I tested the Czar in the Pro build kit with Enve carbon wheels laced to I9 hubs. As tested the MSRP of this bike would be an eye popping $9800 ($7050 if kitted out with Stans Crest rims). Specs are outlined below. Components are high-end and light. My (incredibly opinionated) comments follow:
Rock Shox SID RCT provides front suspension. This is a surprisingly stiff chassis. A far cry from the blue noodle (the first ever RS SID which was my previous long-ago SID experience).
1. Rock Shox SID front, Fox CTD rear. Along with the drivetrain, suspension is the guts of a bike. It’s an impressive performance from these two pairings. This is a nice change from previous experiences with the Fox CTD which, on previous bikes has proven to be underwhelming. Both the RS and Fox products worked well even during longer steeper descents when the Czar was pushed beyond its rigid XC/Marathon compartments. Befitting the Czar’s pedigree and DW-link characteristics I expected the suspension to be on the firm side (which it was) but did not get the standard Fox shock lets-pack-up-and-make-the-full-sus-feel-like-a-hardtail on rapid hit downhills. Instead (much to my pleasant surprise) I found both front and rear suspension to work in reliable predictable fashion at the start and the finish of extended elevation drops.
2. SRAM XX1 drivetrain. This is my first go-around with SRAM’s 1×11 group. The bike had approx 10 rides on it before I used it and I’ve put 44 days on it since then (as of July 31st). The chain displays less than 0.5″ of wear on the Park chain gauge tool. Given the astronomical cost of cassette replacement I’ll stick to replacing chains every year to be on the safe side, but so far, have found longevity to be as expected. I haven’t dropped a chain yet but any hyperbole about riding the Czar aggressively is tempered by the fact that is a short travel carbon 29er so all that means is that under normal trail riding conditions the drivetrain works as advertised.
The drivetrain was initially eerily quiet but in the dusty conditions we’ve had in Summer of 2013 in British Columbia the XX1 derailleur has developed a knock I’ve traced this to the derailleur’s clutch being overtightened. The derailluer fix is a bit of a pain in the ass but can be accomplished by anyone with a reasonable amount of tools. Hopefully SRAM will produce a fix that will keep a drivetrain that is priced for perfection, perfect.
SRAM XX1 drivetrain and brakes.
3. Enve XC carbon wheels. These look cool. You will fit right into the mid-pack of local Pro-Elite/Cat 1. The I9 hubs are unbelievably loud and annoying. They are light but so are my CK/Crest hub wheels. I can’t tell that they’re any stiffer than my alloy wheels.
I will catch flak for this from the carbon wheels have changed my life crowd. All I can offer in defense is that carbon’s bling is appreciated but I sure don’t get $2000 of good vibes out of knowing I am on an Enve carbon wheelset. Keep in mind that I am the kind of rider who basically likes riding bikes and don’t get a quantum jump in joy out of shaving bike weight, or getting the right shade of anodized red to match. Keep in mind I am also relatively light. If you are obsessive about making your bike look trick and you think you can feel wheel flex no matter how heavy or light you are then these carbon wheels are the ticket for you. Otherwise put the cash towards a nice bike vacation.
4. SRAM brakes. I’ve not been a fan on SRAM’s lower -end Elixir brakes. They are simply terrible; an exercise in lamentably predictable unpredictability. The SRAM XX brakes are better. Although they did require a bleed, only one bleed has been necessary and they have performed reasonably well since. Unfortunately these brakes still provide substandard modulation but at least the lever throw does not change over time and distance. Their redeeming feature is that they colour – match the XX1 drivetrain.
In the early days of 29ers the wagon wheelers were unwieldy beasts in the tight singletrack that characterizes British Columbia trails. Long and low; they basically monster-trucked in a straight line but steered like bloated pigs otherwise. Numbers cannot tell the true tale; only riding the bikes can. However, I’ve presented some geo numbers from some short travel 29ers, a medium travel 29er that turned like an ocean-liner and a quick/nimber 26″ wheeled bike so you, the reader can get hopelessly confused. If this provokes discussion or questions, please follow up in the comments.
Turner Czar (and other bikes) – by the numbers.
Continue reading for riding impressions and full photo gallery.