The History of Turner Bikes

Edited on 5/6/08 by Dave Turner

Update – Exclusive Interview with Dave Turner on the DW-Link and other subjects is now available on MTB by 198! Exclusive Interview with Dave Turner | Mountain Biking by 198

Thanks to the guys over on the Turner board of MTBR…We have a great time line of the events that surround Turner Bikes. I have been a huge fan of Dave’s bikes over the years (even owned one and will own more in the future), so I find this story very interesting.

We also included some pictures of old and new Turner bikes in the gallery below…

1993 – Turner Suspension Bicycles was started by David Turner in Laguna Beach, California where he began designing and testing his own frames. In ‘94, after the introduction of the 1st batch of 150 original production V-1 ‘95 Burners (Version 1) were made by Ventana Mountain Bikes in Rancho Cordova, California. Many were raced by the top pros of the day yet you would be hard pressed to find a Turner logo on those bikes since most of those riders sponsored by other bike companies. However, they were not known as the Burner quite yet. The Burner name came from a Mountain Bike Action magazine bike test in 10/94 and it stuck. Depending on who you talk to, it was 1st known as the Turner Bike or the FTF (Full Time Function). These frames were built from straight gauge Alcoa 6061 tubes, had a lower shock mount bridge from the down tube to the seat tube (similar to the current 2008 Flux), 2.75″ of travel via a black ano rocker with a white Turner logo and a welded canti mount on the shock stay yoke.

Ventana could no longer keep up with the demand for Burners so fabrication then moved into the Tempe, Arizona shop of FTW (Frank the Welder) for 1995 models. As Burners kept getting built, a polished 3.6″ rocker with a black logo was made for the d/h crowd, both rockers were a welded 3 piece unit. The FTW made DH rocker was a hard part to find at the time and as far as I know was not produced as a upgrade part after ‘95 but was seen on a few later models such as the Twin and Burner DH. A full moto gusset welded to the toptube, downtube and headtube or a small gusset wrapped around the bottom of the headtube to the downtube can be found on some old burners. These factory warranty mods were done to fix cracks that developed on frames that were being raced in d/h events. Of course, these repaired frames were completely refinished and so began the now famous Turner customer service.

The V-2 ‘96 Burner was produced for ‘96 by Sportech in Corona, California and had a beautifully machined bottom bracket section supporting the shock, b/bkt and swing arm. This was done to reduce weight and increase lateral stiffness as well as provide better alignment of the chassis, not to cure breakage as sometimes believed. The only serious breakage issue was in the headtube which was cured in ‘96 with a substantial box type gusset under the downtube and a stronger, internally machined headtube. Also seen was a black anodized bolt on canti mount atop the shock stay yoke. It was the year of the v-brake after all, and being able to remove the ‘cantilever’ cable stop for the new style V brake kept the frame free of extraneous bits as the rider chose brakes styles.

The Burner took a long hiatus after ‘97, at least by name alone, becoming the Burner XC. Besides the somewhat similar O2, it wasn’t seen again till ‘02 when it reappeared with butted tubes and a lighter, stiffer 2 piece “X” rocker like is so common with more current models through ‘06. After this upgrade, it went away again at the end of ‘04 and was replaced buy the ‘05 Flux. The end of 1 era and the beginning of another? Time will tell.

David Turner was there, working with Horst Lietner of AMP Research when the Horst Link (HL) was 1st drawn up in ‘90 and continued to use it on all his 4 Bar frames even after the rights were sold to Specialized who then licensed it to all takers in ‘00. A few years later, he licensed ICT (Instant Center Tracking) from Ellsworth Bicycles in order to (in short) continue to use the HL and a flat profile rocker. There were no changes to the Turner line due to this agreement the frames in production at the time, Nitrous, Flux, 5 Spot and RFX were all infringing in their Turner designed form. The ICT patents had been applied for and granted after Turner had created and showed the some of the earliest flatter rocker bikes with the 1997 Afterburner downhill bike and the 1998 model year RFX, first introduced at the Interbike show in 1997 with 5” of travel and a flatish rocker profile later used on the lighter tubed bike known as the 5 Spot.

In 2006, Turner dropped the much touted HL that was used from the very beginning for TNT due to a growingly difficult licensing agreement and the discovery of a way to design around it without any loss of performance, as agreed upon by most riders who have tested both back-to-back. Some will even say theres a improvement now that a pivot point between the swing arm and axle has been relocated to the shockstay. The move to TNT negated the ICT patents and freed Turner to return to doing things their own way on their own terms.

A short personal note on RFX versions. Through it all the basic freeride intent of the frame remains the same but continues to expand and blur into new territory. There’s been some argument on how many versions exist and where they fit into the time line. My line of thinking, and this has been approved by DT, is that:

V-1: The original RFX is the V-1 as all things stayed basically the same until ‘00 when it got a full pound of beef added to the tube set making it the superman of bikes. Besides this massive change in wall thickness it saw a few geo tweaks and the change of rockers. An early freeride sled but not a perfect climber for the meek to be honest. There are those who want the ‘00 – ‘02 RFX to have its own version but so far I’m holding out for a bribe.

V-2: The V-2 RFX is the type made following the 6 Pack and the demise of the beloved Horst Link. Here we see substantial geo changes, a shallower 6″ rocker and a whole new tubeset for a more reasonable weight and improved ride just for starters. This is when it became a climber and a true all mountain rig.

V-3: Along with the V-3 came not only more big changes in the geo, but in other big design departures such as leverage ratio, tubeset, girder rockers and reduced weight. These changes made it posible to build a sub 34 lb long travel bike capable of epic rides for almost anyone.

Notable Turners. My notes and those of so many others show this all to be accurate.

Original Turner – 1993.
A short travel prototype rocker frame David Turner brought to Mammoth for the classic kamikaze manufacturers d/h race and won with. Only 5 were made.

Burner (V-1) – 1994.
A 2.75″ xc trail and race bike that saw time in the early days of DH races with a 3.6″ rocker option. Possibly the 1st and arguably one of the few bikes that positively changed the full suspension bike world forever. Maybe one of the most consistently copied designs in modern bicycle history. Spec’ed with a 1.5 x 6.5 Fox Alps 4.

Burner (V-2) – 1996 – 1997.
A revised 2.75″ xc trail and race bike very much like its predecessor but with machined bits and some needed headtube work. Spec’ed with a 1.5 x 6.5 Fox Alps 4R in ‘96 and an Alps 5R in ‘97.

Twin – 1997.
A 3.6” Burner tandem if you will. Only 1 was made by Sportech for DT and his ex. It now lives in the UK and is still ridden today.

Burner DH – 1997.
3.6″. A stepping stone to the Afterburner. A Burner with a grotesquely tall headtube and kong sized moto plates. A short production run of these were sold to Kona as the Misser Replica and painted gold to commemorate Tomi Misser winning multiple World Cup downhills for Kona. Since he was riding a Turner frame they contracted Turner to build this Replica version.

Burner XC – 1998.
The new name for a old frame. Still with 2.75 inches of rear wheel travel, the classic geo is retained for a single crown fork with 65-75mm of travel. We see a factory installed coil shock on a Burner for the 1st time as it comes spec’ed with the new Fox Vanilla TC adding compression and rebound controls. Another 1st is the option of bolt on disc or clamp on rim brake mounts on all ‘98 models. Both adapter styles are now (2008) very hard to find.

Burner XCE – 1998 – 2002.
The official factory 3.6″ refinement of the classic Burner and a compliment to the newly renamed Burner XC. With relaxed geometry, a single crown fork with 80-90mm of travel was recommended. It was also spec’ed with the Fox Vanilla TC. At 6.7 lbs, it was made much stronger than previous Burners and the Turner all mountain frame is born. In ‘99 it got a 4″ “XR” rocker. This chassis stayed basically the same till its demise.

Stinger – 1998 – 2001.
2.8″. I suppose you might say this is David’s take on the Mac Strut design. Very stiff in the rear for a change, and super light for the day. A true xc race rig with butted tubes stellar American national event results. Canceled due to proprietary shock supply issues. Way cool bike if ya ask me. Spec’ed with a custom Fox Air Vanilla R pull shock.

Afterburner DH – 1997 – 1999.
A great 6″ d/h bike with very sexy lines and a vast improvement over the previous Turner dh model in both aesthetics and performance. Good enough to win a silver at the worlds. This also introduced the fwd rocker pivot now standard on most Turners and needle bearings on dh frames.

RFX (V-1) – 1998 – 1999.
5″ freeride frame for the mortals.

O2 – 1999 – 2002.
A super light 5.6 lb, 3.1″ version of the burner.

RFX (V-1.1) – 2000 – 2002.
Beefed up by a full pound, this beast now weighs almost 9 lbs and is considered to be semi unbreakable. Spec’ed with 6″ rockers. Shut down due to low sales. 2 different sets of 5″ and 6″ rockers were made for the RFX over the years providing some geometry tweaks. All 4 sets are now coveted by old school purists and current owners seek them out because they’re tough as a $2 steak. Many still exist and are ridden hard to this day.

DHR – 2000 (officially) – present.
Originally 7.6″ and called the DH Racer, this ultra boxy unit replaced the afterburner and has been refined through the years. Now a 8.5″ bike.

Burner (V-3) – 2002 – 2004.
She’s baa-aaaack! Lighter, stonger and better than ever to boot. Now with the 2 piece 3.6″ “X” rocker the XCE made famous, butted tubes, IS disc mount and improved standover. If you have one, look for a set of the semi-rare 4″ “XR” rockers. Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome the “Taco”!

5 Spot – 2003 – present.
Turners best selling frame that many feel to be the perfect trail bike. The Spot has seen a variety of rockers over the years including the original 5.1″, a 5.3″ version in ‘05 and the latest 5.5″ unit introduced in ‘07 made far lighter and stiffer with its wider and tapered girder like design. ‘07 also saw an asymmetrical chainstay later in the season thusly copying the new RFX.

Mauler/Route 66 – 2003.
This one was tough to pin down but I think I pulled it off… kinda. It’s sorta like a light 6″ RFX w/ a 1.5″ headtube, Spot geo w/ a taller b/bkt, big RFX yokes for tire clearance, shallow rockers and Easton tubes built for a single Fontana race course. I’ll let DT explain further: “the Mauler was a name lovingly given the frame by it’s first owner, as in the Fontana Mauler. There is ONLY ONE MAULER, that was it. Anodized Flame job on the frame.” “It was custom for the original owner and myself. Mine was painted red, this one anodized. “DT continues:. There were 2 of these medium frames. David P. named his the Mauler, mine was just a Route 66 painted red. The tubes were the lightest I ever put in a RFX , The Route 66 moniker was an earlier attempt by me to dump the RFX moniker. I think a co worker back in the day, Jeff, came up with 66. His was one of the Large frames. There are only 4 of these, 2 medium, 2 large. All with lighter tubing, all with the 1.5 headtube from the DHR. The (medium) red powder coated one was mine.” The 2 larges were built for Greg and Jeff, and any RFX that shows up for sale with a 1.5” compatable head tube is one of these 4.

6 Pack – 2004 – 2005.
A 6″ travel work horse, do it all frame. A climbable beast that has its rider salivating when someone says “Look! Another descent!” and a huckers delight. Much love can still be found for this bike and seeing as how well made it is, that love will continue for a long time to come.

Rail – 2004.
Maybe best described as a 4.5″ mini DHR w/ adjustable b/bkt height via a flip type shock mount and no place for a front derailleur. It looks like this was the 1st Turner 4X frame but at 9 lbs, now considered way to portly for competition. Today, its a good fit for dirt jumping BMX sessions and shuttle days on med/heavy trails as its a lousy climber w/ its DHR geometry and tube set.

Flux – 2005 – present.
4″s of weeeeeeeee! The new burner? Hardly! A way better unit with faster yet more confidence inspiring geometry really opened the door to more aggressive trail riding in a medium travel rig. Lighter too! in ‘08 the Flux saw a new asymmetrical chainstay and a much lighter, stiffer shockstay yoke patterned after the Nitrous as well as the updated girder style rocker. Daily xc, trail, xc/endurance race and epic ride fun found here.

Nitrous – 2005 – 2007.
3″ full on race bike with a 165 pound rider weight limit. Skinny ass’ed and dedicated xc racers only need apply. Land based speed mobile. Skin suit not included. Recently canceled due to failing sales.

RFX V-2 – 2006.
Originally called the 6 Pack then re badged as the reborn RFX in ‘06 after the TNT rear was instituted. No other changes were made.

Highline – 2006 – present.
Originally spec’d with 8″ of travel, now reduced to 7.1″ for a lower b/bkt height and improved handling. The new mega huck platform built for and tested by folks who go huge. really, really huge. Now, after a few years and some chainstay/seatstay teething problems, the design has been refined into a reliable chassis that is 1 of the top contenders when looking for a freeride sled thats said to climb like “a spider monkey getting a fire ant and Tabasco enema.” At least most agree its a dandy freeride bike.

RFX (V-3) – 2007 – present.
In ‘07, it went through a massive redesign and now has 6.4″ of plush travel, a lower leverage ratio much to our delight, is far lighter and it introduced those sexy asymmetrical stays and girder style rockers. All day xc/trail/am epics and big hucks… here’s your ride. The only question left is will it replace the most excellent Spot as the king of the do-it-all turners?

Sultan – 2007 – present.
Turner embraces the 29′er movement with this 4″ ripper and the celebrations begin immediately. Due to it’s instant success and low availability, Sultan zealots instead build and occupy towers made in its honor keeping all out besides those who ride the proper horse. Virtually anyone who’s owned one say this is some of the finest work turner has done yet, and consequentially, sold their Spots.

4X – ’07 (officially) – present.
Although a handful were built prior to ‘07 for team riders, the Turner 4″ travel 4X is a VERY limited production mountain cross race frame in very limited sizes normally available on special order only. All these “Factory Frankenbikes”, as DT calls them, are built from Spot and RFX tubes, some stock parts, and some custom parts, even a few customized stock parts. Look close and you will see several differences in lower shock mount as well as lower main pivot locations.

There’s a few more models like the Lucky 7, C-Note, Rail, 66 and Mauler. I don’t have many details on these and a few I do have are sketchy, so a little help would be cool. Email me and we’ll get them added.

Who built my turner? This should answer your basic questions.

’94 —————– Ventana built the 1st 150 turner’s, later to be dubbed the burner my mountain bike action. Quality work spurred growing sales leading to a new vendor.

’95 —————— FTW (Frank the Welder). Frank Waddington, one of the first big named welders for hire in the industry, welded the early Barracuda’s, Yeti’s and Turner’s.

’96 – ’02 ———– Sportech took the Burner and its offspring to new levels of performance, quality and innovation with features like the machined b/bkt assembly.

’03 – present — SAPA now makes the entire line with in house tube sets and others coming from different vendors depending on the model, all from the USA.

Olympic Powdercoating of Santa Ana, California does all the paint work and has for years. For just how long, I don’t know. I’m not sure who did/does the ano/coating work on things such as the older ano frames and parts or the new style girder rockers.

Additional notes:

’92 – DT begins designing frames under his own name.

’93 – DT wins the Mannoth Mountain Kamikaze manufacturers dh race on 1 of his own rocker designs.

’94 – Several top dh pros ride restickered Turner 4 bar linkage bikes in National competition. Production begins and the Burner gets tested and named in MBA with rave reviews.

’95 – – The 1st 150 Burners are sold out. Production is moved to FTW. 3 rivet steel deraileur hanger and ball burnished finish w/ black stickers.

’96 – The Burner gets its 1st makeover; a machined b/bkt assembly, stronger headtube/gusset, removable cable stop and 31.6 mm I.D. seat tube.

’97 – Turner up’s the line to 2 frames and releases the Burner DH. Ball burnished, red and black color options are now avaiable(?) w/ 2 tone stickers. The derailluer hanger is redesigned to a 2 bolt. Seat tubes return to 27.2mm.

’98 – 5 frames are now made: The Burner XC and XCE, Stinger, RFX and Afterburner DH. Welded on canti mounts are history and customers are given the option of a bolt on disc brake adapter or the beautiful clamp on rim brake mounts on all models. The derailluer hanger returns to a 2 bolt design. Color Options: Ball Burnished, Semi-Gloss Black, Gloss Black, Candy Blue, Metallic Gray, Dark Metallic Green, Candy Red and Yellow. Frame stickers available in Black, White, Red, Yellow, Chrome, Blue and Orange. For a nominal up charge, they offer anodized finished frames in blue, black, green and pewter. The rear ends are always polished and the rockers are always black.

’99 – The Burner XC is dropped and the lighter O2 is introduced in its place. Turner moves to Murrieta, California and sells complete bikes with XT and XTR build kit options. Colors: Bright Red, Gloss Black, Spring Yellow, Sid Blue, Cobalt Blue, Polished, Custom.

’00 – Colors: Gloss Black, Semi Gloss Black, Blood Red, Bright Yellow, Indigo Blue, Candy Blue, Forest Green Metallic, Charcoal Grey Metallic, Double Polished, Custom.

’01 – Color Options: Ball Burnished, Semi-Gloss Black, Gloss Black, Candy Blue, Metallic Gray, Dark Metallic Green, Candy Red and Yellow. Frame stickers available in Black, White, Red, Yellow, Chrome, Blue and Orange. Anodized frames in blue, black, green and pewter.

’02 – Turner web site opens its Goody Store and starts a Turner of the Month photo contest.

’03 – The 5 Spot is born and sales of this model have gone through the roof ever since.

’04 – Last year of the Burner. Several are sold at Supergo bike shops later in the year and into ‘05 for as little as $600 until gone. Paul Components makes an after market XR rocker. Turner releases the 6 Pack; riders climb the highest mountains looking for one and regularly ride a loop back to the top once a frame is found. This is the last year of stock painted rears.

’05 – The Flux replaces the Burner. Polished clear ano is offered on select models. ICT is licensed 7/13/05 and the little green stickers start showing up mid season but seem to fall off soon after the frames are purchased.

’06 – TNT replaces HL, customers and the industry are shocked. Turner moves to a stock ano finish on all models other than the DHR. The 6 Pack is renamed RFX. The Highline is offered late in the year but chainstay breakage forces Turner to replace all of all V-1 rear chainstays, These are replaced with the V-2.

’07 – The Highline hits production full stride yet V-2 rears occasionally fail. These are again redesigned, replaced at no charge, with the V-3 and the failures stop. More late season production woes as the ano process literally eats frames causing huge delivery delays for the ’07’s. Ano is scrapped for powder coat and frames hit stores mid year. After years of begging customers, Turner offers a 4″ 29′er and the Sultan is a instant industry hit. The DHR gets round tubes and a 7 lb RFX is offered. Push Industries offers a 5.75″ rocker for the Spot and the Sultan crew soon discovers its compatibility.

’08 – Sadly, the Nitrous is canceled; hot shoe flyweight XC racers are left homeless.

’08 – 2008 Marks the end of the Turner Highline.

’08 – September – Turner Bikes goes all DW-Link for 2009. Total redesign of the entire line. Sultan gets a travel increase to match the new 120mm 29er forks from Fox and Rock Shox

Update – Exclusive Interview with Dave Turner on the DW-Link and other subjects is now available on MTB by 198! Exclusive Interview with Dave Turner | Mountain Biking by 198

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