Knolly Endorphin review (first ride)

A bike best suited to flowing trails

Knolly describes the third incarnation of the Endorphin as a bike designed to dominate your local enduro race as well as take on remote epic rides. We threw it down a series of steep, gnarly off-piste ass-clenchers to see how it fared.

Moving with the times

Version 3.0 of the Endorphin progressed with the times and changed from 26in to 650b wheels. Constructed from noticeably hydroformed 6066 aluminium and sporting Knolly’s Horst Link-based Fourby4 suspension design, which the brand uses throughout its range, the Endorphin’s aesthetics were always going to be a love/hate affair.

Knolly’s horst link-based fourby4 suspension design is used throughout the brand's range:
Knolly’s horst link-based fourby4 suspension design is used throughout the brand's range:

Knolly’s Horst Link-based Fourby4 suspension design is used throughout the brand's range

The 130mm of rear wheel travel comes by way of a highly adjustable Cane Creek DBinline CS shock and the back end is clamped tight via a 12x142mm axle.

Stealth dropper post and part-internal cable routing options are available, but the holes in and out of the frame are just that – holes – meaning cables routed internally are likely to rattle. Irritatingly, the neat little external aluminium cable clamps are located in positions where getting an Allen key to them proved incredibly awkward.

The 67-degree head angle is on the steep side for this kind of bike:
The 67-degree head angle is on the steep side for this kind of bike:

Our test frame came equipped with RockShox’s new Yari fork, offering 150mm (5.9in) of very supple travel, and a set of Mavic’s lightweight Crossmax Enduro hoops. Propulsion was taken care of by a full SRAM GX 1x11 drivetrain while stopping was handled by the brand's Guide R brakes.

The first thing you notice when you swing a leg over the Endorphin is that it feels short – really short

A wide Kore bar and stubby stem finished off the cockpit. The externally routed RockShox Reverb post only had a 100mm drop, limiting how far we could drop the Kore perch out of the way on steep descents.

Cramped cockpit and unbalanced feel

The first thing you notice when you swing a leg over the Endorphin is that it feels short. Really short. In fact, we’d likely run a 50 or 60mm stem rather than the stubby 35mm version that came on our test frame.

The cramped feeling of the front end linked to the short 427mm chainstays meant climbing anything other than a steady fireroad incline was a real bore.

The knolly will be happiest in smooth, flowy bike parks:
The knolly will be happiest in smooth, flowy bike parks:

The Knolly will be happiest in smooth, flowy bike parks

The 67-degree head angle is relatively steep for a bike of this travel and the wheelbase fairly short, at 1,158mm (medium size). When we pointed the Knolly down anything steep and chunky we had a fight on our hands.

If the back wheel hangs up, the bike pivots quickly around its midpoint and overwhelms the otherwise capable Yari fork, packing it down and pitching your weight forward. Even with the Cane Creek shock doing its best to butter out the bumps, we found it hard not to seesaw down rough trails.

On the plus side, there was no flex through the Fourby4 linkage, though in smooth, fast berms the Knolly wanted to rip the rear tyre clean off the narrow Mavic rear wheel. The tight back end and high BB (345mm) deliver a playful feel, ideally suited to a flowy bike park.

Spec as tested:

  • Frame: Hydroformed 6066 aluminium, 130mm (5.1in) travel
  • Fork: RockShox Yari RC, 150mm (5.9in) travel
  • Shock: Cane Creek DBinline CS
  • Drivetrain: SRAM GX (1x11)
  • Wheelset: Mavic Crossmax Enduro wheels
  • Tyres: Mavic Charge 27.5x2.4in (f) and Mavic Roam 27.5x2.2in (r)
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide R
  • Handlebar: Kore OCD 20, 800mm
  • Stem: Kore Repute, 35mm
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb (dropper)
  • Saddle: Kore Durox
  • Weight: 13.6kg (30.1lb), medium size without pedals

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