deniz merdano mark mayo knolly tyaughton 12
Not a Review*

Knolly Tyaughton Titanium Hardtail

Words Mark Mayo
Photos Deniz Merdano (unless noted)
Date May 10, 2022
Reading time

Knolly Tyaughton Ti 'not-a-review'; the hardtail conundrum

TL;DR: ignoring all specs, components, and overly-pensive-commentary ahead, what you need to know is that the Knolly Tyaughton Ti rides fantastically well, will beat the living shit out of your body if you forget you're not on 160mm of squish, and is as impressively constructed as it is beautiful. It's not a hardtail for everyone, however. But for some, it's a bit of a goldilocks recipe that complements this new generation of trails and riding very well. It will certainly be seeing more regular rotation in my riding than any of my previous hardtail flirtations. That's right, I bought one. Should you buy one? Maybe. It's a hard question to answer without delving into the cult of hardtail more broadly.

*Why this is Not a Review

Normally we don't accept 'not reviews' from people who have purchased a bike for themselves. We made an exception here because

  1. we have known Mark for 20 years and he has real world bike reviewing experience, and is aware of confirmation bias, an error all humans regularly make that reinforces decisions we have made, including purchasing decisions. We want to think our money was well spent so we favour information that confirms our biases and existing beliefs. If we buy a bicycle, we'll choose one that aligns with those biases and beliefs, so we are more likely to judge it positively for several reasons.
  2. Mark is a smart guy and this is a very well-written ode to his Tyaughton Ti and we like it. - Ed.
mayo tyaughton 2

At long last, an unquestionably beautiful Knolly. Photo - Mark Mayo


...more friends started buying hardtails again, (that's weird) and more often than not they were a) having a lot of fun and bragging about it; and b) not inviting us FS guys to ride with them. Hardtail only club. Hmm.

The Tyaughton has been covered here (and elsewhere) before, but in case you missed it: it's a mostly modern/slack hardtail from a brand known for opinionated full suspension bikes and placing engineering principles above all else. The Tyaughton, with its 157Trail fixed dropouts, is certainly wearing its engineer founder's opinion on its sleeve, yet it doesn't push any boundary particularly hard, aiming instead for exquisite execution of what is on offer: familiar geometry designed around a real fork, with a feature set and price point that any competent product manager would have rejected immediately after the first consumer survey results came in.

I've got about 20 hours on the bike now, after having spent about 2 years on the hardtail sidelines after my Santa Cruz Chameleon was stolen. As fun as the Chameleon was in the right terrain (read: not steep), it was never going to be replaced, I thought. But as happens, newer/better bikes appeared, more friends started buying hardtails again, (that's weird) and more often than not they were a) having a lot of fun and bragging about it; and b) not inviting us FS guys to ride with them. Hardtail only club. Hmm. So I'll be honest: I made the decision to buy the Tyaughton without even seeing it in person, let alone riding it. In a moment of Covid-supply-chain FOMO I called my shop to order one the day I read about it after having almost bought a Chromag Rootdown or Kona Honzo ESD nearly every time I went into Kinetik Cycles. Buying titanium anything is an exercise in irrationality, so pulling the trigger on the Tyaughton was an entirely emotional decision backed by blind faith that Noel Buckley is incapable of building a bad bike.

loam shelf knolly tyaughton ti

Fallen angels who forfeit immortality to pursue a life dedicated to the laying down of perfect, beautiful, artisanal welds would be very upset that their work is hidden. Joking aside, the fit and finish and weld quality is as good or better than anything I have ever seen on a Ti/Alu frame. Photo - Mark Mayo

As I write this non-review, then, the goal is to convince myself that I have not made a terrible mistake and while I'm at it explore where this bike fits and why more folks seem to be interested in going back to metal, back to basics, and broadening their cycling experience.

Let's start with "who is this bike even for?". The answer is that, in many ways, the Tyaughton is kind of a bike for nobody. Let me explain.

Like every human activity, mountain biking has many participating groups. If you're a bike company, you do deep thinking about which groups are concentrated where, and how you build a product for them. Categories like high-end hardtails have been around the longest and are sometimes the most opinionated, the most difficult to crack. Those people care about stuff. A lot. What group was the Tyaughton built for?

With fairly high confidence, I can tell you the Tyaughton was not designed for someone who has been spending a lot of time on steel hardtails for the last couple decades. The loyal hardtail contingent will tell you loud and clear in every comment section on the internet that the Tyaughton is a missed opportunity in the segment, because Knolly priced it wrong, used unexpected materials — why no aluminum?! — and the 157Trail rear hub spacing and lack of swappable dropouts is an inexcusable sin. The traditional buyer of bikes in this category will have to look elsewhere, mostly, I think.

What does the price point say, then? At roughly 7000 USD in Ti and adorned with XT components (steel frame and GX is $4000), it is “high end” yet I don't think many will shop it against a custom bike from the likes of Moots, Naked, or Seven. Down that path lies fanciful anodizing and the feeling of owning something unique and bespoke. Neither is it a rational "one bike to rule them all" solution in the trail bike category. Nobody is cross-shopping this vs a Transition Sentinel or Santa Cruz Hightower. Not me. Not anybody. Go buy a 150mm-ish trail bike from any brand as your one bike, and you'll be much, much happier.

head badge tyaughton ti

That head badge is actually just an artfully laser-cut headtube. Photo - Mark Mayo

So why did Knolly build this thing, then? Hardtail fanatics on the Internet won't like it, and it's not gonna replace anyone's full suspension, which is equally expensive. I've never talked to the Knolly folks, but I imagine this question would have amounted to something of a conundrum for them. The bike isn't from outer space, but also doesn't fit neatly into an expected category. It could have ended up being a bike that literally nobody wanted. Spoiler: they sold all of them. What it suggests to me is that Knolly isn't a design-by-committee kinda place, and they dreamed it up only after being dissatisfied by what the market had to offer and betting that their current customers might also feel that way, too.

Aside: to understand the Tyaughton, I think it's best to consider it alongside the Cache — the other new bike in Knolly's lineup — which is also a metal bike without rear suspension. The Cache is proudly, blatantly a gravel bike designed for mountain bikers. It turns out a lot of us are accumulating a lot of wear and tear on our bodies or maybe just don't want to ride the gnar every single weekend, and we've discovered that 3, 4, even 6 hours of pedalling along FSRs and simple smooth trails is good for both our bodies and our souls. Gravel is a major phenomenon right now, and the big brands are targeting their gravel products at road cyclists with everything they've got. Knolly isn't taking that approach. The Cache is a hit with mountain bikers, not roadies.

Knolly_Tyaughton_14.original

A closer look at that engraved headtube. Photo - Brayden Rastad

What I'm seeing amongst my friends is that riders are picking up modern geo hardtails as complements to their main trail/enduro bikes, but not because it allows them to charge hard down the gnarliest gnar like they were on a burly enduro bike. I mean, you could, but will you really? No, no, we're picking these bikes up to save our bodies, not destroy them. It's not dissimilar to the increasing cross-over between gravel and MTB, I think. Hardtailers are gravelers who live in the mountains and can't survive on FSRs alone!

Back to the bike: The Tyaughton is less clearly positioned than the Cache, but just as the Cache is a gravel bike for mountain bikers, the Tyaughton is a hardtail for mountain bikers. That may seem like a bizarre statement, but I, like most of you, ride an extremely capable full suspension bike with a slack head angle, steep seat tube, low BB, and miraculous suspension. This is what a mountain bike is now and as we've been saying for years they're so damned good. Knolly simply transposed their full suspension mountain bike geo and feel onto this hardtail, put the best fork they possibly could up front, made sure you can run proper tires and an acceptable chain line, and chose materials that the fine folks in Taiwan were already supremely capable of working with and therefore actually build and ship this decade. That's it. The end. It is, in most regards, not a particularly unique or ground-breaking bike. The result is a bike that not only every current Knolly customer is going to feel at home on the moment they throw a leg over it, but a bike that almost any modern trail/enduro bike owner of any brand of bike is also going to find intuitive and not have to spend time "figuring out how to ride again." There is nothing weird about this bike, and that is its calling card.

deniz merdano mark mayo knolly tyaughton 13

True to my expectations, then, what struck me on my first rides was just how familiar the Tyaughton felt compared to my Hightower. My position on the bike was uncannily similar. The difficult climb up Eagle Mountain on the technical singletrack we affectionately call Physiotherapy felt great and I wasn't struggling to adapt to a new style or hunting for traction. My back or knees didn't hurt from being in a new position. It just worked. Pointing down steeper sections of trails, where past experiences on hardtails were dominated by pucker factor, I was comfortable, in control, and not fighting the bike. I literally had a moment of confusion where I forgot I was on a hardtail and charged into a chundery section of trail with the kind of abandon you can get away with on a 150/160mm full squisher. The "I'm not even sure what's there, but I'm sure the bike will sort it out" approach. My ankles are still angry with me. On tight single track stuff the bike is really at home, loses grip predictably and evenly front/back, and rewards the same "in the pocket, elbows bent, stay tall, weight forward" position we now have to use on our other bike to extract any of the performance potential of these machines. The bike rides so well, I routinely forget it's not my Hightower. This is not news, obviously, but it's still kind of shocking to me how much better these new school hardtails ride vs the bikes of just a decade ago.

I've also logged a couple 25km+ B.C. cross-country rides with 4+ hours of actual pedaling. Again, no surprises. It's not an XC race rig at 30 pounds and 64.5/75 angles, but the miles go by with ease. Position is comfortable, it feels more efficient (but probably isn't, if we're honest) than the Hightower, but it helps the brain forget that the body is getting quite fatigued. Burning up miles on a hardtail is still rewarding, it seems.

I expected the front end to feel light and easy to get airborne but in fact it felt the opposite at first. The chainstays aren't particularly long at 427mm, but it takes some effort to raise the nose, and of course without suspension pre-load my timing was off and I badly tagged a few obstacles with the rear wheel on the first couple rides. Climbing switchbacks is a joy vs the long wheelbase Hightower, but the bike conveys a feeling of stability overall.

The fork deserves a mention, because fork choice is so critical on a hardtail that's going to be fun to ride in this part of the world, and so many brands cheap out to hit a price point. The fork is everything, really. Knolly deserves kudos that at every trim level, steel or titanium, they spec'ed a great fork: a 150mm Z1, Lyrik Ultimate or Factory 36.

deniz merdano mark mayo knolly tyaughton 2

Where the bike and rider get overwhelmed is when the speeds go up, which, ironically, its confident manner seems to encourage. I couldn't honestly tell you if the "compliant rear end" Knolly claims is better or worse than any other hardtail. For the record, I always felt that my aluminum Chameleon was more forgiving than the steel Spot frame it replaced, but I also felt like I could just be imagining that and I wouldn’t protest if you called bullshit on any claims I could make regarding microscopic flex in the frame contributing to ride quality vs, say, the tires.. All I can tell you is that a high speed impact to the rear wheel will hurt. Sorry. If the bike has a fault, it's that it's so bloody good I keep riding it recklessly and paying the price.

The real gift riding the familiar, dare I say friendly, Tyaughton brought me was that I was left with only one thing to concentrate on when riding it: making myself light. Placement, line choice and weighting/unweighting the bike become so important, and so rewarding. The punishment for getting it wrong being so severe. Dial it back a bit dude, chill out, ride deliberately, and everything is right in the world. All the things the hardtail priests have preached for eons are still true on the Tyaughton. It is, after all, just a hardtail.

deniz merdano mark mayo knolly tyaughton 10

Are there things I would change? Precious little. I wouldn't touch the geometry even by a millimetre. Would it be cool to see Knolly develop an aluminum version? For sure, if it came out lighter and cheaper. Given that I took advantage of the swappable dropouts of my Chameleon and Spot hardtails exactly zero times over the decade plus of ownership, it shouldn’t surprise you that I like the no-fuss-no-muss 157mm fixed dropouts. My bike came with a Maxxis 2.3 DHR EXO casing tire on the back which is such a bad choice it must be a supply chain issue on a bike otherwise so purposely spec'ed. I immediately pulled the 2.3 off to save it for summer rides in Bend or the Okanagan, and put a 2.5WT DHF in EXO+ casing with a Tannus insert back there. My god I hate dealing with inserts. Everything annoying about tubeless turned up to 11 but I admit the added insurance and that damped feeling of an insert does change the ride feel of a hardtail significantly, and for the better, I think. Of note, I don’t ride inserts on the dually.

Which build? I can't imagine the titanium rides any different than the steel; it's just a touch lighter and a lot prettier if a raw finish is your thing. The steel GX build with a Lyrik Ultimate is probably the sweet spot any sane person would chose at $4000. That said, the Titanium frame is so meticulously well-crafted that everyone who takes a close look at the bike is shocked it's not a custom frame by a famous builder. I’ve literally never seen better welds, and I’ve had the privilege of owning frames by both Chris DeKerf and Mike Truelove. Both Ti build kits feature top-of-the-line forks. It would probably come down to personal preference of Rockhox/SRAM vs Fox/Shimano more so than the price difference for most folks. Did I mention how pretty the titanium is?

deniz merdano mark mayo knolly tyaughton 8

If you don't have a room full of wheels from existing/past bikes you want to use, or an itchin' to try single speed, I think you'll find the Tyaughton Ti one of the finest hardtail frames on the market today, at any price point. The build kit is spot on, and that's good because I believe this bike will appeal to folks who will buy it as a complete build, ready to rock, more so than frame alone. It rides great. The only place to go from here would be to get in line at a bespoke frame builder who can tweak every detail to be exactly what you want. Which can wind up being a tyranny of choice problem. Instead, I let Noel Buckley figure all those details out and I got to buy a copy of his personal custom titanium hardtail. Rad.

So it turns out a hardtail built for nobody (or more accurately, one guy) is probably a great fit for nearly everyone that rides mountain bikes. Those that just can't get enough riding in and are seeking a little variety in how they experience their forests and trails, want to slow down a little perhaps, and enjoy rides with like-minded friends. The essence of mountain biking, more or less, for me. Is it worth spending $7000+ on? Of course not. It's ridiculous and completely indefensible. But I can't think of a better way to spend money, if you have it, than on a well made bicycle that delivers magical moments on a misty winter ride with your best friends laughing at your dumb line choice. The lure of the hardtail is alive and well, and Knolly's produced a bike that makes me want to ride. A lot.

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Comments

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
1 week, 6 days ago
+11 Muesliman Lynx . mrbrett Pete Roggeman Cam McRae mmayo NealWood Nologo kcy4130 Tremeer023 DadStillRides

Great rave, I think you've captured a piece of truth in your description of hardtailin'

> I was left with only one thing to concentrate on when riding it: making myself light. Placement, line choice and weighting/unweighting the bike become so important, and so rewarding.

Reply

mmayo
mmayo
1 week, 6 days ago
+1 DanL

Thanks! of course this is true no matter the bike, but it does constantly surprise me how much a hardtail you love riding makes this the ONLY THING.  So fun!  :)

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
1 week, 6 days ago
+10 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae DanL Lynx . NealWood Briain kain0m Joseph Crabtree Tremeer023 Velocipedestrian

I keep grabbing a hardtail each ride while my sweet FS bike gathers dust for only one reason...it's so much fun. There are some other good reasons, but fun wins the argument every time so no need to look further.

Reply

andrewc
andrewc
1 week, 6 days ago
+7 Cam McRae Lu Kz Lynx . Pete Roggeman 4Runner1 Tremeer023 Velocipedestrian

I was hardtail-curious, so ditched the FS and went all-in. I don't regret it at all. It's theoretically less-capable... but all the terrain I enjoy riding is still very doable. I guess it's a bit rougher? I guess I can't go as fast? I'm not a speed demon and I tend to prefer slower-speed tech to all-out shredding and for that purpose, I don't feel like I'm missing out by not having a rear shock. 

Big wheels, long-wheelbase and good geo contribute more to a bikes usability than it's suspension configuration, IMO. 

I'm not going to be heading to WBP anytime soon but for typical North Shore/Lower Mainland riding, it's great.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 6 days ago
+4 Lynx . goose8 Mammal slimchances57

Brakes and tires are also arguably even more impactful on how a hardtail rides than in the case of a dually. Get 'em wrong and you can't be happy. Get it right and it's incredible what you can do.

Reply

Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 andrewc Velocipedestrian

Great to find another who's "metric" of fun isn't all down to "how fast", that's exactly what and how I like to ride AndrewC. Did you get an alu, steel or carbon HT and which one?

Reply

andrewc
andrewc
1 week, 6 days ago
+3 Lynx . Pete Roggeman Andrew Major

I managed to find one of the last 2021 Devinci Kobain 12s SLX builds. From what I could figure, a FS with equivalent spec would set me back an additional ~1k to 1.5k and I couldn't bring myself to drop that type of coin. 

I had been curious about hardtails so thought I'd give it a go. So far no regrets. There are a few small things I might consider upgrading but overall it's a very rideable package out of the box. Currently mulling over some brake upgrades but the stock stoppers haven't been quite as bad as I thought they might be. Trying to be economical about it and use everything up before seeking replacements.

Edit: I'll also add that the geo isn't necessarily groundbreaking stuff but IMO is just right. It feels totally natural to ride. Stable, yet easy to maneuver, planted, yet playful? All I know is that I finish my rides with a big smile on my face. Mission accomplished.

Reply

Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 6 days ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

Man, had heard of the bike, but never checked it out, that's a really nice bike, geo, spec., on point for me too. Think you made a great choice, that is such a sweet, all-round HT that should have you covered everywhere. Colour is the only thing I'm not too sure on for me, in some photos it looks really nice, in others, so-so - but you could change/enhance that with some frame protection stickers/vinyl.

As you say some things could be upgraded, but pretty damn go straight out and ride build kit. The brakes are the only thing there that might be needing an upgrade, just remember those are resin only rotors, so if you're upgrading to say 180/203, you probably want to get both instead of reusing one of the original ones. The M5100 4 piston Shimanos seem to get rave reviews, maybe you could just get a caliper and swap it into the front, coupled with a 203mm rotor, your braking would improve immensely.

Everything else is upgrade as wears out good IMHO. Only thing I shake my head at is calling it an SLX build when the only SLX part is the RD, everything else is Deore - I'd take an XT shifter and Deore RD over Deore shifter and SLX RD.

Reply

andrewc
andrewc
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 Pete Roggeman Lynx .

Yup, the rotors are probably the biggest weak point. I might start with replacing pads/rotors and then if I'm still wanting for more power I might try to sub-in a 4 piston caliper (MT420, 520? Whatever's cheap?) OR go ball-out on a set of Formula Curas (2 or 4... they both get great reviews). 

I've been having tons of fun bombing around on more uppie/downie trails than the typical winch and plummet stuff so haven't felt too held-back by the current brakes.

Reply

Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Hahaha, yup, amazing how much fun a nice HT can bring back to MTBing, make trails that had gotten "old" and "boring" fun again, make you want to go do longer rides linking up said trails.

DanL
DanL
1 week, 6 days ago
+5 Vik Banerjee Cam McRae mmayo Pete Roggeman Lynx .

I just finished building up a Rootdown as I was hardtail curious, and I am enjoying it so much, a lot more than I thought I would. I'm having so much fun on trails that I'd normally avoid unless it was just to get from A to B. 
In some ways, I wish I hadn't had the opportunity to see the Ti Tyaughton at their office - it's a beautiful piece of work and it's great to hear it rides as good as it looks.

Reply

skooks
Skooks
1 week, 6 days ago
+4 Vik Banerjee Pete Roggeman Cam McRae NealWood

I have the steel frame Ty, and I couldn't agree more with everything you wrote. I wouldn't choose it as my only bike, but it's the one I almost always grab for solo missions or long, fun, epic group rides. Your last sentence really resonated with me:

" Knolly's produced a bike that makes me want to ride. A lot. "

Reply

mmayo
mmayo
1 week, 6 days ago
+3 Pete Roggeman Lynx . NealWood

Thanks for the comment!  Some supporting data: I've logged 47 rides this year (57hrs, 11,200m climbing) and 34 of them have been on the Tyaughton.

Reply

mmayo
mmayo
1 week, 6 days ago
+3 Pete Roggeman Lu Kz Todd Hellinga

Pre-emptive apology for the random photo sizes and low resolutions.  Cam asked me for higher res photos in the standard NSMB landscape orientation and I forgot to send them. And by forgot, I mean "I ignored the request".  Sorry Cam!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae
1 week, 5 days ago
0

No worries! They worked out fine.

You more than made up for it with your elegantly thoughtful and artfully-expressed observations. And you had excellent support from Deniz as well. 

Thanks again for the great piece!

Reply

knollybikes.com
knollybikes.com
1 week, 5 days ago
+3 Lu Kz Pete Roggeman DadStillRides

Hello Mark, Pete and Cam:

This "non-review" was a pleasant surprise yesterday - thank you.  We have put a lot of work into both the Tyaughton Titanium and the Tyaughton Steel bikes and the amount of custom tooling we have opened for these bikes frankly makes no sense in this marketspace.  But it also makes them what they are :)

As an aside, the Tyaughton Steel is made by the same vendor to the same exacting materials and quality standards as the Tyaughton Titanium.  It's a bit heavier but signifncantly lighter on the wallet. 

Sounds like a debrief is in order: I'm sure I can find some quality drams kicking around to share!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 Lu Kz Pete Roggeman

That sounds like my kind of high-level meeting Noel. Very keen.*

*The nicest single malts I've ever tasted were courtesy of Señor Buckley.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Also keen, Noel ;)

It's been a while!

Reply

4Runner1
4Runner1
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae

Good read and gorgeous bike. Cheers!

Reply

Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae

Great, I read this article over morning coffee and now all morning I've been thinking about how best to reintroduce a hardtail into my already burgeoning fleet (I am aware this is an extremely good problem to have as someone with no kids and free reign over my basement and garage). 

I sold my Stache in 2020 after 3 years of ownership and a knee injury which meant the elevated chainstay interfered with my new pedal/foot/ankle position. The injury happened well before I sold the bike, but I lived in denial for probably half the time I had the bike. But ultimately I couldn't ride it on all the trails I wanted to and replaced it, flying back to full suspension land. Reading your account/rave/justification-for-spending-7000USD-on-a-hardtail just brings back fond memories of time spent on my Stache. I bet a normal hardtail with normally placed chainstays would be fine for me!

Damn you Mark* Mayo. Now look what you're going to make me do.

*Edited and corrected. Damn Mike Mayo too, whoever you are.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 6 days ago
+1 Lu Kz

*Mark ;)

We'll just have to get him writing for us more often so his name comes naturally.

Reply

Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 6 days ago
0

Should always have a Steel HT in the fleet, especially when you've ridden/owned one of the fun ones. Sad about the elevated stays on the Stache, it did cause an issue for quite a few people, the stays didn't need to be as short to need it, could have been 10mm longer and been fine.

Reply

Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

Did the stays need to be that short? No. Was the entire bike an absolute clown fiesta when slammed in to "short as possible" chainstay mode with fast rolling balloon tires? Absolutely. Major party. Smart? No. Fun? yes.

Reply

kain0m
kain0m
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 Mammal Pete Roggeman

Well written. I've bought into a "gnarly" hardtail a few years ago, and I agree - it is a different experience, but it is a fun one. They are amazingly capable, and it is easy to forget you're not on a squishy big bike. That is, right up until the moment where you're chasing one into a rock garden.

What I find is that riding a hardtail makes finding flowing lines so much more enjoyable - all of a sudden, you're gliding though some pretty nasty terrain, and picking up speed in the process.

Reply

D4nderson
D4nderson
2 weeks ago
+1 Velocipedestrian

That’s a niiiice bike! I toss around the idea of getting a well build HT to sit along side my full suspension but I couldn’t afford it. I wonder what would be more enjoyable: a higher end hard tail or entry level full suspension. That decision seems to be made by my joints rather than my brain or wallet.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 6 days ago
+3 Lu Kz Lynx . D4nderson

When he's up to speed riding again, Andrew is going to start tackling budget hardtail reviews. It should be interesting to see what conclusions come out of that. 

I think that I'd have to agree with Mark, which is that a nice hardtail complements your other bike(s), but may not replace any of them (for me, where I live - YMMV). If forced to choose, I'd opt for the entry level full suspension over the bling-y hardtail, but that formula might be different if I lived somewhere else.

Reply

mmayo
mmayo
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 Pete Roggeman Lynx .

Ditto. The acquisition of a Ti hardtail is, for me, the literal fulfillment to a lusting for such a thing that's been 30 years in the making..   is ownership all I imagined it to be after 3 decades of waiting? no, of course not. but is it proving to be a one night affair where we both walk away disappointed and confused?  amazingly, also no!  6 months in, it's still the bike I ride the most.   

but seriously, buy a cheap hardtail first as long as the fork isn't crap. 95% as good, use the extra funds for road trips to Bend.  only buy Ti as a mid-life crisis solution.  lol.  gulp.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 6 days ago
+1 mmayo

Nicely said, Mark, esp the part about the importance of a good fork, and road trips to Bend. They should market themselves as hardtail capital of the PNW, if not the US.

Reply

mmayo
mmayo
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 Lynx . Pete Roggeman

There's so many great "complete" hardtails sold that sacrifice too much in the fork department for this part of the world, IMO. I get why they do it -- it's a volume bike that had to be positioned globally and hit a price point -- but for us here in the PNW the resulting experience is defined by fear and buyer's remorse..  HT is one of the few categories left in bikes where buying a frame and building it up is probably the way to go.  

I do think this is a big part of understanding the "value" of a higher-end build like the Knolly, Chromag, etc.  You don't have to immediately start replacing parts. First ride impressions matter!

Let's go ride in Bend, Pete!

Reply

Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 week, 6 days ago
+1 Andrew Major

I really don't envy product managers for the "entryish level hardtail that totally needs to shred" category. A lot of riders out there are going to be totally happy with a deore/sunrace drivetrain mix if it means getting up from a Rockshox 35 to a revelation or Yari, but so many others will see a similarly priced hardtail from another company that squeezed slx/xt mixed drivetrains on to the thing in exchange for a less awesome fork. Yeesh!

Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 6 days ago
+1 Timer

@Lu KZ and then there are companies specing 12spd Deore AND a Performance F34 (without bushing play) for the price of those with the mish mash drivetrain and RS 35 fork - just look at the PB budget shoot out this year, although not many contenders, but a definite clear picture of the huge difference in what brands are offering compared to others.

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 6 days ago
0

I think a hardtail trip would be a blast! We'll take your car, though...

Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 6 days ago
0

Pete, so absolutely right about good brakes and tyres and also about the fork. Have been amazed by all the budget coverage I've seen and how absolute shit the new RS 35s are with bushing play straight from the factory as standard - thought they'd done away with that crap back in the DUKE days. Honestly, low end RS/SRAM stuff is crap compared to Fox or Shimano in that price point these days

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Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 week, 6 days ago
0

>When he's up to speed riding again, Andrew is going to start tackling budget hardtail reviews.

I'd say something along the lines of "poor bastard", but we all know he's a sucker for that exact brand of punishment at this point.

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agleck7
Agleck7
1 week, 6 days ago
0

Super cool. To me a Spur does all of this as a complement to the big bike without the punishment but haven’t tried a modern hardtail so can’t say for sure.

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Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 5 days ago
0

I can absolutely agree with you on that since I got my Phantom back up and running, a nice, short travel FS can and does do all of that, but definitely not even close to how/what you get from a HT, lots more work, much more concentration on lines, keeping light etc., such a different ride.

[quote=Agleck7]

"Super cool. To me a Spur does all of this as a complement to the big bike without the punishment but haven’t tried a modern hardtail so can’t say for sure."

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mrt
Mr.T
1 week, 4 days ago
0

I have a Spur in the stable and have a Chromag Arcturian that came in January… the spur doesn’t see much saddle time as the Chromag is just a barrel of fun. I find the Spur gets pulled out for longer rides with a bit more air time/chunk, but if it’s a proper session type ride the 167mm Chilcotin comes out to play.

I also have a SS that is Ti from Blacksheep, it was cutting edge two in 2010 and remains amazing but the newer geo is fantastic and I shopped the Tyaughton vs the Arcturian and it came down to the big meaty tires as a fat bike alternative for snow.

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just6979
Justin White
1 week, 5 days ago
0

"My god I hate dealing with inserts."

Surprised you didn't go with a DoubleDown in back instead. Pretty close to the same weight difference, in fact DD might be lighter, if that matters at all. What does matter is adding some damping and protection with no insert fuss!

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knollybikes.com
knollybikes.com
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Justin White

Justin: I agree.

For aggressive riding on the Tyaughton, I am a fan of EXO+ on the front and DD on the rear.  I personally am not a fan of inserts, but I know many who are and have to admit that once they did save me from a long walk out where a freak accident sheered a valve stem off of a rear wheel.

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just6979
Justin White
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Ouch! But not as ouch as it could have been, I guess.

I actually carry a spare stem, partly to protect the spare valve core, partly because I have also seen the shear off happen, back in the tube days. Might ditch it if I ever find myself needing to run inserts (because can't find sturdy enough tires for some reason).

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flattire2
Brian Tuulos
1 week, 5 days ago
0

No mention of the ride quality of Ti?  I'm beginning to think the appeal of steel and Ti hardtails is diminishing. Considering the rollover ability of 29in wheels and tire inserts that let you run 18psi in a huge volume tire.  Hardtail ride quality has gone way up recently.  You can get a great cheap modern alu HT frame for $500.  Sweet ride though.  Totally agree with how fun modern geo hardtails are.

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pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 5 days ago
0

From one of the last paragraphs, Mark wrote: "Which build? I can't imagine the titanium rides any different than the steel; it's just a touch lighter and a lot prettier if a raw finish is your thing."

It's also the first hardtail he's owned in a long time so I think the omission is just based on the fact that it would be speculation. The plan for Deniz was to follow up his steel Tyaughton review with some time aboard the Ti version so he could compare directly. But, as Mark stated, Knolly has been sold out of the Ti since then, so they haven't had one available for Deniz to ride.

And I am not speaking from experience here, but my own speculation would be that the Ti and Steel would feel similar. Perhaps a really discerning hardtailer could pick out some nuance, but larger wheels, beefier tires, longer and better damped forks (to say nothing of carbon bars and things like inserts) could all contribute to masking some of the differences that used to be more obvious between different hardtails (and which are downright easy to feel on a road bike).

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knollybikes.com
knollybikes.com
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 DadStillRides DanL

Pete and Mark are correct.  I'm not sure if it's cool to link to one of our own blog posts (from last year), but this post about Steel vs. Titanium re: the Cache is generally correct for the Tyaughton as well.

https://knollybikes.com/blogs/knews/steel-vs-titanium

This would NOT be the case for aluminum.  We build bikes based on feel and aluminum is an amazing material - but for full suspension bikes.  For rigid bikes, titanium and steel provide superior feel, even if aluminum is lighter weight than both.  That's not to say that there aren't some great riding aluminum road, gravel and hardtail MTB bikes on the market, but from "a purely feel" standpoint, both steel and titanium are superior (assuming all other things being equal).

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Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 6 days ago
-2 Andy Eunson 4Runner1 IslandLife Marco Rota

Straight up, I'll grant you, beautiful bike, have loved Ti since I saw my first one, an Airborne from the late 90s, but $7k, for a HT, even if it's Ti, that's not custom, that's just insane, sorry. 

As you wrote, he doesn't give a crap what anyone else thinks, he does/designs what he wants and has a group of people that will think it's gods work and buy it, similar to the Jones sheeple who used to believe him, that one bike size can fit anyone from 5'4" to 6'4".

To the having a HT in your lineup is good, abso-frikin-lutely it is, just as you stated several times, remember that it's a HT and YOU are the rear suspension, so don't go charging too hard into sections like it's your FS and you'll be all good and have a crap load of fun.

Side note - love how no one ever brings up Noel's adamancy saying that he'd NEVER build a 29er, yet they're what everyone is designing, selling and riding these days, especially if it's a HT.

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Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 week, 6 days ago
+4 4Runner1 Matt Lee IslandLife Cam McRae

Well, Specialized said 27.5 was stupid and then build a ton of them.

And after that, Giant said 29ers were stupid and then built a ton of them.

And Niner had a 27.5 bike in their lineup for a while.

Lots of people have said stupid platitudes about wheel size and then changed their mind. Mountain biking conversations with friends would be so much more boring if we couldn't double down on the dumb shit we say only to change our minds later.

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cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae
1 week, 6 days ago
+7 mmayo Pete Roggeman Lu Kz NealWood cheapondirt IslandLife Marco Rota

Well said. It's a good lesson for writers as well. Don't shy away from bold prouncements just because you may be proven wrong one day. Being a loose canon isn't a great idea for an economist, but this is riding sized-up kids bikes in the woods!

#mountainbikingisseriousbusiness

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pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 6 days ago
+4 Lu Kz Lynx . IslandLife Cam McRae

#26aintdead!

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pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 6 days ago
+6 4Runner1 Lu Kz shenzhe NealWood IslandLife Marco Rota

It's a life lesson. If anything, we should know to be careful about making definitive statements. Changing one's mind about something just shows that someone can be convinced to look through different eyes. Holding someone to what they said in the past and not giving them the opportunity to amend it or change their mind isn't a recipe for progress, whether it's bike design or politics.

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Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 6 days ago
-2 IslandLife Marco Rota

@Lu Kz you've just named 2 of the biggest companies and followers in the market, who've I've no respect for because that's all they ever do. Giant thought 29ers were a fad, so they didn't do them, but then realised too late this was no flash in the pan thing and so went all in on 650B, pushed super hard for people to call it 27.5" and try to make people believe it was closer to 29" than 26", when in fact 650B is closer to 27" and 26" is also closer to 27" than 26" and 29" is 29"+. Spesh built 650B because the press did as the big corporates said and pushed it hard and people ate up the "more playful, flickable" and all the other BS they were touting.

NEITHER of those companies said they'd never make a 29er, Noel flat out stated he would NEVER EVER make one because they were clumsy and awkward.

Niner, they're like Trump to me, I don't take them seriously about anything.

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Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 week, 6 days ago
+4 Marco Rota BadNudes Cam McRae Lynx .

Given what I said in the comment you're replying to, I want you to know that I respect you for being strong in your mountain bike convictions. 

.....And if they happen to ever change in the course of the future for any reason, I won't respect you any less.

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Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 4 days ago
0

When you make such a hard lined, statement (lots did, mainly big corps and now 29ers are their bread and butter) and you're a small company/brand, that is just plain arrogant AF, and silly AF, they missed out on so many sales over the years because they did not embrace it, early like they could have - they had a great suspension platform to build off of. 

Just because you, an advanced rider doesn't like the 29ers you've tested, doesn't mean anything, it's not about the elite 1% rider, it's about the rest of the hacks, like me, you know, the majority, who greatly benefit from the extra roll over and grip, allowing for much less aggressive tyres while still getting the same level of grip in a faster rolling package.

Then again, I guess small buliders/companies are also allowed the "let's sit, wait and watch what/how everyone else does it, take notes and then make ours using everyone elses", but that's not how I generally think of small brands, they lead or they perish, but I guess when you have a following like Knolly and are happy staying small, then :-\

I can say with certainty that I won't ever make a hard statement like that and ever go back on it, I'm not so arrogant, I might say I don't think something is good or right, but I won't flat out refuse to use/try something and ever go back on that, I can promise you that.

To those few Knolly lemmings who negged my comments, without even having the cahones to reply, because I don't swoon over their brand, your bikes will still ride just how they did before even if someone isn't a fan, but sure do wish you kids luck in life if stuff like that gets your panties in such a twist. BTW, was a fan, thought the suspension design was fantastic, would have made a great platform to build an aggresive 29er on, great early adopter of the big hoops and lead the way, but they didn't, but luckily Banshee wasn't so short sighted.

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skooks
Skooks
1 week, 6 days ago
+3 4Runner1 Lu Kz Pete Roggeman

I guess Noel changed his mind about 29ers. I'm very glad he did!

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