Trek Bicycle Corporation's announcement last week that the standalone Gary Fisher brand would be rolled into the Trek label as the 'Gary Fisher Collection' yielded a predictable reaction from fans of the outspoken mountain bike pioneer.
Many touted the change as the death knell of the brand. Gary Fisher himself, however, sees things quite differently.
In his eyes, this isn't a marketing ploy aimed at gradually killing off a successful brand – at least in the United States where it ranks sixth – but rather the start of a new era of growth and opportunity to bring some of his most exciting ideas to fruition.
"Our reps wanted to sell Fisher but they [Trek Bicycle Corporation] made their numbers with Trek and everything was that way; it was always like that," Fisher told BikeRadar. "As far as the resources, we were second – a close second, because [Gary Fisher product manager] Aaron Mock is so good – but by nature, they took care of us after they got done with the real business. That's just the way it worked.
"When we made that announcement [our guys] were so excited – they couldn't believe it. The diehard Fisher fans were like, 'you're taking this away!' But for anyone that's been close to this, it's been like, 'this is perfect'."
Whereas once the Gary Fisher nameplate played second fiddle to Trek, Fisher says the change will now bring the brand to the forefront and open up resources that were previously tied up with other projects and priorities.
"I'm driving a lot of this and I have a marvelous position at the moment," he said. "For years my guys were saying to me, 'I'd really love to work on that project, but…'. It's much easier to deny 600 dealers than to deny 3,000. The Trek stuff was just so much more important. I get to put my foot on the gas now! I've suddenly felt like, wow, I've got this really cool responsibility. It's great."
Speaking of dealers, the move will instantly bring 'Gary Fisher Collection' bikes to far more people than before, especially in Europe where the brand historically has not fared so well – largely because of resistance to 29ers.
"People are talking about things in the United States but they don't realise that 60 percent of our market share is outside the US," Fisher said. "Fisher just wasn't doing the numbers in Europe. It's changing and it's changing quickly right now. It's much easier to grow where you're a very small percentage and we're a relatively small percentage in a lot of countries in the world but we've been growing like crazy. Things are in flux in a lot of areas."
Fisher stressed that the "realignment" of the brand was much his own doing, with the first discussions dating back to last autumn's Eurobike trade show. "We were over at Eurobike last year and we weren't showing Fisher but I wanted to help out – what's good for Trek is what's good for Fisher," he said.
"[Trek Bicycle Corporation president] John Burke noticed me in the back doing some stuff and he said, 'this is a tremendous asset and we're just wasting it, not even having Fisher here,' and he wanted to do something different with it so we thought about a strategy right there. It reformed itself a few times over the next few months and there it is."
It's hard to convey how pumped up Fisher is about the change (though anyone who's spoken with him in person can imagine) – and he hardly sounds like a person whose namesake brand has been mercilessly dealt a slow and painful death sentence.
"I've got over 130 engineers and over 30 of them are carbon specialists," he said. "We arguably have the most experience in bicycles and carbon of anyone in the world and I even have nine former rocket scientists – I'm excited!
"We're going to be able to make some crazy and wonderful things. I want to get things more focused and I want to work on doing some really quality pieces. They don't have to be super-expensive. It's a ton of opportunity right now."
Only time will tell if Trek's big move pays off in the long-term. But for dedicated Gary Fisher fans – and anyone else who has come to appreciate his novel view of bicycle design – testament from the man himself sounds awfully optimistic.