At 24.2 lbs in the size Large tested, this bike is light. Not ridiculously light in the Weight Weenies oh look at how my bike pedals fire roads so well sense but oh-so-light for a bike that is kitted out for some hard riding duty. The Czar is also exceedingly stiff. This combination of stiffness, lightness, suspension design and geometry biased for climbing results in just about the intensely joyous bike to point up hills I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding.
It’s hard not to gush; the Czar is an unbelievably good climber. This should come as no surprise given Turner’s roots and the design intent of the bike. While lots has been written about 29er wheels and how they aid in climbing (almost cheating is how I think of the way one can scramble up technical climbs) the Czar handles beautifully when climbing technical singletrack. Its stiffness results in instantaneous power transfer, the tight geo translates into quick handling for ratchet or trialsy moves and an ability to easily pull the front end up and weight-transfer to the rear end when up-and-overing trail obstacles.
A word too on the DW-link suspension and how it works when implemented on the Czar. The suspension’s anti-squat seems to let the bike recover between multiple hits (eg roots) so you don’t even have to alter pedal stroke but can keep applying power. This can be contrasted with a 4-bar bike where you use the actuation of a rear shock to time pedal strokes to then get maximum grip between pedal strokes or the VPP suspension which seems to firm up under pedaling. I’m of the view that different suspension characteristics aren’t better or worse. They’re just different. It’s up to the rider to find their preference and either adapt their riding style and if they don’t want to/ or can’t adapt riding style — then to find another suspension that works for them. In short, I like the way the Czar’s DW-link suspension implementation works, your mileage may vary.
As mentioned above, the Turner Czar is an astoundingly good climber but anything otherwise would have been a huge disappointment. What came more as a surprise was how good the Czar was on downhills. The Czar was what I always wanted from the holy grail of 29ers; it has the big wheel rolling advantage on the flats and the downhill, yet minimal handling compromises on the descents. It is the best handling 29er I’ve ever ridden. I let some other riders sip the Czar koolaid and try out the bike. The most common refrain “this sure doesn’t feel like a 29er”.
The Czar was nimble; quick direction turns were easy to effect. The Czar tracked well in loose and steep slopes. As mentioned previously the suspension performed well; not packing up and making the bike feel more hardtail-ish, as the ride wore on (unlike some other short travel bikes I’ve ridden).
The Czar also had an alarmingly large range of useability. Despite being billed as a XC/Marathon bike I couldn’t resist the temptation to push the envelope and take it out on long rides into the tech. One such ride was a 525m descent from Mt Tzouhalem to Genoa Bay on Vancouver Island. That’s 1722 feet in freedom units of descending with long sustained downhills; lots of sharp corners; and no shortage of steep rock faces where you’re always on the brakes (but admittedly not stupid steep) — All galleried by huge stands of Garry Oak and Arbutus trees with an ocean view. The Rockshox SID absorbed hits throughout. The rear end of the Czar tracked true while the rear Fox shock did not spike and seize. Overall the Czar handled that descent with aplomb. The only thing that was lacking were the SRAM brakes which would fade towards the end of long sections (they would come back if you feathered the brakes on flattish rest spots).
Video: This 525m descent follows Tzou’s moss-laden ridgeline via some exceptionally distracting viewpoints and singletrack. Things get a little bit more into BC XC as the trail drops 525m to sea level rather quickly. Granted this ride was a bit out of scope for the Turner Czar but it sure was a blast. Some huge stands of arbutus and Garry Oak. Some pretty tight technical terrain and rock features on which to play
Turner plans to offer the Czar frame for $2995 USD. Sizes M and L are available right now in black or orange. Sizes XL and XXL are being prototyped and will be available in fall of 2013. As previously mentioned, as tested the MSRP of this size Large Czar would be an eye popping $9800 ($7050 if kitted out with Stans Crest rims).
A tightwad like me has a hard time putting up that kind of justification for that price so let’s just say that if one were to spend $7,000 or so on a bike one would expect that bike to be just about perfect. And the Turner Czar is just about as close to a perfect bike as one can envision. It’s beautiful. Its performance uphill and downhill is superlative. Its range of useability is insanely large. If you are in the market for a high-end carbon 29er full-suspension bike, the Turner Czar must be on the list for consideration.