My Gary Fisher Tassajara.

This is my home built bike. The frame I found used on eBay for £70; I think it is a 2006 Gold Series model. Whatever when I got it the 1.7kg weight suggested a light build bike, so that's what I did. Starting with the Fox F90RL forks, also used for £150 which was a bargain. One suspects that nobody wants the shorter travel forks, but these things are excellent. Personally I'd rather have some good 90mm forks than average 120mm jobbies. Of course they are also stunningly light, helping with the overall build weight of sub 25lb for less than £1,000. This thing flies.

So, where did I go after this?
  • Fulcrum Red Metal 5 wheelset.
  • Hayes Stroker brakes [half price new].
  • Hope rotors; my usual 140mm on the rear.
  • USE flat carbon bar.
  • USE 90mm stem.
  • USE seatpost.
  • Shimano SLX 9 speed drivetrain bur with 2007 LX shifters [apparently these were the best mid-range that Shimano did?].
  • Charge Ti saddle [200g] and comfy for me.
  • Maxxis Aspen tyres.
  • Superstar grips. 
This whole lot came in at under £1,000 which I thought a lot at the time. A new 2009 Tassajara was £750, so I felt a bit of a twat having spent £250 more on an older bike. However, the new bike came in at 29lb, but mine a svelte 25lb and that shows in the way it rides - fast. The flat bars and stretched out position are a little uncompromising, but after a mile or so I get into the feel of it. Out on my own I cover the ground 50% faster than on any other bike I own, but am pooped after an hour or so. Why is that? Well you have to get into a rhythm with this bike, keep a steady cadence and just pump away monotonously otherwise you lose the plot and it feels all grumpy and twitchy. Out with mates this bike is rubbish, especially when pointed towards the type of gnarly stuff people like to do today, or when just riding along chatting away. OK it does it well, but not in a comfortable manner. For riding in the woods with mates you need a bike that doesn't throw strops at not being raced everywhere.

I like this bike a lot, but it is so single minded I find there are few times I can actually take it out and use it properly. I have to be solo and completely on my game. When I do I get back an hour earlier than planned with a thousand yard stare. It all sounds a bit daft, but this is a single minded bike and for me mountain biking isn't a single sided hobby. For a start there's cake...

I'm toying with the notion of turning this bike into a singlespeed machine. I used to love my old singlespeed bike back when I was 18 - without having to worry about gears I could cover the ground pretty quickly over a short distance, much faster than a geared bike. No idea why I've not had one again, but Charliethebikemonger does a kit for £50, so it would be a cheap trial. Add in a carbon fork and I'd be looking at a 21lb machine. An interesting option.

21/03/2012: update.

Since building the Tassajara I've built a PACE RC303 140mm hardtail. This should be the better bike, but isn't. The Gary Fisher really is a very good bike indeed, especially with the Fox forks. It can do everything the newer bike can plus a bit more. I suspect this is because it is both lighter and a more balanced bike. The PACE has some Pike forks that weight 2,500g and this seems to have an effect on bike handling. Sure it goes down hills true and straight where the Tassajara is a bit flighty, but everywhere else the mass mitigates against it. And how often do you really use that much travel in Surrey? The only negative with my original build are the Hayes Stroker brakes; they're a bit wooden and lacking in feel. However they work so why should I change?

Really, if you are going to build a bike up then you could do a lot worse than one of these frames. I honestly think it's a brilliant frame that builds into a fantastic bike. Light, nimble and cheap!