Dave Turner’s Sultan was one of the first full suspension 29ers. This updated version is a beautifully made and immaculately conceived frameset that harks back to old glories but is still a confidence-boosting, technical trail cruiser if you prefer handbuilt alloy art over carbon fibre clarity and woven weight loss.
Ride & handling: Conﬁdent handling on fast, open trails
Slipping the best wheels you can onto a demo bike is a very wise move, and there’s no doubting that the Sultan was getting a serious boost from the ENVE carbon wheels.
As soon as we passed the ‘walk, don’t ride’ line of the demo compound, the Sultan spun up to speed with an insolent ease that belies the hefty frame weight. Despite the raised asymmetric chainstays, cantilevered dropouts and relatively slim box-section alloy swingarm there’s no obvious loss of power between pedal and trail either.
The combination of the DW Link and the Monarch rear shock means minimal movement in the big ring. Whether you’re spinning the pedals on smooth hardpack or chopping out desperate one-at-a-time revs trying to get to the far side of a gravel trap, it always remains impressively stable and solid underfoot.
The only time we flicked the Floodgate compression damping on was when long, slow, small-ring climbs snaked up the canyon sides ahead of us, and a noticeable pulse from the rear end began to match that hammering in heat-shrunk helmets.
The combination of long chainstays and stable pedalling is a great platform for tackling technical climbs on too. There was less loose terrain spin from the Ardents than other DW bikes we’ve tried when we were sessioning steep sections for head to head comparison.
The long back end also offsets the fact the Sultan had the longest fork, shortest top tube and slackest head angle of the quartet, keeping the front tyre in consistent contact with crumbling desert corners.
That same long and lazy front end syncs with the controlled but not over-active 125mm (4.9in) of rear wheel travel to provide an equally easy ride back down. When buddying up for twin shots on the opening spread of this feature, it was no drama to push the front wheel right into the roost of the rider in front.
When we were totally blinded by dust but still tipping into the backlit turn smoothly, the Sultan soothed what should be screaming nerves. While the big wheels dampen the sense of speed, there’s no denying the fact that the brakes need to be dabbed to stop the Sultan rear-ending whoever is dropping down in front.
There are inevitably limits to be found. The low-slung alloy tubes do start to sway and twist if you really drive it hard through corners, but it’s a grip growing, tyre growling compliance rather than loading up and letting go.
There’s a bit more stiction in the bushings than the bearings of other DW Link bikes on high-speed hits, but the extra travel helps off bigger drops. Hard anchoring definitely slams the Revelation through its travel too easily.
That long back end means you’ll be taking some liberties with the outside edges of corners to get it round tight switchbacks too and the jacked up bottom bracket can feel a bit tippy at stalling speed.
The Sultan rarely loses its sense of Regal composure though – it just suggests that you’re about to overstep the mark, like a true friend would. It might not be light, but this is a classic that’ll be a super confident and capable companion for tackling technical trails for years to come.
Turner sultan: turner sultan Russell Burton/Future Publishing
Frame & equipment: Neutral DW Link suspension and long fork compatibility
The Sultan frame was extensively updated last year. The 44mm head tube is compatible with tapered forks, and there are ISCG mounting tabs around the bottom bracket shell. There are still gussets – rather than hydroformed tubes – reinforcing the down tube and bridging the steeply sloped top tube to the seatpost.
Rear end detailing includes cable- and brake-hose routing through the stays, replaceable thread barrels for the rear brake mount and a super neat combined end cap/rear mech mount for the 142x12mm screw-through rear axle. Giants will love the rare XXL size.
Full UK bikes from Silverfish are likely to be Shimano-based, but our demo model was loaded with SRAM’s carbon-rich X.0 stop-and-go gear. SRAM also supplied the Truvativ bars, stem and seatpost, which are fine for cross-country work, but we’d definitely stick on a wider bar and shorter stem for technical singletrack.
Apart from the cost, we’ve zero complaints about the ENVE-rimmed, Maxxis-shod wheels.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.