Gary Fisher’s Gary Fisher
This custom Gary Fisher Competition actually belongs to my friend George, but at one time it hit the trails (and likely the five blocks down to his local coffee shop) under the pedaling power of its builder and namesake, Gary Fisher.
Who is Gary Fisher you ask? Well, if you don’t already know your mountain bike history, Gary is one of mountain biking’s founding fathers. In the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s Gary Fisher along with Joe Breeze, Otis Guy, Tom Ritchey and Charlie Kelly developed the off-road rigs that today we call mountain bikes. In the late ‘80’s my friend George Bausman came along and started assembling and repairing a lot of the mountain bikes that Gary Fisher developed.
George acquired this fillet-brazed wonder bike while working for American Cyclery in the 1990’s. American Cyclery has always been at the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area cycling scene (see our posts about A.C.’s founder Oscar Junor and his family), and George’s tenure under Gene Maruszewski in the early ‘90’s was no exception. Anyway, the American Cyclery crew were invited to one of Fisher’s “garage” sales, and Gary’s old custom painted Competition frameset went home with George.
Underneath the red, white & blue paint is probably Tange Prestige steel tubing fillet brazed into the racing configuration that you see here. Adjustable ball-bearing bottom brackets were an annoyance to early mountain bikers, needing near constant cleaning and adjustment, so this Fisher’s integrated cartridge bottom bracket was a huge advance. The WTB-designed roller-cam brake (mounted under the chainstays) was also considered a huge step forward from traditional cantilever brakes.
George, like myself and many of his other contemporaries, held an anti-Shimano bias in the early ‘90’s so Suntour’s XC Pro component group got the nod here. Why the anti-Shimano sentiment? There were lots of reasons for a bike person to shun Shimano back then but the top four reasons were probably the wonky Biopace oval chainrings, resentment over U-brake adjustment and maintenance injuries (blood gushing from chainring punctures of the hand), their thumb-busting under-bar shift levers and the forced bundling of their components into integrated groups (which was a new bike business strategy back then).
The Suntour XC Pro stuff on this bike was constructed beautifully and was made to last. It came with round chainrings, above-bar thumbshifters and a reduced size drivetrain (20/32/42 tooth chainrings, 11-24 tooth freewheel) which made for a lighter bike that had fewer chain-suck and tire clearance problems.
If you are feeling nostalgic for the early ‘90’s mountain bike experience, Gary Fisher’s Gary Fisher could make things a lot better or a lot worse.
Consider what a spin through the woods is like while steering a 22-inch wide Controltech handlebar. Imagine getting rid of your dropper post and installing a rigid IRD (Interlock Racing Designs) seatpost like we have on George’s bike. Think about the finesse it takes to maintain traction with 26 x 1.95” Specialized Ground Control tires and a rigid fork. If all of those things sound awful, these old Time Sierra pedals will get you back to romanticizing old times on a mountain bike. The Sierras were Time’s first off-road pedal and besides working better than all the other early mountain bike pedals (toe clips & straps especially), these also sported a passive retention option on their flip side, a pocket in the shape of their cleat that kept your feet aligned but didn’t lock them in place, a cool design that justifies the nostalgia.