PREVIEW: 2012 Knolly Chilcotin

When I opened the box, I was a little intimidated. The beefy, murdered out frameset looks mean. Black anodization, subtle black logo, and even blacked-out pivot hardware makes for a stealthy, don’t-F-with-me look. Fortunately, I had an all-black Shimano XT kit ready to hang on it.

The bike built up well. Headset cups went in smoothly, as did the threaded bottom bracket. Cheers to Knolly for using a standard bottom bracket—I’m not a fan of the new press fit options.

This was my first bike with a 142x12mm thru axle, and I dig that, too. The wheel drops in and out easily, and the thru axle just makes sense on a bike that is so stiff and meant to be ridden aggressively.

Knolly Chilcotin, Blister Gear Review
Joe Hanrahan’s Knolly Chilcotin.

Early impressions of the bike so far justify that: It is wicked stiff and loves to be ridden aggressively. When I once tried to describe the first Knolly I ever road, the original Endorphin, in 2009, I initially wanted to use the word “scalpel.” But scalpels, though precise, flex and break. So instead I described it as a Samurai sword. A Samurai sword is precise and powerful, a trait that is continued and enhanced from the OG Endorphin to the Chilcotin.

Knolly Chilcotin Adjustable Geometry, Blister Gear Review
Adjustable Geometry via Two Shock Mount Points.

One interesting thing about the Chilcotin is that it has adjustable geometry. Switch the lower shock mount bolt from the forward position to the rearward hole, and head angle goes from 67 degrees to 66, and the bottom bracket drops from 13.8 to 13.4. Though I may have to hand in my Internet-tional Bike Shredder card, I have to admit to preferring the steeper, taller geometry at this time. I am going to spend some more time in the low/slack position before rendering any final verdicts, however. But anyway you look at it, the easy adjustability is nice.

My initial gripe with the Chilcotin was its weight and rather sluggish pedaling manners. But looking back, my first rides on it were after five weeks of doing absolutely nothing while I recovered from three broken ribs. I was also coming off the Nomad Carbon, one of the best pedaling 160mm bikes out there.

Over a month later, I’m getting back to form and am not feeling nearly as slow when climbing or accelerating. The folks at Knolly will admit as well that the Chilcotin was optimized for traction, both climbing and braking/descending; with that comes a slight sacrifice of drivetrain/suspension efficiency.

I’m still getting to know this bike and even feel like I’m still breaking in the Fox suspension, but every ride I find myself enjoying it more and more. After a few more months of riding, I should have a complete review ready to go.

You can now read Eric Melson’s full review of the 2013 Chilcotin.

8 comments on “PREVIEW: 2012 Knolly Chilcotin”

  1. Would love to see the complete review – has the tester of the Chilcotin had enough time on it? I am thinking seriously about a Chilcotin and would love further information on your impressions.

  2. Hey guys, I won’t be writing a long-format followup because I sold the Chilcotin last fall, not too long after writing the above review. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the Chili. That bike was a blast. Stiff, low, good geometry; but as I mentioned in my writeup, the suspension was tuned for traction, not pedaling speed and efficiency. The Chili is a great All-Mountain bike with a bias towards downhill manners (and some low speed uphill techy climbing). I climb a lot on fairly smooth Park City trails and I race Enduros and some worthy SuperDs, so I need a frame that has a little more pep in its step. I’m willing to give up a little squish for that.
    All that said, I just built up a Knolly Endorphin with the kit that was on the Chilcotin. Its got 140mm rear travel and Konlly tuned the 4×4 on it to ride more efficiently. It suits my needs a lot better for an everyday ride, as well as something I can take racing. I’ll have a good long-term writeup on the Endo later this summer. If you have some more specific Chili or Endo questions let me know.

  3. Hey Joe,

    How did you find the sizing? I’m 5’11” also and debating between a medium and a large for the Chilcotin.


  4. How’d you find the descending capabilities of the Chili vs. the MK2 Nomad? Maybe throw in your opinion of the Endorphin compared to both as well? I have an old MK1 coiled Nomad that I love, and have an eye on my next bike at some point in the near future.

  5. To be more specific, did you find the descending capabilities through rough chunky terrain without being bogged down to be evenly matched, or did you find one to be better than the other?

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