Versatility Times 5
The Evolution of the Spot
A few years ago five-inches of suspension travel was “big hit” territory. These days it represents the meat of the curve in terms of do-it-all trailbikes. Keeping this in mind, the original Turner 5 Spot was pretty darn revolutionary back in 2003 with aspirations of merging the benefits of then-considered long travel suspension with a lightweight chassis designed for pedaling proficiency.
A lot has changed in the industry since 2003 but not really so much where the 5 Spot’s mission is concerned. The linkages have flipped and flopped around a few times in subsequent model year designs and the individual component specs have been tweaked but the grand scheme remains the same: 5 inches of beefy suspension coupled to a nimble, do-it-all frame.
For our borrowed test bike, the specs would come in at a total cost of about $6,000. The owner of a local shop had it apparently built-up from Turner but more cost conscious riders (or those who wish to swap their current components over) have the option of purchasing just the frame with shock for $2,500.
The model reviewed here came equipped with Fox suspension all around (32F RCL fork & Float RP23 shock), Shimano’s XTR tranny group (cranks, shifters, chainrings, cassette), Formula Duro hydraulic disc brakes both front and rear, Easton Monkey Lite bar, Mavic Crossmax rims (& hubs) that were wrapped with Kenda Nevegal tires.
For pedals, which are not included, we alternated between Wellgo platforms and the Crank Brothers Acid 1’s our buddy had installed.
All told our unit weighed in at a hair over 27 pounds.
Sizing Her Up:
If there’s one reoccurring theme in the Turner lineup, it’s frame designs that are deceptively simplistic. Forget all about massive aluminum cross members or linkages with more levers and pulleys than the game of Mouse Trap. The new 5 Spot, just like the ones it replaces, looks sharp simple and light.
When you actually approach the bike in person, it’s surprising how low the top tube actually mounts to the seat stay. In fact it appears to nearly run parallel with the down tube, just slightly higher up. Of course this results in fantastic stand over clearance and the almost all-male staff of MBT aren’t complaining one bit about that!
Getting on the machine at a standstill (like say, when setting up your sag and dialing in your suspension) reveals a farther reach to the bars than is commonly accepted in the realm of “all mountain” these days. A hint of cross-country heritage? Perhaps, but not the type of back-stretching reach and discomfort found there. Rather, picture just enough of your weight being centered atop the middle of the frame to get the fork to compress slightly even before you push off. The bike has a rigid lightweight quality that’s apparent even standing still.
Mountain bikes in the mid to upper 20 pound range can cover a wide variety of sensations out on the trails. The Turner 5 Spot isn’t exactly explosive in its acceleration but it does move along with alarming efficiency. That is to say that riders expecting bursts of forward momentum complete with rearward flung stones and slight wheelies with each crank rotation will be disappointed. Everybody else will simply find themselves arriving to corners with greater ease while carrying more speed than they’re used to.
It’s tough to call a bike with over five inches of suspension (it’s closer to 5.5 in reality) nimble but there is really no better a word to describe its characteristics. Whereas most bikes pushing these kind of numbers typically get moving and carry momentum like a freight train, the 5 Spot isn’t phased by last second line changes, tight switchbacks, or the occasional front-end loft to zip over the tree that must have come down sometime last night.
The suspension, as has been our experience with this particular equipment in the past, can be dialed in to achieve near perfect balance. The shock is custom valved for this chassis and while its tough to say we felt a difference over the standard version, we can state that Fox is usually on the ball when it comes to tailoring their products to work within a given set of parameters. The fork has a nice cushy feel when it comes to picking up the small chatter and ramps up nicely to take the spike out of medium sized drops and stunts (should the moment move you).
Though the suspension did well enough under the abuse we subjected it to, the real winner here comes in the form of pedaling compliance thanks in no small part to Turner’s decision to license the dw-Link. We have a tendency to overdo it with the technical jargon so let’s just stick to the real world conclusions and mention that this configuration will probably convert many a hardtail holdout to the charms of full suspension. There is no discernable pedal-bob and very little energy feels as though it’s being sapped by the bike in translation from crank rotation to tire rotation.
Though few and pretty minor, our test sheets did reveal a few areas that could benefit from improvement in future model designs. First, while we adore the abundance of stand over clearance, that low-mount top tube creates very little room for the shock. Ours was too new to notice any paint damage due to rubbing, but the linkage rocker arms are micrometers away from the frame here. Secondly the cockpit, though beautifully spec’d, would probably have benefited from a shorter stem and a bar with a steeper rise (on our trails anyway). A bit of a more upright riding position would go a long way in the comfort department for those all-day epics. Plus as it stands, steep chutes and higher-speed descents create the sensation that you’re leading the bike with your head like the bowsprit on some pirate ship. Finally, invest in a chain stay guard when you pick up your new Spot as we heard a lot of slapping and clanking coming from the rear in the real rough stuff.
In all, the Turner 5 Spot remains a top contender in the +5 inch trailbike category due to the same principled characteristics that it set to achieve back in 2003. It’s nimble, versatile, light, and sure-footed. We found it competent enough to tackle downhill jaunts that actually demanded platforms yet civilized enough to return to the clipless pedals for all day exploration sessions. Were it ours to keep we would probably toss the XC oriented stem and bar in favor of some beefier all mountain units (at a slight penalty in weight in exchange for comfort and durability) but otherwise leave everything else exactly the same. We love the idea of do-it-all trailbikes and though the steep asking price is going to keep the 5 Spot out of many rider’s garages in these tough economic times, it is reassuring to know that the bike can adequately replace at least three discipline-dedicated mountain bikes.
Review brought to you by your friends at Mountain Bike Tales.