I spotted something totally new and unexpected at Outerbike this year: a full suspension fat bike from Turner, dubbed the “King Khan.” Mtb-mag.com reported on the 24th of September about a supposed “prototype turner fatbike,” but if the bikes I saw rolling around at Outerbike are any indication, the King Khan is anything but a prototype. For one thing, there were quite a few copies of the King Khan heading in and out of the venue, constantly being demoed by the rabid fat bike fans and new converts alike. For another, this bike is totally dialed, as my ride experiences can attest.
While the King Khan still isn’t listed on the Turner website, I’d hazard a bet that it’s going to be in production pretty soon–if it isn’t already. As a result of the lack of official information I can’t provide details on the final build kit and pricing for this bike, I can relate the build that my test bike featured. The bike I rode was built with a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, high-end Magura brakes, Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.00″ tires, Surly Marge Lite rims, a RockShox Bluto fork, and Fox CTD rear shock.
This was my first time riding a full suspension fat bike, or a fat bike with any suspension for that matter. Until I swung a leg over the King Khan, I couldn’t really relate to Jeff’s rave review of the RockShox Bluto, his conversion to summer fat biking, or his assertion that the Salsa Bucksaw was “was easily the best bike I’ve ridden this year.” But once I experienced a full suspension fat bike for myself, all of a sudden it clicked.
I began my test ride by playing around with the handling and the suspension, being new to the whole FS fat bike scene. With the RockShox name on the fork, I don’t know why I thought the Bluto would handle or feel any worse than a normal fork–it went squish just like I should have expected. And the rear end features a standard Fox CTD shock, so I don’t know why I expected anything different there, either. These aren’t jury-rigged parts that were cobbled together to create a full suspension fat bike. Instead, these are purpose-built components with detailed engineering and testing that are designed to handle well–and they do.
As I got rolling into the loop, I played around with jumping and cornering on the King Khan. Yep, everything worked great, and with exceptional fat bike traction. As the trail progressed, I got held up behind some slow riders–as I did on pretty much every single loop. Oh, the joys of riding short circles in the desert with 800 of your best friends.
On the one section where the trail opened up to a 4×4 road before diving back into the singletrack 100 yards later, I swung out fast to the right to pass, flying downhill and dropping the hammer. My passing zone featured a big rock garden, so I launched off of an upraised rock ledge lip, gapping out about 15 feet over the rest of the rock garden, passing my slow-pedaling trail obstacle in mid air.
As I kept my acceleration going, railed back into the singletrack, and blasted through some S-turns, I suddenly realized: I had forgotten I was riding a fat bike… and I mean that in the best way possible. None of the bad qualities that some fat bikes exude–heavy weight, gyro effect from the wheels, poor cornering–were present in the King Khan. Instead, I was just focusing on riding fast, having fun, catching air–pretty big air, at that–and railing through the corners. And I was doing it all on 4″ tires.
In fact, I think there are some serious benefits of rolling on the big tires versus your normal skinny treads. For one, the traction is superb, and can tackle all sorts of loose sand and rocks–which places like Moab have in spades. Secondly, and maybe even most importantly, technical rocks and features just disappeared below the King Khan. Jeff already wrote about this, but I finally got to experience it for myself. Simply put, all of the rocks and rock gardens started to look and feel smaller as I got a feel for what the King Khan could handle. This full suspension fatty smoothed out everything in sight… honestly, it felt like cheating somehow. I felt a little guilty for how easily and carefree I could tackle trail obstacles. Mountain biking is supposed to be challenging, isn’t it? Well, with the King Khan, you can still be challenged… you’ll just need to find technical rock gardens and massive trail features that you may have never dreamt of riding before!
After experiencing how natural and how fluid of a ride the King Khan provided, I think we need to stop talking about fat bikes VS the rest of the world and start talking about “mountain bikes,” and just focus on whether or not the bike in question rides well. Sure, we’ll always discuss the different benefits and costs of a certain bike, but with rigs like the Turner King Khan, Salsa Bucksaw, and Borealis Echo entering the market, the line between “fat bike” and “mountain bike” is disappearing. These are all great-riding bikes, and ultimately what you use the bike for is up to you.