Gary Fisher, one of the founding fathers of mountain biking, is widely recognised as having deﬁned industry standard geometry and set the sport along the trail towards what it is today. His Hoo Koo E Koo may not be the longest-established production mountain bike – Specialized’s Stumpjumper takes that honour – but through numerous incarnations has become something of an icon.
The ’09 HKEK is new from the ground up, with reworked geometry and a swoopy new chassis design, but it aims to offer the same blend of value and spec as its illustrious predecessors.
You could easily pick holes in the spec, or argue that it would be better with this fork or that component., but that would miss the point. This is one of the best handling, most versatile trail hardtails out there, it looks fantastic and it’s only £800. What’s not to like?
Ride & handling: Totally predictable, whatever the situation
Previous experience with bikes sporting Fisher’s G2 geometry (see Frame below) had left us in a state of ambivalence about the whole concept. It seemed like something of a double-edged sword to us. On the one hand, we loved the near-instantaneous steering input and snappy responses, but on the other, all that liveliness seemed to have a nasty tendency to get out of hand at high speeds if the rider’s attention wandered for longer than a nanosecond.
It turns out the problems we were having may have had as much to do with the platform we were riding – Fisher’s lightweight, mid-travel full-sussers – as the geometry. Flexible swingarms weren’t doing the G2 concept any favours, as the Hoo Koo E Koo proves beyond doubt.
The new bike has the same low-speed agility that we associate with G2, with a perplexing blend of stability and manoeuvrability that makes a challenging climb a pleasure rather than a chore. But a rear end that’s not prone to ﬂexing half an inch sideways under duress endows the HKEK with the high-speed stability that its ’08 stablemates seemed to lack.
This, in other words, is what G2 geometry was always supposed to be about: totally predictable behaviour, whatever the speed or conditions out on the trail.
Frame: Simple, functional chassis allows G2 geometry to shine
Fisher’s designers have resisted the temptation to overwork the HKEK’s frame with needless hydroforming. Instead it ﬂows gracefully from head tube to dropouts with a minimum of fuss and with such elegance that it’s easy to overlook the large workmanlike welds that hold it together.
The details are impressive in their simplicity and functionality. There’s a graceful curve to the down tube where it meets the head tube to disperse stress, and another where it meets the bottom bracket.
The seat tube clamp slot is at the side, away from rear tyre spray. The seatstay and chainstay gussets that replace the conventional bridges endow the Hoo Koo E Koo with so much mud clearance you could probably use it to plough ﬁelds. There’s even a third bottle mount underneath the down tube.
All this high-tech aluminium wizardry is put together with Fisher’s proprietary G2 geometry, the second incarnation of Genesis, which launched longer top tubes and shorter stems on an unsuspecting world more than a decade ago.
G2 tweaks the original formula by increasing fork offset (with a custom crown that moves the fork legs further from the steering axis) and reducing the reach to the bars.
The fork offset reduces trail (distance between the tyre contact patch and the point where the steering axis meets the ground) which makes for quicker steering. Reducing reach makes it easier for the rider to weight the front wheel, reducing the tendency of the original Genesis design for the front end to wander on steep climbs.
Equipment: Nothing flashy, but it all works well
For all its impressive frame credentials, there’s little to get excited about in the Hoo Koo E Koo’s spec list. However, it all works well and, just as importantly, puts this bike in your hands for £800.
An air-sprung fork would have been nice for greater adjustability, but the RockShox Recon is good as coil-equipped units go. The white Bontrager saddle doesn’t take long to get mucky either. But that’s it for gripes – SRAM gears, Bontrager kit and Avid brakes do a sterling job.