-167-millimeter rear travel, 170 front
-Frame and hardware are built to last
-Respectable climber for its weight and travel
-May be too much bike for some
-Not the all-rounder some enduro 29ers are
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Oftentimes, after we’re done discussing the main points of a test bike during a Beta Tests roundtable, testers look at each other and say something along the lines of, “So, who do you think this bike for?” We did not have that conversation about the Knolly Chilcotin. That’s because the new Chilcotin is absolutely unapologetic in its intention: It is a brawler, meant for the rowdiest of rides and the most capable of bike handlers.
The enduro/freeride frame comes in two alloy versions, one with 151mm of rear travel and a 160mm-travel fork, and a second with rear travel boosted to 167mm and a 170mm fork, both of which run on 29-inch wheels. The Chilcotin represents the longest-travel of Knolly’s offering, and carries forth the brand’s calling cards like highly engineered design, use of quality materials, extreme attention to detail and high-end manufacturing.
Our test bike, which was the 167/170 configuration, is among the longest in its category—the size large has a 1,263mm wheelbase with a 490mm reach—and is clearly outfitted for descents. The cockpit runs on wide 820mm handlebars and a stubby 40mm stem, suspension is handled by the RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork and Super Deluxe Ultimate piggyback shock, and the bike stops courtesy of SRAM’s Code DH brakes with a 200mm rotor in the front and 180mm in the rear. The Spank Oozy Trail wheels roll on a 2.5-inch Maxxis Assegai tire in the front with the EXO+ casing and a 2.4-inch Maxxis DHR2 with heavy-duty Double Down casing (you can run as wide as 2.6-inch tires). It also has Super Boost Plus rear axle spacing, which provides clearance for up to a 36-tooth chainring, and the frame design prioritizes a straight downtube with an impressive 300mm seatpost insertion depth.
The Chilcotin, which comes in sizes medium through XL, uses adjustable geometry to achieve two different settings, Slack or Neutral. Neutral nets a head angle of 64.5 degrees, a 77.6-degree seat tube angle, 436.5mm chainstays and a 347mm BB height. Loosen the bolt and slide the shock into Slack, and the head and seat angles both slacken by .7 degrees, the chainstays gain 1.5mm in length and the BB Height lowers to 338mm.
But regardless of the geometry setting, Knolly had the downs in mind when designing the Chilcotin, and that is apparent from the first pedal stroke. This is a super-stout, big-feeling bike that will spend a lot of time on tailgates, chairlifts or perhaps the back of a unimog at Retallack. Even still, we actually found it to be an impressive climber. The Fourby4 suspension provided an efficient platform that felt supportive enough for one tester to climb without the added firmness of the shock’s extra pedaling platform, and to favor it over the Trek Slash, an equally burly bike.
The Chilcotin felt as planted as a late-summer garden on the middle section of our test trail, which consisted of a wide-open, washed-out, scree-filled doubletrack that begged for (puckered) reckless speeds. Even at 30-plus miles-per-hour, the ride was extremely stable and afforded great confidence around sweeping, loose corners. When the trail narrowed and turned more technical, with a mess of ledgy drops and straight-line chutes, the Chilcotin was equally as plank-like. It felt balanced front-to-rear, and the suspension nailed all the buzzwords: supple off the top, supportive in the middle and resistant to bottoming out.
But when the descent wasn’t wide open and begging for relentless speed, the Chilcotin didn’t stand out quite the same. The top section of our test lap was of the slow-speed, momentum-sapping-tech nature that required you pick your way through the shale and rocks just so in order to keep your speed, and in this sort of terrain, the Chilcotin didn’t feel quite as maneuverable or nimble as other bikes in the big-wheeled, big-travel category. While it is befitting of mach-speed, flat-out descents, it lacks the versatility of say, the Evil Wreckoning, Trek Slash or Specialized Enduro, which would more easily double as all-day trail bikes, and also feel more playful.
But, that’s also in the eye of the operator. We recognize some of the perceived shortcomings of the Chilcotin are on us, not the bike. While some big bikes make you feel like they’ll push you to improve, the Chilcotin requires you to already be at its level. It’s made for aggressive, highly skilled, physical riders, who can muscle a bike around the trail, and it’s easy to feel outgunned by its capabilities if you’re not that person. In this manner, the Chilcotin may not be for everyone, there is no mistaking who it is for, and there’s something very refreshing about that.
Find the Knolly Chilcotin here: https://www.knollybikes.com/chilcotin167
Photos: Anthony Smith