"Is David Turner still making bikes?" That was one of the first things John Kirkcaldie asked me when we chatted earlier this year in Rotorua, New Zealand. Yep, Turner is still around, but it's been a long time since the glory days of the American NORBA series, when the Turner DHR was, for some, a highly sought after bike.
World Cups were certainly big events for DH racing in the mid-2000s, but for many, the NORBA series in the US offered equally competitive racing with the likes of Kirkcaldie, Sam Hill, Greg Minnaar, Mick Hannah, and others consistently in the start gate. Tracks were also world-class, with rugged East Coast venues including Snowshoe, WV, Sugar Mountain, NC, and Mount Snow, VT coupled with a few West Coast attractions bringing ample opportunities for diverse terrain without the need for frequent international air travel. With today's worldwide stage of competition, it's nice to look back and reflect on the simpler times that built the foundation for racing now.
After retiring from racing in 2006, Kirkcaldie went on to pursue a carpentry apprenticeship. Full-time carpentry wasn't his calling, though, and he took the skills learned there and transferred them into his next and current venture, purchasing and running a window and door factory that builds custom windows and doors for high-end homes. With two young children and a business, Kirkcaldie and his wife have plenty going on. Pedalling bikes hasn't been as high on the list of priorities, but the goal of a weekly mountain bike ride made as part of a new years' resolution, along with some motocross riding and a race here or there, whenever he's had spare time, have helped Kirkcaldie stay fit. He says he still hasn't lost the fire for racing.
For bike set up, Kirkcaldie wasn't all that much of a tinkerer, never one for deciphering nuances in suspension and geometry. He would find a setup that worked for him and leave it; he's a creature of habit. He says that Colin Bailey, his teammate at the time, was far better at giving feedback for bike development. "I was just too busy trying to win practice,'' Kirkcaldie said. ''I got a kick out of rolling down a track for one run then going full-on and hitting everything on the second lap." Practice antics aside, Kirkcaldie did still play a role in the development of Turner's DHR.
Turner DHR Details
• Intended use: DH Racing
• Wheel size: 26"
• Maxxis Minions
• Fork/Travel: Fox 40/8"
• Shock/Travel: Fox DH/8.5"
• Brakes: Hayes
• Drivetrain: Shimano
• 65° head angle
• Weight: Approx. 39 lb
Coming from Intense and previously Foes before riding the Turner, Kirkcaldie says it was challenging to convince Turner to slacken out the head angle of the DH bike. Both bikes he was previously on had, for that time, relatively slack head angles. The Turner, after all the convincing, ended up in the same ballpark. These days, a head angle of 65 to 66-degrees is more commonly found on trail bikes, but back then it was more than acceptable for racing DH.
Kirkcaldie's DHR had 8.5" of travel and weighed about 39 lbs... It was one of the lighter bikes at that time. His mechanics Chris "Monk Dawg" Vasquez and Ed Chavez were always looking for ways to lighten up the bike. There were titanium bolts wherever possible and holes were drilled in any part deemed non-structural.
The Fox DHX 5.0 shock with a remote reservoir took care of rear suspension duties.
Now-classic Hayes brakes handled the stopping.
The Sun Ringle rims were soft, and while they weren't all that durable, the flexible design helped to prevent flat tires.