What happens when a Canadian company known for making high end aluminum mountain bikes dives into the gravel market? Knolly, the Vancouver, B.C. company that has cut its teeth on the rugged trails of the North Shore, is proving that the results are not what you might expect.
Its new gravel bike, the Cache, is built around a sleek, detail-oriented titanium frame and Knolly’s own carbon fork, designed just for the bike. Noel Buckley, the company’s founder, brings his reputation for quality and durability achieved through engineering over to the gravel market.
West Coast inspired gravel riding
The Cache combines Knolly’s decade-plus of experience in making mountain bikes with an even longer history of riding the gravel back roads and FSR’s lacing the mountains surrounding Greater Vancouver. With clearance for 45 mm tires (or 27.5 x 2.1″) with fenders, routing for a dropper post, and the option to purchase with a suspension fork, the Cache combines a mountain bike influence with the necessities of all-season riding on the wet West Coast.
To get a better idea what’s going on with Knolly’s gravel debut, I took a closer look at Noel Buckley’s personal Cache.
The Cache uses a fully custom set of titanium tubing. Like Knolly’s aluminum mountain bikes, each tube is extensively manipulated to engineer the ride experience Buckley wanted for the company’s first gravel bike. The titanium frame is matched by Knolly’s own straight blade carbon fibre fork. Designed specifically for the Cache, it features a 12 mm thru-axle, flat mount brakes, internal break routing and a claimed weight of just 465 g with axle.
Custom CNC’d dropouts help dampen road vibrations via an offset seat stay, positioned on the dropout hood above the rear axle. The chainstays are subtly shaped, with a flatter top-surface angled slightly outward to create a clean cable exit angle, instead of putting an exit-hole directly on the top of the chainstay. There’s full fender mounts, and the Cache uses the same derailleur hanger as the brands mountain bikes.
Noel Buckley’s titanium Cache
A custom right side chainstay yoke creates space for tires and chainrings
Chainstays attach below the top tube to help with shock absorption
Knolly gives you options to run up to 799x45 tires or 27.5x2.1", and still have clearance for fenders. Fender mounts are placed for ease of use, since it's expected they will actually get used
Knolly brings its unique cable port design over from the mountain bike line to the Cache. The frame is Di2 or cable compatible
The cable ports prevent rattling by compressing a rubber wedge to hold cables in place
Knolly's cable port allows for 1x or 2x drivetrains. The seat tube connects to the downtube, allowing for an internally routed dropper post
The nicely curved seat tube on the Cache can run a front derailleur
Knolly's straight blade carbon fibre gravel fork
Cable routing on the Cache is clean, and secured against ratting
Through axles, flat mount discs and, as you would expect on a bike designed in Vancovuer, full fender mounts
Knolly's branding on the Cache is subtle, giving the bike a clean look that allows the titanium to shine
Buckley's Cache featured an AX bar from Easton, neighbours at Knolly HQ.
Buckley was running a SRAM 1x drivetrain, but the Cache has options for 2x
Robert Axle Project on Noel's bike will be DT Swiss axles on production bikes
Noel Buckley's tatanium Cache gravel bike
Geometry for gravel bikes is still wide open, reflecting the diverse ways riders are making use of the bikes. Knolly wasn’t interested in just producing a tougher road bike with clearance for big tires. The Cache borrows from Buckley’s experience designing mountain bikes, using a longer wheelbase for stability at speed. A sloping top tube and long front-centre measurement are designed to be used with a shorter stem. This gives the bike more aggressive handling, and better control when “gravel” nudges closer to “singletrack” or trails. An important consideration, as the bike has the option of an internal dropper post and 40 mm front fork.
Knolly Cache is available for pre-sale now. There are seven size options from 49.5cm to 62.5cm. Delivery is expected in spring 2019. Prices for the titanium gravel bike start at $6535.00 with a Shimano RX / 105 build kit and Knolly carbon fibre fork.
Knolly’s gravel bike is the second launch in a year of new directions for the company. While it’s holding true to its existing line of burly 27.5″ mountain bikes, it also recently announced the Fugitive. Two years in the making, the Knolly’s first 29″ bike comes in 120 mm or a 135 mm “Long Travel” version, putting it on either side of the trail / enduro line.