Cruising around on trails at a slower speed it does feel a bit like the bike isn’t really giving you anything back and is sometimes a bit hard to hold a line with. The bike also barely came out of the slack setting, mainly to try and get the bottom bracket down to avoid the feeling of being top heavy and toppling over into the corners. Increasing the speed on trail does make the Warden give more back. It’s a bike that can go really fast and attempt to keep up with some of the 29er enduro bikes that are more common today. But there’s a bit of a window to where the Warden feels at its best on the trail as up at the ragged edge it does begin to get a bit wild aboard it.
It also isn’t a bike that eggs you on to go faster and push harder. While pottering around at slow speeds you don’t get the sense you’re being nudged by the bike to pick the pace up a bit. You tend to just end up riding the bike faster and then discovering that in the middle zone is where it goes best.
The window of operation started to become more apparent on much rougher sections of trail that are best hit at speed and with a bunch of aggression. In those sections the Warden LT started to feel less precise and more unsettled. While it could hustle along through those fast rough parts, I really had to pay less attention to what was going on beneath you and just get on with it. If I paid attention to it a bit too much then I'd likely reduce the speed to get it back in its comfort zone. So, while it can go really fast, you need to ignore a bit of the chaos happening and just get on with the job in hand. Up at these speeds and aggression levels it didn’t feel that it’s where the Warden LT excels.
When the trail is a little more mellow and a touch less demanding, then the Warden starts to shine and everything starts to slot into place. Over in the Alps there are a few trails that really have a Canadian feel to them, those secret trails around the Sea to Sky zone being my reference. They’re soft, loamy, undulating and starting to become just a touch more rooty and rocky as the soft ground breaks up and exposes them. While I call them a little slice of Canada here in Switzerland, they’re somewhat replicas of the stomping ground for Knolly and this was the light bulb moment with the Warden LT.
Give it something like this, and it is in its element. Not absolutely at the ragged edge but still cracking on and terrain that just undulates so smoothly up and down as well as left and right that you’re not getting all twisted up and chucked around. All the while needing to absorb the constant pitter patter of those roots and rocks that are just breaking through the soil as well as support you in the undulations as the trail makes its way down the hill.
Despite the angular contact bearings, there is some noticeable flex in the bike. You can notice the rear of the bike moving around when you really get motoring in particularly rough sections of trail that have a lot of twisting input from terrain and rider alike. The pivots are very small in diameter and the rear tube sections are very thin. This increased flexibility doesn’t lend itself well to inspiring the utmost confidence up at the ragged edge and when you need to be precise but forceful and aggressive with your riding. But again, that doesn't seem to be where the Warden excels.
That slightly higher than normal bottom bracket, and low bar height, might also be contributing factors to the recommended 30% sag, and the Warden LT does feel better with more sag in the back, along with a much stiffer than recommended fork setup. I even experimented with sag approaching 35% to get the bottom bracket lower and counter some of that deadlift position feeling to it, but that was getting too far into a corner of setup and the negatives of the big sag began to outweigh the positives. But, even with 30% sag in the shock the Warden LT wasn’t banging off the bottom out bumper all day long. While I could bottom it out with some good hucks to flat, it felt like there wass a good dollop of bottom out support in there and the increased sag didn’t yield too much of a sluggish feeling in the suspension.
On that note, it is an easily manoeuvrable bike, some of that attributed to the slightly shorter reach in real life than on paper with the tower of stem spacers and high amounts of sag. It’s a bike that does like to play on the trail. A manual here, a nose bonk there are all welcome, possible and encouraged.
Over the past few years, I’ve been riding a lot of bikes so focussed on speed and aggressiveness of trail. Understandably, too, as there are so many of them out there right now that need testing. But having ridden over in that Canadian area the idea of a big pedal out to ride a big tech line, maybe not at the highest of speeds, seems to be what the Warden LT is for, and so excels at. If there’s a stopwatch involved then the Knolly would rather go grab a beer. This is also something that Knolly were alluding to when we were discussing setting up the test bike. While the Warden LT could enter an enduro race, that’s not really i's forte.
It’s a bike that’s going to transport you to the top of a hill in a non-rushed fashion and then make you smile on those technical, steep and tricky descents where your satisfaction in riding is going to come from clearing a section of tech rather than death gripping and hitting it as fast as humanly possible. And in those soft and meandering trails, often described as loamy, it's actually a joy to ride. There’s many a way to have fun on a bike and with all these ridiculously fast but sometimes single minded 29ers of late I might have forgotten about some of the other ways to have fun on a bike other than just scaring myself with speed.