Remember 10 years ago, when there was still scepticism about 29ers? The Rumblefish by Gary Fisher was ahead of its time. It’s almost like that Mr Fisher knows a thing or two about bike design…
We thought we’d go back for a look at what we thought of the Rumblefish, way back then. Did we spot it as a sign of things to come, or dismiss it as a freak? Over to Benji Haworth for the review…
Gary Fisher Rumblefish II
- Price: £3,200
- From: Trek UK www.fisherbikes.com
- Weight: 28 lbs
- Tested: Four months by Benji
The Rumblefish is Gary Fisher’s 29er mountain bike that’s intended for rougher, more technical trails. 29ers have traditionally been aimed squarely at XC riding mile-munchers and racers. The Rumblefish is kind of like the big-wheeled version of the Gary Fisher Roscoe. Although the Rumblefish is 110mm travel at the back and the Roscoe is 140mm, they are of very similar intent and application. The Roscoe is one of our favourite ever mountain bikes, so this Rumblefish has a lot to live up to. The common preconception about 29ers is that they’re slower handling than 26in wheeled bikes. Gary Fisher makes the bold claim that the Rumblefish is a ‘29er that handles better than a 26’ wheeled bike’. We shall see…
How have Gary Fisher squeezed a quart into a pint pot? We tested a Medium size Rumblefish. The geometry fundamentals are as follows: 70° head angle, 72.6° seat angle, 23.6in effective top tube, 13.1in BB height, 29.7in standover, 4.5in head tube length, 17.8in chain stays. The frame is made from some pretty fancily hydroformed 6011 aluminium. Lanky giants will be pleased to hear that the Rumblefish is available in XXL (23in) size.
Each end of the Rumblefish has some things worth noting. Up front the head tube is ‘E2’ tapered flavour. Tapered forks increase front end stiffness and strength without increasing head tube length or adding too much weight. Into the head tube is plugged a Fox F120 FIT RLC 29 fork with a 15mm QR thru-axle system – again, a stiffer but not much heavier new standard. For what it’s worth, we like the new ‘tapered steerer’ and ‘15mm axle’ standards, they make sense. The key thing about the fork on the Rumblefish is that it has an increased 51mm offset.This is custom-to-Gary-Fisher ‘G2’ fork geometry.The theory behind G2 is that increases the fork offset quickens up the steering but it doesn’t shorten the bike’s wheelbase, and so descending stability isn’t compromised.
At the back end of the bike is the Active Braking Pivot (or ABP), where the pivot er… pivots around the rear wheel axle. ABP is claimed to be stiffer than a chainstay mounted pivot (aka Horst Link) but still offers active suspension during braking. Gary Fisher has done all it can to reduce the length of the chainstays back there too and those on the Rumblefish are respectable 17.8in in length.
In the middle of the Rumblefish are a couple of notable things as well: integrated ‘BB95’ bottom bracket cups and the Fox DRCV rear shock.The BB95 system claims to offer a reduction in weight, more pedalling stiffness and power transfer (the down tube and bottom bracket junction is indeed huge. The Fox DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) shock is similar to those found on the Gary Fisher Roscoe. This is a position sensitive valve that opens the passageway to a secondary air chamber at a predetermined point in shock travel. So on smaller impacts the shock is only ‘working’ the rst air chamber, when a bigger hit comes along a ‘trapdoor’ is automatically opened and the second air chamber is brought into play. It’s a good way of maintaining a consistent feel to the suspension throughout the whole stroke.
The rest of the build kit of the bike was very good, although it should be at £3200 really. Shimano XT and XTR drivetrain,Avid Elixir R brakes, Bontrager tyres and finishing kit.
So how did it ride? Well, we took Gary Fisher’s bold claim as inspiration and took it our local network of technical trails. On the way up the hill the bike climbed very well and seated spinning up long climbs was a joy. Even on rougher sections up hill the bike handled well, we could stay seated and hustle our way up. The bike found traction all the time. Impressive. The lengthy top tube also made for a very efficient but comfortable position.
But let’s fact it, this bike should mainly be about the descents seeing as that’s what it was arguably primarily intended for. On faster, more open, smoother, flowy descents the Rumblefish was really good. A real surprise was how well it cornered at speed, there was so much traction on tap and you could really position yourself deep inside the bike and really let rip around bends. On fast stuff the bike rolled much quicker and kept momentum better than a 26in bike with similar suspension travel. The suspension at both ends felt great with no undue bobbing, diving or lurching, it was efficient and capable with a nice punchy but predictable character (it is worth taking your time reading out how to set up the DCRV rear shock as getting it wrong has a very harmful effect on the ride).
On faster trails that were very rocky or rutted the only niggle we had was that the bike felt a bit flexy. We’re assigning the majority of this flex to the wheels.The frame and fork are not to blame. The Rumblefish needs – deserves – much stiffer wheels. On straight-ish steep trails the Rumblefish acquitted itself remarkably well. The sensation of being so low down inside the bike was extremely confidence inspiring. Geometry geeks will correctly assign this handling aspect to the large BB drop that 29ers can have – the Rumblefish’s BB drop is 37mm (‘BB drop’ is the distance the BB axle is below the wheel axles). On slower, more tight ‘n’ technical trails (of which there are legion around here) the Rumblefish wasn’t quite so confidence-inspiring but it did put in a respectable performance. It was certainly better than many similar travel 26in bikes we’ve ridden. But it was on these sort of trails where we remembered that we had big wheels underneath us.The two main aspects to blame were the steepish head angle and the lack of standover.The bike had a tendency to jackknife on steep, tight switchbacks and it wasn’t easy to counteract these ‘folding endos’ by leaning or lowering our body due to the tall standover.
So does the Rumblefish handle better than a 26in wheeled bike? The answer is: yes, sometimes. And sometimes, no. When the trails get extremely rough, the flexy wheelset is the bike’s undoing. When the trails slow down and get tightly cornered, the steep front end and lack of standover are limiting factors. But – and it’s a big but – when ridden on trails that are moderately rough, or those that allow speed to be carried, the Rumblefish was definitely one of the best 29ers we’ve yet ridden. It’s a flipping fast bike – uphill, along and downhill. It’s unarguably – and significantly – faster than a hardtail and most 100mm travel 26in full-sussers over the type of terrain that a lot of mountain bikers ride week-in week-out.
If it was our money, we’d get the £2300 Rumblefish I. It’s much cheaper, not much heavier, functionally almost identical and far, far, far better looking (the designer of the Rumblefish II’s paintjob should be shot).
The Rumblefish certainly convinced a few ‘26-til-I-die’ zealots among the Singletrack Test Squadron that 29ers can be fun, capable bikes. A couple of these zealots have even secretly been emailing me asking if they can try other 29ers. Live without prejudice. Try a Rumblefish on your local trails. You never know, it could well be the perfect tool for the job.