Bike: 2014 Knolly Warden
Size Tested: Medium
Bike Weight: 30.8 lbs (w/ pedals)
- Rear Shock: Cane Creek Double Barrel CS
- Fork: RockShox Pike
- Brakes: Shimano XT
- Drivetrain: Shimano XT (2×10)
- Crankset: Race Face Atlas
- Bars & Stem: Race Face Atlas
- KS Lev 150mm dropper seatpost
- Wheels: Stan’s FlowEX (laced to Stan’s hubs)
- Tires: Maxxis HighRoller II 2.35
Reviewer Info: 5’10”, 165 lbs.
Test Location: Whistler, BC
Days Tested: 5
The Warden marks Knolly’s entry into the 650B / 27.5” wheel category. With 150mm of travel, the Warden sits between the company’s two other all-mountain bikes, the 163mm 26” wheeled Chilcotin, and the 140mm Endorphin (which is now available in both a 26” and 27.5” version).
As an owner (and a big fan) of a Knolly Chilcotin, I was curious to see how the Warden compared, and put the bike through a week of thrashing in Whistler, BC.
Knolly has a reputation for making fun, durable bikes (the Knolly Podium lived up to that reputation in Whistler), but this means that their bikes aren’t the lightest on the market, and the Warden is no exception.
With a frame weight of 7.1 lbs (w/ Fox CTD shock) the Warden is considerably heavier than the comparable Santa Cruz Bronson (5.3lbs w/ CTD) and the Pivot Mach 6 (6.3lbs w/CTD). However, both the Bronson and Mach 6 are carbon bikes, while the Warden is made from extruded and welded aluminum tubes, as are all Knolly bikes.
The Warden also features their patented 4-Four suspension, burly, adjustable geometry, and well thought out build: a threaded BB shell, a bolt-on 142x12mm rear thru-axle, and removable ISCG / front derailleur mounts (which are found on the Chilcotin and Endorphin, too).
The Warden’s adjustable geometry feature allows riders to choose between 67° and 66° head angles, 74° and 75° degree seat angles, and change the BB height from 13.6” to 13.27”. (I fiddled with this a bit during our Whistler test, but decided to leave the bike in the low/slack setting.)
We tested a size Medium Warden. Knolly’s website “highly recommends consulting one of [their] expert dealers” to get fit, but they do provide a chart to get you started.
According to Knolly, a Medium size frame should fit people between 5’7” and 5’11”. Blister’s Noah Bodman, Tom Collier, and myself are all between 5’8” – 5’10” tall, and we all agreed that the bike felt quite short for a Medium.
The Medium Warden is said to have a 16.5” seat tube, 23.8” top tube, a 17” reach and 28.1” of standover height, and we were left wondering how a bike could feel so short, despite supposedly being longer than both the Santa Cruz Bronson (which has a 22.9” top tube) and the Pivot Mach 6 (23.6” top tube).
It turns out that our test bike was a pre-production model of the Warden, and the production Warden is slightly larger than the Warden we rode. Knolly described our bike as being “3/4 of the way between a Small and a Medium frame”, which is to say the front end on our test bike was about 1/4” shorter than the production models.
I don’t think the Warden fits improperly, but our test bike’s cockpit certainly felt tighter than that of my Chilcotin, so much so that it didn’t seem like the 0.25” difference in length (compared to the production model) was entirely to blame. My conclusion is that because the Warden’s seat tube angle is 74°, its effective reach is significantly shorter with the seat dropped into a downhill position. And because we tested the Warden on mostly DH trails, the seat was lowered most of the time. With the seat raised, the Warden’s reach extends to Knolly’s stated 17”.
All in all, I’d say the fit of the Warden can seem a bit scrunched, so depending on your preferences, you may want to consider opting for a larger size. However, it’s certainly best to follow Knolly’s advice and test ride a few sizes before pulling the trigger.
Noel Buckley, Knolly’s founder and engineer, worked hard to figure out how to fit 27.5” wheels on the Warden while maintaining key geometry measurements and ride characteristics of his 26” bikes. Specifically, Noel wanted the Warden to retain a low stand over height, and for the rider to feel “in the bike,” which becomes more of a challenge as wheel size increases.
To achieve this, Knolly went with a short 4.1” tapered head tube and a zero-stack bottom cup to achieve a relatively low 23.1” height (pretty average compared to other 650B bikes in this class). This shorter stack height keeps the Warden’s front end feeling more like that of a 26” wheeled bike, even with its slightly larger wheels. Rider position is kept basically the same, and the bike’s overall center of gravity stays low.
The Warden’s head angle is also pretty middle-of-the-road for it’s class, at a respectable 67° / 66°. Although some newer bikes are coming out with 65° head angles, the option to switch between 66° and a steeper 67° is a nice feature for those that climb as much as they descend. The bike has 16.9” chainstays which is the same length as the Pivot Mach 6, although slightly shorter than the Santa Cruz Bronson’s 17.28” stays. Surprisingly, the Warden’s seat angle is nearly two degrees steeper than the Mach 6, at 72.3°.
Finally, the Warden’s 74° / 75° seat tube angles are a good indicator that Knolly built the bike with climbing performance in mind, as well as descending capabilities—it fits squarely in the Enduro / All-Mountain category as a bike capable of climbing to the top, but that is more focused on the way down.
Next: The Ride