bike scene calls a 29er after the size of the combination of a 700c wheel and a two inch tyre. Stand the Kaitai alongside a similar 700c hybrid and the wheels of the Kaitai are noticeable larger.
An endless debate rages as to the advantages and disadvantages for off-road riding, but it’s a debate that doesn’t really apply to the Kaitai because it’s not a dedicated mountain bike.
Ride & handling: stable all-rounder
The Kaitai doesn't have the most exciting ride but it's stable for all-round use. It's an ideal ride for the kind of rider the bike is aimed at.
Neither a ﬂat-bar road bike nor a mountain bike, the Kaitai's strength lies in its versatility. The riding position seats you up and in control and it’s a fun ride, especially when the going gets a bit rough.
This is when the bigger 29in wheels come into their own as they steamroller over obstacles. They give a good feel of stability and inspire conﬁdence.
The Kaitai’s ride is sure-footed rather than inspired, but that’s ﬁne. As a dependable bike for getting around on, the Kaitai is a good choice.
Frame and fork: quality frame, basic fork
With its 29er-speciﬁc frame geometry for the larger wheels, the Kaitai has loads of mud clearance and is very nicely ﬁnished. The tough paint and formed tubes add a classy look, while the suspension fork adds comfort rather than off-road performance.
The Kaitai’s frame is butted and hydroformed from Fisher’s Gold Series alloy. It’s a good looking, tidy frame that has a real air of quality to it. The machined dropouts at the rear are very smart and have eyelets for mudguards and a rack.
The rear disc brake calliper is neatly tucked out of the way in front of the dropout between the chain and seatstay. The frame has also been designed with enough clearance for a 2in-plus mountain bike tyre.
Up front the SR NRX suspension fork is rated for a mountain bike, but it doesn’t have enough travel for serious off-roading and it’s also a bit on the skinny side. It’s more of a comfort item, though it is tough enough to deal with uneven gravel tracks and can easily handle jumping up and down kerbs. It can also be locked out, which gives the bike a faster and more precise handling feel on the ﬂats.
Wheels: core versatility
The larger wheel size gives you greater choice. You can choose between making the bike a rough path rider or a fast street machine by swapping between 29in MTB tyres and 700c road tyres. The Kaitai comes ﬁtted with a tyre choice somewhere between the two categories.
The low proﬁle tread pattern on the WTB Interwolf tyres is a good compromise between street cruising and the extra grip needed for loose gravel and hard packed dirt. If you were sticking to the roads then we’d suggest you swap the Interwolfs (Interwolves?) for some skinny slicks to speed things up.
The wheels themselves are built on Bontrager Ranger disc-speciﬁc rims that even have eyelets. The rims feature offset spoke holes to reduce dish and create a stronger wheel. Excellent wheels for the price.
Equipment: great brakes and finishing kit
Once correctly adjusted, the Shimano cable disc brakes are powerful and reliable stoppers in wet and dry. A ﬁt and forget component, mechanical disc brakes are pretty much service-free; replacing worn out pads once they have worn out will be pretty much it. The brakes on the Kaitai also feature full length cable outers to prevent contamination of the inner cable.
Bontrager ﬁnishing kit adorns the Kaitai and it’s a sure sign of quality. This is especially evident on the wheels, with their black spokes on disc-speciﬁc Bontrager Ranger asymmetric rims.
Verdict: a subtle difference
How much difference the 29er wheel sizing makes to everyday use is hard to tell, but it gives the Kaitai a subtle difference over its rivals and we like the way it gives you an option to customise the ride. This is a versatile all-rounder: dependable and high quality.