1986 Gary Fisher Mt. Tam
This was Fisher’s flagship mountain bike back in 1986.
Beautifully constructed by fillet-brazing Tange’s butted Prestige cromoly steel tubing together, the frame is outfitted with a carefully curated assortment of top-end parts, sourced from disparate corners of the bike world. The components were selected with performance and reliability in mind, and as those performance choices were combined with attachment points for racks and fenders, we’ll take it that the Mt. Tam was a beloved everyday bike for most of the riders who had one.
“Carefully curated” parts assortment? A typical parts package today will start with a house brand (like Fuji’s “Oval Concepts” parts or Cannondale’s “Coda” equipment) supplying the handlebar, saddle, seatpost, stem, pedals and likely the wheels. Next you’ll have Shimano or Sram selected to provide similarly labeled shifters/derailleurs/crankset/bottom bracket, cogs & chain along with compatible hydraulic brakes, levers & disc rotors. There may be an independent fork brand or tire model to spice things up, but often everything looks pretty similar.
The Mt. Tam came stock with upgraded derailleur PIECES. You had Suntour brake levers pulling a Shimano front brake and a Suntour rear roller-cam. The hubs were taken from Shimano’s new Dura-Ace road group and the headset and crank was from the 600EX (later called Ultegra) groups. German company Magura had nothing to do with the brakes or suspension in this case but the bike did come with Magura grips.
The derailleurs? You had Suntour XC friction shifters spec’d with a Shimano Light Action rear derailleur and a Shimano Deore front. The Light Action model had a cable attachment arm that would swing with a pull from the shifter but not move the derailleur until you started pedaling. It was a neat design, and an understandable low-level “upgrade” from a Suntour XC or a Shimano Deore. The pulleys on the Light Action weren’t that great so Fisher took the time and effort to replace the upper rear derailleur pulley with one that was meant for Dura-Ace road-bike derailleurs.
The Dura-Ace road hubs were laced to Araya RM-20 rims, a great wheel set for an ‘86 mountain bike. Fisher installed their own Fattrax tires on the bike and integrated a custom sealed bottom bracket. Suntour XC pedals and seatpost rounded out the component roster.
What about the handlebars? Clear eyes will spot Fisher’s retro-modern bull moose design, with a threadless stem setup like we would use today attached to the top of the fork steerer tube after it had passed through the traditional threaded headset. This design is pretty modern and novel, but it might be more “retro” than it seems… There’s a 1933 Kopski special elsewhere in our museum that sports a similar design.
Standard accessories included a rear brake cover made by Overland bags and a Hite-Rite saddle height adjuster by Breeze & Angell. The saddle, a bright yellow Selle San Marco Regal looks just right but was the sole bit of customization on an already eclectic old mountain bike.