2011 Turner 5.Spot

The frame showed up at my house all black anodized, beautiful, and mysterious. I built my wheels, asked buddies for extra bits and pieces, and got the thing running. To be honest, my first ride out was a bit of a noisy affair. The thing just wouldn’t stop creaking while climbing. No biggie, first ride out and all. I checked the tightness on all the usual suspects: chainring bolts, pivot bolts, seatpost—the creaking didn’t go away. (More on this in a second.)

Turner 5.spot, Blister Gear Review
Kevin Bazar on the Turner 5.Spot.

Given how similar the geometry and overall fit of the 5.Spot was to my Enduro, I was pretty comfortable on it immediately. But as firm as both bikes feel climbing (a good thing), The Turner was feeling just as stiff on the descents, something I’d wanted to move away from getting this bike. The 5 Spot felt like riding the most damped, most propedaled, most boost valved,  resistant-to-suspension movement of any kind rear end I’d ever experienced. I loved the fact that the frame was so stiff and burly, but with with the way the suspension was feeling, it reminded me of some of the early low-speed compression/platform shocks, like the Manitous and 5th elements of the past. It kind of sucked. Once home I stripped the bike down, removed the shock, and cycled the suspension. The pivots were sticking—badly.

So I called Turner, and the extremely understanding gentleman I spoke with said they suspected they’d had a bad batch of bushings that were out of tolerance.

I’ve been riding and working on my own bikes long enough that nothing annoys me more than when a company acts like I’m the only person on the planet who’s mentioned a specific problem when everyone I know with the same part has had the same issue. Not only is it patronizing, but it’s one of several things that will cause me to blacklist a company for future purchases. Not so with Turner.

I’ve had several Turner DH bikes, and one of their “freeride” bikes, and like most people who own those things and wrench on their own toys, I continue to be impressed by Turner’s willingness and ability to say, “Yeah, we may have messed up; here’s how to fix it.”

They sent me a new set of bushings that arrived in two days, along with advice and instructions on how to sand them down to loosen them up further should simply replacing them not fix the problem. Cool. It’s adults talking to adults here, the way it should be when you spend the kind of money we spend on bikes these days.

The newer bushings went in way easier than the old ones came out, and I was in business. No more stickiness in the stand with no shock, and the God-awful creaking was gone. Maybe bushings are a good idea after all. They must be—Turner has been using them for more than a decade.

I’m about 5’8”-ish, depending on how I slept on my back the night before, and the medium 5.Spot fits me really well. I’m never hitting my knees on my bars, and I’ve never felt like I’m too stretched over the front end when I need to manual or bunny hop. A 65mm stem with some 29.5-inch-wide bars puts me in a good spot. This is comparable to a small size in most Specialized trail bikes, for what it’s worth, but Specialized went full Andre with their sizing a few years ago.

After about 20 or so rides, I was becoming more and more impressed with just how burly this bike rode. I’m a DH’er, a dirtjumper, a former XC racer, and am still young enough that I get more and more comfortable every year taking chances and flat-out slamming into things if I’m a little off line. Bikes are getting more capable, so there’s certainly a justification for this approach in my mind. This is especially true if you’ve got a little DH background and have ridden some bikes that just don’t care what you do to them. This frame is one of the more burly of that ilk that I’ve ridden. It just never feels fragile.

Turner 5.Spot, Blister Gear Review
The Turner 5.Spot.

With a bigger front tire and a 160mm fork, the 67.7-degree headangle actually became 67 degrees even, but the frame just felt like it was ready for a more aggressive treatment. It was like a slopestyle bike in a trail bike costume. So I got some 2-degree slacker headset cups just to see what would happen. A friggin’ freight train, that’s what happened. Sure, I used the travel adjust on my fork a little more than on previous bikes while climbing. But with the changes, I was riding a 65-degree headangle, 5.5” rear, 6.3” front travel trail bike on the descents, and it was good. Real good.

I could go on and on about the DW suspension and how it keeps the bike so level yet compliant while climbing, but it’s not the only bike that does that. To be honest, the majority of the better bikes with a good shock set up do, too. There’s a beauty in how the 5.Spot remains fairly supple at slow speeds yet has an axle path that encourages nailing rocks and roots at 30 mph. But, again: it’s not the only bike out there that does that.

Instead I want to go on and on about just how hard I could stuff this thing into turns and notice my tires rolling off the rim… notice my cranks flexing… notice that my rims would need a trueing stand when I got to the bottom, but that my feet still felt aligned with my hands. How my feet stayed underneath me, and the bike didn’t spring back from flexing in hard corners. The frame ain’t doing a damn thing but pointing where I put it. That’s where the poetry lies.

Take a look at the lower links of any DW model Turner, and you’ll notice that they’re thicker and more tailored to resisting lateral flex than many downhill frames that have used a similar quad link/floating full rear triangle design. That kind of thing, in my mind, is what sets this frame apart from its equivalent models from other manufacturers. Everything about the design works well, but the ability to ride it like a much “bigger” bike puts it out on its own.

Because suspension design is such a hallmark of every brand these days, I will give credit where it’s due (and hence to Dave Turner and Dave Weagle). Turner sends their 5.Spots out with volume reducers installed in the Fox RP23s that give the bike some suspension ramp. They don’t set up these frames, as they come stock, as a passive plow machine. What I mean by “passive” is this: One approach to suspension dictates that upon encountering an object, the most passive wheel movement will yield the greatest overall forward momentum. In other words, if you use as much of the travel as possible—so that the wheel moves up and over the object as much as possible—less momentum will be transferred to the bike and rider in an upward direction.

Suspensions of that design are really good for just slamming into things without a whole lot of rider input. But they tend to suffer when it comes to utilizing rider input as well. Pumping corners and dips feels like trying to bounce on pudding. This can be tuned out with some variety of low-speed compression on most shocks (and incidentally is something I worked hard to tune out on an older Turner frame, the Highline), but I’m generally not a fan.

I’m one of those people that has functioning eyeballs, fortunately. There’s very little that my tires come into contact with that I wasn’t aware of at least a few milliseconds before it happens. So, lucky for me, I know things are coming and tend to give the bike a little hand with some bunny hopping, preloading, or just general sucking up when hitting things. The “Hold on for dear life, I’m at the mercy of my bike!” approach still happens on occasion, but it’s the exception, not the rule.

And, yes, the 5.Spot still handles such instances fine; it’s just that I could also pop lips and pump corners with it once composure returned. And it’s really good at it. I respect that in a frame. The best thing about the way the 5.Spot has handled with the volume reducer is that I can take it out and loosen up the rear end at the bottom of the travel, if I really want. Yay for options!

6 comments on “2011 Turner 5.Spot”

  1. Kevin,
    What an epic review! Thanks for sharing your experiences on what is easily the most informative bike review I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Stoked!

  2. Great review. I will be coming back to this review once I get a few rides in on the one I am building to review your comments or suggestions on the tuning of the shock.

  3. Another great review Kevin, very good read. Curious as to what tune you were going to try with the Monarch+.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. One of the best most relevant reviews I’ve ever read. I am a long time Turner rider coming from a 5.5 rocker HL spot and 160mm fork with the Monarch plus custom tuned to that. Let me say I am over 200lbs and it feels so consistent over tech dh runs, at the bottom I felt slower at first, not having to deal with and rip at the bars to overcome a too fast rear shock that was just overheated and faded. The shock just works and w 3 settings I had 3 bikes. With my Lyrik DH it was a happy package. Now upgrading to a ’11 DW I can’t wait. Especially with the new headtube freedom of setup I can’t go wrong

  5. How’d the 5.Spot hold up in the long term with the “big hit” setup? Planning on getting a Lyrik RC2DH Solo Air fork for my 5 Spot but was advised it might be too stiff and burly for the frame and thus sacrifice its reliability…

  6. Juan: It held up just fine. I owned that bike for about 4 years and didn’t treat it nicely as far as riding. I sold it still working flawlessly and in good shape.

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