fisher bikes

When most consumers experience lousy service or a defective product they simply take it in stride. Their response is limited to refusing to buy the same product or service in the future. However, others, like cyclist Gary Fisher take a different approach. This is the story of one such experience, that eventually led to significant innovations in mountain bikes and to the formation of the once famous brand Fisher Bikes.

FisherBikes.com was the website for the Gary Fisher Bike brand. For years, the site was the go-to resource where cyclists found the best mountain bikes on the market. However, this site is no longer publishing.

In an attempt to find out what happened to Fisherbikes.com, we followed the company through its history.

fisher bikes

 

How the Fisher Bike Story Started

From competing in road and track races, Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, and Tom Ritchey would eventually become the pioneers of mountain bikes. Their motivation was partly born from a challenge that was posed by riding bikes on dirt roads (Source).

Most frame builders of the time focused on building frames for road, ignoring the unique needs of cyclists that preferred dirt roads. Gary, Charlie, and Tom would take advantage of this gap.  With only $600 in capital (which they raised selling frames given to them by Tom), Gary and his roommate Charlie started their company, Mountain Bikes, in 1979. Their business would specialize in the production of off-road bicycles only.

The Mountain Bike Company

While Tom Ritchey specialized in building the frame, Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly were more focused on assembling, marketing and selling the bikes. Having worked for Bicycling Magazine before, Fisher had come to know many people in the bicycle industry. In 1981, Fisher and Kelly had an opportunity to make a presentation on the mountain bike at the New York Show (Source).

During their presentation at the show, most of the bike industry regulars told Gary and Charlie that there was no place for their mountain bike brand in the future. The two kept hearing that grown-ups were no longer riding bicycles in the dirt.

Despite the fact that most adults avoided their booth, they caught the attention of onlookers under the age of 18. The big bike, big tires, gears, and brakes were enough to keep younger attendees intrigued.

 

What Made the Mountain Bike Stand Out

Tom, Gary, and Charlie stood out because of their specialized way of operating. It took Tom a few hours to make the frame of a bike. This enabled the company to produce a relatively large number of bicycles; allowing them to compete with established companies.

To make sure they stayed on top of their game, Gary, Tom, and Charlie ensured that they were more innovative with their products. They even had a race team, which gave them a lot of exposure (Source).

fisher bikes

From Mountain Bikes to Gary Fisher Bikes

Gary, Tom, and Charlie’s Mountain Bikes partnership did not last long. In 1983 their company was dissolved, all partners citing personal reasons for the disbanding. Gary Fisher went on to start his own company which would be known as Fisher Bikes.

Tom would continue in his area of expertise and go on to open a frame shop. While the two stayed in the mountain bike manufacturing business, Charlie went on to start the first mountain bike magazine (Source).

Regardless of the new innovations that Gary had made to the mountain bike, Fisher Bikes began to face challenges, and the company was leveraged out. It was making more than $5 million in revenue, and could not be considered a small company. Its revenue was less than $50 million; so it could not be regarded as a big company. 

The challenges faced by Gary Fisher Bikes forced Gary to sell the company to Taiwan’s Anlen Company in 1991. After the sale, Gary worked as the President of Anlen. Despite being the President, Gary often felt as if he was being sidelined in decision making. Much to his disappointment, Anlen’s fortunes started to dwindle from 2001 – 2003. The company was hemorrhaging money (Source).

Several companies express interest, but it was Trek that eventually offered the right deal.

Trek Buys Gary Fisher Bikes

After Trek purchased Gary Fisher Bikes in 1993, the Fisher brand began to excel. The brand was being sold in 500 locations in the U.S. and over 20 countries worldwide.

In 2002, Gary would introduce the 29er. The 29er was the mountain bike model that would turn the mountain bike world upside down. It ranked among the most magnificent mountain bikes ever created. Gary would continue with innovations. He came up with the Gary Fisher Sugar 29, Cake, 29er Dual Sport, Miles Fin Fisher, Fat Possum, and the Hi-Fi.  Some of his bikes went on to be used by the Subaru-Gary Fisher race team (Source).

In 2011, the Gary Fisher Bikes ceased to exist as an independent brand. They would be called Trek’s Gary Fisher Collection, under the Trek Brand. Once the bikes were rebranded under Trek, they were sold through the broader distribution channels. Gary Fisher was content with the idea of working at Trek, the number one bicycle brand in the world.

In June 2010, Trek released a statement indicating that they were axing the Gary Fisher Brand. Gary Fisher is reported to have said, “This makes sense. I love this strategy,” (Source). Without the Gary Fisher Bikes in the market, there was no need to keep the FisherBikes.com website.


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