Last year at Crankworx Whistler Knolly Bikes made a splash by releasing their first ever non-MTB, the Cache gravel grinder. Upon its debut the Cache was only available in titanium, which is awesome… but expensive. This year Knolly introduced a steel version of the Cache, which sells for roughly $1700 less than its ti counterpart (frame only). Continuing the adventure into new territory (as gravel bikes do!) the 2020 Cache is Knolly’s first frame made from steel.
The new Cache frame is made from air-hardened steel tubing which is then heat-treated for additional strength. All tubing is butted to save weight where possible without sacrificing strength at the weld points. Knolly does not like building bikes with off-the-shelf components, so all seven tubes that make up the steel cache frames are custom made.
The 2020 steel Cache shares the same geometry and sizing as the titanium version. Frames are available in seven different frame sizes, and certain sizes actually use different top and down tubes. Smaller frames use lighter weight, smaller diameter tubing, the largest sizes step up to bigger and thicker tubes, and the mid-sizes are built with a mix of both. Working with different tubing allowed Knolly to tune the stiffness of the different frames so each size provides the appropriate ride qualities for each rider. Knolly says their larger bikes are 50% stiffer than the small frames.
Knolly says riders can load up the steel Caches with bags or tow a cargo trailer behind without the frame flexing excessively and losing its intended ride qualities. The Cache’s front triangle was built to be stiff and strong, and Knolly made sure the bike’s rear end was tough enough while still offering the compliant ride steel is known for.
Design-wise, one unique part of the steel Cache’s frame is its curved seat mast. Just above the BB shell, the butted seat mast curves back slightly to improve clearance for tires and fenders, and to provide vertical compliance for in-the-saddle comfort.
While checking out the ti Cache last year, Knolly emphasized how they made sure this bike could be built up as anything from a full road-style configuration to an MTB-inspired setup. The steel Cache can run either rigid forks (like Knolly’s own carbon fork) or a short-travel suspension fork (up to 40mm). For this reason the Cache’s down tube has a large diameter to keep it strong, and a slight bend behind the head tube for fork crown clearance. The frame was built to accept tapered steerer tubes, and Knolly’s carbon fork has one to match.
The frame’s geometry was also designed with a bit of MTB-influence. Its longer front-center is intended to mate with a shorter than typical stem – Knolly feels this blended geometry gives the bike solid handling in technical terrain without losing stability or comfort for all day rides.
Anticipating riders will subject the steel Cache to all kinds of weather conditions, Knolly added an ED anti-corrosion coating to the inside and outside of the frames. The coating leaves the inside of the tubes black, as seen above.
The Cache’s rear end offers enough clearance for a 43x700c or 2.2″ x 650b tire, and includes mounts for fenders and carrier racks. The steel Cache’s cable routing is mainly external for easy maintenance, but the frame does have a port on the back of the seat mast for internal dropper post routing. Two water bottle mounts are located on the seat mast and down tube.
Compatibility shouldn’t be an issue with the Cache – Whether you run Shimano or SRAM parts, prefer a 1x or 2x drivetrain, or you’ve gone to electronic shifting the Cache will carry it all. The small extra slot seen on the bottom of the removable front derailleur mount offers a neat way to route your Di2 wiring. The Cache’s rear axle spacing is 142x12mm.
The Cache’s finishing touches are typical of Knolly’s craftsmanship – the custom CNC’d dropouts, chainstay yoke, and flat mount for the brake all have that boutique builder look and feel.
The 2020 steel Cache is available in Midnight Blue, Limestone Green and Bright Blue Camo. The frame only retails for $999, or $1399 with Knolly’s carbon fork. Complete builds range from $3245-5229, with the same build package options as the titanium Caches. Availability is expected for fall 2019.