I t has taken us too long to get a Sultan in here for testing. Introduced in 2007, the 29-inch-wheeled trailbike got a total makeover in 2009 with the adoption of a dw-link rear suspension. The key ingredient of a dw-link (a dual-link version of the classic four-bar design) is its anti-squat feature, which cancels out most unwanted suspension bobbing associated with pedaling. Our test bike represents the results of a careful three-year evolution using the dw-link suspension and learning the tricks of running 29-inch wheels.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Sultan is firmly planted in the heart of the trailbike world, but under the control of a competent rider, it could be pressed into more aggressive all-mountain use.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Sultan’s American-made aluminum frame uses a number of complex CNC-machined frame junctions. The asymmetrical swingarm uses Turner’s trademark rectangular tubes, which terminate at I-beam dropouts, and a swingarm pivot yoke that sweeps around the front derailleur to meet the suspension’s offset lower link. The bottom bracket, lower-link pivot and shock mount are integrated into a single piece of carved aluminum, and the suspension’s two-piece upper links wrap around the seat tube to meet the upper shock eyelet. All moving parts pivot on composite bushings, and there are grease ports at each pivot location. There is a lot going on with the Sultan frame, giving it a cobby, utilitarian appearance in the rear.
Finally, Turner worked with Cane Creek on what is called the 44XX headset. The TR44 is a conversion headset bottom that allows the use of a tapered steerer fork in a conventional straight 44-millimeter Zero Stack-style head tube.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The Edge Composite AM Clincher rims steal the show with a clear finish over their high-pressure molded, uni-directional carbon fiber layup. The AM Clincher rim has an overall width of 30 millimeters, giving it a wider spread over conventional 24-millimeter widths. The front and rear wheels (sans tires, tubes and brake rotors) weigh ??> and ??> respectively.
The rest of the Sultan is decked out with Shimano’s jewelry-like Dynasys 3×10 drivetrain, minimalist-looking yet powerful Formula R1 brakes, and an Easton bar, stem and seatpost.
A different Turner: The Sultan is a departure for Turner. It has a unique feel in the corners and over the rough. Can it hang with Turner’s heralded 5 Spot?
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: The Sultan has a trailbike feel, keeping its rider fairly upright with his weight centered between the wheels. The dw-link doesn’t need any ProPedal help to keep the rear suspension from bobbing while pedaling. One annoying ergonomic trait noted by a number of the crewers was that their calves made contact with the right side of the elevated stays when pedaling.
Hammering: A great pedaling platform responds well to in-the-saddle efforts and even permits the rider to get out of the saddle without too much reaction from the rear suspension. Still, the Sultan does not blast up to speed. It likes to work its way up using a smooth pedaling cadence from the rider. Once up to a comfortable pace, the Sultan holds onto that momentum and rolls over trail irregularities with a firm yet uninterrupted flow.
Cornering: The fat tires and long travel (for a 29er) could trick riders into believing the Sultan is a slow-turning trailbike. Not so. The Sultan borders on cross-country quickness and allows line changes on a whim. Crewers did, however, find themselves coming off their intended line in fast sweepers and off-camber sections where the rear end couldn’t match the steering performance of the front. Turner’s signature counter-steering performance, which we raved about on their Flux and 5 Spot, didn’t make the transition to the Sultan. This bike really departs from the feel of those other Turners.
Climbing: The Sultan did not inspire on the climbs. It feels heavier than its relatively light weight and requires the rider to choose the gear carefully and deliberately and then smoothly pedal at a comfortable cadence. The bike keeps the rear wheels stuck to the ground during out-of-the-saddle efforts, but these efforts seemed wasted compared to a methodical pedaling rhythm in the saddle.
Descending: The Sultan’s quick steering benefits from the larger-diameter wheels that slow things down a bit and roll over rocks and ruts that would give 26-inch wheels a pounding. Unfortunately, the Sultan requires a good jolt to fall into its travel and then never feels like it is giving you its full travel.
Braking: Turner outfits the Sultan with a 7-inch front rotor and a 6-inch rear rotor, which worked great in this application. The Formula R1 brake modulation was more than up to the task of scrubbing speed without scrubbing the trail.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
It is hard to imagine that you would ever need anything more aggressive than the Maxxis Ardent tires, but if you want to go fatter, Turner gives you plenty of stay clearance to do so. And speaking of stay clearance, one parking lot ride will reveal if the right stay rubbing on the leg is an issue for you.
We are still sorting out the Shimano 3×10 drivetrain for use on 29ers. It definitely doesn’t have the intuitive feel of Shimano’s 2×10 with 26-inch wheels, where every gear feels like a perfect gear ratio. Still, we welcomed the lowest gear ratio option (24:36) on a number of steep ascents.
Sultan’s swag: The bottom bracket, lower-link pivot and shock mount are integrated into a single piece of carved aluminum. ??? Formula R1 brakes. Zerk fittings at the pivots. ???
The Turner Sultan will, of course, appeal to the rider who wants an American-made trailbike. Patriotism aside, the almost $8000 price tag puts the Sultan in a category that requires perfection. Is the Sultan perfect? No. The Sultan needs more rear-end lateral rigidity, a rear suspension that falls into its travel more seamlessly and narrower stays that don’t make contact with the rider’s leg.
Country of origin
Bottom bracket height
Top tube length
Head tube angle
Seat tube angle
Fox 32 F29 RLC
Fox Float RP23
Edge AM (29″)
Maxxis Ardent (2.25″)
Easton EC70 (27.5″)
Shimano XTR Dynasys
Shimano XTR Dynasys
Shimano XTR Dynasys
Shimano XTR (36/32/24)
Shimano XTR 10-cog Dynasys (11-36)
24.8 feet (per crank revolution)
5 feet (per crank revolution)
None (weighed with Time ATAC Carbon)