Gary Fisher bikes always offer a slightly different line to the mainstream. While the Tass's disc seems relatively conventional, subtle tubing tweaks and Genesis geometry mean it still feels totally fresh, with fast rolling tyres and good value componentry completing a lively ride.
You have to look hard at the compact sloping top tube frame to see the alchemy in the 'Gold Series' frame. Both top tube and down tube get pressure bulged heads for extra stiffness and weld strength, plus a 'belt and braces' throat gusset behind the short head tube. The down tube also bulges again at the bottom bracket end, while the tapered chainstays are braceless to leave massive mud space, despite the short 'Genesis' geometry layout. Smoothly organic looped dropouts match to slim, disc-specific seatstays which also carry rear rack mounts for cargo duty.
Typically for Fisher 'Genesis' bikes, the top tube is long for the bike size, but this is compensated for by a shorter than average stem and rear end. There's plenty of height under the bottom bracket though, so ground clearance is sure to be good on rutted ground. A big cable guide just in the seat tube/top tube angle means it's a very uncomfortable bike to stick on your shoulder up steep clambers, though.
When it's under your shorts not over your shoulder, it's a real treat. The relatively slender maintube mid sections and definitely slender rear stays produce a noticeably subtle and supple ride. The long centre means plenty of breathing space too, and when it's combined with the fast rolling tyres, we were constantly finding ourselves big chain ringing what are normally middle ring sections.
'Genesis geometry' handling is equally spirited and enthusiastic. The short 80mm stem snaps into turns immediately, and it's perfect for surfing the limited front tyre traction. The short rear end skips and swerves through with matching rapidity, while the long centre helps stop things getting skittery and unstable in fast and loose sections. The result is a bike that loves to be ragged hard through wooded singletrack or rock strewn twisties, with its natural agility helping to offset an increased parts payload.
If you move to a grippier, less rapid set of tyres though, that weight really starts to tell on climbs and short snap accelerations, dulling the obvious potential of the frame. Also, while the Axel fork absorbs single shocks fine, but a slow rebound response - even with the adjuster at minimum - means it has trouble reacting to multiple ruts, rocks and ripples. And the predictable result is an often thumping ride over more rugged, hectic sections. The adjustable compression lockout is a bob-free 'stand up and hammer' bonus on smoother climbs, though.
The Axel forks and Hayes Sole brakes are heavy but their solid performance is enough to make that extra mass worth moving. They'd certainly be first on our upgrade list though, as the mix of Shimano LX and Deore gears and basic Bontrager trimmings is good, and Shimano hubs also offer proven longevity for their extra weight. While the tyres are shallow tread summer specials with no wet cornering grip whatsoever, you'll be surprised what they'll manage to drive through and there's no denying the easy speed they provide.
The Tass is a really sweet handling, smooth riding XC bike. Fork rebound and summer tyres are a problem in bigger, techy terrain, and weight is obvious if you use grippier tyres, but it's still a cracking easy speed option and decent value, too.