The Warden Carbon is Knolly's first venture into the carbon mountain bike world. Like many smaller boutique companies, Knolly developed its brand building high-end aluminum bikes in Vancouver, BC. While many other bike companies have been offering carbon mountain bikes for a decade now, Knolly didn't want to jump-the-gun, so to speak. The folks at Knolly aren't keen on jumping on the next bandwagon, just for the sake of keeping up with market trends. They knew they wanted to build carbon bikes, but took extra care and time to ensure they were working with the best fabricators in the world. Knolly introduced the Warden Carbon in early 2016 to much appraise, and it does appear they have built quite an impressive machine. Even as a relatively small company, they've developed a recipe to compete with, or even outperform, many of the big guns out there. What have they done with the Warden Carbon to make it such an impressive ride? 27.5” wheels and 155mm travel are nothing new, but there’s plenty of action going on with this bike that sets it apart from the masses. We'll dive into all that, and more.
The Warden is a bike that Knolly have been producing for quite some time, constructed from aluminum. They continue to offer the aluminum model, so those not interested in going carbon still have that choice. With the move to carbon, the engineers at Knolly wanted to create a bike with the same razor-sharp handling as the alloy bike, while simultaneously reducing overall frame weight. Through rigorous testing and close collaboration with their carbon manufacturer, the Warden Carbon is the bike that Knolly claims to be their greatest masterpiece to date.
As with all Knolly bikes, the suspension platform is one of the main attributing factors to the overall ride quality. Many smaller boutique companies choose to license an existing suspension platform to cut down on research and development costs. The CEO of Knolly, Noel Buckley, just happens to be an engineering/suspension wizard, so it should come as no surprise that he has developed an exclusive patented suspension platform called Four by 4. This is not to be confused with the generic 4-Bar linkage term used on many other full suspension bikes out there. Knolly’s Four by 4 is truly something special, with little compromise - and you won’t find it on any other bike brand as it is exclusive to Knolly.
But what’s with all that linkage? Certainly a question that comes up frequently. Yes, it is true that Knolly bikes employ an impressive number of pivots and parts. Rest-assured, this was not an afterthought. Each of those pivot points are strategically placed, and every single detail of this platform has a purpose. Us mountain bikers are a tough bunch to impress. We want our mountain bikes to climb well, descend like a monster, hold momentum over chatter, maintain composure under braking forces, and of course, provide loads of traction. It’s the ultimate challenge for engineers to strike some sort of balance between these factors. Inspired by Formula One auto racing strut-style suspension, Knolly’s Four by 4 suspension technology provides freedom in design and execution that few other platforms can match. This allows Noel to tweak the Warden Carbon from the ground up, manipulating wheel path and shock progression completely independently. This leads to a naturally linear-to-progressive suspension rate curve, which is important because it means your shock doesn’t have to to the hard work to provide bottoming resistance, as it would on a bike with a falling rate curve. Ultimately, this means less wear-and-tear on your rear shock, which also means less heat generated. As we all know, heat buildup in a rear shock is no good, and leads to quickly degraded suspension feel. You’ll also find that service intervals on your rear shock may be less frequent compared to other bikes you’ve owned in the past.
Knolly bikes have always been known to climb impressively well, and the Warden Carbon is no exception. Again, with the Four by 4 linkage, Knolly is able to provide exceptionally smooth pedaling characteristics with little feedback. The stock Fox Float does employ a climb switch, though we’ve found it’s mostly not needed on the Warden. Under heavy braking, the Warden maintains traction and a fully active suspension feel. There is very little, if any, brake-induced suspension lockup, and no brake jack.
So we know Knolly has it dialed in the suspension department, but geometry also plays a huge roll in the ride quality of the Warden. Targeted towards the aggressive mountain biker, the Warden is sporting slack, long, and low geometry, which is exactly what we would expect. Adding to the versatility of this bike, the Warden utilizes adjustable geometry, allowing you to jump between two main settings. These two settings will adjust your head angle, bottom bracket height, and seat tube angle. The full geometry chart can be viewed below if you’d like to see exact numbers.
Knolly wanted to make this bike as versatile as possible, which means allowing people to build it up however they see fit. Admittedly we don’t really see the point in front derailleurs anymore, but Knolly opted to leave that option open, and has outfitted with the Warden with a front derailleur tab, compatible with 2X Shimano side-pull models. They’ve also outfitted the bike with full Shimano Di2 routing and battery storage. All other housing is able to routed internally as well using Knolly’s custom modular housing door system. The rear brake housing be run externally, should you decide you want to have easier access to that line. Water bottle cage mounts on the downtube allow for a full-sized water bottle to be used on all frame sizes. Another seriously cool feature on this bike is the full length seat tube, which allows more folks to use 175mm or even 200mm dropper posts. Smaller riders on the small frame can usually get away with a 150mm dropper. This is typically not possible on bikes with interrupted seat tube designs. As with all Knolly bikes, the tire clearance on the Warden is huge - up to 2.6” fits with no issues.
At the end of the day, the Warden Carbon is a bike that you can absolutely hammer on day-in and day-out. It is not a bike that you’re going to ride for a week, and spend the next two weeks taking apart linkage trying to track down that phantom creaky noise. The Warden’s outermost pivot locations are all strategically placed in low stress locations, and rotate on long-lasting IGUS bushings. The main pivots rotate on super high quality angular contact cartridge bearings. Planning that next BC Bike Race, or otherwise epic multi-day trip? Rest assured, the Warden will have your back every step of the way, and you know what? You’ll probably be having a heck of a good time!
- Wheel Size: 27.5"
- Frame Material: Carbon
- Rear Shock: Fox Float X2 2-pos EVOL Factory
- Rear Susp. Travel: 155mm
- Fork: Fox 36 Float RC2 Factory 160mm
- Headset: Cane Creek 40
- Wheelset: Ibis 738
- Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF WT 3C 2.5" front / Maxxis Minion DHR II WT 3C 2.4" rear
- Crankset: Race Face Turbine Cinch 170mm
- ISCG Tabs: I-'05
- Bottom Bracket: Race Face
- Chain: SRAM Eagle X01
- Rear Der.: SRAM Eagle X01
- Cassette: SRAM Eagle X01
MD: Magura Vyron 150mm
LG: Fox Transfer 150mm
- Seat: Anvl Forge Stealth
- Shifters: SRAM Eagle X01
- Handlebar: Race Face Atlas 20/800mm
- Stem: Race Face Aeffect 35/50mm
- Grips: Chromag Basis
- Brakes: Magura MT5 NExt w/180mm Storm SL rotors
- Intended Use: Trail/All Mountain/Enduro
- Main frame formed with superior "internal mandrel" layup process
- Dual ring compatible. Up to 38T single ring compatible.
- Di2 compatible
- Two geometry settings allow you to fine-tune your ride experience
- Full internal routing via all-new custom modular door system
- Rear brake line can also be routed externally
- Removable downtube guard included
- Downtube trap door aids cable routing and houses di2 battery
- Integrated rubber chainstay protector included