BIKE REVIEWS ARE BULLSH*T. SORT OF....
By Matt George
While this site is certainly geared towards positivity and we certainly like to keep the love tap flowing, we need to talk about bike reviews and 100% positivity isn't the honest route. We don't believe that mountain bike reviews represent the community nearly as well as they could. We feel unfulfilled and you should too, here's why.
"The thing about $300,000 sports cars is that very few people ever drive them, let alone own them."
If you read mountain bike magazines, scour the mountain bike interwebz or have ever shopped for a bike, you've likely ran into what seems to be the most popular form of mountain bike media; bike reviews. You've likely read a bike review and never really thought about the mechanics of it but, you should. It affects you, really.
A culture in our sport seems to have developed (we'll dive way deep into that in another article) into one that revolves around professionals. This isn't surprising or necessarily wrong. When you read an article about an expensive sports car like an Aston Martin, you expect that they'll hand it to a pro driver. The thing about $300,000 sports cars is that very few people ever drive them, let alone own them. For the vast majority of the auto community, those videos are bit of fantasy. A brief glimpse into a world that most readers or viewers might never experience. It's cool, really, I'm a fan. The wonderful British automotive program Top Gear / The Grand Tour is one of my favorite addictions. But....
When you read the last part of the previous paragraph, did you instantly relate it to mountain biking? Probably not.
"Do these pro reviews represent the experience that most of us mere mortals would have on this bike?"
There's no doubt that we want to see riders far above our skill level riding and talking about amazing bikes, I wouldn't want to take that away from us. You'll see evidence of this in our video link. We love the pros, particularly our local pros. However, a good bit of serious mountain bikers CAN afford top of the line (or near) bikes, that's difference number one. The next glaring deficiency that seems unnoticed by the bike media is that while a fairly average rider can afford an amazing bike, that rider probably falls somewhere in the high or low end of the "average Jane / Joe" category when it comes to skill and income. While I wouldn't call bikes cheap, you thankfully don't need to be a multi-millionaire to afford the best bikes made. Yet it still appears that the reviews are formatted like the review of a very fine automobile.
The caveat remains, we do need amazing, pro level riders reviewing bikes. We're not saying that this system needs to be entirely dismissed. Many wonderful riders, writers, editors and publications entertain us regularly with glossy fantasy and I'm a willing participant. That being said, where are the regular riders? Where are the best selling versions of the crop of new bikes? What does a normal human being think about this bike? Do these pro reviews represent the experience that most of us mere mortals would have on this bike?
I'd like to see what Stephen, a wonderful, very skilled, amateur rider and mechanical engineer from Golden, Colorado, thinks about that new plastic fantastic super steed or that comp level enduro shred machine. Have you ever thought what Jen from Castle Rock thought about the newest women's specific bike? We have.
We'll get to the point, maybe even a solution if you'll allow us the imperfect attempt, the ability and the confidence to risk failure.
"We like our odds."
We're building a list of contributors, most of whom are, on the surface, the typical rider that you'd meet on the trail. Men and women who have something to say, contribute to the community and are the true consumers of bikes and gear. To add to this community of people, we intend to get as many local pro's, high level amateur riders, coaches and some of the best mountain bikers from our community to contribute as well. We want to review bikes in a 2 or 3 level format, obtaining bikes from shops, manufacturers and the overall community to allow reviews to include newer riders, skilled amateurs and very high level amateurs / pro riders to all give their take on the same bike. This will take some help from you. The more people that contribute, view and share the site on the web and talk about us in the community, the better chance we'll have of reaching this goal. Unfortunately, in this world of online media, clicks count. I wish I could tell you otherwise but, lets be honest here.
Could this be a grand example of the community dictating what the community wants. Maybe. We like our odds. Who knows, maybe we'll even be able to get you involved. Let's discuss this, we'd love your ideas, opinion and assistance. Can we as a whole be strong enough to fill a gap in the bike review process? Yes. Unless we're just being completely fanciful, there does seem to be a gap in the market that the manufacturers and gear providers could fill, if they decided to do so. Would you be into this, either being a participant or would you be interested in seeing reviews like this? Am I wrong? I've been wrong before, many times. Sound off in the comments!