Bike Test: Turner Czar 29er

Turner Bikes has long been known for designing some of the best aluminum mountain bikes on the mountain; however, as carbon fiber became increasingly accepted and sought after, David Turner and his crew knew that the time had come to venture into new territory. So, based on 20-plus years of mountain bike design knowledge and cutting-edge frame materials, the carbon Czar was born.

The fact that Turner’s first lightweight carbon offering is geared toward weight-conscious, cross-country riders is not happenstance. Turner recognizes that there is serious demand from these Lycra-clad warriors who are looking for every advantage. Still, the Czar was not created solely with racecourses in mind. While it was built to be light and efficient enough to grab the top spot of the podium, Turner also wanted it to handle technical trails beyond what most cross-country courses serve up.

The Czar’s carbon frame is a blend of high-modulus C6 Turner carbon. Removable cable routing tabs allow for clean setups and a clever chainstay guide that doubles as a wraparound protector. The head tube uses 44/56-millimeter PressFit bearings to protect the carbon front triangle should your headset come loose mid ride. The bottom bracket uses a PressFit 30 design, while the rear end uses a 142x12-millimeter thru-axle for stiffness and simplicity.

The Czar features 3.9 inches of dw-link, rear-wheel suspension travel. The pivots are outfitted with threaded Zerk grease fittings. These fittings aim to make maintenance easier by allowing grease to be pushed through the bearings without disassembling them.

Our Czar test bike came equipped with a parts spec fit for a king. SRAM’s X0 2x10 drivetrain remains one of our favorite systems, offering quick and positive shifts without any troubles. Enve’s XC 29 wheels are attention-grabbing both on and off the bike. The Float CTD Factory Series shock is Kashima-coated and tuned specifically for the Czar’s dw-link design. The RockShox SID RCT3 fork is also a standout per- former at a svelte weight.

Moving out: The combination of the Czar’s relatively short chainstays and slack seat tube puts the rider’s weight toward the rear of the bike. The slackened seat tube also gives the cockpit a longer feel than the 23-inch top tube length would suggest. The rider position falls somewhere between an aggressive cross-country position and a more upright trail position and can be tailored toward one or the other with different stem lengths, depending on what you’re after. After a few rides, we settled on 30 percent sag, which sounds like a lot for a cross-country bike, but works well with the efficient dw-link suspension.

Cornering: On paper, the Czar’s head tube angle is toward the slack end of the short-travel spectrum at 69.8-degrees, but, surprisingly, it doesn’t give up much, if anything, in low-speed, tight sections. Only in the tightest switch- backs did we feel the front end begin to wander ever so slightly.

The Czar feels especially at one with the trail in fast corners where the lateral stiff- ness of the frame and wheels can really shine. The bike simply goes where you want it to and doesn’t stray off line. The dw-link also helped by keeping the rear wheel tracking through braking bumps. The Maxxis Crossmark tires are outstanding rubber for hardpack and loose-over-hardpack conditions, giving the Czar a predictable feel that didn’t have us wondering how far we could lean it over.

Climbing: Long before Turner was using carbon fiber, its dw-link-equipped bikes earned a reputation for being superbly efficient, and the Czar builds on this. Even with 30 percent sag in the rear and the CTD damper in the Descend setting, the Czar only suffers minor pedal bob. For this reason, we spent most of our time on climbs in this setting to better handle loose and rough terrain. On longer, smoother climbs, or if we were really pushing the pace, the Trail setting offered a nearly locked-out feel with just enough give to take the edge off. For riders who may be on the fence about giving up their hardtail cross-country race bikes, the Climb setting is for you.

This efficiency isn’t reserved for seated pedaling. Out-of- the-saddle sprints are also met with prompt acceleration that seems to take full advantage of every pedal stroke. The bike is stiff laterally but doesn’t feel “dead” like some cheaper carbon bikes. Instead, the Czar feels snappy and responsive.

Descending: The Czar handles descents as well as many dedicated trailbikes out there while maintaining a svelte physique. Small chatter is not a problem for the Czar. The bike feels very controlled at high speeds, but not necessarily glued to the ground. After a very usable mid-stroke, the shock ramps up toward the end of the stroke to give the bike a surprising amount of big-hit performance. While the front end doesn’t feel as easy to lift as it does on some dedicated trailbikes, the Czar doesn’t mind letting its hair down a bit and catching air off the trail.

Braking: Thanks to its suspension design, the Czar does a great job staying planted to the trail under hard braking. The Avid X0 brakes gave us good modulation, but felt underpowered when shutting the bike down at the bottom of steep and fast descents.

If you are looking for a lightweight trailbike more than a cross-country race bike, a dropper post is a must. Turner has included routing options for one already, and being able to get the saddle out of the way on descents would help make this bike more playful on downhills and even more confidence-inspiring in corners.

Possibly the biggest benefit of Turner’s move to carbon construction is the ability to build a full-suspension bike that can still hit a competitive cross-country weight. For riders whose trails don’t require a burly all-mountain bike, the Czar has the potential to be a quiver-killer. While the super-high-end build we tested certainly aids the bike’s cross-country game by shaving weight, even with a lesser spec, the Czar would still be a great bike, thanks to the attributes designed into the frame itself. The well-thoughtout geometry and suspension design allow the Czar to blitz descents like a trailbike while hanging with anorexic hardtails on climbs.