This follow up review (part 2) has been a long time coming but I think it’s better because I’ve had the time to iron out the kinks to get the bike to where I feel it’s about as good (riding wise) as it can be. A lot of what I’ve written in the previous review about the Podium still holds true and I won’t be repeating myself. For 2011, the Podium has not seen any changes since Knolly has been going through a transition year — moving its manufacturing overseas (this is probably worth a read if you’re really curious).
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
From the original build I have changed out a few things that have made a difference in riding, handling and performance of the bike. The current build with the changes are listed below (see bolded items):
Frame: Knolly Podium. RAW (small). 213mm travel.
Shock: Cane Creek Double Barrel 9.5 x 3 (400 Ti spring)
Fork: 2012 Fox 40. 203mm
Crankset: Shimano Saint M815 165mm, 36T E13 chainring
Chainguide: MRP mini G2 chainguide
Pedals: Twenty6 Products Prerunner
Rear Shifter: Shimano Deore XT
Rear Deraileur: Shimano Saint Short Cage
Seatpost: Thompson Elite
Seat: WTB Devo Carbon / Ti
Stem: Hope Integrated Stem and Top crown 50mm
Headset: Cane Creek XXC flush top and External Cup bottom
Handlebar: Chromag OSX 760mm
Grips: ODI Troy Lee Design
Brakes: Shimano Saint Brakes. Hope 203 F/R floating rotors
Wheelset: Mavic 823, Chris King Hubs
Casette: Shimano Saint/SLX Cassette 9 Speed HG80
Chain: KMC 9SL Ti
Front Tire: Maxxis Minion DHF ST 26 x 2.5 – Tubeless
Rear Tire: Maxxis Minion DHF ST 26 x 2.5 – Tubeless
Approximate Weight: 38 lbs, 7 oz.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
I was missing the suppleness, smoothness and control that I enjoy with a coil fork. When I switched from the Boxxer World Cup fork to the 2012 Fox 40 fork, I got what I was hoping for and then some. The Boxxer air fork was just terrible and I was never quite settled with how the bike felt when riding through small bumps. Where I saw room for improvement was when conditions changed rapidly from small bumps to big dips and drops. With the WC, the bike felt harsh in small bumps and it tended to chatter… so I compensated for this by using less than 40PSI. This made it more tolerable (the stiction on the WC is terrible in the first 2 inches of travel), but doing so, I gave up the big bump handling characteristics. Overall, it was a lose / lose situation to get the WC to work on the Podium; I knew in the back of my mind, an air fork should never be used on a non-race DH bike.
The Fork change was key in getting the Podium from good to great. I’m much more stoked to ride it now as it plows over everything and feels as smooth as a big old caddy rolling over potholes. The front end is much more stable with the larger stanctions, the small bumps are barely noticeable and the bike just flows and tracks through the turns. It’s more comfortable at higher speeds, it feels much more fluid for nose heavy landings when all the travel is going to be used.
Noteworthy: One little thing I did was to mount the CCDB shock with the reservoir pointed down. Since the reservoir end is the heavier end, it lowers the bike’s center of balance. In theory, this makes it easier (in turns) to lay the bike over from side to side, as the top of the bike has less pendulum weight. Although I can’t say this has had any effect, it definitely makes it look cooler and I haven’t felt the need to switch it back
GETTING MORE POP
What I like about my shorter travel bikes are how poppy and nimble they are for hopping in and out of turns as well as flickability of the rear wheel. With a DH sled, the longer wheelbase and deeper travel requires a little more effort and patience. In really fast-tight turns, the bike would slam through its travel and would wallow around a bit before springing back to life out of the turn. To give me a little more spring (pardon the pun) I went up to a 400# Ti spring by DSP-racing from a 350#. This made a lot of sense, since I could run the low and high speed compression almost fully open with plenty of room for fine tuning (especially with the CCDB shock). Immediately, the back end got a boost of life in the aforementioned situations. To help keep the low bump sensitivity, I only turned the preload to 1 1/8 turn from engagement. This worked really well and didn’t appear to have been a tradeoff.
While some of the component changes were made by choice, others were a necessity. One such necessity was going to an external bottom cup headset. This was needed to provide clearance for the Fox’s lower crown which would strike the bottom of the frame near the main headtube junction (if I had kept a zero stack lower cup). If you own the medium or the large frame, I think you’ll have better luck.
I started with 170mm cranks on the original build but went to 165mm to give myself a little more room for those occasional pedal or crank strikes. This was further helped with the external headset bottom cup, raising the bike ever so slightly. I still get pedal strikes occasionally and could see moving to 160 as an option but have decided against it. The bike feels comfortable as is and sometimes it’s better to leave things be.
At 38.44 lbs, it’s respectable for a DH bike. The bike is currently fitted with Maxxis Minion DHF Super Sticky 2 ply tires currently for summer and the plan is to switch to the Minion EXO single ply when we get a little more moisture on the ground. This should easily drop the bike down in the low 37 lb range. It will be interesting to see how this works on the Podium, as I’ve done this with my Delirium. The single ply tires move around a little more and I have had a couple of close calls with the rear tire burping and rolling off in berms — I’ve since put a tube in the rear; and so far so good.
I have ridden this bike in lots of different terrain over the course of a year and I’ve never had to say I don’t have enough bike. The Podium is a very very capable sled and the average owner will not outgrow it. Simply put, it could be the last DH you will own.
Knolly is a small bike company where you can still find friendly, knowledgeable and professional staff. For more information and perspectives, visit the mtbr knolly forum where you can find Noel answering posts. Need more info? Check out the Knollybikes.com or dial em up at (604) 324-6635.
GOOD: After a year, the Podium rides as well as the first time it was built. The suspension links are tight and the bearings are perfect. With a Fox 40 it is a dream to ride. Definitely a confidence inspiring bike.
BAD: External bottom headset cup required for Fox 40 owners on small frames. Pedal strike issues, but is minimized with 165mm crank length. Chain slap can be damaging to upper chainstay. Be sure to get that protected.
Reviewed by Qwan Pham