You know what I love about Knolly's bikes? They're always an interesting blend of characteristics that you usually don't see together, and the Fugitive is no different. The bike also sports much more new-school numbers that Knolly has employed in the past, but the Fugitive still feels every bit the Knolly that it is when the trail heads downward.
Handling first, which is on the nimble side of the spectrum, even when the Fugitive is in its slackest position. While I wouldn't call it nervous, it's a bike that can change direction on a dime, a trait that makes it quite the machine in the slow to mid-speed jank that usually laughs at your efforts to hold any momentum. The blue bike can easily dart around those boulders and roots that need to be bypassed, and it's an easy thing to get off the ground when you need to go over them instead of around them.
Roll or drop, the Knolly doesn't really care. It's sturdy.
It's those awkward, not quite downhill but also not quite flat bits of the trail is where the Knolly can really haul ass, especially with its active suspension that lets you stay seated if that's how you want to do it. It's in those settings that the 135mm-travel, part down-country, part all-mountain Knolly can leave squishier bikes in its dust.
The 150mm-travel Fox 36 fork makes for a 15mm difference between each end of the bike, and Knolly says that this combo is one of their most-sold spec options with 78-percent of Fugitive sales going that way. What I do know, however, is that up-forking a bike doesn't mean that said bike is automatically more capable. The Fugitive feels supremely flex-free and solid compared to similar rigs I've been on, but you'll be reminded that a long-stroke fork does not an all-mountain bike make. The positive spin would be to say that the blue Knolly rewards a rider with finesse and foresight rather than someone with a leap and pray mindset, as the Fugitive is a 135mm bike no matter what fork is bolted to the front of it.
This is one hell of a fun bike in the corners, though, with a sort of energy that long-travel machines just can't match. It literally felt like it was jumping out of some of the tighter berms and bends, and it'll take only a handful of those moments before you realize what this whole short-travel movement is all about.
The trick, though, is to make a trail bike that doesn't feel like a warmed-over cross-country rig, and that's exactly what Knolly has done with the Fugitive. You'll note exactly that in rough, chopped out corners where the blue bike tracks the ground better than machines with similar amounts of rear-wheel travel, and the bomb-proof ride encourages some foot-out sliding as per required. And it's always required.
The 150mm-travel Fox 36 means that you can get after it more than on your usual short-travel rig.
The Fox 36, with its Grip2 internals, performed as we've come to expect; it was trouble-free and is my favorite damper out there right now. It's a lot of fork for the Fugitive, and I'd probably go with less travel up front if I spec'd my version of the bike, but it was also appreciated here in Squamish where things are steep and steeper. The little Fox shock did well, too, and I could run 30-percent sag to get full travel when I should, but without hitting the end of the stroke too often.
That's tricker than you might think with modern short-travel bikes that need to squeeze in being supple on top, supportive in the middle, and ramp-up at the end, all with just 135mm. Get it wrong and it'll bottom out its stroke more often than a teenage boy with a lock on his bedroom door, but Knolly got it right.