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  1. #1
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    Knolly Warden demo ride with first impressions

    So I got a chance to spend a couple hours on a size large Warden (preproduction) at Aliso (Laguna Hills) while down in Orange County for Christmas.

    Here's some thoughts from my ride on the Warden. This is the same bike I rode over in Sedona a couple of weeks ago but with the suspension set up to get proper sag for my weight. The build was around 29lbs with DBAir CS, Pike 150, Arch EX wheels shod with a good sized Magic Mary up front and NN on the rear, RF Next cranks, 1x11, XO rear derailleur, and Lev 150 post. The fit and finish of all the parts and welds are A1. Such a nice bike to behold in a clean industrial Knolly way.

    I didn't mess with the settings too much other than to set sag but after taking off from the parking area I noticed the rebound was set a bit fast for my preference so added a click of rebound damping to the fork and just used the CS switch to quell the bouncy feeling on the climbs. After the first rough decent I decided I liked the rebound where Dusty had it set initially and put it back. The Pike was good but I would need some additional set up time on it to be wowed.

    Speaking of the CS switch. I'd said in another thread that I didn't see the point in Climb Switch but I liked that I could run the rebound and compression pretty fast for descending but still have a nice controlled, non-bouncy feeling on the climbs. It didn't seem to inhibit the stellar 4x4 suspension action climbing up over ledges and steps either. We did a couple or three pretty decent climbs that were mostly smooth, hard pack with some erosion ruts and a few rocky sections and I liked how the Warden climbs. It felt very familiar (I ride a Chilcotin), meaning efficient and controlled with just a hint of squat, but with the CS on it was just that much more efficient and controlled feeling. I tried climbing with it off too and it felt more like my Chili while pushing down on the pedal (which I don't mind at all) but with the rebound fast it seems to bounce a bit after compression. The switch solved that. On my personal bike run the slow rebound a bit slower to compensate. If I could make the switch without it costing much, I'd do it. And if the bike came with CS I would be happy.

    I said before that the large felt just right after my little spin in Sedona but after a couple hour ride in Orange County I'm not positive I wouldn't like the medium better for the type of riding I want the Warden to fill. I'd have to try one to know for sure. Maybe with some additional set up and switching of some parts the Large would be fine too. With the bigger wheels, wider bars (780mm), longish stem, fat grips, and long wheel base it felt like a big, slightly tall bike and it just didn't feel as nimble in the tighter twisty stuff as some of the more compact 27.5" bikes I've ridden like the 5010, Troy, and Thunderbolt. I'm sure some of that is attributable to the higher BB height compared to those bikes as well. I should say, I rode the whole time in the steep mode, so perhaps a switch to the lower, slacker mode would've solved that.

    This was one of the few times on a 27.5" bike that the bigger wheels seemed to get in the way a bit. We descended one time on a very fast, smoothish, bermed, bobsled run like trail where it felt a little sluggish or reluctant to really lay over and rail the berms. In other, less extreme turning situations it seems to hold a line well and not hunt.

    Descending through rough sections was typical Knolly: Precise, solid, active, and smooth. The lateral rigidity keeps things in line and allows the linkage and shock to eat up the chunk and chop. No complaints here. If I was a bit out of sorts on these sections at all, it was strictly due to the taller/bigger/this-is-not-my-bike feeling of the set up.

    In summary, I liked the Warden a lot and its execution is brilliant as all Knollys I've ridden are. Knolly should sell all the Wardens they produce and Noel is going to have a bunch of very happy customers. It's not the bike I'm looking for to complement my Chili..... but if I were looking for a great 27.5 trail/am "one bike" it would be at the top of my list (along with a few others).

    As far as comparisons to other 27.5" bikes, I struggle because the bikes I liked the most felt like they had more separation from my Chili and, indeed, I purposely chose bikes that were in that shorter travel, lighter category more often because that's what I'm looking for right now.

    Of the bikes that more directly compare to the Warden such as the Firebird 27.5, Burner, Bronson, Altitude, and Mach 6, just based on one ride, I suppose I still liked the Mach 6 a bit more but that has more to do with the fact the it was carbon, was more compact/nimble feeling (I rode a medium), and the suspension was a bit more dialed for the terrain in which I rode it. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that I liked the Warden just as much or more if it were set up identically (Set up and sizing play such a big part in how a bike feels). My brand bias would, however, sway me back towards the Knolly. Apples and Oranges. So hard to compare different frames with different set ups on different terrain three months apart. Aaargh. Don't make me choose.

  2. #2
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    Great ride report as usually. As they say "size does matter"! lol

    EDIT: I meant the right frame size matters.
    Last edited by blcman; 12-31-2013 at 08:25 AM.
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  3. #3
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    This was one of the few times on a 27.5" bike that the bigger wheels seemed to get in the way a bit. We descended one time on a very fast, smoothish, bermed, bobsled run like trail where it felt a little sluggish or reluctant to really lay over and rail the berms.

    Im not sure thats to do with wheel size, my process 153 absolutely nails that kind of run, you can lay it over like a hero
    more about chainstay length, bb height, centre of gravity etc

  4. #4
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    KRob. Love your reviews because you're honest and because you aren't afraid to compare bikes. Unfortunately too many magazines and websites require income and reputation in order to stay afloat, and that conflicts with giving honest opinions and comparing arch enemies. The buyer doesn't do that. We don't ride a few bikes and say "I will ignore anything I liked about those others bikes I previously rode and love." No, instead we actively compare and contrast subjective thoughts about what we like, and that may completely differ from someone else, somewhere else, who normally rides a complete different bike.

    What I take away from your more recent reviews of the 120-160mm 27.5" bikes are that you seem to favor carbon. That tells me that 30lbs is no longer considered "light" for bikes of this category. We want more, and when you can throw a leg over a bike with 160mm of rear travel that only weights 26lbs, you start to notice any additional weight. Not that weight is necessarily a bad thing, but its a different type of ride, and why wouldn't you want the lightest bike with the most travel you can afford?

    It's a debate happening in a lot of discussions. Really damn good bikes are raising eyebrows with their weight. Knolly, Banshee, and Kona all produce some excellent bikes, but you're paying a lot of money for something that's easily 3-4lbs heavier than some competitors.

    I still think there is opening for long-travel AM offerings that nobody seems to be exploiting save Scott and Pivot. A 32lbs 170r/180f is still a really nice weight for a park bike that can be ridden uphills. 28lbs for the same travel is even better. Unfortunately, it seems like 28lbs is the "stock limit" for as low as aluminum bikes can go with 150mm+ travel.

    Luckily, weight isn't the only factor, and plenty of riders will plenty happy with a Warden at 29lbs.

    Thanks again.
    I do custom ArcGIS and Google Maps, including data collection and sustainable trail layout. Ride Welsh Mountain

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by PHeller View Post
    It's a debate happening in a lot of discussions. Really damn good bikes are raising eyebrows with their weight. Knolly, Banshee, and Kona all produce some excellent bikes, but you're paying a lot of money for something that's easily 3-4lbs heavier than some competitors.
    I've been looking at a new bike for 2014. Going carbon saves you 1lb for a frame/shock at the upper end and typically less than that for similarly purposed frames. The rest of the weight savings is parts you hang off the frame which you can use on any frame material.
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  6. #6
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    Well regardless of frame material some bikes are just heavy.

    I was using the Pivot Mach 6 as a benchmark for that statement as it weights around 27lbs and the Kona Process DL weighs around 30-31lbs.
    I do custom ArcGIS and Google Maps, including data collection and sustainable trail layout. Ride Welsh Mountain

  7. #7
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    Curious what trails you rode in Aliso. I've demo'd probably 6-7 different 27.5" wheels there and have many miles under my belt in that park. Never had a chance to ride a Knolly though. There's nothing too technical there that the knolly should feel weird on. You can hammer the legal trails (rock it/CW/lynx) on a HT and not get totally annihilated. It's the illegal trails that can get really hairy really quickly (going down to the 133).

    [e] I guess telonics might be sketch on a HT, definitely wouldn't want to run that @ speed.

  8. #8
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    Some bikes are definitely heavy, but that's not a frame material thing.

    The Mach 6 is coming in at ~6.3lbs with shock. The Warden is expected to come in at ~6.8lbs so say 7lbs to be conservative = 0.7lbs different between two comparable frames.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by kimbers View Post
    This was one of the few times on a 27.5" bike that the bigger wheels seemed to get in the way a bit. We descended one time on a very fast, smoothish, bermed, bobsled run like trail where it felt a little sluggish or reluctant to really lay over and rail the berms.

    Im not sure thats to do with wheel size, my process 153 absolutely nails that kind of run, you can lay it over like a hero
    more about chainstay length, bb height, centre of gravity etc
    Yes, I believe you are right, but the bigger wheels only added to this senstion. I too have ridden plenty of 27.5 bikes that rail stuff like that. I'm really curious if a large with a more compact cockpit, set in the slacker/lower setting wouldn't have felt just as nimble as any of the longer travel 27.5" bikes I've tried. Or would I need to move down to the medium to get nimble nirvana?

  10. #10
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    I had a look at the warden specs and the Geo seems very similar to the process (well on paper) similar long TT and short cs the warden has a steeper HA though, suppose that would affect it too

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by probiscus View Post
    Curious what trails you rode in Aliso. I've demo'd probably 6-7 different 27.5" wheels there and have many miles under my belt in that park. Never had a chance to ride a Knolly though. There's nothing too technical there that the knolly should feel weird on. You can hammer the legal trails (rock it/CW/lynx) on a HT and not get totally annihilated. It's the illegal trails that can get really hairy really quickly (going down to the 133).

    [e] I guess telonics might be sketch on a HT, definitely wouldn't want to run that @ speed.
    Yeah, definitely didn't do anything too technical. Mostly what I'd call XC/trail with a few short steepish rocky/rutted sections thrown in. Sizing, setup, and unfamiliarity with the trails (first time riding here) added to any slight feeling of being uncomfortable. I'm sure there's trails I ride in my local area that are much more technical that I rail A LOT faster because: 1) I know them really, really well, and 2) I'm super comfortable on my own bike.

    So take that into account when you read my impressions.

    Looking at this topo map from mtbbill, I *think* the route we did went something like this: (Dustybottoms can correct me if I'm wrong.. I was just following so didn't pay too much attention to trail signs/names.)
    Up Cholla -> Down Lynx --> Up Mathis FR then up to Top of the World---> Through the neighborhood---> Down The Meadows (this is the bobsled run where some of the tight, fast, bermed corners left me wishing for a lower bb, shorter wb bike)---> back up Wood Canyon to Cholla----> Up Cholla ---> Down Rockit.

    Would've like to have done some of the more gnar tech descents down towards the Laguna Canyon Rd (133) but time restraints and lack of desire to climb back up out of there deterred us. I'm sure with more time to get the setup and sizing dialed, the Warden wouldn't have any trouble handling most of that stuff too. My son is living in OC for the next 4 years so I'm sure I'll be back with my Chili and I definitely want to try my hand on some of those trails.

  12. #12
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    Cool. Yeah you rode some of the more fun trails then for that side of the park. Lynx is fast and fun but too short, meadows has had a lot of trail work on it but is more of an 'up' and rock it is a legit bomber

    You made a good choice on not going down to the canyon road. Climbing back up from the 133 is stupid. You either hike stair steps or 'ride' canyon acres. Neither of which are fun but riding cyn acres is slightly more masochistic as you know it's do-able but extended 20-30 degree gradients in loose dirt with no sun cover = silly.

    Post up in the SoCal threads when you're out here next, would be happy to show you around some of the 'tech', there's so much in that area it's unbelievable.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by PHeller
    Really damn good bikes are raising eyebrows with their weight. Knolly, Banshee, and Kona all produce some excellent bikes, but you're paying a lot of money for something that's easily 3-4lbs heavier than some competitors.
    Feels to me Kona gets you in for thousands less than the others mentioned.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpre View Post
    Feels to me Kona gets you in for thousands less than the others mentioned.
    I'm not sure I'd agree with that. The Process lineup offers some competitive prices when you compare them against similar weight/travel bikes, but I tend to think Norco and Giant is offering the best bang for the buck in terms of entry. Giant missed the mark on not offering the carbon frame with a cheaper build kit, though. Norco's $3500 buy-in on the Carbon Range and Sight is the best deal in the industry and the Sight Carbon probably weights 27lbs right out of the box with heavy components.

    Another really competitively priced bike is the Devinci Troy starting at $2500 in alloy and $3500 with a low end build kit on the carbon version.

    So while Kona offers an alloy 31lbs Process 153 for $2599, it doesn't offer anything lighter than that in the $3500 range....yet.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of prices Kona does on the carbon Process 153 non-DL, if they even make such a low-kit-carbon-frame bike available.
    I do custom ArcGIS and Google Maps, including data collection and sustainable trail layout. Ride Welsh Mountain

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by PHeller
    I'm not sure I'd agree with that.
    Well, you did just mention a bunch of names that hadn't been mentioned before. Prior to your last post Kona was being lumped in with more boutique mfrs. And I think you think the 153 is a lot less than it actually is. Actually one that was mentioned before that is in line with the 153 is the Bronson, but the Bronson doesn't come with a dropper post at the same price.

  16. #16
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    Kona Process 153 - $3399 - KONA BIKES | 2014 BIKES | ENDURO | PROCESS 153

    Kona Process 153 DL - $4999 - KONA BIKES | 2014 BIKES | ENDURO | PROCESS 153 DL

    Better shock (RC3 vs RT), components (XT/x9 mix vs X7) and internally routed dropper.

    The 134 can be cheaper @ $2599, but neither 134 model have a pike (revo only) and generally cheaper components.

    I like the Kona's, but at $5K, might as well pony up a little extra for a Knolly IMO.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by probiscus View Post
    I like the Kona's, but at $5K, might as well pony up a little extra for a Knolly IMO.
    Quoted for truth.

    Although one thing to keep in mind is that there are several hundred Kona dealers in the USA, and many more in the North America. That ability for the local dealer to offer steep discounts with that much volume is certainly a factor in pricing.
    I do custom ArcGIS and Google Maps, including data collection and sustainable trail layout. Ride Welsh Mountain

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by PHeller View Post
    Quoted for truth.

    Although one thing to keep in mind is that there are several hundred Kona dealers in the USA, and many more in the North America.
    +1 - and you can likely swing a leg over a Kona and maybe even demo one before you buy. That's something I've found to be a challenge when shopping for pricey bikes that don't have the same kind of dealer support.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by probiscus View Post
    Post up in the SoCal threads when you're out here next, would be happy to show you around some of the 'tech', there's so much in that area it's unbelievable.
    Thanks for the offer. I'll definitely be in touch when I get down there again.

  20. #20
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    I've had a bit of time on the Warden. A few things to add:
    The two geometry settings have a very different feel. The steep setting felt very similar to my Endorphin. The low/slack setting leaned towards the Chili. It was very stable at speed.

    The large warden feels bigger/longer than my large Endo. I run a 70 mm stem on my Endo. I would definitely run a 50 mm stem on a large Warden. I am 6'1"+.

    Sure, carbon would be a nice option but at 29 pounds weight was not a limiting factor. That weight was with Maxxis TR tires, which are in the 800+ gram range.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by PHeller View Post
    KRob. Love your reviews because you're honest and because you aren't afraid to compare bikes.
    What I take away from your more recent reviews of the 120-160mm 27.5" bikes are that you seem to favor carbon. That tells me that 30lbs is no longer considered "light" for bikes of this category. We want more, and when you can throw a leg over a bike with 160mm of rear travel that only weights 26lbs, you start to notice any additional weight. Not that weight is necessarily a bad thing, but its a different type of ride, and why wouldn't you want the lightest bike with the most travel you can afford?

    .
    Thanks for the comments P. I do try and be honest in my assessement of bikes, but that's not to say I don't have biases. We all do, I suppose. I try and keep to those biases that are earned through actual experience on a bike or with a company. Glad you find my impressions/reviews useful.

    As to weight, I think you make a good point that I hadn't really considered. The paradigm has shifted. At 29-30 lbs I think the Warden as a 150mm travel AM bike still seems light to my mind (My Chili is 33.5#), but I can't help but realize some of the super favorable impressions I had with some of the other high dollar carbon frame, carbon wheeled bikes I rode had to do with that light, stiff, fast accelerating feeling.

    Case in point. I really liked the all-carbon RM altitude I rode at I-bike, but when I bought a mid-level alloyy version (750ml) of the same bike for my wife I was surprised at how different/uninspiring it felt..... and it's not particularly heavy at 31 lbs.

    That's another reason I *hope* that Noel is working on a carbon 125-140mm 27.5" bike to perfectly complement my chili.
    Last edited by KRob; 01-02-2014 at 09:34 PM.

  22. #22
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    Honestly anything south of 30 lbs is going to be a legit contender for a lot of people. My anthem (100mm XC racer) is currently built up to around 31ish lbs. Its only saving grace is 18"+ chain stays which allow me to climb steep stuff billy goat style. That same factor makes it relatively horrible to jump/manual/wheelie, etc - which are now the 'fun' things I'm looking for in a bike.

    I'd imagine the "I want it to be lighter" crowd is at least in part realizing they can get a mass market carbon bike with XT for about the same price as an AL Knolly. What those people, myself included, need to come to terms with is you're supporting a rider-owned & led small company, and we shouldn't expect mass market pricing. That differential math is going to be calculated on a rider-by-rider basis. To my mind Yeti's are the monkey wrench in that equation - but those bikes are heavy.

    The reality is $5K+ is a LOT to spend on a //discretionary// purchase that doesn't have a motor. First world problems, right?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by G-AIR View Post
    I've had a bit of time on the Warden. A few things to add:
    The two geometry settings have a very different feel. The steep setting felt very similar to my Endorphin. The low/slack setting leaned towards the Chili. It was very stable at speed.

    The large warden feels bigger/longer than my large Endo. I run a 70 mm stem on my Endo. I would definitely run a 50 mm stem on a large Warden. I am 6'1"+.

    Sure, carbon would be a nice option but at 29 pounds weight was not a limiting factor. That weight was with Maxxis TR tires, which are in the 800+ gram range.

    Thanks for your comments Tim.
    Owning a Chili I know that the two settings feel quite different. I can't believe I didn't take a second and switch it to the slack setting on one of the descents. Sometimes I get so excited just to be riding that I forget to actually "test".

    Glad to see my sizing comments confirmed by someone else. My large Chili feels smaller/more compact than the large Warden. At 5'11.5" I definitely feel like I'm in between sizes a bit on the Warden..... or maybe I just need a medium.

    I didn't notice the weight being a limiting factor either, especially because the Warden was 3-4 lbs lighter than my Chili.... until pheller pointed that out. In other words, for a Chili replacement bike (like this Warden felt like), 29-30 lbs feels pretty light, but for a fast, nimble Chili complement I would prefer 26-27 lbs.

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    Warden vs Endorphin

    Quote Originally Posted by KRob View Post
    So I got a chance to spend a couple hours on a size large Warden (preproduction) at Aliso (Laguna Hills) while down in Orange County for Christmas.

    Here's some thoughts from my ride on the Warden. This is the same bike I rode over in Sedona a couple of weeks ago but with the suspension set up to get proper sag for my weight. The build was around 29lbs with DBAir CS, Pike 150, Arch EX wheels shod with a good sized Magic Mary up front and NN on the rear, RF Next cranks, 1x11, XO rear derailleur, and Lev 150 post. The fit and finish of all the parts and welds are A1. Such a nice bike to behold in a clean industrial Knolly way.

    I didn't mess with the settings too much other than to set sag but after taking off from the parking area I noticed the rebound was set a bit fast for my preference so added a click of rebound damping to the fork and just used the CS switch to quell the bouncy feeling on the climbs. After the first rough decent I decided I liked the rebound where Dusty had it set initially and put it back. The Pike was good but I would need some additional set up time on it to be wowed.

    Speaking of the CS switch. I'd said in another thread that I didn't see the point in Climb Switch but I liked that I could run the rebound and compression pretty fast for descending but still have a nice controlled, non-bouncy feeling on the climbs. It didn't seem to inhibit the stellar 4x4 suspension action climbing up over ledges and steps either. We did a couple or three pretty decent climbs that were mostly smooth, hard pack with some erosion ruts and a few rocky sections and I liked how the Warden climbs. It felt very familiar (I ride a Chilcotin), meaning efficient and controlled with just a hint of squat, but with the CS on it was just that much more efficient and controlled feeling. I tried climbing with it off too and it felt more like my Chili while pushing down on the pedal (which I don't mind at all) but with the rebound fast it seems to bounce a bit after compression. The switch solved that. On my personal bike run the slow rebound a bit slower to compensate. If I could make the switch without it costing much, I'd do it. And if the bike came with CS I would be happy.

    I said before that the large felt just right after my little spin in Sedona but after a couple hour ride in Orange County I'm not positive I wouldn't like the medium better for the type of riding I want the Warden to fill. I'd have to try one to know for sure. Maybe with some additional set up and switching of some parts the Large would be fine too. With the bigger wheels, wider bars (780mm), longish stem, fat grips, and long wheel base it felt like a big, slightly tall bike and it just didn't feel as nimble in the tighter twisty stuff as some of the more compact 27.5" bikes I've ridden like the 5010, Troy, and Thunderbolt. I'm sure some of that is attributable to the higher BB height compared to those bikes as well. I should say, I rode the whole time in the steep mode, so perhaps a switch to the lower, slacker mode would've solved that.

    This was one of the few times on a 27.5" bike that the bigger wheels seemed to get in the way a bit. We descended one time on a very fast, smoothish, bermed, bobsled run like trail where it felt a little sluggish or reluctant to really lay over and rail the berms. In other, less extreme turning situations it seems to hold a line well and not hunt.

    Descending through rough sections was typical Knolly: Precise, solid, active, and smooth. The lateral rigidity keeps things in line and allows the linkage and shock to eat up the chunk and chop. No complaints here. If I was a bit out of sorts on these sections at all, it was strictly due to the taller/bigger/this-is-not-my-bike feeling of the set up.

    In summary, I liked the Warden a lot and its execution is brilliant as all Knollys I've ridden are. Knolly should sell all the Wardens they produce and Noel is going to have a bunch of very happy customers. It's not the bike I'm looking for to complement my Chili..... but if I were looking for a great 27.5 trail/am "one bike" it would be at the top of my list (along with a few others).

    As far as comparisons to other 27.5" bikes, I struggle because the bikes I liked the most felt like they had more separation from my Chili and, indeed, I purposely chose bikes that were in that shorter travel, lighter category more often because that's what I'm looking for right now.

    Of the bikes that more directly compare to the Warden such as the Firebird 27.5, Burner, Bronson, Altitude, and Mach 6, just based on one ride, I suppose I still liked the Mach 6 a bit more but that has more to do with the fact the it was carbon, was more compact/nimble feeling (I rode a medium), and the suspension was a bit more dialed for the terrain in which I rode it. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that I liked the Warden just as much or more if it were set up identically (Set up and sizing play such a big part in how a bike feels). My brand bias would, however, sway me back towards the Knolly. Apples and Oranges. So hard to compare different frames with different set ups on different terrain three months apart. Aaargh. Don't make me choose.
    I appreciate the honest objective manner in which you conduct your bike reviews. I am wondering why you are not considering the Endorphin as your other bike since you are already a fan of Knolly bikes. Is it because you want 27.5 wheels or carbon frame? Just wondering as I am in the same quandary over which bike to choose for my new sled. Have you ridden the Endorphin and if so, what are your impressions vs some of the new "super bikes" like the Mach 6 or Bronson? Both bikes I am seriously considering along with the Endorphin.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by endoguru View Post
    Have you ridden the Endorphin and if so, what are your impressions vs some of the new "super bikes" like the Mach 6 or Bronson? Both bikes I am seriously considering along with the Endorphin.
    Interbike Dirt Demo

    Moab Outer Bike Demo Reviews
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

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