Agile, enthusiastic commuter bike for a fun ride to work
The Gary Fisher Mendota is an exciting commuter bike, yes, that’s right an EXCITING bike to get to work on! It's a fine ride and although the brakes let the side down a bit you're getting a very well specced machine with a responsive feel.
The deliberately altered cockpit gives the Mendota a sportier feel, the guys at Gary Fisher call it ‘fast city handling’. It’s basically down to the longer top tube, short stem and reduced tail. The plan is to create a lighter feeling, faster, nimble bike without sacrificing stability. Gary Fisher say that it is aimed at commuters and those who ride in urban situations and fancy a bit of fun, they say it is a "performance urban/commute machine”. Note those evocative words, performance and machine. It doesn’t sound like it is intended for a suited and booted exec who wants to put across the right image before a conference on green issues and how to get people on their bikes. This bike is aimed at those wanting fun, wanting a bike that can take a bit of stick, have a laugh but also get you where you need to go quickly.
The Mendota has an exceptionally good frame, it possesses the ability to be transformed from commuter machine to cross bike to a tourer with the swapping of a few parts. The sloping top tube made the Mendota feel really confident into the corners, it was very stable even when throwing it into the corners and avoiding suicidal pedestrians down Park Street. The tyres were extremely capable; riding along cycle paths and roads in autumn strewn with dangers my road bike had around 4 punctures in this period, the Fisher, despite racking up more miles due to a 30mile daily commute, didn’t suffer at all. The reflective sidewalls of the tyres are a welcome detail, little things make a difference.
Now to a few things that I didn’t enjoy. Having spoken to Gary Fisher (not the person, the company!), it was explained that the brakes were chosen to deliver performance at a price point. They do stop you but not as well as I would hope, especially given the quality of the rest of the kit. They felt spongy, a little juddery and basically they didn’t live up to the ability of the rest of the bike. Other commuter bikes such as the Boardman Hybrid Pro for 2010 have hydraulic brakes, these may make the difference. The triple chainset too left me a bit confused. Bristol has plenty of steep hills but I never felt the need to go into the granny ring. Of you were going to lug shopping or head off on a light tour it would come in handy though, so while I didn’t use it I don’t doubt its place. I do feel the triple goes against how the Mendota wants to ride, it wants to be quick, aggressive, fun so a triple seems contrary to that ideal.
There are plenty of competitors to this bike but with an RRP of a pound under £800 the Mendota makes good use of the cycle to work scheme limits while providing the rider with an agile, enthusiastic experience. I did like it, I would change the brakes though.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Gary Fisher Mendota
Size tested: 57cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The gold series butted aluminium frame is made with the genesis geometry made famous by their mtb range coupled with a Bontrager Elite set of carbon forks specifically designed for disc brakes. The forks were superb, very direct, comfortable and responsive. The frame felt fast, nimble and secure. The whole bike made me feel like I could be a bit of a hooligan.
Bontrager kit is lavished on the Mendota, the Select disc road rims and sattelite plus tyres do a superb job while the riser bar, stem, saddle and carbon seatpost set the rider up in a fast and fun position.
The combination of deore and slx componentry from Shimano mean the running gear works without a hitch and without too much fanfare, just reliable, hardworking quality from Japan.
As I have metioned already the Avid mech discs seem a little underpowered for the type of riding the mendota tempts you into but this could be upgrade country come the right time.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
As mentioned, Gary Fisher say this is a 'performance urban/commuter machine'. Aimed squarely at those commuters and riders who want to get to their destination quickly, with a bit of fun while looking relaxed.
This fits with my own experiences, it didnt seem to be that much slower than my road bike on the commute to and from work and felt a lot more fun zipping around the city.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Spot on, didnt have any issues really other than that the geometry wont suit everyone. Luckily I have ridden bikes with similar designs before but it wouldnt take that long to get used to for a first timer...it just makes you ride that bit quicker thats all! The fork was also extremely impressive. Getting a full carbon fork does make a difference on a commuter bike such as the Mendota.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Gold series butted aluminium forms the frame while a carbon fork produced by Bontrager finishes the frame and fork set up. The chrome plated fork dropouts also sweep up to act as calliper clamps creating a very pleasing design to compliment the chromed fork crown.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Basically the Mendota is a Gary Fisher 29er mountain bike with some tweaks to make it fatser for city riding. The frame design leaves you with a lighter, faster feeling bike without sacrificing the stability found on the trail bikes.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The longer top tube was interesting to start with but as soon as I was whistling along the bristol-bath cycle path it made perfect sense, dropping me down a little meaning I could ride faster when I needed to.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Absolutely, the frame and fork combination worked brilliantly and with the Bontrager finishing kit there were unlikely to be any comfort issues from the off. I wasnt suprised, it is what I have come to expect from these trusted names.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The riser bar felt a little too flexible when out of the saddle trying to plough up Park Street but I am unsure if many mendota riders would sprint up hills like this. Trying to find a weakness in the package does sometimes require riding that other Mendotas are unlikely to experience.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Exceptionally efficient, the wheels were nice and stiff, the frame and forks are, as mentioned, the stars of the show. The GF lifetime warranty backs up their confidence in the frame.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
No, the long top tube seemed to allay any fears of over-lap
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral, it went where I wanted but didnt have a life of its own.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The Mendota felt nicely balanced, I could take sharp corners at speed and with condfidence. Sitting back over the saddle to unweight the front end didnt make the bike any tougher to control.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I would sugges that riders wanting to get the very most out of the Mendota switch the avid mechanical doscs to a hydraulic set up...this would give sharper, more responsive braking.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I thought the bike was spot on in this area.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
I didnt find that I used the smallest chainring at all and rarely went into the middle. It depends how relaxed you want to be when riding the Mendota, it tempts you to go faster so fitting a triple did seem to go against that idea a bit.
A little let down by the flexi riser bars but sprinting isnt what the Mendota is designed for.
The riser bars are the issue here as well, when out of the saddle they were a little soft but when sat the climbing experience was fine.
the triple bumps it all up a bit.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I dont want to keep going at the triple thing as some commuter bikes have triples and some dont, Gary Fisher see the triple as a selling point and it may well attract some less confident cyclists but the Mendota really seems to yearn for a fast, confident, enthusiastic rider so the triple may send this type of cyclist looking elsewhere.
Wheels and tyres
didnt suffer from any punctures despite the roads and trails being littered with rubbish.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
Worked very well, I especially liked the hi viz tyre sidewalls, a great addition.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
I am a middle sized rider I would say and they worked fine for me, I was not stretched our or cramped for space and it didnt strike me that those larger or smaller than me would be either.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, for the right price.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? yes
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
With this you may not get the component spec that Boardman offer but you do get the history, backup, warranty, quality and enjoyment that Gary Fisher bikes are noted for.
About the tester
I usually ride: felt ar4 My best bike is: i like my felt and my orbea ora tt bike equally
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, triathlon