We've been antiously waiting for Dave's review of the Knolly Endorphin and here it is! Just a few quotes from this review..."This is the best pedaling full suspension bike I have ridden...", "This is the most silent bike I have ever ridden, total stealth..", "This is the stiffest bike I have ever ridden, resulting in awesome, confidence-inspiring tracking.." and "It is the best pedaling, non-XC bike I have ever ridden." Now onto the review!
It was with great anticipation that I finally took delivery of the Knolly Endorphin to thrash. Knolly has gained quite a reputation in a short time period for making fantastic free-ride bikes and fully supporting their customers. They are probably the best-known Canadian maker of boutique full suspension mountain bikes. Check out the Knolly forum on MTBR.com and you’ll get a pretty good idea of the general vibe surrounding this company and their bikes. All 3 of the frames in their lineup get perfect scores in MTBR.com’s consumer reviews section. The Endo is the shortest-travel in their 3-bike lineup, geared towards the epic riding, all mountain, and pedal up as well as down category.
The Endo was all black (my favorite bike color), hard-anozided beauty outfitted with a large volume Fox RP23 shock and a 36 TALAS RC2 fork and a Cane Creek 110 headset. Shifting was handled by SRAM X9 with an XT front derailleur and cranks. The new XT brakes with Servo-wave handled stopping duties (7” front, 6” rear). Thompson looked after the stem (100 mm) and seatpost, while I used my own preferred seat, handlebar, pedals and grips. The bike came outfitted with an Atomlab DHR wheelset (Formula front hub, Hope Pro II rear) shod with my current favorite tires: 2.35 Kenda Nevegal Stickies with a Kevlar bead. As delivered the bike weighed a hair less than 34 lbs, which is respectable but a bit heavier than I had hoped for my type of riding: fast and technical trails with lots of climbing. After a couple of rides to dial things in, I swapped the wheelset for Mavic Crossmax XL’s and converted the tires to tubeless using Stan’s. This shaved darn near 2 pounds off the bike, making a huge reduction rotating mass and vastly improving in climbing.
The bike is visually striking, although the ‘4x4’ linkage design looks complicated and, dare I say it, almost flimsy. I was quickly proven wrong though, this bike has the stiffest rear end of any full suspension design that I have ridden, it tracks beautifully and is totally silent. Cable routing is a little funky on this bike, favoring guides for full housing over the traditional housing stops on most bikes. Sure, full housing increases friction a little bit, but it also helps to keep the cables free of contamination. It also permits more swooping cable routing which reduces sharp bends and eliminates the potential for the suspension action to cause ghost-shifting. Despite the full housing, this bike had the best, snappiest shifting I have ever experienced (front and rear).
I was very excited to try the new XT brakes. The reach and contact point adjustments worked flawlessly, making it very easy to quickly set up the brakes according to rider preference. Unfortunately, the brakes never quite lived up to my expectations. While offering great modulation, they never quite had the top power that I expected. In addition, applying the brakes in rapid succession (ie. less than 2 sec. between applications) caused the engagement point to move earlier in the lever throw. Perhaps not a big deal for most, but I found it disconcerting to have such a significant change in lever feel.
This is the best pedaling full suspension bike I have ridden. Even with the RP23 in the open setting, there was very minimal bob and out of the saddle efforts were rewarded with snappy acceleration, even at 30% sag. While the rear end certainly felt stiff, it was also very active, soaking up all types of trail obstacles and just kept rolling. This was most noticeable in steep technical climbs where the rear tire remained glued to the trail. I did have some initial problems with the Pro-Pedal settings working intermittently. Most of the time I ride with the PP turned off, but when I did switch it on, occasionally there would be no difference while other times there were noticeable differences between the 4 possible settings (ie. off, 1, 2, and 3). I mentioned this on the Knolly forum on MTBR.com and Noel (the president of Knolly) responded directly within hours promising to do whatever it took to make things right! The shock was sent in to be ‘PUSH-ed’ to correct this problem, something that Spokewrench.com is offering free of charge to anyone who purchases an Endo.
The 36 TALAS up front was a good match with the rear suspension. After the initial break-in, the travel was very smooth and it didn’t blow through its travel as much as previous generations of TALAS. I spent most of my time in the middle, 130 mm travel setting. The bike felt very balanced in this setting, admirably handling all but the most extreme terrain. I had to drop the front end to 110 for super steep climbs to keep the front end planted. I was expecting to use full travel on super technical terrain but found that the 160 setting slackened and lightened the front end too much for general and technical trail riding. Hence it was reserved for full-on downhills. After about 5 weeks of hard riding the travel adjust function began to fail such that, when the suspension was unsprung, it would revert to full travel. It seemed to hold the proper travel setting as long as the rider’s weight was on the bike, however it would extend to full travel on steep climbs (bad) and when wheeling over obstacles (very bad). This made it significantly harder to load into my car without removing the front wheel. The fork has since been sent back to Fox for replacement of the TALAS cartridge. This is not an isolated problem as there are several other complaints on the ‘net’. Hopefully Fox will quickly address this defect.
While in my possession, the Endo was the only bike I rode, taking it everywhere from pure XC trails to super hilly to full on rocks. That’s a lot to ask of one bike, but the Endo platform handled it all admirably. It’s the closest thing to the ‘one bike’ that I have ever experienced. Here are some random observations:
This is the most silent bike I have ever ridden, total stealth. However, in certain gear combinations there would be some chain-slap on the drive side chainstay. Zip-tying an old tube to the chanistay did the trick, but it would have been nice to have a stock guard like some other boutique frame builders.
This is the stiffest bike I have ever ridden, resulting in awesome, confidence-inspiring tracking. In comparison, my Ellsworth Epiphany feels like a wet noodle L.
There is a fantastic amount of top-tube clearance and I especially love the short horizontal section just in front of the seat tube junction. The makes a great handle for hike-a-bike sections as well as perfectly balancing the bike in my workstand.
The thing I disliked the most about the Titus El Guapo that I tested last year was the low BB height, which resulted in frequent pedal-strikes. Conversely, the Endo has fantastic BB clearance, even at the 130 travel setting.
When in the small chainring, the inner, trailing edge of the front derailleur (XT) cage is very close to back tire. While the set-up on this bike was rub-free, it would be impossible to run a higher volume tire. Apparently SRAM front derailleurs have a little, more clearance. Alternatively, many new crank/BB designs have some range of horizontal adjustment so one could potentially shim the drive side crank out a little more. Unfortunately, this frame does not have the appropriate tabs for mounting the new Hammerschmidt system.
In summary, this is one solid bike, with an excellent suspension design, and the best customer support in the business. It is the best pedaling, non-XC bike I have ever ridden. While not astounding in any one specific terrain, its versatility, especially with a travel-adjustable fork, makes it the closest thing to the ‘one’ bike I have ever ridden. - Dave
Well, I think it's safe to say that Dave liked riding the Knolly Endorphin. Thanks Dave for the great in depth review!