Sunday, November 11, 2007

Test Driving the Sultan

Saturday’s ride was memorable for many reasons:

The crew - JayP, T-Race, Chris Erickson, and I had the trails all to ourselves and blew the needle off of the fun meter

The timing - we rallied for what was likely the last “dirt” day of 2007 in these parts.

Turner Sultan Test drive – this was my first ride on a FS 29er…and it did NOT suck

Chris E. had generously offered to let me test drive his large Turner Sultan several times and the riding season almost got away from us before I could take him up on it. I wanted to give the Sultan an honest evaluation so I met Chris at his house before the ride and we swapped seat posts & saddles, pedals, and adjusted fork, shock and tire air pressures. Chris took one for the team and rode my Turner 5 Spot while I rode the 4” travel Sultan.

First a little background; my normal race bike is a 4” travel Turner Flux that weighs about 26.5 lbs. I also ride my 5 Spot quite a bit on epics and fun rides and it weighs in at about 29 lbs with 2.4” tires. Chris’ Sultan weighs about 28.5 lbs with Panaracer Rampage 2.3” tires + Stan’s goo. Luckily Chris and I are close to the same size so once the saddle & pedal swap was complete the setup felt great.

Right out of the gate I felt very comfortable on this bike and the big wheels didn’t seem to take any getting used to. The handlebars ended up being about 1.5” above my saddle and I thought this would hurt my seated climbing but I was amazed at how well it climbed and how much traction I had in this upright position. In fact, even in the granny gear I could stay seated in the middle of the saddle and grind up some really steep and loose climbs. Descending was a blast with this bar-above-the-seat setup combined with the big wheels.
Here are a few of my post-ride Sultan thoughts:

- The bike did not feel especially slow or sluggish climbing or in the tight singletrack as I was expecting
- Although the bottom bracket height is similar to my 5 Spot at roughly 13”, I felt like I was sitting in the bike, not on top of it
- The front wheel did not “wander” side to side while climbing slowly in the granny gear.
- Sections of loose “baby head” rocks as well as football sized embedded rocks were easier to navigate and maintain speed
- I was immediately comfortable cornering this bike at speed
- The 29” wheels did not increase my red blood cell count nor allow me to out-climb JayP
- The bike was just plain fun to ride

So the question I have now is whether the Sultan would make a good race bike or simply a great “fun” bike. I am guessing that the lightest I could build one up is about 26.5 lbs. A Lenz Leviathan 3.0 frame is almost a pound lighter than the Sultan. But is the weight the biggest factor? My technical weaknesses as a rider/racer are ledgy terrain, sand, loose gravel, and cornering at speed. Several of these conditions are reportedly where 29ers shine and I saw glimpses of this in one 3 hour ride. I will chew on this a bit.

Chris E taking one for the team

T-Race saved her energy and then dropped the hammer on us at the end

Enjoying a little sunshine

The South Fork of the Snake River

As expected, we woke up to this Sunday morning...perfect!


FixieDave said...

Cool its always nice to sneak these late season rides in... !!

Glad you had fun on the big girl wheels!

I love my bars about even with the saddle or just a hair above =)

Rick LaBelle said...

Glad you made it out on one last mtb ride, my man. Hope my recon of that ride a week earlier helped; what a great early and late season trail. Do I see a 29er in your future??

Anonymous said...

Ha! Dave, fun ride. I can't believe how in one summer I became totally unable to enjoy riding a 26er. Not a reflection on your steed at all just my own inflexibilty...

Or maybe, just maybe, 29 is a superior wheel size?? What if we all got sold a bill of goods for this long - WOW!

You just need to pick your color. If the front triangle is raw do they still polish the rear?

Chris E.