Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Turner Burner

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The Burner name was first given to the original Turner, a full-suspension cross-country bike released in the mid-‘90s when the “NORBA standard” hardtail dominated the market. Over the years, the Burner evolved and took some hiatuses from production. This latest version is fast becoming the standard mountain bike of the 20-teens, the 27.5 trail bike.

Just like the rest of the Turner Bikes lineup, the Burner uses Dave Weagle’s well-regarded dw-link to offer 140mm of efficient travel. The dw-link system is designed to resist suspension movement from both the drivetrain and rider weight transfer when accelerating. Across the board, everyone here at Dirt Rag is a fan of this system.

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The aluminum frame is built right here in the U.S. by Zen Bicycle Fabrication in Portland. Using a combination of round tubes up front and square in the rear, the Burner cuts an industrial profile through a field of swooping carbon fiber competitors. All pivots rotate on journal bearings, commonly referred to as bushings. Turner firmly believes his platform of hard-anodized aluminum pivot shafts and Kevlar composite bearings is the best design to handle the impact loads on a bicycle suspension system, and should outlast any ball bearing system. The trade-off is increased upfront cost for the tight tolerances required to make this system work well. Zerk fittings are provided at all pivot locations to keep things moving smoothly.

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Just like every other dw-link bike I’ve ridden, the Burner rides high in its travel, with a controlled ride almost unrivaled in the rear suspension arena. I felt little need to use the CTD lever on the Fox rear shock, leaving it in Descend mode, only flipping to the Climb position when on pavement. The excellent mid-stroke support and resistance to pedal and body motion–induced bobbing means more time thinking about the trail and less about when to switch shock modes.

I set the cockpit up with about 3-inches of saddle-to-bar drop, which helped keep the front end down when climbing, and made it easy to transfer weight front to rear with the seat dropped. Climbing was excellent, with noticeable bob only while standing and mashing, and even that was minimal and mostly easy to ignore. Rear wheel traction was an acceptable tradeoff versus some designs with more plush suspension but more pedal bob.

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On flat and rolling terrain, the efficient suspension and neutral geometry worked well when sitting and spinning, or in seat-down attack mode. With a firm fork matched to the firm rear end, the Burner was a capable and predictable partner in attacking technical terrain that required body English and power moves, not just speed and momentum.

In truly steep terrain, the Burner keeps some of the steering feel often missing from slacker trail bikes. Rather than just pointing the bike at the straightest line down the mountain, the geometry and controlled suspension reward a nimble riding style. Got a rough line that needs precise wheel placement to clean? The Burner loves threading the needle. This isn’t to say this isn’t a bike that can get down with the chunder, both the rear shock and the Suntour fork always seemed to have a bit of travel left in reserve, and never bottomed harshly from impacts or G-outs.

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While I tested the bike with a series of 150mm forks, 140-160mm forks are OK’d for use. This makes for a versatile bike, capable of being built up as a lightweight all-day trail bike, or a sturdy and capable all-mountain crusher. The bike came to me with a 32mm stanchioned fork, light weight wheels and tires, and narrower bars and a mid-length stem. In this mode, the Burner felt fast and furious, but I could feel a monster being held back.

Swapping things out to a more trail/all-mountain set-up was where I felt most at home. I was most happy with Mavic CrossMax Enduro wheels, wide bars and a short stem, and a dropper post for much of the test. The final and favorite fork was a new 34mm stanchioned Suntour Auron, which will be getting a full review in the next issue, along with the Mavic wheels.

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The Burner was no doubt slower up climbs with this set-up, but I was much more confident throwing this bike at whatever was in front of me, going for bigger lines, and generally giving the trail grief at every opportunity.

The frame stiffness paid dividends here, providing great feedback about what was going on at the contact patches, without feeling harsh or overly flexy. The rear end might exhibit a wee bit of flex when really loading it up, but it wasn’t anything I’d even think about if I wasn’t here to be critical.

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Is there a downside to this bike? For many riders, probably not (aside from affordability). For me, the only time I felt there was a compromise was really pounding away at small and mid-size hits in succession. Where many single pivots and Horst Link bikes are super plush, the Burner transmits more chatter to the rider. But when the trail pointed back up, and other riders are reaching for a switch to get more damping to control that plush suspension, the Burner just motors right along.

And that is the Burner in a nutshell. It just motors right along, regardless of what it has to deal with. Most of the things I try to compare it to would give the impression that this is kind of a reliable, boring bike, which is really the farthest thing from the truth. With efficient pedaling, controlled suspension, just right geometry and well-thought-out details, there isn’t much to find fault with here. For riders looking for a capable, nimble and efficient trail bike, the Burner is a serious contender, and a U.S.-built rarity in today’s marketplace.

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Vital stats

  • Wheelbase: 46.5-inches
  • Top Tube: 24-inches
  • Head Angle: 67 degrees
  • Seat Tube Angle: 73 degrees
  • Bottom Bracket: 13.25-inches
  • Rear Center: 17.6-inches
  • Weight: 30.6 lbs. (w/pedals)
  • Price: $2,195 (frame only), complete bikes from $3,500
  • Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL, XXL. Specs based on size tested

 

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