it's a rare opportunity when you get the chance to test a handful of pre-production bikes on your home turf but that was the gift offered to us when Ken from trek/fisher's ride the best demo tour rolled into town. not only did i get the chance to ride the brand new hi fi 29 but also the redisgned paragon. both bikes were equipped with the new fox f29 fork, bontrager rythym wheels and shimano's new xt shadow rear derailleur.
at first glance the new 2008 hifi looks like a well proportioned bike, unlike earlier two nine full suspensions that had ungodly tall front ends and massive wheelbases. it was also clear that the boys at fisher spent some time refining the co-molded carbon rear end which has the carbon tubes mounted seamlessly into the aluminum knuckles (image below). the front end has seen some changes too with the addition of a 1.5" headtube. for you roadies that have paid attention to trek's new madone fork, the benefits of a 1.5" lower bearing race are clear. i think you'll probably see the suspension manufacturer's step up and start building significantly lighter fork crowns and steertubes. the hifi's key feature, the genesis 2.0 geometry still takes center stage but the bar has difinetly been raised on two nine frame design.
fox has stepped up big time and is offereing multiple two nine forks for 2008, and on the trail the difference is dramatic. you immediately notice the quicker handling of the hifi, almost forgeting the fact that you're rolling on big wheels. after having ridden almost exculsively on fishers steel hardtail ferrous for month's, initially i thought i'd notice the longer travel bike. it was quite the opposite, the hifi flowed through the corners seemlessly and soaked up the roots and braking bumps allowing me to maintain a constant speed where a hardtail typically gets held up. frame stiffness has also increased over fisher's previous race day frame design. gone is long cantilevered swingarm as it replaced with the hifi's swing link. the rear end is packed with sealed bearings at each pivot, making for a very supple, responsive rear end vertically, yet stiff horizontally.
the hifi really shines in the tight corners, a place where most two niners struggle. the 51mm offset fox g2 fork quickened up the front end significantly, and the addition of low speed compression damping adjustment kept the fork from diving, but more on that later. the new shimano xt shadow rear derailleur is strikingly low profile. the new gear changer tucks neatly under the quick release nut leaving it completely protected from rocks and stumps and should greatly reduce the chance of damaging the derailleur or frame in the event of a fall.
the other big feature on the hifi is bontragers new rythym rim. the rythym is 28mm wide compared to the standard 23mm. the wider rim gives a larger diameter tire profile giving an even larger contact patch using the same tire. after chatting with ken, the new rim will be available as a pre-built wheelset or rim only for all the hand built fanatics, myself included.
at the end of the day i was left wondering why anyone would ride small wheels. fisher has hit the nail on the head and designed a two niner that works on every inch of midwest trail. it might be a bit much for the serious racer but you'll find no better ride for an all around trail bike.