Knolly engineers their bikes to be as stiff as possible for precise handling and consistency. The relatively short chain stays (16.9”) coupled with the unusually short seat stays reduces lateral flex and keeps the rear end tracking straight. Add in the bike’s 142x12mm through axle, and you have a solid frame that will withstand a lot of abuse.
Point the Chilcotin down a fall line face and hang on. The precise handling smoothes out cruxy moves and keeps you focused on the next trail feature. Redirecting a missed line in a boulder field is no problem on the Chili—its adept handling makes split-second decisions easy.
Rigidity isn’t the only thing that makes this bike a good descender. The short chain stays make manuals and tight cornering easy—the front end is easy to lift and the rear end snaps (or slarves, if you prefer) into position when prompted.
On buffed-out, fast single track (read: Missoula) the Chili is stable at speed even with its short stays and a tight cockpit. I found myself manualing every straight section and braking as late as possible into loose corners. The bike is very playful on small hits and seems to appreciate getting airborne. Although this bike is bred to go down gnar, I had a blast riding this bike on trails where a hardtail might be more appropriate.
But the Chilcotin feels most at home on steep terrain with rocks and roots. The vertical wheel path makes square-edge hits seem round and the progressive spring rate helps on the big hits.
One of the most impressive things to me is just how plush the bike feels in the first four inches of its travel. I think the Chilcotin, with its Fox air shock, gets as close as I’ve ever felt to a bike with a coil shock.
When set up correctly, the Float keeps the bike rooted to the ground for control, but it’s still lively in the corners and off lips. I’d love to get my hands on a Cane Creek Double Barrel shock for this bike since I’ve heard its adjustability range really brings the Chilcotin to life.
A major difference between the Chili and the ‘Goat is how it handles when traveling through rough patches at speed. The Scapegoat’s four-bar rear end got “hung up” on rocky, fast sections, whereas the Chili seemed to gain speed. Again, this might have something to do with the fact that the Goat’s DHX prevented the bike from ever feeling right.
You can feel the added traction of the Chili when you’re braking hard through bumps or rocks—the suspension gives added control and lets you brake late when you’re heading into a sharp corner. With the Scapegoat, I’d brake early, coast through the rough, do a brake check if needed, then hammer out of the corner. On the Chili I wait until the last minute to brake hard, and then pedal.
The Chili carries more speed through chunder than any bike I’ve ridden in recent years. It’s sort of scary how it smooths out the rough—you don’t notice how fast you’re going until you get to the next trail junction a minute before your friends.
As I mentioned before, I tend to leave this bike in Trail mode for everything except lift-access or shuttle runs. I don’t like switching between settings to get the right feel for every condition I encounter. I’d be happier with a shock like the Double Barrel where I can set up the compressions for how I like them for general riding (the CTD comes with pre-set compression setting), and not have to toggle between settings.
I should mention a feature of the Descend mode though—Noel Buckley, Knolly owner and designer, recommends setting the bike up with 30% sag and slightly lower-than-average air pressure (your body weight minus 10psi is a good starting place), so the bike continually uses all of its available stroke.
With suspension complexity and performance, comes hardware and bearings.
The Chili’s five main pivots use German made INA bearings to keep things smooth and long lasting. The upper link that joins the rocker arms to the rear push link use DU bushings, not a big concern since this area is relatively stress-free and bushings keep weight down.
But bushings do tend to develop play easier and faster than sealed bearings. I’ve also found that bushings dry out quickly in arid climates where dust can infiltrate the cracks and lead to creaking. This hasn’t been an issue with the Chili yet, but the high desert of Idaho will put it to the test.
The INA bearings are very high-quality and should last for years, but having to replace them will be a chore, I think. A quick disassembly of the frame (to inspect tolerances, bearings, quality), showed me that Knolly uses treated fasteners to button-up their pivots.
The set of pivot bolts on my Chili rusted on the surface after the initial preventative coating wore off, a warranty issue Knolly went above and beyond helping me to fix…
The folks from Knolly are dedicated to making sure their customers are happy and taken care of. My email inquiry was responded to in a few hours, and a quick phone call with Cavan resolved the pivot bolts issue—he shipped a replacement set of bolts the same day at no cost to me.
The Chilcotin is a technical trail wizard that thrives when ridden aggressively. Its beautifully constructed frame is surgically stiff and designed to be abused for years.
While this bike is not the best choice for long fire road ascents since the fully active rear end does rob a bit of power, its 4xFour suspension is very well suited for slow, grinding climbs up nasty-technical sections where the reward is an even nastier ride down.
If you live in an area with demanding trails and are in the market for a 6” all-mountain charger, the Chilcotin should be a top contender.