Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Bikes: Turner Flux

The past few couple of weeks has been my first serious rides on my new Turner Flux- I've now clocked a good 150km on it so feel qualified to report back my first impressions. It hasn't the easiest build to get together, and it's still got a few tweaks before i'm completely satisfied, but wow, as first impressions go, I'm quietly blown away. The bike has felt immediately familiar and exceeded my expectations in all the areas i'd read up on and hoped for, but wasn't 100% sure on whether they'd be delivered on a frame I hadn't test ridden. 

First up is the 'legendary' Turner handling- this gets quite a lot of press from other Turner owners and magazine reviews, and I must say the angles do all indeed just feel right. The steering is responsive without feeling nervous or unstable and whilst it is a touch quicker than i was thinking it would be, I actually quite enjoy the involvement of a slightly more traditional xc geometry. I can flick the front or rear end quite quickly to pick a line through rock gardens or singletrack and theres no hint of the front end wallowing on steep climbs. Super slack head angles seem to have become a very fashionable 'must have' for modern mtbs, but in my opinion the magazines fail to mention that slack just isn't as fun for many riding situations (esp. Singletrack). Sure, too steep and you're over the bars when it's steep, but for me when combined with wide bars and a 90mm stem the this feels like it takes the best bits from a 'traditional' old school xc bike and injects some new school stability.

One of the key things that sold the frame to me was the idea of the dw-link. Having had a few short try outs on Pivots and Ibis Mojos, I was impressed with the feel of their suspension- when you stand up and mash the pedals your energy goes into forward momentum, not shock compression (bob). In that respect it seems you can ride a dw-linked full sus much like a hard tail and not be forced into staying in the saddle on climbs. On the Yeti I'd been sold on the idea that the new pro pedal RP23 shocks negated the need for complex pivot arrangements, and whilst I still hanker for the simplicity of a single pivot, the reality is that the only way you get rid of bob on a single pivot is to keep the pro pedal switch 'on', which isn't so plush- Either that or you're constantly flicking switches, which isn't so fun. So, to have a bike that pedals so well yet retains a very plush feel is really a nice thing. 

In the same way that the handling is a bit split personality, the suspension reflects this also- it has the travel (105mm) of an xc race bike but as you get into the travel it feels deceptively like the plushness of a longer travel bike. The frame weight and the cnc construction method also reflect this aggressive 'built to last' feel. The feel of the suspension is also quite vertical, as in less like the bike is folding, and more like the front and rear are moving together. If there is a negative, it would be the inherent complexity of the linkages. I'm confident enough in all the grease port injectable pivots from a servicing and durability standpoint, but there are still lots of nooks and crannies to clean, and I like to default to less is more as a philosophy. But sometimes, just a bit more really is more...

The Build

I've carried over the bulk of the parts over from the Yeti / S-works hard tail, with a few sprinkles of freshness to liven things up. New wheels (Hope sp8) & brakes (Hope x2 special editions) have been the major new additions and Hope being Hope neither has disappointed. I may do more in depth reviews of these products in time but I'm very happy with both, and the Continental Mtn kings are nice tubeless rubber for the wheels. Hope round off all bearing duties with their headset and ceramic b/b.

The only disappointment has been getting the Middleburn cranks to work. Sadly I was sent the wrong spider, meaning whilst they look great on the bike the chainline is way off. Those of you with eagle eyes will notice old xtr cranks in some of these photos as a stop gap.

Another part I'll upgrade in time is the fork. I'm running some slightly tired 110mm Fox float rlc's. Nice enough forks, but scratches to the stanchions have meant lost oil and air pressure over time. Still a bit of life left in them yet, before I replace with either another pair of Fox, or maybe some DT Swiss 120s.

An xtr / xt 9 speed set up, monkeylites, a flite and my usual Thomson obsession pretty much wrap things up.

This is the sort of machine that makes you wonder why you bothered not buying it sooner. It feels like I've found my holy grail of mountain bike- super fast, comfortable enough, great through the technical without just being a steamroller, reliable (esp. in it's reassuring lack of carbon), a sensible weight and just a very confidence inspiring ride. That's not to say it must be the best bike in the world ever- there are of course better xc race bikes, better freeride bikes, and those who believe in the way of the 29er / singlespeed and so on, but for just mountain biking, as in riding (fast) to the top and bombing back down or along, or across, I don't think it get's too much better. The price hasn't come cheap, but I do believe in investing in quality and the indications are there that this should be a bike to last. If I get bored of the colour Turner can respray and recondition for a reasonable sum. There's also something quite nice about supporting genuine hand made fabricators, be that Dave Turner in the USofA, Jan Kole in Shenzhen, or the Hope / Middleburn guys in the UK. It will cost a bit more than a Trek to buy, but sometimes getting what you want is worth that bit extra, and the best things in life aren't always free...