You know what? I was struggling to find stuff to put together a quiz, and I realized that I don't HAVE to do a quiz on Fridays. As I'm unbeholden by editors or advertisers or a schedule or anything else, I can do whatever I want. And today I'd like to talk a little about bike tests.
The whole reason I thought of it was the Premium test on the Ride site, posted as text and as video. Someone named "DGAF Dan" (punk rawk!) put the $500 complete through its paces in a one-day torture session, and, apparently, the bike emerged unscathed except for the brakes (which got taken off right away) and the cranks (which made a lot of noise and probably weren't long for this world).
I, like many people my age, were introduced to the concept of the bike test through the Mighty BMX Action (no, the first one), in which a slew of testers from R.L. Osborn (a pro freestyler and the publisher's kid) to a young Chris "Mad Dog" Moeller demoli—er, rode everything from high-end race bikes to entry-level freestylers. The aim was twofold—shoot rad photos, and sell bikes (I don't remember many bikes, if any, getting completely negative reviews). They did everything from jumping big doubles to jumping over trucks:
There were two problems with bike tests, two things that bothered me when I knew enough to read between the lines, and both of those things seem to hold true today:
1) How much can you figure out when you ride a bike for one day? No matter how hard you ride it, you're probably not going to break anything. And if something does break in one day of riding, how do you know it's not just a case of getting a defective, well, whatever it is? You could test ride a bike, have everything hold up great, then a week later it falls apart like the Bluesmobile. By then it's too late. To test a bike for real, seems to me you'd have to get a couple of them, and do some sort of long-term testing like the car magazines do. Give it to a guy for a month, not a day. (And if you're going to give it to someone for a day, make sure they're someones like Dave Young and Ken Hale. I think the owner of Jad is still on meds after that test.)
2) When you rely on a company for advertising, how honest can you be? Maybe it's not as bad now, but back in the '80s, saying something bad about a bike from GT/Dyno or Haro or Mongoose would have been a deathwish. Which even now makes me wonder about how those Pro Class rims REALLY held up when jumping over a jacked-up truck to flat. If one of them had buckled, would anyone have told us? (Whenever they talked about something getting bent or broken, the answer always seemed to be "well, we did much more to it than YOU ever would anyway.")
(A third, and I suppose lesser, problem, is that a good enough rider can get used to anything. Just because Chris Moeller could do a no-footer one-hander on a Mongoose Californian didn't necessarily mean it was a good bike for the average 13-year-old kid.)
Tests seem extra-useless nowadays, actually, as geometry (74.5/71/13.75-14") is somewhat standardized, as is the Taiwan catalog spec (cranks, hubs, that sort of thing). Some companies use name-brand stuff, sure, but most of that is already proven. And if the geometry is "normal," and the parts are either name brand or everycompany generic, what is there to test?
And of course no one really says anything anyway. Look at that Premium test. The guy loved the bars (generic 28x8 two-piece), thought the stem and rims held up great (for one day!), and so on. This is news? It only would have been news if something HAD broken, and if something breaks in one day, there's something very wrong with it. Or you're Dave Young.
The last great bike test I remember was when they ran a bunch of frames over with Nate Hanson's truck, set them on fire, and did all sort of other brutal things. But I've gotta admit, this one is pretty great too: