Fifteen years ago, if you’d mentioned the name Knolly it would have conjured up images of ladder drops and clunky huck machines. These days it’s a different story, with fast, fun, aggressive trail bikes such as the Fugitive LT rewriting the Canadian brand’s reputation making it a worthy consideration for UK riders.
Knolly Fugitive LT frame and suspension details
Although fully up-to-date where it matters, the 135mm travel Fugitive is still recognisably a Knolly, with the frame built around the brand’s signature FOURby4 linkage.
Knolly claims that the multiple pivots and rockers give it unparalleled freedom in tuning progression, axle path and pedalling characteristics independently. Each model, it says, is tweaked specifically for purpose.
The way this is integrated into the aluminium frame is definitely sleeker and more refined than some of Knolly’s older models, but you’d be hard pressed to say this is a pretty bike.
Knolly’s FOURby4 linkage allows it to tune the bike’s progression with accuracy. Steve Behr
The curved together top and down tubes and forward position of the seat tube give it a rather shortened appearance. But you don’t look at the mantelpiece while you’re stoking the fire, and out on the trail everything feels right.
Detail highlights include neatly-integrated internal routing with clamped ports, angular contact bearings in the pivots with titanium hardware, a threaded bottom-bracket shell and a slot to fit a Shimano Di2 battery.
Knolly Fugitive LT geometry details
Sizing is spot on for me, with the reach on my size large measuring 477mm, while the XL tops out at 500mm.
The ratio of this to the fairly short 430.5mm chainstays may be viewed as a little unbalanced by some, but I like it.
To maintain mud clearance with such a compact rear end, the Fugitive uses a 157mm rear hub spacing, and this has the added benefit of a wider-flanged, stiffer back wheel.
The trunnion-mounted shock can be bolted into either regular or slack positions, and in the latter, I measured the head angle at 66 degrees and bottom-bracket drop at a super-low 35.5mm.
The effective seat tube sits at 75.25 degrees, but because of the way the seat tube slopes back the actual angle is slacker, which can be a negative if you have long legs and run your saddle high.
The particularly short head-tube and relatively low 616mm stack height is great for shorter riders wanting to minimise the added front-end height from running 29in wheels, but conversely taller riders favouring a high-rise setup may view this as a negative.
Seat angle (effective): 76/ 75.25 degrees
Head angle: 66/ 65.25 degrees
Chainstay: 43.05cm / 16.95in
Seat tube: 45.6cm / 17.95in
Top tube (effective): 63.4cm / 24.96in
Head tube length: 10.3cm / 4.06in
Bottom bracket drop: 3.7cm / 1.46in
Wheelbase: 1,218mm / 47.95in
Stack: 61.65cm / 24.27in
Reach: 47.7cm / 18.78in
Knolly Fugitive LT specifications
Knolly offers the Fugitive LT as a frame or in a choice of two built kits. I rode the ‘Dawn Patrol’ build, but with a Fox Float X2 coil shock and a Fox 36 Performance Elite fork instead of the RockShox Lyrik listed.
The fork out-guns the rear shock with 150mm of travel, but its FIT4 damper gives a well-controlled and balanced ride.
The fork offset has a notably short 42mm offset. The stability benefits of this are widely recognised, but I’ve found through testing various setups on other bikes that the difference isn’t that profound.
Apart from the hard and uncomfy SDG grips, there isn’t really a bad part on this bike. The Spank wheelset felt neither flimsy or harsh, the RockShox Reverb seatpost worked flawlessly and the SRAM Code R brakes dished out the solid power we’ve come to expect.
Knolly Fugitive LT ride impressions
Having read nothing about the Fugitive before I hit the trails, when I got back to the office and found out it only had 135mm of travel I was super-impressed. It rides with the confidence of something much burlier and the low-slung, well-centred ride position urged me on to let loose and hammer into turns.
The Fugitive quashes any suggestion of 29ers not being fun and the compact rear geometry makes it a joy to chuck around through quick direction changes.
The FOURby4 suspension lives up to its traction claims too. It’s noticeably active and, especially with a coil shock onboard, the way it tracks over the ground is impressive.
There is a downside though, when you turn up the heat and start sending it off stuff, the shock is prone to bottoming out, especially on drops or heavy landings.
It’s here where I started to feel the limits of the 135mm travel, and it’s perhaps where a more progressive air shock would come into its own.
It rides with the confidence of something much burlier and the low-slung, well-centred ride position urges you on to let loose and hammer into turns. Steve Behr
At 15.6kg the Fugitive feels lighter than its weight or appearance might suggest and not only will it winch its way happily up hills, it won’t suck the fun out of flatter, flowing singletrack either.
Up steep technical climbs, the active suspension is a trade-off. On one hand, the grip I got over obstacles and loose ground was excellent, but at the same time, when I stood up and really pushed hard, a little more anti-squat would have been good to reduce the bob.
And a slightly steeper seat angle wouldn’t go amiss either, to reduce the effective top tube and shift more weight onto the front wheel.
Knolly Fugitive LT bottom line
All-out efficiency doesn’t really feel like the Fugitive’s remit. Admittedly it might not be the fastest mile muncher, or have the brawn for when things really get spicy, but across the vast majority of terrain it’s got a pure fun element that would make me pick it time and again over many of its rivals.