Editor’s Note: Mtbr was so impressed with this new bike from Turner that we’ve published two First Ride Reviews. You can read the initial impression from Saris Mercanti here. We’re also excited to welcome longtime forum member Kent Robertson to the front page of the website. Kent (or KRob) has been riding — and evaluating — bikes for almost two decades, and his insightful analysis will be a welcome addition to the Mtbr editorial team. Welcome, Kent!
I’ve been a fan of Turner bikes for a while and have had the chance to ride several of their bikes in the past including the previous generation RFX some seven years ago. So when the all new carbon RFX was announced I knew I had to ride one.
The all carbon RFX 4.0 is made of high modulus Toray carbon and designed following the successful lines of the carbon Czar, while still staying true to classic Turner design cues like the seat tube/top tube taco “brace.” It has 160mm of dw link-controlled rear travel, a 66-degree head angle, 13.4″ bottom bracket height, space for up to 2.4″ tires, and room for an adjustable FSA headset that allows for +/- 1 degree head angle changes.
Turner was able to keep development of the latest RFX under wraps until just recently. Apparently he’s been working on it for three years. The time and effort he’s put into this frame shows in its clean, well-proportioned lines, dialed geometry, and class leading strength and stiffness.
Turner didn’t mess around with a bunch of namby pamby neon enduro tones with the RFX. You can get any color you want, as long as it’s black. If you want something else you can add some sparkly bits or get some custom decals.
We had an appointment with the new RFX at Interbike’s Dirt Demo held annually at Boulder City, Nevada’s Bootleg Canyon. We arrived at the Turner tent early to find Dave Turner himself setting up the bike. Because of a shipping mix up, the photo bike was in San Francisco and was being driven down that day but wouldn’t arrive until later. The bike we rode was one of the two preproduction models that Turner employees/testers had been thrashing for the better part of a year. Despite that, the carbon still appeared unscathed and all the links and pivots were still tight and creak-free.
According to Turner, all measurements and geometry numbers were identical to the production version soon to be released.
Speaking of geometry, some, including this reviewer, were hoping for numbers that fell a little deeper into the new school, long front, short rear, low, slack genre, but after seeing the bike and throwing a leg over it, I’m satisfied with Turner’s decision to update in that direction without going extreme. Though the top tube measurement is a fairly generous 24.4″ in the size large we tested, the reach is a middle-of-the-road 17.3″, the chainstays are only moderately short at 17.2″, and the head angle is a momma bear 66 degrees with option to go 67 or 65 degrees with the aforementioned optional adjustable headset.
After riding the bike, I’d say there’s nothing really wrong with any of those numbers as it feels very comfortable and balanced both seated and standing in attack position, and it tackles both steep technical climbs and fast, blown out descents without favoring one over the other. It felt nice and low and slack like the enduro ripper it was intended to be without feeling like a one-trick pony.
On paper the stack looked a little high but with inset cups on top and bottom of the head tube and only one thin spacer under the bars we were well-positioned for both railing and climbing. So how did it ride?
We started climbing right out of the gate, ascending to the top of the shuttle drop off point while following trails that started fairly smooth and not too steep with a few rocky tech sections to keep you honest, and then progressing to some fairly steep, ledgy and loose, switchbacky sections that challenge even better riders. That included a little 200-yard out and back I always try and clean to test a bike’s tech climbing chops. The RFX handled both the smoother climbing sections and the truly difficult tech sections as well as any bike I’ve ridden at Bootleg.
It even cleaned the super tricky 4′ step up move at the entrance to Caldera that is my litmus test for climbing awesomeness. The combination of well-tuned dw-link suspension, light weight, and good moderate geo numbers make the RFX a truly great climber. Notice I didn’t say, “for a six inch all-mountain rig.” I mean a truly great climbing mountain bike period.