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Creating Knolly’s Chilcotin 167 enduro bike

How the B.C. brand's connection to the local riding community shows in its latest race bike

What’s in a name? For Knolly’s Chilcotin, potentially the world. And that’s exactly what Noel Buckley is aiming for. From its origins as a “go-anywhere, shred home” adventurer, the new Chilcotin is a refined and ready race whip destined for the Enduro World Series. All without uprooting Knolly’s ties to the local riding community.

Daniel Shaw testing the Chilcotin 167 high above Whistler, B.C. Photo: Knolly

From past to the Enduro World Series

The Chilcotin name isn’t new for the Burnaby brand. Originally it was an early vision of what we now call “all mountain,” and rolled on 26” wheels. Aiming for the trails winding through the iconic mosaic coloured ridges of the Chilcotin ranges, it was ahead of its time. But times have changed and Knolly moved with them, dropping the bike from its line for several years.

Now, the Chilcotin is back in a big way. Since it last roamed B.C., much has changed with Knolly, and in mountain biking. The idea of a bike that can climb all day and still descend the toughest tech trails around has turned and shifted into enduro racing. Race bikes are pushed to ride near-downhill difficulty trails and, yet still have to be pedalled all day.

The Chilcotin is Knolly’s second 29” bike, and most purely focused on racing to date. For Daniel Shaw, Knolly’s CNES (Canadian Enduro Series) overall winner in 2018 and 2019, it’s the bike he’ll use to make the jump to international racing in 2021.

Shaw speeding through North Shore tech.

“It’s a lot of travel, with 167mm out back and 170mm in the front, it’s perfect,” says Shaw. “It’s the balance of aggression, but still being smooth enough, and it pedals amazing so it goes well.”

Knolly already has two bikes that have enduro in their blood. The Warden’s 27.5” wheels tread a line between freeride and enduro (with its burly sibling the Delirium firmly planted on the freeride side). The 29” Fugitive LT mixes all-mountain with just enough travel to try its hand at racing. Both contributed to the development, but the Chilcotin itself is a purebred race machine.

“It’s a combination of both bikes, with slightly less (10mm) travel than the Warden LT but with 29” wheels,” says Shaw. “All bikes have their right use, or discipline, and this is just the fastest and most aggressive race bike we have now.”

Shaw and the Chilcotin are both Shore-local, but ready to hit the Enduro World Series.

Tradition and community

While the Chilcotin’s aggressive layout and big wheels bring it to the cutting edge of enduro racing, some things haven’t changed. Knolly is still committed to producing expertly engineered aluminum frame mountain bikes. That detail-oriented design philosophy is honed in on giving riders, from the Factory team to grassroots riders, a dedicated race bike.

For a brand so rooted in place, the Chilcotin is the only Knolly named after a location in the Sea-to-Sky. Like the original, the name reflects the new bike’s purpose. The Chilcotin is ready to take on any trail or race between the brand’s Burnaby home and the steep ridgelines and chutes of the Chilcotin’s northern reaches. That’s true whether you’re racing NSMBA Fiver’s in North Van or riding Squamish’s notorious slabs.

Knolly Chilcotin Fourby4
Knolly Chilcotin 167 uses the fifth generation Fourby4 suspension, designed in house in Burnaby, B.C.

It’s the Canadian Open Enduro, Whistler’s imposing Enduro World Series stop, that the Chilcotin has its sights set on, though. Nicknamed “Crankzilla,” the race’s difficulty and length make it the series’ most iconic stop. The Chilcotin, armed with the fifth generation of Knolly’s Fourby4 suspension and 29” wheels, is ready to thrive on Whistler’s valley trails or the notorious Peak-to-Creek Whistler Bike Park stage. And, if it can survive Whistler, it can survive anywhere.

“Whistler is an iconic proving ground for bikes,” says Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association’s Executive Director, Trevor Ferrao. “When Knolly was preparing to launch the Chilcotin, it was clear that this bike was ready-made for Whistler trails.”

Worca Knolly Chilcotin
Custom assembled with Whistler-worthy parts, many from B.C. brands, the WORCA Chilcotin will help fund trail work.

Since being from a place means more than being able to ride there, one of Knolly’s first Chilcotins to arrive in North America was immediately donated to WORCA. It’s the third in Knolly’s “Builder Series,” with custom graphics tracing Whistler’s geography on the frame. The frame is part of a raffle raising funds for WORCA in a year the organization needs it more than ever.

A huge increase in trail use, approximately double what WORCA measured in 2019, left the need for more maintenance work at exactly the same time that the organization saw a massive budget cut. “The biggest challenge in 2020 was that our Fee for Service funding for trail maintenance from the RMOW was cut from $120K to $40K,” says Ferrao, adding “we also suffered a decrease in revenue from not being able to run our regular events and fundraisers.” The Chilcotin raffle won’t make up for all of that, but it helps. “There’s still a lot of uncertainty about our funding for 2021, but this raffle will allow us to keep moving forward with new trail development, trail applications, and other critical pieces of work that WORCA does for the riding community.”

Knolly Worca
ZEP Racing athletes and young Whistler local filmmakers leading, and riding, their own video project. Photo: Keven Gelinas

A focus on supporting Canadian youth racing

Knolly’s support for the raffle goes beyond one frame. “The real story of Knolly’s presence in Whistler with WORCA has been youth,” Ferrao adds. The brand has supported the Zep Racing/WORCA Youth Enduro Team for years. This support goes beyond the usual deal on gear, too.

“The youth also feel “support” when companies like Knolly step up, not just giving them a “deal”, but also giving them personal support and contact with the industry and helping them learn to be strong youth ambassadors for the sport,” says Ferrao. This relationship isn’t one-sided, he adds. With how much volume the Whistler youth are riding, they’re sending feedback south to Knolly HQ. “One of our riders provided Strava information that helped Knolly review bearing and bushing wear,” relates Ferrao,” as he was riding the equivalent of three years of for regular consumer rider in just five months.”

Knolly Worca
ZEP racers wrap up their youth-led WORCA Chilcotin shoot with high-fives. Photo: Keven Gelinas

To promote the auction, WORCA and Knolly agreed that it was those same young riders who could share the story best. It’s not just young athletes in the video, though, they also produced it. 15-year-old Jayden Inniss directed the shoot, with support from local photographer Keven Gelinas, while Jakob Jewett edited it. “This was inspiring to the youth, as they were given full charge, in terms of the riders selecting lines and shots, and Jayden directing the shoot itself,” says Ferrao. While it doesn’t have the same polished-pro feel, the youth have received nothing but positive reviews, Ferrao adds, “So they are keen to do more with the lessons learned.”

A local brand, supporting local trail organizations and aspiring young riders. All, on a bike that they could one day race against the best anywhere in the world.

More information about Knolly’s Chilcotin 167
Support WORCA (and maybe win a bike) by buying raffle tickets until Jan. 15.