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Knolly didn’t made their first 29er until 2018. That’s crazy. Especially when looking at it from out here in 2021, a year when brands like Transition and YT are selling flex-stay short-travel trifles that are solidly XC-adjacent. But Knolly does a very specific thing, and it’s what people know and love them for. That’s evidenced by how the original Fugitive was received. The 120-millimeter-rear-travel, 140-front trail 29er was way ahead of its time. It had a 65.75-degree head angle, a 477-millimeter reach in a large, 157-millimeter rear spacing, and it was all wrapped up in Knolly’s brutalist industrial aluminum. It was a lot of bike to sit on not a lot of travel. That may be why the slightly squishier Fugitive LT was actually the more popular seller for Knolly. 135-millimeter rear travel, 150 front, a half-degree slacker head angle and some burlier spec throughout. That’s what people wanted from Knolly. And if people wanted more, the 151- or 167-millimeter Chilcotin would come just a couple years later. But the Fugitive LT was in a sweet spot. When I rode that longer-travel Fugitive three years ago, it had all the pop I’d want out of a bike with with Knolly’s unapologetic reputation for gnar. But there’s something about riding scaled-up bikes that involves some compromise. The seat angle gets a little slacker, the reach gets a little shorter, and it’s hard to get it out of your head that the experience is just short of optimal. That is why, for 2021 Knolly went all-in on the LT approach to the new Fugitive, now called the Fugitive 138.
At the center of the ride quality we’re expecting from the Fugitive 138 is Knolly’s Fourby4 linkage. Also ahead of its time, but in a subtle, nerdy way, Fourby4 allows Knolly to finely tune their bikes’ leverage curves, and do so independently of axle path and structural pivot configuration. For the past couple years, leverage curve has finally become a talking point. It’s at the heart of recent updates to bikes from Santa Cruz and Yeti, and it’s what we loved about the Fugitive LT. The progressive leverage curve, which remains about dead straight through its sag point and midstroke, allows for longer-travel bikes to be as supportive as short-travel, but still give it up when the terrain demands it. It makes for steady, efficient climbing and creative, responsive descending. And the new Fugitive’s mid-travel chassis is poised to stay somewhere in the best of both of those worlds.
And surrounding Fourby4, the new Fugitive got exactly the geometry updates we hoped it would. A 76-degree seat tube angle in its slack mode, a 65-degree head angle and a rangy 490-millimeter reach in the large. The updates allow those who want to bump up to a 160-millimeter fork to do so with minimal compromise to the bike’s practicality. And practical is how we’d describe the updates made to the Fugitive. This is not a revolutionary shift to the platform. It’s just giving the people what they want. And we’ve got our test bike on its way, so we’ll let you know soon if they delivered.
Find it at knollybikes.com/fugitive138