As you'd expect from a leftfield innovator like Gary Fisher, the Genesisters bikes have always had an edgy aspect compared to more pedestrian rides from other big brands.
This is truer than ever with the new Hi Fi bikes. They're the lightest full suspension bikes Fisher has produced, and also one of the lightest ladies FS bikes yet built. More controversially, they've also set out to totally rewrite the accepted rules and standards of mountain bike steering with their new Genesis G2 design.
Looking at the frame, you probably won't notice anything radically different. It tips steeply back from the tall 120mm travel fork for plenty of straddling clearance, with a long seat post extension for a real racer look. A shaped down tube and head tube add stiffness (while reducing weight to a minimum) and the back end gets carbon fibre seatstays for the same effect.
The suspension is an update on the well-proven Fisher 'Sugar' design too, using a forged linkage to give sideways support to the back end and drive the Fox shock slung under the top tube. It makes the lockout lever on the shock a bit awkward to reach, but means Fisher can pack the full 116mm of rear wheel travel into even the smallest frames. Finally, the whole frame gets an expensive but 'tougher and lighter than paint' anodized finish, which you normally only find on frames that cost this much alone.
The frame also uses cartridge bearings that are pressed in rather than clamped, which means a stiffer structure and less bolts to check for looseness. This is more of a chore when they wear out, but with the 'Four Barrel' dropout pivots using two bearings each side, Fisher is definitely on a durability drive..
The real news with this frame layout is the fork though, with Fisher determined to add responsiveness in tight turn situations without losing stability at speed. Together with long-term steering stirrer Keith Bontrager and suspension manufacturer Manitou, they've been playing with the forward offset of the legs on custom forks to create the 'G2' steering standard.
A 7mm forward shift doesn't sound like much, but it immediately makes the fork feel twitchier and easier to turn. Although the wheelbase stays the same for stability, Fisher has also brought rider weight forward with a short 75mm stem. This means the steering seems to happen under your chin rather than out in front of you. It initially feels sketchy and scary (think wobbly shopping trolley wheel) but once you make the leap of faith and go with the input hungry steering, it's actually okay on longer, faster descents.
As Fisher planned, the payback is super quick reactions in really tight slow techy terrain, with none of the sudden dive and 'wheel fl op' that longer stemmed or more stable bikes suffer in 'walking pace' turns.
The low overall weight of the bike also increases responsiveness and makes it very easy to accelerate and climb on. There's loads of frame potential to make it very light, too.
The forward, fork-biased weight positioning of the bike does mean the rear suspension tends to skip rather than soak up bigger bumps, though. Running it soft enough to get increased traction and travel means you'll have to flick on the Pro Pedal lever of the RP2 shock to stop pedalling bounce.
The fork (and a replacement unit Fisher sent) also threw up another problem. Basically its length depended entirely on what pressure you ran, varying as much as 5cm between 70 and 150psi. Luckily it was about the right length for the stated geometry at 100psi (the correct pressure for our testers) but travel was limited to 100mm not the intended 120mm. Manitou tell us they're aware of the problem and it can and will be sorted, but as we go to press, we're still waiting for proof.
Apart from this glitch, the rest of the spec is good for the price. Bontrager's FIT women's saddle came in for praise from our testers, who also appreciated the narrower bars - if not the patterned grips. The XT rear mech is last year's model, but it still adds durability to the Deore kit elsewhere. Deore 170mm cranks are perfect for shorter leg lengths, and the Acid Juicy 3 disc brakes are powerful but very controllable in all weathers. Also, while you've only got an upgrade option to a custom Manitou Minute 'G2' fork if you stick with G2, the Fox shock at the back is one of the most tuneable cans around.
Ever since he won the races, set up shop and coined the phrase 'mountain bike', Gary Fisher has an unparalleled history of innovation. Some of it has been successful, some influential in one way or another. If we presume our fork problem was an oddity or will be sorted straightaway, then the basic bike is fast, potentially superlight and definitely well equipped for the money. Whether you get to enjoy benefits depends entirely on how prepared you are to ditch convention and get used to a totally handling balance. Best test ride we reckon.