Review: Knolly Warden

Knolly is a small, rider-owned company from British Columbia. With Vancouver’s North Shore trails, the legendary Whistler Bike Park and several other world class riding areas on their doorstep, there can be little doubt that their bikes are built to withstand fun on burly terrain.

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The Frame


The Warden is Knolly's 150 mm all-mountain bike sitting in the range between the 130mm Endorphin and 170mm Delirium. The frame is available in carbon or aluminium. As is the case with a number of modern bikes, the Warden has the option to adjust the geometry. The mounting position of the shock can be changed via twin bolt holes on the lower shock mount. In the low position the bike has a head angle of 65.5°, a 337mm bottom bracket height and a 75° effective seat angle compared to the high setting with 66.5° head angle, a 345.5mm bottom bracket height and a 74° effective seat angle.

 

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The frame features replaceable ISCG 05 tabs, a threaded bottom bracket shell, a pinch bolt 12 x 142mm axle and mostly external cable routing with the option of going internal with a dropper seatpost. Tyre clearance is massive with enough width out back to run beefy 2.4" or 2.5" rubber.

 

Knolly's dual-linkage suspension design involves many pivots with lengthy maintenance intervals ensured by using angular-contact cartridge bearings on all the main pivots and Igus bushings in lower-stress locations.

 

The claimed weight for the frame is 3.2 kg which is good for an aluminium 150mm all-mountain bike.

 

Four by 4 Suspension


Inspired by Formula One auto racing strut-style suspension, Knolly’s patented Four by 4 suspension technology provides freedom in design and execution. This freedom means that Noel Buckley (CEO and chief designer) can design each model from the ground up and manipulate wheel path and shock progression completely independently.

 


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Four by 4 allows each model to have suspension rate curves that are generally linear to progressive, which means your shock doesn’t have to ‘save the day’ by providing lots of bottoming resistance, as it would on a bike with a falling rate curve. This helps keep your shock from being over-worked and overheating on long downhills, which can affect shock performance and durability.

 

Components


Fork: I have ridden the MRP Stage before and riding it again on the Warden simply confirmed my previous experience. It is ultra adjustable with external settings for air spring pressure, 8-position compression, Ramp Control and rebound. The small bump sensitivity is nothing short of phenomenal with the Ramp Control feature allowing you to adjust and fine tune the spring rate on the trail. We will have a full review of the MRP Stage soon.

 


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Shock: The Knolly arrived equipped with a Cane Creek DB Inline shock. Offering external settings for low and high speed compression, low and high speed rebound, air pressure adjust and a climb switch. With all of these settings available, it does take some time to set your preferred feel. If this sounds too complicated, Cane Creek have a very handy online guide to help you through the process and the extra time and effort is rewarded by one of the best rear shocks available on the market.

 

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Drivetrain: The only way to stop complimenting SRAM's 1x drivetrains is to stop doing reviews. Even through the roughest of terrain it simply gets on with the job at hand. Shifting is positive and precise with the rear derailleur clutch system keeping chain slap in check. The Warden came equipped with a Race Face Turbine crank with a 32T direct mount chainring.

 


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Brakes: We don't often see Hayes products on bikes in South Africa. The set on test performed as expected, but we did not have the bike long enough to comment on long term performance and reliability.

 

Wheelset: This was my first time riding a South Industries wheelsets. This particular set featured their Carbon AM27.5 hoops mated to Industry Nine Torch hubs using Wheelsmith DB14g spokes & Wheelsmith brass nipples.

 


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For those not yet familiar with the brand, the AM27.5 rims weigh a claimed 420g and feature a wide profile with an inside width of 28mm and outside width of 34mm. This makes them a hair wider than the American Classic Carbonator (33mm external, 26mm internal) wheelset we've previously reviewed.

 

The rims are stiff and, on the face value, the build quality of these #Handgemaak rims are top notch. Paired with Industry Nine's Torch hubs makes a perfect wheelset, in my opinion. The Industry Nine hubs have market leading fast engagement which can adapt to just about any axle standard and they have proven themselves reliable and easy to service.

 

Cockpit: The Warden as built runs a 35mm (diameter) Race Face handlebar and stem combination. The bar is the Sixc model that measures 800mm wide. A Race Face Atlas stem that was only 35mm long made for great control and feel. Making the 760mm x 50mm combination on my own bike feel pedestrian by comparison. I have been running a 35mm bar and stem for some time now and the extra stiffness it brings to wide bars are undeniable. The extra width has also allowed manufacturers to develop ultra-wide carbon bars that are lighter yet stiffer than their narrower 31.8mm counterparts.

 

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Seatpost: The evergreen RockShox Reverb shows it's face on yet another bike. As things stand the Reverb is the undisputed dropper post champ.

 

Tyres: Onza's Ibex is a great fit for the Warden. The 2.4 front and 2.25 rear offers the perfect amount of grip and speed to match the bike's personality.

 

On the Trail


First things first. Climbing tight single track and steeper jeep track, the front wheel tends to wander a bit (in the low geometry setting even more so) and takes some adjusting to keep it down and pointing in the right direction. I don't think this is a major drawback as fast climbing is not the main objective of the Warden. Using the climb switch on the DB Inline helps to hold the bike higher in the travel which steepens the seat angle and moves the rider's weight forward.

 

Knolly's Four by 4 suspension design offers excellent traction in all conditions. Move up the saddle, point it in the right direction, keep your pedal stroke smooth and the Warden will power its way up and over just about anything.

 

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The short chainstays and relatively short wheelbase (considering the rest of the geometry) gives the Warden a playful feel. It is impressively manoeuvrable when the trail gets slow and technical. With suspension dialled in, the Warden is forgiving when piloted over rough terrain. Better yet, almost no consideration has to be given to terrain when jumping on the brakes as the rear suspension remains active. [For the sake of our trails please do give consideration to your braking points.]

 

Pointing the Knolly Warden downhill is where the bike comes alive. The nimble feel, suspension characteristics and choice of components means that you can let loose and focus on the fun at hand.

 

Verdict


The Warden is a proper trail-slaying sled that is well-suited to our trails with their twisty nature. The fact that it can climb and rail a berm while being happy to tackle gnarly downhill trails makes it a versatile all mountain bike.

 

For those looking for a bike like this at a more sensible pricing, the frame, fork and shock combination with a lower tier finishing kit and drivetrain will make for a very capable ride.

 

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Specifications:

[spec_list][spec_list_row='Frame']Knolly Warden Aluminium Large frame[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Shock']Cane Creek DB Inline 200x57[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Fork'] MRP Stage Enduro 160mm[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Headset']Cane Creek Series 40 Sealed Bearing - ZS44 / ZS56[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Rims']Custom South Industries Carbon AM27.5 32H[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Hubs']Industry Nine Torch (15mm front / 142x12mm rear)[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Tyres']Onza Ibex 2.45 & 2.25[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Brakes']Hayes Prime Sport with V7 180mm rotors[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Crankset']Race Face Turbine 32T[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Bottom bracket']Race Face 30mm threaded[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Rear derailleur']Sram X01[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Cassette']SRAM XG 1195[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Chain']SRAM PCX1[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Shifter']SRAM X01 trigger[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Saddle']WTB Volt Comp 135mm[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Seatpost']RockShox Reverb Stealth 31.6 x 150mm[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Stem']Race Face Atlas 35[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Handlebar']Race Face 6Sixc Carbon 35 800mm[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Grips']ODI Ruffian MX lock-on[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Chainguide']MRP SXg 1x[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Mud guard']Da Bomb[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Frame protection']All Mountain Style XL kit[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row='Pricing']Frame with Cane Creek DB - R33,0000
Frame with Fox Float DPS Evol - R29,000[/spec_list_row][/spec_list]




6 Comments

Headshot, May 18 2016 02:45

Agree on the looks of that linkage - have never been a fan, but if it works, why not...

AlanD, May 18 2016 02:56

That rear Linkage, not a fan. Prefer the look of the evil linkage although it seems busier, it looks nicer.

Bibi, May 18 2016 03:53

Thanks for review Iwan on my Knolly custom build - appreciate it lots ;)

V18, May 18 2016 05:04

Must be difficult fault a ride on a MRP stage fork. The best part on this build.

2tanium, May 18 2016 07:53

It's a thing of beauty and not quite as steep on the pocket as the Evil. Can't go wrong with either though. Formula 1 suspension does have a nice ring to it though...

Bibi, May 19 2016 10:23

I must add that I'm super impressed with the climbing ability of this bike and it is no ordinary alloy frame either.

Am very impressed with this frameset!