Knolly Warden Dawn PatrolCheck Out the Full Specs and Review
If we had to pick one word to describe Knolly’s fresh new 2020 Warden, it would be balanced, and not just because both wheels have an equal 160 millimeters of travel. It isn’t a word we’ve used much when talking about bikes with a cockpit as long as the Warden, but the 500-millimeter reach didn’t make it feel sled-like and uncontrollable like we’ve experienced with other reachy rigs. As a matter of fact, the Warden felt especially mild-mannered and easy to get along with. None of us needed much of a learning curve to get up to speed on the thing.
The almost 77-degree seat tube angle definitely helped keep the bike from feeling massive when seated. But that doesn’t fully explain why it didn’t feel crazy long when out of the saddle. We think that the small wheels’ inherent ability to increase maneuverability helped the bike feel shorter than the number would suggest, as did the not-too-slack head angle. We mostly rode the Warden in its slack position, which generates a 64.75-degree head angle. In the steep setting, it goes up three quarters of a degree to 65.5, making the Warden dip its 160-millimeter-travel toes into trail-bike territory. We’re guessing that most people looking at buying a Knolly will stick it in slack and leave it there, but having the option to give the Warden a split personality is a benefit.
Between the steep seat angle and Knolly’s always-efficient Four-by-Four suspension design, the Warden climbs far better than the burly-looking bike appears that it would. Our test loop consisted of a 3-and-a-half mile, 1,100-foot mostly smooth singletrack climb that allowed us to really settle into a rhythm. It’s the type of climb that’s long enough and smooth enough that it’s almost always worth it to reach down to the shock and flip the heavy-hardtail lever. But while we’re testing bikes, we always want to see how they perform when open. Out of all the bikes in the long-travel category, the Warden was easily one of the most composed at pedaling, to the point where using the lockout lever didn’t make the bike feel a hell of a lot faster. And when we’d get to a technical section of the climb, the bike would already be open and ready to track the trail. If you’re pedaling squares or pinning it out of the saddle you can definitely get the thing to bob, but that’s true for most bikes. Overall, the Knolly’s suspension platform feels like one of the most advanced ones out there.
And not just because it makes Knolly’s bikes climb well. Every tester was impressed with how controlled and balanced the Warden was on the rowdiest sections of the descent. There’s that word again. Balanced. A lot of it comes down to the bike’s geometry. The long reach, moderate head angle, short chainstays and low-ish bottom bracket all contribute, but it’s the suspension that pulls it all together. It has the magic mix of sensitivity and support all the way through the travel that is simply not achieved on most bikes. Anytime we needed to get the bike off the ground, there was always something to push off to get the pop we needed. It’s lively and light-footed in that way. But throw it into a rock garden and it’ll track like a bike with 160 millimeters of travel should.
We used to have to explain why Knolly’s bikes looked so odd. It often took some convincing for people to see that the performance and build quality of Knolly bikes makes the awkward aesthetic worth it. But the new Warden is considerably more pleasing to the eye. The suspension linkage has been pared down a bit and tweaked so that it disappears more and flows nicely with the lines of the bike. It’s still a unique-looking bike, and it still fell victim to funny looks, but we agreed that the new design is a huge improvement.
Some of the benefits built into the Warden include an open front triangle for a bottle or frame bag, a straight seat tube that’ll fit long droppers, titanium pivot hardware, angular contacting bearings and an overall impressive level of detail and craftsmanship. And, if you’re a small-wheel/big-travel purist, Knolly is the brand for you. They offer not one, or two, but three long-travel 27.5-inch-wheeled bikes ranging from the 160-millimeter Warden to the 175-millimeter Delirium. Long live 27.5.
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