BIKE CHECK: Downcountry Fugitive for Whistler riding

Posted by Noel Buckley on

Rider:  Dale Mikkelsen

IG handle:  @dale_mikkelsen

Bike:  Knolly Fugitive V1

The Location:

I live in Whistler, BC and ride a huge diversity of trails in the Sea2Sky.  Everything from proper all-mountain trail riding to racing enduro to smashing laps in the Whistler Bike Park.  But lately, I’ve been intrigued by super gnarly technical XC riding and technical marathon XC events, blending my old school background as an XC racer with enduro style descents blended into epic rides.  It’s a whole new way to look at the way the trails in the Sea2Sky can be linked and ridden.

The Bike:

I had a V1 Knolly Fugitive that I was finding I was riding more and more, while consistently dropping travel from the LT version at 135 rear and 150 front, to an ST version at 120 and 140 front/rear.  The versatility of the 120/140 combo was only the tip of the iceberg, as the Fugitive still rode like a burly trail bike born and bred on the West Coast.  So it begged the question, could it still ride this well, but be even more “downcountry”?  Could the classic Fugitive be the ideal frame and geometry to be my big mountain marathon XC bike for big days in the saddle – the Pemby50, the Merritt Crown, the Whistler Back40 – events that are epic long rides, littered with way-beyond traditional XC style events?

The Goal:

The ultimate Knolly Trail bike – 120 front and rear, modern geometry, sub-30 pounds.

The Build:

  • Knolly Fugitive V1 size large – Shiraz red (best colour ever)
  • RockShox Sid Select + 120mm travel, 35mm stanchions, 42mm offset
  • Fox DPS Evolv Kashima, 50mm stroke
  • NOBL TR33 Trail Wheels with i9 1/1 Hubset
  • Vittoria Barzo 29x2.35 Graphene Tubeless TLR tires
  • Pepi’s R-Evolution Tire Noodle – rear only
  • Chromag Ranger V2 Stem and Chromag Cutlass Carbon bar (31.8)
  • OneUp 180mm Dropper post with Fox Transfer lever
  • Formula Cura2 Brakes
  • Fabric Carbon Scoop Pro Team Saddle
  • SRAM XX1 Carbon Cranks
  • Shimano XT 12 speed derailleur and shifter
  • SRAM X01 12 speed Cassette
  • Look X-Track Race Carbon Clipless Pedals

The Weight:

Stoked to find the final build weight was 29.2 pounds with a 29g alloy bottle cage and pedals.

The Ride:

I built this to run in slack mode, plus using 15mm of spacers between the headset and the stem to replicate my ride height and reach from my previous setup with the 140mm DVO Diamond fork. 

Upon hopping on the bike, I could feel almost no noticeable difference in ride position and bike feel when compared to the 120/140 setup I had previously been running.  The bike felt modern, nimble, and incredibly quick.  With the DPS Evolv in trail mode and 18% sag, the bike tracks the trail well with limited perceivable bob or loss of energy. Coupled with the Vittoria Barzo’s at 21psi (front) and 23 psi (rear), the bike likes to move like an XC bike.  Yet this setup is proving to offer incredibly low rolling resistance, yet remarkable traction in moist tacky conditions and slightly wet rock slabs.  Classic west coast weather.  And while it doesn’t absolutely bomb down rocky and hole-filled double black descents, the geometry provides immediate comfort and control and total ability to ride remarkably gnarly terrain.

Since the build in May,
I’ve now ridden the Fugitive over 500km of trail, and 20,000m of climbing.  This matches my average work-day ride of about 15km and 600m of climbing. 

In May and June I was able to really test the bike and my abilities.  I’ve now used it in the Pemby50, a virtual mega-ride at 50km and 2,365m of climbing.  My son and I managed to put down two of the fastest times in the event at just over 6 hours total time.  The next weekend was the Whistler Back40 race, a burly enduro-styled XC race where 3 of the biggest climbs in Whistler led to 3 sustained black diamond downhills – climbs made for an XC bike, with descents made for an enduro bike. 

The Fugitive performed incredibly with a slightly burlier Specialized Ground Control in T5 thrown on the rear. I was able to smash out the 30km and 1,300m of climbing in 3:10, finishing in the top 1/3 of the field.  Finally, it was off to Merritt, BC the next weekend for the ultimate test, the Merritt Crown.  This is a single day 117km ride with 3,100m of climbing.  I did this event last year on the Fugitive in its 140/120 configuration and bigger tires and was out there for just over 10 hours.  This year, I made a massive navigational error and wound up riding 123km with 3,300m of climbing.  All that considered, I knocked an hour off my time at 9:09 and managed to make up over 20 spots between checkpoint 1 and the finish (I was 49th by the time I managed to get to checkpoint 1 after adding 6km, and finished 22nd of about 100 riders). 

I’m pretty stoked to say that the Downcountry Fugitive is delivering on the promise – the traction and control of Knolly 4x4, the low weight of a true downcountry machine, and speed and efficiency to tackle big rowdy XC rides quickly – or quickly for a 50 year old try-hard.

The bike sits as in my quiver of 2 and is frequently picked as my ride-of-choice.  Which is a lot to say when the other bike is a 2022 Knolly Chilcotin with a pretty amazing Formula Selva C/Mod combo making the descending so effortless…

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