Welcome to the second blog post of our new website! I'm going to talk about the engineering section on our website: right now, there is not a huge amount of information on it but that's going to change. My goal is to update the engineering section with a series of blog posts over the next several months. These won't be all hard core engineering posts (but some will be :) in fact, much of it will be philosophical and aimed at the "Why" we design bikes the way we do.
You've probably seen this before: the Golden Circle.
There are a couple of variations of it: one incorporates an additional centre: the "Who" circle, which is meant to represent you - the customer.
At Knolly, the customer is always first: it's the core tenet of our business and we have been pretty vocal about that. So our circle has the additional "Who" in the centre where it should be but I will spend a lot of this blog post (and future engineering blog posts) on the "Why" and "How" sections of the circle.
Today we'll talk a bit about why we do things the way that we do and why we're somewhat different than the majority of the industry (we'll talk about "How" in a future post). There might be a bit of mud slinging, but we'll keep it professional, anonymous and general :) But it will hopefully give you an idea of what drives us here at Knolly, why we're different than the majority of mountain bike brands, why it's an uphill battle (without whining) and "Why" we are the way that we are!
"Why" starts with what we think our customers (you - the "Who") want in our products. We hear you when you say: "Hey guys - make one of these! I'll buy it for sure!" Of course, those kinds of comments make us excited. It's ultimately and unapologetically why we're in business: to sell the "What" we make to the "Who" that are our customers. However, the "How" and "Why" are what make Knolly unique and this will be the focus of these engineering blog posts.
What is "Why"? "Why" is a question, but it's more than that, "Why?" is Knolly's mission statement, our spirit, our raison d'être.
Why does Knolly exist? Knolly exists because we have a vision to produce a product that puts the rider's experience first and foremost. Knolly exists because as riders we want to develop innovative mountain bike suspension technology, push manufacturing quality and progress overall on-trail performance. As far as we know, we are the only high end manufacturer with its own in house patent portfolio continuously being advanced. We develop our own in house suspension technology: almost everyone else uses industry design houses and / or licenses their suspension designs from a very small group of licensee providers.
"Why does Knolly exist? Knolly exists because we have a vision to produce a product that puts the rider's experience first and foremost."
Knolly doesn't exist to support a board of directors, it doesn't exist to capture as much market share as possible at the expense of our competitors, it doesn't exist so that we can build the company as quickly as possible and sell it off. It exists because we ride bikes, many of our customers are our friends who also ride bikes and we want to engineer, manufacture and sell products that we feel deliver the best overall experience to our like minded customers.
But it's also important to know what you want to be good at and what your core market segment wants. Knolly's philosophy is that our products need to work predictably, at the highest level and in every type of trail condition. In fact, in our opinion, the worse things get, the more you should be able to rely on your bike. Making something perform well in moderate conditions is easy: making it perform well when all hell is breaking loose is quite another. That's not to say that performance has to suffer in moderate conditions: it doesn't. Knolly employs a variety of frame and rear shock technology to give you the best combination of pedaling efficiency and stellar off road performance. We also tailor this split depending upon application: obviously our trail bikes are going to be better pedalers and our free ride bikes will handle severe - really severe - terrain. But it's not "one or the other": there is a precise amount of overlap and consistency throughout the product line.
The challenge with our approach is that it's an educated sell: it's a sell that only works once you have the entire perspective on what mountain biking is. In a world where sales are most often based on "reviews" and what looks cool on the showroom floor, this is a difficult approach to take. It means that while we do market our bikes, we rely on the word of mouth of existing customers to grow our business. This goes all the way back to the "who" in the centre of the Golden Circle - our customers. They are our best advocates and we will do everything to support them!
"Making something perform well in moderate conditions is easy: making it perform well when all hell is breaking loose is quite another."
Achieving a Natural Feel:
We're not talking about toilet paper: we're talking about feeling comfortable in the cockpit. Instantly comfortable. We believe in trying to make every performance aspect of our bikes feel natural. Nothing is weird, there is nothing to "get used to": it's just set up and ride. This means overall geometry, chain tension (a big part of pedaling dynamics), braking performance and of course suspension feel / shock progression all have to feel natural. Many suspension designs try to be extra clever and use a "chain tension pocket" or regressive rear shock progression to make the bike feel snappy. The problem with this approach is that when things aren't smooth, these design choices start to backfire: weird shock tunes end up becoming out of phase with the fork when descending and even during technical climbing. Traction becomes limited - especially when you need it most. The rear wheel's travel has a section (usually around the sag point) where the rate of change of chain growth is extreme: most riders don't realize that pedaling pre-loads their rear suspension and when the rate of change of chain growth is excessive, traction becomes artificially limited because the wheel is fighting against the shock and or the chain when trying to follow the terrain. Knolly's proprietary Four By 4 Suspension is engineered in every aspect to minimize these kinds of effects: we are all about smoothness and neutrality throughout the suspension's range of travel. As the rider, we want you to concentrate on scanning the trail, pedaling, steering and shifting your weight as required to move your bike around. You don't need the additional burden of having to 2nd guess what your bike is going to do in a particular situation, thinking about where it's going to behave and where you really need to be on top of it.
We're a lot less concerned about the parking lot test and subsequent sale off of the showroom floor and a lot more concerned about what your bike feels like when you're riding it. We want our bikes to feel natural, stable and predictable regardless of the conditions... We want to provide this experience in the highest quality package that we can deliver to the customer and we're confident enough in our products to not have to follow the general trends of the industry.
This is the ethos of Knolly.