Outerbike Test Sessions: Turner RFX

Carbon frame, 27.5 wheels, 160mm of trail taming suspension

Enduro Outerbike Test Sessions

Interbike Mtbr

The bike had predictable handling, but it wasn't necessarily telepathic or razor sharp.

The bike had predictable handling, but it wasn’t necessarily telepathic or razor sharp.

Editor’s Note: Along with longtime Mtbr forum member Kent Robertson (KRob), the 2016 Outerbike Test Sessions are being handled by Ben Slabaugh, aka Schlim on Mtbr. Ben, 37, has been riding mountain bikes since he was 12, and today leans toward the XC side of things. This year, Ben and Kent headed to Moab, Utah, for the annual Outerbike consumer demo event where they rode as many bikes as possible. These posts are first ride impressions only — not full reviews. However, they stand by their opinions, and feel like they are good at feeling out the true identity, strengths, weaknesses, and soul of any given bike. For each session, they attempted to get set-up and suspension as dialed as possible. Test rides usually lasted 30-60 minutes. All bikes were then rated on a scale of 1-5 for visual impression/looks, climbing ability, descending, cornering, general agility, fit, and an intangible factor. Lowest possible score is 7. Highest is 35.

Check out the entire Outerbike Test Sessions archive here.

My first acquisition of the weekend was the Turner RFX, a carbon enduro bike. I was on a list last year to try one of these at Outerbike, but some poor soul crashed it and managed to break both himself and the bike. My luck was better this year, as the one I got needed a little maintenance and didn’t go out on the first shuttle run to Navajo Rocks. I almost didn’t get to take it, though, as the KS post auto-dropped on me immediately, but then seemed to function right again. Must be gremlins. The WTB Devo saddle attached too the dropper just disappeared as usual though. WTBs definitely fit my backside right.

The carbon Knight wheels were stiff — but not too stiff.

The carbon Knight wheels were stiff — but not too stiff.

My Turner observations seem to always note predictable handling, and this one is no different. However, that’s also not the same thing as telepathic or razor sharp. I rode other bikes that had better, more intuitive, ride characteristics.

Read the Mtbr review of the Turner RFX for a varying opinion.

Consulting with Kent, we agreed that the RFX was decidedly on the XC feeling side of things, with what felt like a fairly short front center, and a clearly shorter reach and top tube compared to other size large bikes I have ridden recently. Unfortunately, the overall ride quality was akin to something plastic, a little like the early carbon bikes that hadn’t gotten the layup for that solid and responsive sensation quite right. That’s too bad, because it got in the way of experiencing the well-built nature of this beast, from the clean look of the rear triangle to the stout looking linkages.

On the carbon topic, though, the Knight wheels were definitely a step-up in ride quality for me over some of the other composite wheels on the market. For example, I have never been a big fan of ENVE for mountain bike applications because they are just so stiff that they deflect the bike off trail features and require more effort to control and fatigue me faster. The Knight wheelset seemed to strike a nice balance between stiffness and compliance that didn’t call attention to itself and enhanced the ride precision.

Never been to Outerbike? Find out what this consumer demo event is all about.

Rear end suspension performace, in this tester's opinion, was middle of the road at best.

Rear end suspension performace, in this tester’s opinion, was middle of the road at best.

On the suspension front, I am perpetually underwhelmed by the RockShox Monarch Plus shock, and paired with the DW-link, its action was pretty constipated. I guess Monarchs could be tuned right for an application (for instance, the rear suspension on the Niner RIP 9 I rode was okay), but nothing has really made me think that they will enhance a given frame’s best attributes.

One big exception would be the Monarch Plus on the Norco Sight a few years back, so maybe there is hope. With really slick offerings from Fox, Cane Creek, and PUSH though, RockShox needs to step it up in my opinion.

My bottom line is that I did not feel an advantage to this bike over the alloy Turner Burner. You get your choice of black (with a variety of decal colors) with a not so great shock and an early carbon feel that isn’t quite mapped onto modern geometry for its intended purpose. If I wanted a DW-link enduro bike, I’d be looking at some other options. The Turner name, though, bumps up my intangible score.

Outerbike Test Session Score: 25 out of 35.

For more information visit www.turnerbikes.com.

About the author: Benjamin Slabaugh

Ben Slabaugh, aka Schlim on Mtbr, lives near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The 37-year-old has been riding mountain bikes since he was 12. His first high-end bike was a 1995 Specialized Stumpjumper M2, which he still has. Ben considers himself a climber, and competes in local road and MTB events. But he also loves to cruise on fast, flowing singletrack, and even makes the occasional trip to the bike park. While not an industry insider, Ben is tuned in to the nuances of bikes and believes he can communicate those characteristics in ways that are helpful to others.

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  • dmar says:

    Im just going to have to flat out disagree with about everything in Ben’s review of the RFX. But to each their own.

    I was on a Burner for several years and the RFX is a step or two above in every aspect. In no way whatsoever does this bike feel on the xc side of things. The stiffness and stability the RFX has over the Burner is definitely noticeable, and at the same time weighs less and climbs just as well.

    Its so funny that the reviews of all these 6″ travel bikes are taking place on XC trails where they are way over gunned… Of course your not going to feel the advantages the RFX has over the Burner with the trails your riding on.

    Your not going to appreciate what the RFX and M series Enve wheels have to offer unless your riding wide open and pushing the bike hard…SO many folks expect these bikes to be game changers and at the same time their wonking around on xc trails and dont even give the bike a chance to perform like its meant too.

    I do agree there are better shock options out there. But removing a few volume spacers and dialing in the sag/pressure it feels acceptable now.

    Ive also demoed the sb66, mach 6, nomad, mojo3 and I thought the RFX was the best all around complete package. All are pretty darn good bikes, hard to go wrong.

  • Mike says:

    The Rfx really comes alive at speed on DH and climbs amazing too by the way. Dmar hit the nail on the head with his opinion

  • Jimmy says:

    I’m also going to agree with dmar here.

    Sounds like Ben didn’t ride the bike well enough to push it’s capabilities unfortunately.

  • Saris says:

    I spent over a month test riding the RFX for MTBR and I also disagree with the majority of Ben’s comments, but he did nail some points. The bike does have a tall front end and it’s technically on the shorter end of the long front end spectrum.

    That said, I think it’s one of the most well-rounded bikes in the segment. It pedals extremely well, better than some 5″ travel bikes, and it’s just as good everywhere else.

  • Benjamin says:

    First ride impressions are difficult because there can be so much variability in suspension setup, fit, and terrain that it can dramatically affect one’s overall opinion. I stand by my assessment that there are other enduro-type options I’d choose, having ridden them on similar Moab terrain. However, I didn’t dislike the RFX! Quite the opposite, in fact. The slack head angle is something I should have noted as a great upgrade over the Burner, and the extra travel is clearly advantageous. Turners always respond well when their capabilities are pushed, but this did feel quite Burner-like to me. To Dmar’s point, the enduro category has such good offerings, virtually any in this price range would serve very well.

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