Reviewed by Matt Thompson and Jess Pedersen // Written by Brandon Turman // Photos by Shawn Spomer
The Chilcotin Region of British Columbia is home to big, burly, mountains that call for adventure. When you're out there, you're really out there. Think thousands of miles of trails, epic climbs, long descents, gorgeous views, and a campfire to huddle around at night. Sporting 160mm of travel, a 66-degree head angle, and a stout frame, it's only fitting that Knolly should name their all-mountain bike after the region. This is a bike that also invites adventure, and the BC boys made it to withstand the journey. Thanks to the guys at Over the Edge Sports who graciously let us swing a leg over one of their demo bikes, we were able to give it a go during our 2013 Test Sessions.
- Aluminum frame
- 26-inch wheels
- 160mm (6.3-inches) of rear wheel travel
- 1.5-inch head tube
- 66 or 67-degree adjustable head angle
- 69-degree actual, 73-degree effective seat angle
- 341 or 350mm (13.4 or 13.8-inch) adjustable bottom bracket height
- 429mm (16.9-inch) chainstay length
- Standard thread in bottom bracket with ISCG05 mounts
- 142 x 12mm rear thru-axle
- Complete weight (size Large, no pedals): 30 pounds, 11.5 ounces (13.9kg)
- Frame weight: 7 pounds, 8.2 ounces (3.4kg)
- $5,770 MSRP complete
Introduced as part of Knolly's 2011 lineup, the Chilcotin is an evolution of their original Endorphin frame. It's bigger, badder, and more capable in many ways, but was designed to retain the all-around pedal-ability of the shorter travel rig.
The frame, which was originally to be made in Oregon by SAPA, saw a few key updates when the company was forced to move production to Taiwan. One of the biggest improvements was being able to take advantage of better tubing and shaping technologies, which led to some custom extrusions and proprietary tube sets for their line.
One look at the Chilcotin and you know it means business. The 1.5-inch head tube, reinforced bb area, massive amount of tire and mud clearance, ISCG05 tabs, super thick CNC'd derailleur hanger, and burly 142mm dropouts all point to a bike that's ready to be ridden hard down some hairy stuff. At the same time, there are some finer details that become apparent when you step in for a closer look, like nicely CNC'd pivot hardware, bottle mounts, the direct mount front derailleur, and a removable front derailleur cable stop if you should choose to run a chainguide.
Cable routing is entirely external, and in general it's a clean setup. For those that run a dropper post, there are guides ready and waiting.
Perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of the Chilcotin frame is Knolly's "Four by 4" suspension linkage. While similar to Horst Link designs, the addition of a rocker arm and precisely placed pivots ensure the avoidance of patent issues while gaining a full length seat tube and additional shock rate tuning options. The leverage curve is pretty progressive, and the first bit of travel is tuned with traction in mind.
Stiffness wise, aside from a burly frameset, Knolly uses German INA brand bearings, precision machined stainless steel shaft spacers, CNC'd 2024 aluminum axles and shoulder bushings, and widely spaced pivot bearings to increase rear end stiffness and achieve tight tolerances. IGUS bushings are also used in select pivot locations.
Adjusting the frame's head angle from 66 to 67-degrees and bottom bracket from 13.4 to 13.8-inches is super easy to do, and only requires a quick change in the shock's lower mounting position. We chose to leave it in the low, slack mode for the duration of our test.
On The Trail
We rode the Knolly Chilcotin on our first day in Hurricane, Utah. Being new to the area, the group chose the famous JEM Trail as our adventure and let 'er rip. JEM is a relatively smooth, flowy trail with a good deal of pedaling. Combined with the Hurricane Rim exit option, there are a few rocky bits and a handful of places to open a bike up.
For a 6-foot rider, the cockpit felt comfortable, centered, and fairly balanced. The reach was short enough to get the front end up with ease but long enough to feel relatively comfortable while climbing. Not too long, not too short... just right. Add in the slack 66-degree head angle, 13.4-inch bottom bracket height, 70mm Thomson Elite X4 stem, and 725mm Joystick Analog Carbon bars and you've got yourself a bike that's great for descents and comfortable at speed. If anything, we'd prefer a slightly wider bar, but for the trail we were on the stock configuration worked well.
Pointed down and in the slack mode, it was clear that the Chilcotin was designed for the gravity-minded rider. It rode like a mini downhill bike, and the stable and relatively playful platform inspired a good deal of confidence. It wasn't the most precise or responsive of all-mountain bikes, but it allowed for a forgiving ride without any sketchy moments. Pulling up into a manual was easy and the progressive rear end offered good support, helping to make the ride pretty nimble. Changing lines was easy to do at all but the slowest of speeds.
While there was some decent elevation loss over the course of our rides, we never had the chance to put the Chilcotin to use through the really hairy terrain it was undoubtedly designed for. That said, we were still able to notice that the rear end wasn't as laterally stiff as we'd like, and flex was detectable in certain situations. Some slight pedal feedback was also apparent in bumpy terrain on flat pedals.
Much like the geometry, the suspension seemed best suited to the descents. The FOX Float CTD shock performed capably in firmest of the Trail compression settings, and also helped to prevent a bit of bob that the bike seemed prone to. The supple system performed well over small bumps, chatter, square edges, and jumps. Set to 30% sag and in Descend mode there was excess dive both front and rear over smallish drops and g-outs, so we'd suggest using a firmer Trail mode for most riding.
The 7.5-pound frame weight felt and rode like a mid to heavy-weight all-mountain bike. With a close to stock spec, the Chilcotin wasn't very snappy and seemed a little bit on the sluggish side, especially while trying to put the power down and accelerate. Low anti-squat numbers and some relatively slow rolling tires certainly didn't help in this area.
Climbs weren't terrible, but the bike certainly wasn't very efficient either. The geometry didn't adversely impact climbing, and we think this was mostly a result of the suspension. For longer climbs, we'd definitely recommend flipping the shock to the Climb mode, which is simple to do considering the lever's easy to reach position. While this comes at the expense of traction over rough bits, the rear suspension squatted a noticeable amount without the platform, robbing energy.
The stock build kit on the Chilcotin comes from a wide variety of component companies, and the bike has a few choice bits in important places, like the Hope Pro II EVO hubs, Joystick Analog Carbon bars, Race Face SIXc crankset, and Thomson stem and post. There's no dropper post on the $5,770 build, and it's an upgrade we'd highly recommend.
Notably, the Chilcotin is one of the only all-mountain bikes to retain the FOX 36 Float and 20mm front axle for 2013. This is something we can really appreciate, even though it adds a decent amount to the bike's overall weight.
Our loaner demo build saw a swap from 2.35-inch Maxxis Minion tires to 2.4-inch Continental Trail Kings. In previous tests we've found the Minions to be good all around tires, though we would swap the Minion R in the back for something like a High Roller given the option.
Avid's Elixir 9 brakes were fitted to 180mm rotors front and rear and provided enough power for the trail we were on. They had an exceptional bleed, giving a nice, snappy, and precise feel.
Drivetrain wise, the bike uses a 2X Shimano XT front derailleur and SRAM X9 rear derailleur and shifters. Shifting performance was crisp with no skips, no dropped chains, and no drag.
Long Term Durability
Unlike most of the bikes in our Test Sessions, the Chilcotin had decent number of hard miles on it before we rode it, so some durability and maintenance issues were more readily obvious. Due to Utah's super dry climate, the bike had some very creaky pivots, which made the ride less enjoyable than it probably should have been. The Four by 4 suspension design requires the use of several bushings and bearings, all of which need to be properly greased and torqued on a regular basis.
Knolly frames are covered by a two-year warranty against defects and a three year crash replacement policy should things go awry, but the warranty can be voided if the bike is used in professional races, so keep that in mind.
What's The Bottom Line?
We found the Knolly Chilcotin to be a fun bike to ride when the going gets rough. It's a capable descender, and with the quick addition of a dropper post would be well spec'd for just about anything. The weight of the bike and an active rear end make climbing and pedally trails a bit of a chore, so be prepared to grunt up the hills and during out of the saddle efforts.
We see this as a bike for the all-mountain adventurer looking to stand out and be little different from the herd. It's versatile enough to handle some very rugged terrain while also comfortable enough to withstand a multi-hour trek through the backcountry.
Visit www.knollybikes.com for more details.
Bonus Gallery: 28 photos of the 2013 Knolly Chilcotin
About The Reviewers
Matt Thompson - Humble enough not to claim his Master's Downhill World Champ status when we asked him what his accomplishments were, Matt has over 20 years on a bike and likes to go fast. Really fast. At 210 pounds of trail building muscle, he can put the hurt on a bike in little to no time.
Jess Pedersen - Jess is one of those guys that can hop on a bike after a snowy winter and instantly kill it. He's deceptively quick, smooth, and always has good style. He's also known to tinker with bikes 'til they're perfect, creating custom additions and fixes along the way. Maybe it's that engineering background...