Bike Test: Turner 5.Spot

We tested our first Turner 5.Spot way back in 2003 and have witnessed years of evolutionary (as well as revolutionary) changes to Turner’s Swiss army knife of mountain bikes. The 5.Spot we test here, called version 4.2, uses the same dw-link rear suspension as the 5.Spot we tested in 2009, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Everywhere you look, you will find tweaks and changes. For the better? There is one way to find out.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

In this day and age of highly categorized bikes, just call the 5.Spot a mountain bike—and that is the ultimate compliment. Turner offers downhill and cross-country race bikes, but their 5.Spot is for the rider who wants one mountain bike that can do it all.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
While the 5.Spot 4.2 has a familiar profile, closer inspection reveals a totally different made-in-the-USA frame from what we last tested. The aluminum frame tubes have been optimized for improved strength, and the downtube is designed to allow you to run a piggyback reservoir shock. The bottom bracket is lower. The head tube is slacker. The rear-wheel spacing is increased to 142×12 and accepts a thru-axle. One holdover is that the bottom bracket, lower-link pivot and shock mount are integrated into a single aluminum casting. The dw-link rear suspension’s two-piece upper links wrap around the seat tube to meet the upper shock eyelet. All moving parts pivot on composite bushings (journal bearings), and there are grease ports at each pivot location.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The pricey carbon fiber Enve wheels steal the show. The Shimano 2×10 XTR drivetrain with the magic golden switch on the rear derailleur (Shadow Plus) is hard to miss, but it is the hidden niceties that add to this ensemble. Turner worked closely with Fox to fine-tune the suspension with custom valving just for the 5.Spot. You can’t see it, but you can feel it. The cable routing gets its own management system so there are no zip-ties or plastic clips needed to hold cables and hoses in place. And speaking of cables, we complained about the rear derailleur routing on the old 5.Spot, so Turner took care of this objection with improved (out-of-the-way) routing.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Our experience with dw-link rear suspensions tells us that 20-percent sag is the minimum and up to 30 percent is not out of the question. We used closer to 30 percent to get the best results out of the 5.5 inches of rear-wheel travel. This 5.Spot used a fixed-travel Fox 32 Float
fork that we found to be ideal.

Moving out: The 5.Spot feels shorter than the 23.5 effective top tube measurement would indicate. The 5.Spot rider sits in a comfortable upright position with a weight bias that feels slightly forward of center. The 5.Spot has always been a lively bike, and the 4.2 takes it up a notch. The Enve wheels cut rotational weight and add rigidity, so that’s a plus right off the start. But there is more. The stiffer rear end and beefier frame tubes all hold up their end of the performance bargain. And let’s face it, the Shimano 2×10 drivetrain is at its best with 26-inch wheels.

Sprinting: This bike hauls when you get out of the saddle, choose a big gear and throw down a hard effort. The low top tube encourages the rider to throw the bike around, and the dw-link rear suspension doesn’t get thrown off by pedaling influences.

Cornering: It may be a combination of the dw-link suspension and slacker head tube, but the 4.2 doesn’t have the defined counter-steering trait of previous versions. Instead, the steering input is quick and very neutral. While the Continental Trail King tires roll like nobody’s business, we found them to be the weak link in the 5.Spot’s cornering performance. Their side knobs don’t offer the seamless transition of other trailbike tires.

Climbing: Turner designed the 5.Spot for, among other things, epic-length rides where conserving energy is job one. We had the best climbing results by staying planted in the saddle; standing moves your weight too far forward. Stay seated, conserve and move forward. It doesn’t hurt that weight has been trimmed off the last 5.Spot we rode, even if some of the credit goes to the lightweight and expensive wheels.

Descending: The 5.Spot’s rear suspension delivers small- bump compliance, firm mid-stroke performance and a very progressive big-hit cushion at the end of travel. The slackening of the head tube adds confidence by slowing things down a bit in the front. The older 5.Spots made quite a racket while descending, but the Shimano Shadow Plus rear derailleur keeps the chain from banging on the stays like a dinner bell.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Our 5.Spot came stock with a very sleek quick-release clamp for the seatpost. Still, we’d be tempted to equip this bike with a dropper post, even with the weight penalty.
Don’t be tempted to outfit your 5.Spot with an adjustable-travel fork—you just don’t need it. This bike is
so dialed that no Band-Aids are necessary in the climbing or cornering departments. We also did not find ourselves reaching for the shock’s ProPedal while trail riding. Dialing in 30-percent sag and riding the shock on full open got all our trail-riding chores done.
We’d like to try Maxxis High Roller, Kenda Nevegal or Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires on the 5.Spot. We would expect them to further enhance the bike’s cornering ability.

BUYING ADVICE
The Turner 5.Spot proves that both 26-inch wheels and aluminum frames can be as cutting edge as 29ers, 27.5ers and carbon fiber. There are so many bikes that do a few things really well but always leave gaps. The 5.Spot is the kind of bike that will never have you wishing for anything during a ride because it covers all the bases equally well. When you look up the definition of a mountain bike in the dictionary, this is the bike that should be pictured.