Turner hit the nail on the head with its fourth version of the RFX. Two aluminum links mate the carbon front and rear ends and provide the bike's 160 millimeters of carefully-tuned dw-link travel. It sure does pedal well for a bike made for going downhill at blazing speeds, and it does so without needing to flip the RockShox Monarch Plus' pedaling platform on. This is an ideal characteristic for enduro racers and those who'd rather ride than fumble around with switches.
But the bike's pedaling efficiency won't hinder you when it's time to let gravity do its thing. One tester remarked, "It felt like a plush version of the Santa Cruz Bronson." The RFX settles into its sag–we ran it at 30 percent–and feels completely neutral, equally ready to get on the gas or smooth stutters. And few bikes were better on root-littered flat sections, since the RFX remains active, yet supportive, while pedaling. Bringing added stability and confidence to the mix is the 47-inch wheelbase (for a size large), and 66-degree head angle. That's with a 160-mil fork–Turner is cool with up to 180 millimeters of travel on the front of the RFX.
RFX makes use of a new 49/62 tapered headtube, giving riders the ability to use offset cups to change the head angle by up to a degree-and-a-half in either direction. Want to run a 170-mil fork while maintaining the head angle? You can. 66 degrees is too slack for your liking? Go ahead and steepen that thing up.
Many companies use internal cable routing now, but Turner is sticking with external. Because we're complete nerds and there wasn't much else to debate with the RFX, this caused a heated argument among testers. Some appreciate the simplicity and serviceability of external, while others prefer well-designed internal routing. What we did agree on was that Turner's ziptie-free aluminum housing clips make for extremely tidy routing. And that the bike rips.
Turner offers the RFX frame-only for three grand, or you can choose one of four build kits starting with a SRAM GX group at just under $4,600. That's a really good price, especially considering this (and every) build includes a 160 RockShox Pike RCT3 fork and Monarch Plus Debonair.
Q&A with David Turner
Turner's RFX was yet another new model that had a lot of testers scratching their chins thoughtfully. It was also a bike that drew plenty of wistful looks once the testing was at an end. We definitely had questions for David Turner–a guy who's never afraid to buck a trend or two. Here's what Turner had to say about his new all-mountain brawler.
–Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
Vernon Felton: Are there conditions in which you feel this bike really excels and, if so, what specific design attributes of the bike make that true?
David Turner: I just rode Burro Down today, maybe this is a rougher trail than most people ride on a regular basis, but it is a badass test of climbing and, of course, descending in rough terrain…it's not like the sanitized trails designed to introduce new riders to the sport. The RFX front end does not lift and wander because the chainstays are not too short, the pedals are just far enough from a million rocks to survive and the front center is not so long that switchbacks are out of the question.
VF: What sets this fourth iteration of the RFX apart from other enduro/all-mountain bikes that consumers might be looking at in 2016?
DT: No rattling internal routing, which is a marketing gimmick at its best as it solves no problems… External routing is easy for home mechanics, etc
The RFX also has a geometry designed for most mountain biking; it's not specific to flow or park trails, which most bikes never see. This bike's geo is based on many years of riding and riding, and selling long-travel trail bikes to rough trail riders.
In the war of tech-spec marketing someone can get psyched into thinking they need the latest super-long front center and ring-dragging bottom bracket, until they're out in the real dirt where tractors or crowbars have not been applied…then a bike designed to excel in the real world will be stable enough due to a nice head angle and a chainstay that is the right length with enough weight on the front wheel for turning.
VF: What kind of rider did you have in mind when you were designing this bike?
DT: The rough trail rider looking for the most efficient way from the bottom of the climb to the top. The key features are DW-Link, carbon frame, and trail-bike geometry (not park).
VF: Are there any aspects of the frame design that you guys are particularly proud of? If so, what are they and why?
DT: Bottom line: it is so much more fun to ride than anything I have ever created.
VF: People tend to lump DW-Link bikes into the same category, but Weagle works with each bike company to create something unique to that brand. What, then, were you looking for out of your own version of the DW-Link system on this bike?
DT: I think I make DW work pretty hard to get the optimal dw-link anti squat numbers with the chassis characteristics I want. It has to still be a Turner Bike, supersized with DW-Link!