Having had my 29er interest piqued and the subsequent love affair with the big wheelers, I was more than a little excited to be able to ride the Turner Sultan. The hype surrounding Dave Turner's bikes was well evident to me, mainly through some of my colleagues babbling enthusiastically about the US marque. I'd always been curious to see what all the fuss was about, but had never really taken more than a carpark roll-around on any of their bikes, all of the 26 inch variety. So the lure of the big wheeled machine was strong and calling my name. The basics first; just like all the bikes in the Turner lineup, the Sultan uses the DW Link rear suspension configuration, often touted as one of the better pedalling yet plush systems out there. The boxy-tubed rear triangle/swingarm features an elevated chainstay on the drive side, reminiscent of some of the hardtail designs from the early 90s like Haro and AlpineStars. (This will either mean something to you, making it look cool, or be completely baffling and maybe appear a bit dorky.) While I generally think Turner's small wheeled bikes look pretty good, if not completely drool inducing, the bigger wheels coupled with the similarly dimensioned rear section looked somewhat odd at first, but grew on me over the period of the test. The top tube slopes dramatically, giving good standover clearance (and increased frame stiffness), and with the shock mounted vertically in front of the seat tube, it has the effect of placing everything in the middle of the bike and looking a bit squished at either end. Which actually translates into a good thing, keeping the centre of gravity low and weight positioned nicely between the wheels, adding to the Sultan's sure handling and stability.
The head and seat angles were a bit different to what I was used too in my current bike, and the slacker head angle in particular gave an impression of the front end wanting to wander at first, both on steep climbs and negotiating tight switchbacks. But that sensation quickly faded with a little more saddle time, and an adjustment of riding style and body positioning to accommodate the different characteristics. On the ups, a little bit of 'seat-up-the-butt' was required to keep the feeling of an imminent wheelie at bay, even with the stem slammed down and flipped over, and coupled with a flat handlebar. Cornering, just keep your weight centered or even slightly over the front wheel to keep it arcing around rather than wanting to 'push out' wide. Both traits were rather welcome though on fast, open descents where the Sultan really started to swing.
Climbing in and out of the saddle was always rewarded with a firm rear end, transferring power easily and efficiently to the wagon wheel, making the bike climb seemingly lighter than it's not-exactly-an-XC-whippet weight. DW Link bikes are renowned for their firmness, and there was little bob to speak of when pointed skyward. The ProPedal position on the Fox RP23 shock wasn't deemed necessary for most situations, so well does the suspension work in active mode. When the downhills came, the rear seemed to magically come alive and utilise all 120mm of the travel, even if the movement wasn't entirely noticeable through the pedals and the seat. In fact, it felt almost too firm, but the little O-ring on the shock indicated otherwise and indeed the full range of motion was in play.
The quality of the Sultan's was as you'd expect of an expensive hand-built frame, although a few welds weren't exactly works of art, but pretty tidy nonetheless. The 'raw' unpainted finish won't be for everyone, but I liked the industrial look of it, and you can always plump for the Candy Apple Red or a custom colour if you pony up the extra bills. But the price of entry for the Sultan isn't exactly peanuts, and if you can afford to add one to your stable, or indeed replace your whole stable with this do-it-all trail weapon, you'll be well rewarded with a great all-rounder that not too many others will have the privilege of owning.
Hit up Wide Open to find your nearest dealer.