FINALLY! THE ARRIVAL OF THE ALL-MOUNTAIN MOBSTER
There were already much hype created around Knolly's 27.5 inch wheeled Warden since Eurobike 2013. During the time it was introduced, the debate for the optimal wheel size was at its white hot stage and many bike brands were afraid to sound like a market follower by just churning out a tweener wheel bike just for the sake of "following the pack". And so, Knolly made the statement that regardless of wheel size, any bike bearing the Knolly badge has to meet one simple prerequisite … "It has to ride like a Knolly." The mountain bike world held their breaths and waited for the bike. Prototypes and test models were set out for medias and test riders but the masses still had not gotten their taste of the tweener Knolly. After almost 6 months, the crowd was kinda blue from holding their breaths and the initial hype (sadly) died down as other brands are already having fun shredding their 27.5" bikes at all the trails.
The reason for the delay was due to some production hiccups but it's all immaterial now. What is important now is that – The Warden is finally available to the mountain-bike riding world-at-large!
So, the questions that are of greater concern: Was it worth the wait? How did the Warden perform?
Knolly's Chief Designer Noel Buckley stressed that geometry and rider position are always very important, which becomes magnified as the wheel size grows. And riders must never ride 'on top' of a Knolly, but rather 'in it'. The slightly bigger wheel size must also not affect standover clearance, which has always been a proud feature of Knolly designs. Another point of concern for bigger wheel size is the front end stack height . As the wheel gets taller, the fork gets taller. Shorter tapered headtube, a common market remedy, allows for a 'zero-stack' headset to keep things low up front.
In a nutshell, the Warden features these cool bits:
• 12×142 rear axle/dropouts
• Titanium pivot fasteners
• Height adjustable front derailleur direct mount
• Fully customizable modular cable routing
• Guides for both top tube AND stealth dropper post routing
• 16.9" (429mm) Chainstay length
• Four by 4 Linkage
Reviewing bikes fall into 2 categories – reviews based on complete bikes / build-kit specifications or reviews solely on the performance of frames when matched with other custom components. The review for the Warden falls into the latter category for Singapore riders. While build-kit sets the recommendated standards by manufacturers, many riders in this region who go for less mass-market brands (like Knolly) usually prefer more personalization and rarely go for a straight-up build-kit speced bike. And as it is, the batch of Warden riders who build their rigs with L & T Cycles Pte Ltd all built their bikes quite differently. As such, it would not make much sense to review a bike based on just a standard build kit.
How good a bike rides depend on many factors. Besides a good frame that serves as a solid building platform, the rest of the parts matched usually determines the final performance and feel of the bike. The Warden is sold with either Fox CTD or Crane Creek Double Barrel CS. The rest of the bike are usually up to the buyer's preference and creativity.
Here's the initial verdict of the frame:
The first thing we noticed when a 160mm fork was fitted to the bike is the slack head angle feel. (On paper it measures 66 degree). It has an aggressive feel to it. As with all good enduro bikes, the Warden works like an all rounder that climbs well (with a 160mm fork), descends and handles drops with confidence. The Crane Creek Double Barrel CS is definitely a good choice as it brings out the full potential of this frame. The Four by 4 Linkage coupled with the 27.5" wheel size makes short work of most small bumps and obstacles. Due to the slack head angle and relative slightly bigger than 26" wheels, those who changed from 26" wheels will find that cornering requires a slightly bigger turning radius. On the other hand, those who are used to 29ers will find it totally within their expectations, if not better.
Traction and cornering depends largely on tyre choice, tyre pressure and suspension tuning. As such, each bike's performance will depend on personal settings and preferences.
The Knolly Warden is a hardy and aggressive bike that would easily fit the bill of most Asian mountain-bikers as the go-to ride-everywhere bike. That leaves the "headache" to having to choose which components to match it with and their personal tuning preferences of the shocks.
HOW THE GUYS BUILT THEIR KNOLLY WARDENS
Here's looking at 3 of the colours of the bike. Now go ride!
Thanks to Charles (L & T Cycle Pte Ltd) and Felis for taking time off to lend us their bikes for the shoot.