The Tarpon, part of the Silver series, is the cheapest of Gary Fisher's precious metals collection, but it's still a nicely made frame. Conventional round tubes get neat welds as well as a shaped reinforcing plate under the throat of the tall head tube.
That tall head tube does make it hard to get a low 'racey' position unless you flip the stem, though.
Ripping round the start field and into the first section of singletrack, its frame and handling quality became clear. It floated over roots and smoothed the rock sections, despite relatively skinny tyres and a steel handlebar that turned any shock that did get through into seriously wrist-powdering sting.
The only thing that really let it down was the transmission and the potential weather aspect. While big 48, 38, 28 tooth chainrings mean big speed, you'll struggle on really steep stuff compared to a normal 42,32,22 set up. From bitter experience we know that V brakes which help keep weight low, and particularly the centre ridge tyres, would have turned from advantage to lethally slippery disadvantage at the first sign of damp.
The fork only manages 50mm of its claimed travel if you really lean on it too. In its defence, there's no top or bottom out clang and apart from sounding like you're running over a line of asthmatic cats, it's actually pretty comfy.
The Shimano gears work well through the EZ Fire shifters too, but the plastic trimmed chainset doesn't even pretend to have bolts for replaceable rings. The steel (not alloy as listed) riser bar really stings your hands when the going gets rough too, although seat and grips are pretty comfy, which will be much more important to casual riders.
The smooth frame, smooth (if short) fork, fast tyres and responsive handling made the Tarpon the natural racer of the bunch and an easy speed machine. Lack of disc mounts and centre ridge tyres restrict its all-weather capability though.
© BikeRadar 2007