Added a comment about photo 2016 Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp 650B 2/11/2016 7:37 PM
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Added a product review for 2016 Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp 650b 2/11/2016 7:35 PM
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2016 Test Sessions: Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp 650b

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Courtney Steen and Amanda Richter // Photos by Lear Miller

At the 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions, we ladies got the chance to sample a few of the latest trail/all-mountain bikes to see how they perform for women. With a smorgasbord of bikes ranging from 120 to 160mm travel, women-specific to unisex, and a price range from about $3,000 to over $9,000, how is one to choose?! This year we tested three bikes in the 150 to 160mm travel range that may be options to consider. We put them (and ourselves) to the test on South Mountain's trails in Phoenix, Arizona - a moonscape of rowdy rock sections, decomposed granite, and sharp cactus around every bend. One of the three is Specialized's recently redesigned 2016 Rhyme FSR Comp 650b.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5 (650b) wheels
  • 150mm (5.9-inches) of front and rear wheel travel
  • FSR suspension
  • Sealed cartridge bearing pivots
  • Rx women's shock tune
  • Tapered headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • Women's specific contact points
  • 2X compatible with the Taco Blade
  • PF30 bottom bracket with ISCG mounts
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size medium, no pedals): 29.7-pounds (13.5kg)
  • MSRP $2,900 USD

What does a woman need in a trail bike? That's the question Specialized set out to answer with the all-new Rhyme by considering geometry, key touch points, and suspension with the input from thousands of women.

The Rhyme is a first for Specialized in that it shares the same geometry with a men’s model, the Stumpjumper FSR 650b. Turns out that when asked what they want, women aren’t that different from men in terms of geometry. We too want good handling, good suspension, and innovations to support the ride. Oh, and we want it to be pretty and we want it to shred. The shared geometry features slacker 66.5-degree (XS) and 67-degree (S-M) headtube angles for the new year, a super snappy rear end with 420mm (16.5-inch) chainstays, and a very low 335mm (13.2-inch) bottom bracket height. Add in Specialized’s low standover heights and short seat tubes and you've got bikes that work well for the ladies also. The Rhyme accommodates riders from 4'10" to 5'10" (1.5 to 1.8m) tall in sizes extra-small through medium.

While the geometry may be shared, some key important component differences, custom suspension, and consideration for our body types make the Rhyme work better for women. Specialized includes a slimmer 720mm (28.3-inch) bar, size specific cranks, and a slightly shorter 100 or 75mm dropper post to ensure you can achieve the right saddle height.

The shock on the Rhyme is specially tuned for lighter riders. For our height, we weigh on average less than men of the same height. We also tend to have a lower center of gravity since most of our muscle mass is in our legs, whereas men tend to have more in their upper bodies (no complaints there!). In their research, Specialized discovered that women weren’t commonly using all of their suspension, so they developed the Rx (Recommended Experience) Women's shock tune that gives us lighter riders a more responsive feel and the ability to use more of the suspension stroke. The compression ratios are tailored to complement us smaller-yet-just-as-mighty riders, giving a plush, efficient ride quality that utilizes every millimeter of luxurious travel. When we opened the shock to peek inside, we found no volume spacers, which is different to the shock on the Stumpjumper.

Some additional details that stood out are the ability to mount a water bottle inside the front triangle, internal cable routing (which rattles just a tiny bit), great mud clearance for gross weather days, and a rubber chainstay guard to help keep it somewhat quiet. There's also a funky rubber block under the downtube that prevents the fork from spinning too far and causing damage to the lower than normal frame.

We tested a size medium Rhyme FSR Comp 650b bike based on our reach measurement preferences. It's the only alloy model offered and costs $2,900, making it the most affordable model in the 17 bike Test Sessions lineup. The Rhyme is also available in the $5,900 Expert Carbon and $3,800 Comp Carbon models which feature some pretty nifty integrated SWAT storage technology not found in the aluminum version.

Geometry

On The Trail

Setting up the bike was pretty easy, thanks in part to the AutoSag feature on the FOX Float Evolution rear shock. We just had to pump up the pressure really high, sit on it, and have a buddy press the air release for us. It took a couple times of releasing air, cycling the shock a bit, and then releasing some more until it had no more air to release to reach the appropriate sag. This worked out to about 13-15mm of sag. Setting the fork was also a snap. We just used the guide on the fork leg to get a good starting point for the air pressure. In the cockpit, we did choose to swap out the 720mm bars and 70mm stem based on our personal preferences for 750mm bars and a 50mm stem. Then after setting the brake lever and shifter positions, airing up the tires, setting saddle height and angle, and checking the suspension rebound speeds, we were ready to hit the trails.

South Mountain's rugged trails are challenging, even for the best bike handlers. We climbed up a combination of the Javelina Canyon, Mormon, and National trails. After four lung-busting grunts and hundreds of opportunities to challenge our technical climbing skills over about six miles, we rose over a thousand feet above the sprawling Phoenix metro area.

The Rhyme did very well pointed uphill. Its geometry was comfortable for pedaling in and out of the saddle. Thanks to a steep seat angle we didn’t feel like we were way off the back, and it wasn’t hard to keep the front down on steep grunts. When getting out of the saddle, maintaining traction wasn’t a challenge either. We did struggle a bit with striking pedals and cranks due to the lower bottom bracket height, however. The rider of this pony had better know how to flawlessly time their strokes with such little wiggle room.

We are happy to report that the bike climbed well with the shock in both the wide open and medium compression modes. At 29.7-pounds, it's a respectable weight and gets along very well with good pedaling efficiency and no notable sluggishness or pedal bob.

Thanks to the fabulously low standover, we never high centered when we had to bail during a technical climb attempts. When we had to make a move to get up and over a tricky obstacle, the rear end felt supportive, not like it was sucking all the energy out of the move. The short seat tube on our size medium also had some room to spare with the 100mm travel dropper post, which means a rider about an inch shorter than us (5'6" and 5'7") could likely hop on the size medium without issue. Alternatively, taller ladies could get away with a longer dropper for more clearance.

At the top of the mountain we had a number of options available to us for our descents. Our favorite was to add an extra little loop on Holbert at the top of the hill. Holbert had a fast descent that was mostly smooth with some big rock water bars that required hopping, plus a handful of loose corners with cacti kindly waiting to catch us if we slipped. Here we found that rider position felt plenty balanced and the bike was responsive to rider input. The suspension felt plush and never bucky over any of the smaller bumps or jumps. Geometry wise it felt comfortable, and that lower bottom bracket height played well through corners, as did the short chainstays. The bike also made it around the tighter switchbacks we faced without issue.

After a lap or two for funsies, we climbed back up to the top of Geronimo trail. This downhill bike worthy trail down to the valley floor is nonstop rock smashing fun if you're brave enough for it, and it was here that we found the bike's limits. We didn’t feel like the suspension was all that great when faced with bigger bumps or drops. On these types of impacts, and especially quick successive ones, it felt like the bike was overwhelmed and we'd often need a moment to slow down and reset. While the RockShox Revelation RC3 fork performs very well on your average twisty, jumpy, pumpy trail, it seemed like it was holding the bike back from excelling in rough, technical descents as it got balled up on slower big hits. Combined with rear suspension that was perhaps a tad too linear, after any sort of drop it felt like a challenge to recover for the next feature. We were indeed using all the travel, and it wasn’t harsh when it bottomed out, however. We only descended with the suspension compression setting wide open.

Watch the Rhyme's 150mm of FSR suspension in action.

Build Kit

At $2,900, the Comp model provides a great value when you look at the components. It's impressive to see things like a reliable dropper post, wide rims, and good tires at this price point.

When we needed to stop or slow down, the Shimano Deore brakes with a 160mm rear and 180mm front rotor did the trick. There were no blown corners or persons run over in the testing of this bike. The levers were nice and short with an ergonomic shape and plenty of adjustment range.

Also useful for keeping it rubber side down were nice tires. The front 2.3-inch Specialized Butcher Control and rear Purgatory Control tires held fast on the decomposed granite and rock as we made our way up and down the mountain. There wasn’t much rolling resistance to fight. They also did well holding up to the abuse of many square rocks, though in a place where there were plenty of opportunities to flat, and others did, we experienced one burp and one sliced sidewall.

Specialized specs Roval Traverse rims with a wide 29mm inner width that really helps add some support to the tires when smashing into turns or running lower pressures. They were still true at the end of our test.

While the climbs were easier thanks to the secondary 22-tooth front chainring, at the end of the day we are big 1x drivetrain fans. It cleans up the cockpit, simplifies the ride, reduces technical difficulties, and is much quieter. This SRAM X9/X7 2x10 drivetrain didn’t change our mind. It seemed like when it came time for a quick shift we couldn’t get it into the right gear, nor was it a smooth feeling shift. We also repeatedly dropped chains. Add in chainslap noise that was deafeningly awful even over slightly bumpy climbs in the small ring and yeah, not fans. Unfortunately 1x drivetrains tend to be more expensive, but we're hoping for more affordable options in the future.

Specialized's women's Myth Comp saddle is one we both thought was comfortable. Perhaps a little on the firm side for one of us, but it fit the sit bones well. It's rare to find a stock saddle that actually works for us gals.

After being spoiled with them, we don’t think we could ride a bike without a dropper ever again, so the inclusion of the Command Post IRcc dropper on such an affordable bike is a good score. The updated post does still pop up with zeal, but it’s certainly less terrifying than the previous version. Added stops throughout its travel are also nice for finding the right seat height on the fly. There are many times, especially on technical climbs, that a slightly lowered saddle height is very helpful and necessary. We found the remote easy to reach and press. Specialized sends the size XS and small Rhymes with 75mm travel posts.

Finally, as mentioned before, we found it necessary to swap the 720mm alloy handlebar and 70mm XC stem for something a bit more capable on the descents. This really comes down to personal preference.

Long Term Durability

Save a sliced tire, we experienced no major issues during our test, and looking the bike over it seems like it will last for a while. There is a protective sticker on the inside of the seatstay that the chain did quite a bit of work on, so consider upgrading to something thicker for both the sake of your ears and the frame. Further down the road when the pivots need service, the torque specs are clearly labeled, everything is easy to access, and the process looks fairly painless.

Specialized offers a generous lifetime limited frame warranty with five years on suspension equipment coverage, plus a two year limited complete bike warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp 650b comes at a good value, is a great climber, and can be a very fun ride on relatively smooth trails. The geometry has plenty of clearance in all the important areas, the components work together to make it comfortable, and the details are all well thought out.

Based on our previous experience on the higher end Expert Carbon model, we feel the Comp has potential to be a better bike on very rough trails with a few component swaps. From the bike shop, this model is beginner to intermediate friendly, but hard charging gals will likely find its limits.

Visit www.specialized.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Descending: 3 stars - Good
  • Fun Factor: 3.5 stars - Very Good
  • Value: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Overall Impression: 3.5 stars - Very Good

Bonus Gallery: 17 photos of the 2016 Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp 650b up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Courtney Steen - Age: 28 // Years Riding MTB: 8 // Height: 5'7" (1.70m) // Weight: 25-30% sag ;-)

"Going downhill puts a smile on my face and I climb for ice cream." Courtney routinely shocks the boys with her speed and has experience in various disciplines. Today she travels the country in a RV in search of the next best trail and writes women's reviews for Vital MTB. Her technical background helps her think critically about products and how they can be improved.

Amanda Wentz - Age: 34 // Years Riding MTB: 10+ // Height: 5'6" (1.68m) // Weight: 135-pounds (61.2kg)

"I like riding rocky technical uphill as smoothly as I can, but my rims would say all that goes out the window when the bike is pointed down." Over the last decade Amanda has soaked up all aspects of mountain biking and continues to push herself to progress. She's a personal trainer and mountain bike coach, and loves knowing what her gear is doing and why.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Four years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2016's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in Phoenix, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Rage Cycles. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Royal Racing, Smith, Fox Racing, Race Face, Easton, and Source.

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Added reply in a thread Boost wheelset for trail bike 2/11/2016 1:59 PM

We tested the Fuel EX 29 at Vital's Test Sessions(review coming soon), and I think you're making a good decision to swap out the wheels. We left the trails puzzled as to why they'd spec such a narrow and flimsy wheelset when wheel stiffness is listed as a key benefit ... more »

Added a new video Headed to New Zealand? Don't Miss Wellington's Mount Victoria Rides 2/11/2016 1:01 PM
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Headed to Crankworx in New Zealand this year? Or perhaps just planning a trip to see what all the hype is about? Here's a preview of some of the fun that can be had just outside of downtown Wellington on the North Island, a place with enough variety to give every type of rider a good time. Join Rosara Joseph, Kieran Bennett and Craig Pattle for a gentle cruise up and a quick blast down.

Visit wellington.govt.nz/mountainbiking for more videos, mobile maps and track info for every type of rider.

Rosara started riding bikes while studying law in Christchurch. Initially drawn to the up-hills part of mountain biking, she spent 8 years on the international cross country mountain bike circuit – she was riding in circles in beautiful places around the world! A highlight of her XC racing career was performing an impressive front flip over the bars in the 2008 Beijing Olympics XC race. Then she discovered the fun of proper bikes and going downhill, and spent a couple years racing Enduro races in the big mountains. She now lives and works in Squamish, BC and still loves riding bikes.

Kieran has spent most of his life on two wheels while growing up in Nelson. Starting out on motorbikes and BMX's before finding a passion for mountain biking, mostly of the downhill variety. This eventually led to several years racing in Europe and the USA on the World Cup downhill circuit. These days he resides in Christchurch working as the foreman of a sheetmetal company while still racing Enduro and downhill races throughout New Zealand.

Craig Pattle was born and bred in Rotorua. He started racing bikes when was 12, and went on to pick up national titles as a junior. In 2003, he headed to Europe to try his luck on the pro circuit. While a short stint in BMX racing side-tracked him for a while, his love for the forest and mountain bikes ultimately won. These days you can find Craig on a trail struggling up hills and flowing through the trees – just being out on his bike, doing what he loves.

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Added reply in a thread 2016 Racing Rumours 2/11/2016 10:19 AM

Dirt Magazine asked SRAM what was up with Gwin's drivetrain. They responded: “Our goal is to the tell the complete drivetrain story in which performance and reliability is optimized by using all SRAM components. Since we haven’t tested Aaron’s current ... more »

Added a new slideshow First Look: 2017 SRAM NX Drivetrain - The Most Affordable SRAM 1X System Yet 2/11/2016 7:00 AM
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Updated photo album Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp 650b - 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions 2/10/2016 8:04 PM
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Added a comment about product review First Look, First Ride: 2016 Santa Cruz Hightower 29 and 27.5+ 2/10/2016 2:15 PM
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Great to hear! Enjoy it!

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Liked a comment on the item First Look, First Ride: 2016 Santa Cruz Hightower 29 and 27.5+ 2/10/2016 2:15 PM

I just ordered one of these thanks in part to this review. I am really liking SC's new lineup with the longer cockpits -- a feature they have needed to implement for years prior. Thanks for the great review as usual, Vital.

Liked a comment on the item First Look, First Ride: 2016 Santa Cruz Hightower 29 and 27.5+ 2/10/2016 2:15 PM

I just ordered one of these thanks in part to this review. I am really liking SC's new lineup with the longer cockpits -- a feature they have needed to implement for years prior. Thanks for the great review as usual, Vital.

Added reply in a thread Need more scrubs + dogs in here 2/10/2016 1:49 PM

Heck yes! I'll play along... A video posted by Tyler Custer (@tylercuster424) on Oct 16, 2014 at 6:50pm PDT @remsauce244 got a little dangled on her scrub attempt, Mr. Steve cased hard. #revlimiter #overthebars #dogscrub #superdog A video posted by Jake Allen (@jakallen244) on Feb 14, 2015 at 10:08am PST This one is also rad, especially at 1:47: http://www.vitalmtb.com/videos/member/Impossible-To-Keep-Up-with-the-Worlds-Fastest-Trail-Dog,24501/iceman2058,94 ... more »

Started new thread MTB Advice I'd Give Myself Five or Ten Years Ago 2/10/2016 1:14 PM

There's no denying that each of us have learned several lessons during our years as mountain bikers, sometimes the hard way. If you could give yourself MTB advice five or ten years ago, what would it be? From riding to racing, wrenching, attitude, and

... more »

This forum thread has 41 replies

Added a comment about photo 2016 Turner RFX v4.0 GX 2/9/2016 3:26 PM
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Added a product review for 2016 Turner RFX v4.0 GX 2/9/2016 3:18 PM
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2016 Test Sessions: Turner RFX v4.0 GX

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Fred Robinson and AJ Barlas // Photos by Lear Miller

Turner fans, rejoice! The often coveted Turner RFX is finally back, this time in a 27.5 carbon-framed package. The bike features DW-link suspension with 160mm of travel, more aggressive geometry, and several little touches that add up to a much improved ride. Given the long wait and the amount of R&D that went into it, we were excited to see how the RFX would stack up at the 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5 (650b) wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) of front and rear wheel travel
  • DW-link suspension
  • EnduroMax bearings
  • Tapered headtube
  • External cable routing with Stealth dropper
  • Removable direct mount front derailleur adapter
  • Post mount rear brake
  • Press fit 30 bottom bracket
  • ISCG 05 mounts
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size XL, no pedals): 29.1-pounds (13.2kg)
  • MSRP $4,951 USD

Following in the footsteps of the Czar, Turner's first carbon model, the 2016 RFX reappears for the fourth time since 1999, but now in a carbon version that helps bring it up to speed with the latest in bike technology. Turner molds the bike using a blend of Toray high-modulus uni-directional carbon sourced from Japan.

Out back you'll find 160mm of travel ready to eat up the rough stuff via Dave Weagle's DW-link suspension. Turner says it's "the only design on the market that is able to control unwanted bob and still remain active in more gear combinations than any other design." When mounted, the 200x57mm (7.875 x 2.25-inch) shock is offset to the non-driveside. Sealed EnduroMax bearings at every pivot point improve small bump compliance over their old bushing system.

The frame features external cable routing for easy maintenance, with exception to the Stealth-style dropper post which exits the frame at the bottom of the seat tube. All cables are held in place by machined alloy cable clamps that screw into the frame. Turner placed the clamps in strategic locations to prevent unwanted cable noise and frame rub while eliminating the need for any zip-ties. Some of the mounts on the top side of the downtube double as water bottle mounts, though the included hardware on our test bike wasn't long enough to mount both the bottle cage and cable guides at the same time. Whether or not this was an oversight by Turner, we're not sure, but removing one cable guide to mount the cage was a non-issue.

Additional details include a post mount rear brake with replaceable threaded inserts, space for a meaty 2.4-inch tire with close to half an inch to spare for mud clearance, a 73mm PF30 bottom bracket, and ISCG 05 mounts. Should you want to run a 2X drivetrain, the frame is front derailleur compatible thanks to a removable direct mount adapter. Integrated frame guards on both the chainstay and the lower portion of the downtube help prevent damage to the frame from chainslap and rock strikes.

The RFX can be had starting at $2,995 for a frame/shock only option, and is also available with five build kits and a myriad of wheelset and shock options. Builds range from the $4,951 SRAM GX/DT Swiss/RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair option to $9,672 for an ultra-baller Shimano XTR/ENVE/Push ElevenSix combo. There are even options for wheel graphics if you'd like to get super fancy. We tested the most affordable GX build. For the Turner faithful out there, know that a trade-in program exists which provides you with $600 off in exchange for your old Turner frame.

Geometry

The RFX sees a number of updates for 2016 in the geometry department, and while it's highlighted by a slacker-than-most 66-degree head angle, the numbers are not as aggressive across the board as some might hope for. These days, riders under 6'1" (1.85 meters) tall typically find themselves best situated on a size large frame, but due to short reach measurements our testers opted for the XL. Those near the cusp of the recommended sizing might want to consider sizing up depending on your personal preferences and riding style.

Other key numbers include slightly longer than average 438mm (17.24-inch) chainstays, a 73.5-degree seat tube angle, and a 345mm (13.6-inch) measured bottom bracket height (slightly higher than the 340mm claimed). Should you want to, the use of a 49/62mm tapered headtube allows the frame to be adjustable between 65-degrees and 67-degrees in half degree increments via FSA headset hardware available from Turner.

On The Trail

We tested the RFX on South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona, which features rough, rocky, loose, and generally wild trails. With extended technical climbs paired with rugged downhills like Geronimo and Holbert trails, the area served as an ideal testing ground for the RFX which claims to be a downhill crusher capable of efficiently making its way to the top.

We began our test with the RockShox Monarch Plus DebonAir shock set within Turner’s recommended 30-35% sag range, opting for 33% while seated. Before shipping each bike, Turner opens every shock and pre-installs volume spacers based on the size of the bike and your riding style. Our XL came equipped with three bands.

One side effect of having to size up is how tall the front end is, which is something we noticed right away. It's way up there with a 632mm (24.9-inch) stack measurement for our XL frame. When we checked the numbers, even the size large frame's stack height is higher by a half-inch or more when compared to your average 160mm travel bike. The bike just feels tall, even with the low-rise bars set as low as possible. Coupled with the somewhat short reach, this can make for an awkward ride at first and we had to adjust our riding style a bit to get comfortable.

When pointed up, the DW-link equipped RFX climbs well for a 160mm bike. With the shock fully open and a 32-tooth chainring, both seated and out-of-saddle climbing resulted in very little bob, though hard-mashing pedalers will find the shock's middle compression setting useful. In our experience the bike pedals exceptionally well. Should you decide to use the firm compression setting, the rear wheel still reacts to trail inconsistencies, never feeling overly harsh or locked-out. Turner chose not to spec the RFX with a travel adjust fork, and in our experience the tall front end tended to wander quite a bit on the steeper climbs, forcing us to ride as far forward on the saddle and with as much weight on the bars as possible. This made rear-end traction sometimes hard to come by, due to having to be so far over the front end, and the longer than average stays contributed to this loss of traction as well. In regards to pedal-strikes, the large amount of sag drops the bottom bracket quite a bit and makes line choice and pedal timing important. The geometry works well when it comes to overall stability while descending and cornering, however.

While the geometry and suspension makes for a decent climber, we all know this bike was built for getting the most out of your descents (while still earning them), and that's where the bike really came alive. At 33% sag it provides an incredibly supple ride well into the mid-stroke. While one of our testers found Turner’s choice of running three volume reducers in the shock ample to resist bottoming out, our other tester wanted more progression out of the system and chose to add two more, for a total of five. While he preferred five reducers over three during deep consecutive hits, it was a bit much. For more aggressive riders we think running four reducers is the ticket. When we checked the numbers we found the suspension design starts progressive, but becomes linear as the rear wheel approaches the end of its travel. Overall it's a more progressive and supportive feeling ride than the Pivot Mach 6 and Ibis Mojo HD3, two other bikes with similar DW-link suspension designs. Those wanting a more nimble ride will want to set the bike up with slightly less sag and possibly fewer spacers, while those preferring a stable ride will want to drop it close to 35% with more spacers.

In both volume spacer configurations the mid-stroke offered plenty of support, keeping our focus on the trail and not worried about what the bike was doing. While the RFX did take the sting off medium to large square edge hits, we felt it hang up a bit on a few occasions during large successive square edges. Even so, overall the bike descended exceptionally well with a balanced feel, stable chassis, centered stance, and the confidence to carry us through whatever line we picked.

The RFX's DW-link design in motion.

In corners, the bike tracked the ground well giving us plenty of traction, even over the choppy and dry Arizona terrain. Pushing into turns, the bike kept up in its travel and never wallowed or felt unbalanced. Due to the RFX's excellent pedaling characteristics, it was incredibly responsive while sprinting out of corners or in the flats, rewarding us with extra speed for our efforts. Thanks to the DW-link design, outright pedaling performance is barely affected by the amount of travel being used or sag height.

Build Kit

We chose to test Turner's least expensive GX build, which features SRAM's more affordable 1x11 GX drivetrain, a RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork, SRAM Guide R brakes, DT Swiss E-1900 wheels, and a Race Face Evolve stem and bar. With literally hundreds of build kit/wheelset/shock/head angle combos available, this ride has the potential to suit many riders' needs.

For some reason our GX build didn't come with the listed Evolve cockpit, but a wide 800mm (31.5-inch) Race Face Respond bar and 50mm stem were in their place. Whether or not Turner didn't have their OEM shipment of bars/stems in yet, or there's an unpublished variation for the XL RFX we're not sure, but it was a welcomed surprise over the stock 750mm (29.5-inch) setup. Spec'ing a 780-800mm bar would be ideal as those who find it too wide can cut it down, as opposed to wide bar lovers having to purchase a new bar right off the bat.

Turner missed a few easy opportunities in the tire and rotor department in our opinion, spec'ing the burly RFX with a small 160mm rear rotor which we quickly roached, and some thin 2.35-inch Schwalbe Knobby Nic tires. We would have liked to see a more robust tire setup and larger diameter rotors to better match the bike's intended purpose and capabilities. The tires limited us when things started picking up speed, and despite being tubeless we suffered a few flats in the rocky terrain. Replacing those two components has the potential to improve the overall feel of the bike in a pretty big way. Oh, and you'll likely want some lock-on grips while you're at it.

Turner spec'd the bike with a 125mm (4.9-inch) travel KS Integra dropper post, which we've found to have reliability issues in the past due to very precise cable tension requirements. Of three KS Integra posts in our 17 bike lineup not one remained problem free. After a single day of riding the dropper would sink an inch into its travel when weighted without activating the lever.

The RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork gave us no issues and was a solid performer through and through, handling the rough and rocky terrain well and keeping its composure even in the chunkiest of sections. The RFX is a burly bike, however, and as such some riders may wish for the Lyrik alternative considering the bike's downhill capabilities. Based on preference, we added two Bottomless Tokens to the Pike to provide a more progressive spring curve.

The DT-Swiss E-1900 wheels held up very well and were reasonably stiff, which kept us pointed in the right direction with no sudden deflections to throw us off line.

SRAM's GX drivetrain impressed us once again with reliable performance at a fraction of the cost. Consider adding a top guide for extra chain security.

Long Term Durability

The RFX looks to be an overbuilt and sturdy frame with plenty of integrated frame protection. Rubber molded chainstay and downtube guards protect against chain slap and rock strikes, while thin metal plates add additional coverage from chainslap and rotor damage. There are some gaps on the chainstay and inner seatstay which could become problematic in the long term, so some key applications of mastic tape is advised for complete coverage. Unfortunately the rear derailleur cable routes along the top of the chainstay, which makes for a slightly noisier ride.

We appreciate that they’ve equipped the RFX with replaceable post mount threaded inserts should you ever cross-thread your brake bolts. Large torx bolts are used throughout the linkage for improved durability during maintenance, so make sure you have the appropriate sizes in your toolbox (and possibly in your pack). Torque specs are available here, and all pivot bearings are easily replaceable when the time comes. Turner backs the bike with a seven day 100% satisfaction purchase guarantee allowing you to swap sizes or return the bike should things be awry early on, followed by a two year frame warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're an aggressive rider who only climbs to earn your descents, Turner's RFX v4.0 might be the beast you're looking for. While not the most agile bike with the GX build kit, excellent pedaling characteristics still make it capable of extended climbs. Once pointed down, it opens up like a mini-downhill bike, offering a supple, balanced ride with geometry that rewards an off-the-back riding style. Despite a couple of hang ups when things got really rowdy, the overall impression we got is a bike that likes it rough. Out of the box the GX kit is close to being a great "budget" build, and with the few parts swaps would be an all out trail slayer.

Visit www.turnerbikes.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 3 stars - Good
  • Descending: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Value: 3 stars - Good
  • Overall Impression: 4 stars - Excellent

Bonus Gallery: 26 photos of the 2016 Turner RFX v4.0 GX up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Fred Robinson - Age: 31 // Years Riding MTB: 13 // Height: 6'1" (1.85m) // Weight: 240-pounds (108.9kg)

"Drop my heels and go." Fred has been on two wheels since he was two years old, is deceptively quick for a bigger guy, and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. Several years of shop experience means he's not afraid to tinker. He's very particular when it comes to a bike's suspension performance and stiffness traits.

AJ Barlas - Age: 35 // Years Riding MTB: 15+ // Height: 6'3" (1.91m) // Weight: 156-pounds (70.8kg)

"Smooth and fluid." Hailing from Squamish, BC, AJ's preferred terrain is chunky, twisty trail with natural features. He's picky with equipment and has built a strong understanding of what works well and why by riding a large number of different parts and bikes. Observant, mechanically inclined, and always looking to learn more through new experiences and products.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Four years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2016's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in Phoenix, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Rage Cycles. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Royal Racing, Smith, Fox Racing, Race Face, Easton, and Source.

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Added reply in a thread The Patent Thread - New and Wild MTB Inventions 2/9/2016 1:19 PM

According to a BRAIN article, "a federal appeals court has upheld a tubeless rim patent held by Stan's NoTubes, which has been the subject of a long legal dispute with Specialized. The Federal Circuit decision upholds a previous ruling by the Patent

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Liked a bike check Transition Scout - "High Vis" Edition 2/9/2016 12:12 PM
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Added reply in a thread 2016 Racing Rumours 2/9/2016 10:05 AM

Morewood is back in action thanks to Richard Carter and Victor Momsen. It'll be interesting to see if they bring anyone to the World Cup scene. New suspension platform promised for later this year.

Updated photo album Turner RFX v4.0 GX - 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions 2/8/2016 10:37 PM
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Added reply in a thread The Patent Thread - New and Wild MTB Inventions 2/8/2016 12:43 PM

SRAM is pushing lawsuits against Race Face, Praxis Works, and Wolf Tooth regarding their narrow/wide rings: https://search.rpxcorp.com/lit/ilndce-319499-sram-v-race-face-performance-products https://search.rpxcorp.com/lit/ilndce-319507-sram-v-praxis-works ... more »