Gary Fisher is revered as one of the founding fathers of mountain biking, and his bikes have always had a reputation for being innovative and rider friendly. So, we were excited to try out his first road machines when they were unveiled at the end of last summer.
Since we tested the Rail Super, events have overtaken us, with the news that no more bikes will carry the Fisher name on their down tube. Instead, brand owners Trek are releasing a limited ‘collection’ of Fisher-designed bikes, with just one road model, the Triton.
So, if you want one, you’ll have to be quick and get in there before stocks run out – although our testers weren’t convinced by the ride and reckon there are better options out there.
Frame: Mudguard-friendly and reasonably light, but harsh and uninspiring to ride (5/10)
Handling: Very stable and steady steering is ideal for new riders, but can quickly become frustrating for others (7/10)
Equipment: Hard saddle, weak brakes and muddled Tiagra shifting won’t encourage anyone (5/10)
Wheels: Relatively heavy wheels blunt the ride, but should stay true and soak up abuse (5/10)
As you’d hope for from Fisher, the Rail demonstrates a slightly different approach to road bikes. Performance is still central, but it comes blended with practicality. Each Rail frame, even the top-end carbon Cronus, has been designed to take full-coverage mudguards over 25mm tyres.
Clever removable mounting points mean your bike looks like a pure speedster through the summer, but can be converted to a winter trainer quickly, neatly, and without removing the brakes. As Fisher himself says: “A day out on the road in less than ideal conditions is better than a day indoors on the trainer.”
The Rail Super has a 6061 aluminium frame with attractive, tapering top and down tubes. But this isn’t an old Trek with some fresh stickers – geometry and handling are fundamental to Fisher and the distinctive frames are their own designs.
The ﬁnishing kit is all Bontrager, of course, Trek’s component arm, as are the wheels. Shimano Tiagra is the default at this price, but you do get a 105 rear derailleur to show off. The Tiagra shifters look and feel a lot like 105 anyway.
You can use the large horns for a comfortable, engaging and speedy stretch position that retains a solid grip and, therefore, conﬁdent control. We’ve never liked this method of cable routing though – it balloons up in front of the bar, and by comparison to the clever mudguard mounts it’s anything but practical.
Mount a light on the bar and the beam is perfectly bisected by one of the white cables, creating a dazzling glare. We were also surprised and disappointed to ﬁnd surface rust on various fasteners after just one wet ride, which doesn’t sit well with notions of being a practical year-round bike.
Shifting to a larger sprocket at either end is smooth, quick and effortless. Owing to the same light springs, changes the opposite way can be a little vague. Also, the front shifter is for a triple, so changing down on the compact chainset usually means a second tap on the lever, which sometimes ﬁred the chain straight past the inner ring during our test. The nine-speed cassette is well spaced from 12 to 26 though.
The geometry is well resolved, with extra emphasis on conﬁdence-boosting stability to reassure riders new to road bikes. To 40mph and beyond, chin tucked over the bar, or clipping a manhole cover with your bottle in one hand, the Rail feels like it has an invisible steady hand on the tiller. The ﬂipside is that the steering feels slow and heavy compared to racier bikes.
We’re unconvinced by the ride quality. It feels like old school aluminium, with some of the clichéd harshness associated with the material, though it does climb purposefully. Trek aluminium frames at this price are smoother. We’re even less keen on the saddle, which wasn’t comfortable enough to encourage new riders to strike out further from home. The brakes are poor too – weak and spongy.
Gary fisher rail super: gary fisher rail super www.robertsmithphotography.co.uk