Review: Knolly Warden Carbon

A North Shore-influenced trail tamer

Knolly Bikes may not be a household name, but the decade-old brand proudly incorporates the innovations and riding styles that have evolved from Vancouver, British Columbia, into its designs. It offers three full-suspension bikes, ranging in rear-wheel travel from 130 to 170 millimeters. The 155-millimeter-travel, enduro-race-inspired Warden is Knolly's entrance into the carbon-fiber frame game. Built around 650b wheels, it employs Knolly's take on the four-bar Horst-link suspension, called Fourby4. Developed by Knolly chief designer and CEO, Noel Buckley, the strut-style suspension claims to allow the wheel path and shock progression to be manipulated independently to create an efficient pedaling platform with a bottomless feel on big impacts. The Warden is loaded with features, such as 'Neutral' and 'Low' geometry settings at the lower shock-mount bolt. The Low position drops the bottom bracket from 345 millimeters to 337 and slackens the head angle from 66.5 to 65.5 degrees. The frame also has a 'trap door' in the downtube to house Shimano's Di2 battery.

Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon
Knolly Warden Carbon

Our build was equipped with a 160-millimeter-travel Fox 36 Factory Series fork, Fox Float X2 shock, Race Face Aeffect wheels, SRAM X01 11-speed drivetrain, Maxxis Minion DHF and High Roller EXO casing tires and the 150-millimeter-drop Race Face Turbine post. The Carbon X01 has a hefty price tag, however an alloy build can be snagged for $5,300.

The rugged and unpredictable Bentonville terrain required our undivided attention. In turn, the Warden's Low geometry position became our default setting, as stability and traction took precedence over maximum climbing efficiency. The shock has adjustable high- and low-speed compression, plus a lever for on-the-fly pedaling platform. On smooth climbs utilizing the platform lever was convenient, however when the Warden is truly in its element, we ran the front and rear suspension in the open settings and added some low-speed compression to help filter unwanted suspension movement. Complaints were limited to the finicky and troublesome Turbine dropper and the bigger issue–we all would've liked to have more time bombing runs on this all-mountain machine.

MSRP: $7,300

knollybikes.com


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Q&A with Kevin Waterbury, Director of Sales – Knolly

Many brands share suspension design concepts. How is Knolly's dual-four-bar design different from other brands utilizing conventional four-bar systems?

Knolly's Four By 4 Linkage system is unique in the mountain bike industry and is not based on standard four-bar designs, but is similar to suspension systems used in professional level motorsports such as Formula 1. The engineering is substantially more complex than conventional mountain bike suspension systems.  Knolly is pretty much the only high-end company that actively develops its own intellectual property and this system has evolved over more than a decade.

The Four By 4 system is the only suspension design that completely decouples wheel path from shock progression, allowing us to tune them individually. This allows results in a higher level of performance than competing designs, and we can tweak these performance values for each model's intended application. The primary performance focus here at Knolly is traction, and the Four By 4 system provides unparalleled performance in all conditions.

 

Are there any details/features on this bike that you think are particularly critical to its performance that might be easily overlooked by consumers at first glance?

Knolly has always been an "engineering first" company and there are lots of hidden details on this bike:

  • This frame is made with a Knolly proprietary rigid mandrel layup process which is a far superior (but significantly more expensive) carbon manufacturing process.  
  • One of the coolest things is that the Four By 4 pivot hardware is CNC machined black anodized 6/4 titanium, custom to Knolly.  While not cheap, it's just the best material for the job.
  • There is a hidden Di2 battery compartment underneath the down tube: the frame is ready to go from the factory for electronic shifting.
  • The cable routing is unique: it's a modular system that can accommodate any desired cable/brake setup and it's super quick to route: you can install the rear brake, shift housing and dropper post remote in 10 minutes and everything is held in place by rubber seals.  
  • The seat tube is full length and can handle 175mm dropper posts in any frame size.

Are there conditions in which you feel this bike really excels? What specific design attributes of the bike make it so.

This bike comes alive at high speeds. The Warden Carbon is predictable and provides unmatched piloting accuracy, this leads to a big confidence boost for the rider.  How we lay up the frame and our internal mandrel carbon forming process are key in finding the perfect balance of stiffness and compliance.

 

There are many build kit options for the Warden Carbon. What is one of the more unique available builds that might not be obvious to riders visiting the Knolly website or browsing a brochure?

What should be fairly obvious is that we don't spec any re-branded in-house components. We are proud to partner with only premium brands in the industry. For springtime 2017, riders can expect to see at least one kit with 12-speed drivetrain, with an entry level complete bike priced at $4,750. We also offer "cherry on top" upgrade options to every kit like industry Nine Carbon Enduro wheels, and the PUSH Industries 11.6 coil shock.  

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