Uncle Dave Questions his Values
Uncle Dave Speaks

Uncle Dave Questions his Values

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Jun 5, 2018

The one perk when you write about bikes is that you’re surrounded by bikes. It usually doesn’t take more than an e-mail or two to beg or borrow that thing that you need, and very quickly you remove yourself from the normal consumer production line. And this is a really, really big problem (for you, not for me).

This became obvious about a week or so ago. I’d been thinking of selling my bike for quite some time. I had ridden this bike approximately once in the previous year, and it really did not make sense to hold onto it any longer. So I started digging in to my storage space, looking for parts to build it out into something saleable. A wheelset here. Some handlebars there. And of course, it was suggested that this would be the perfect time to clean out the storage room in its entirety. “You’re in there anyhow. Why don’t you get rid of some other stuff?”  As I looked at the 12 bikes scattered across the lawn, I could not deny that this might be a reasonable suggestion.

But really, 4 of those bikes don’t have anything to do with me, and belong to the person complaining about the number of bikes. Two of them are loaners. Another couple are obsolete things that I can’t stand to part with. I mean… there’s a few more hidden away up in the house as well. I don’t really know what I’m doing, to be honest.

So out of this, I determined that there were two bikes that we could definitely get rid of. The bike that started this whole disaster, referenced above, and an old VPFree that I built up with discarded parts for my girlfriend when she first started riding. This, I could deal with.

But the problem is that I have absolutely no idea what either of these bikes are worth.

Let’s start with the VPFree. From my hoity-toity journalists perspective, I can’t see anything but a totally worthless pile of aluminum (beyond the sentimental value). Sure, I understand that it’s a bicycle and that it rolls and it stops and it has bouncy bits and some beginner could have a fine time rolling down the Whistler Bike Park on it. But the tires are shot. The brakes are oozing fluid (of course, I found another set of almost brand new brakes hidden away in a box and I swapped them on because that’s what a normal person does with a bike they’re trying to get rid of for next to nothing, right?). The cranks could be used to jump start an ancient civilization with the gift of hammer. The wheels are 26 inches in diameter. The fork and the shock are coil. It’s a 15-year-old bike that has been ridden by a whole bunch of people and that weighed way too much in the first place. I figured I’d see if I could get 250 bucks for it.

And indeed, I could. The people were falling out of trees to e-mail me about my VPFree. I’ve never felt more desirable in all of my life. I pretty quickly took the ads down and cut off all communication with everybody. One of the final e-mails I received was “WHERE DO YOU LIVE! I’LL COME RIGHT NOW AND GIVE YOU $300 CASH!!!”  When somebody is offering to immediately drive to your house and give you more money than you asked for, chances are pretty good that you’ve done something wrong.

This makes no sense to me. On one hand, I look at that bike and my attachment to it vastly out-weighs the asking price. But on the other, who in their right mind is going to pay me 250 non-counterfeit dollars for that thing? What the hell is going on?

Moving on to the other bike. This is a really nice bike. It’s carbon. 650b. I wrote a pretty glowing review on it a while back and eventually agreed to pay the company money for it after a month or two of e-mails demanding its return. And then I stopped riding it because another test bike entered into my world. And then another one. And one more after that. So, I knew this was a really great bike that hadn’t seen the miles that it’s age might suggest. I swapped a pair of wheels on that had seen even less use. And a fork that had seen less than that. I took some photos of it. And then I drew a total blank. I mean…I honestly had not one clue what a normal person would have paid for this bicycle while new. Sure, I'd probably discussed their MSRP in some kind of abstract form during the review, but that didn't really mean anything to me then. How on earth would I figure out what it is worth now? I felt like Bill Gates on a talk show, struggling to figure out what a tater tot was, let alone what one cost. I looked at what similar builds were asking online and the prices seemed crazy. These people seemed like actual lunatics, asking for that kind of money. I was at a total loss. So I priced it at what I thought was a fair amount. And I proceeded to get bombarded with e-mails, to the point where I stopped responding and I considered faking my own death, just to avoid having to deal with the whole thing.

And this is a problem. It’s bad enough to gain a sense of reality when you’re in the habit of paying $5,000+ for a mountain bike every few seasons. It’s worse when you’re in the habit of not paying any money for those same bikes every 6 months. How on earth can you talk about value when you have no experience paying money for the thing that you are talking about? And this is a really, really big problem (for you, not for me).

When the gatekeepers to gear for your sport have a distorted sense of value, the recommendations that they produce will be implicitly flawed.

Here’s a hypothetical example. Imagine a travel writer is given the task of reviewing a new airline. The airline offers three levels of service: Economy, premium economy and business class. Of course, the airline wants to put its best foot forward, so they set our writer up with a business class ticket. Not only that, they flag that this guy is a special customer, and each and every request that he makes, no matter how trivial or bizarre, gets immediately dealt with. This guy returns from his trip and writes an article about how great the service is and how worthwhile it is to spend the extra money for business class because of how much better it is than economy. This would be totally insane and nobody would take that recommendation for anything other than an exercise in marketing that doesn't really apply to them. Yet here we are.

I'm generalizing and projecting here, but I would hazard a guess that many of the people writing the gear reviews that you so love to read, have very little concept of the value of the goods that they are talking about. I'm not saying that reviewers are lying to you, or that their opinions on performance are wrong. But I think their opinions on what that performance is worth, definitely are skewed.

Each time they receive a product or a bike that they pay nothing or very little for, even if that is on a temporary, on-loan basis, erodes any sense of value that they once had. We're all a function of our experiences, and when we're denied the experience of paying retail prices for gear, we lose a little something. If all of our experiences involve riding bikes that we have not paid for, gradually, and eventually, our entire concept of value will be erased. This is inevitable. The very people tasked with capturing the pulse of the sport are slowly drifting away from the rest of us. You. Whatever.

I don’t have a solution for this. The system it pretty rotten, but I’m not suggesting that we blow the whole thing up (I mean, I'm an idiot, but I'm not stupid). I'm suggesting that you keep this in mind the next time you’re reading about the latest bike. Each time a review suggests that this brake is so much better than that one, or this drivetrain shifts quicker than the other, or that the carbon version is worth it over the aluminum, remember that the reviewer may have a totally valid opinion about that bike, but that they paid nothing for it, and their concept of what that bump in performance is worth, might be flawed.


Uncle Dave

Uncle Dave's Music Club

I think I've talked about Courtney Barnett a couple of times already. But I don't care. She's awesome. And her new album is pretty awesome. And you should listen to it.

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+1 Andrew Major
Tim Coleman  - June 4, 2018, 10:54 p.m.

I certainly see your point Dave, but I don't think you can paint all reviewers with the same brush. I still pay for sportsing goods outside of mountain biking. I race cars as a hobby, pay full retail for parts, and understand the value of a dollar ... and it's an expensive hobby. I personally always take value for money in to consideration with my reviews, because it's very important for me. I think Andrew Major does an excellent job as well, and had a few posts on "min-maxing" \(essentially building the best riding bike for the money\) that I thought were great.


+8 Velocipedestrian FlipSide Andrew Major Metacomet oudiaou Paul Lindsay Mammal Cam McRae
fartymarty  - June 4, 2018, 11:44 p.m.

Min-Maxing was one of the best things I have read in a while.  I don't race or have a pile of money I need to get rid of therefore VFM is important.  Hence I run a 10 speed drivetrain and robust parts.


+1 Todd Hellinga
Dave Tolnai  - June 5, 2018, 7:27 a.m.

For sure.  I've reviewed a number of bikes on the lower end of the spectrum and I've always looked for value and tried to include that in my reviews.  I still believe that I'm able to provide that judgement, but I'm also starting to realize that I'm slowly floating away from reality.  Bike prices are going up and up and up and up and I believe a part of that is the normalization of expensive bikes through their inclusion in reviews.  I'm not trying to paint reviewers as liars.  I'm not saying they're all the same.  I'm suggesting that we need to consider the effects of so many expensive bikes on the opinions of the people who write about them.


Andrew Major  - June 5, 2018, 8:06 a.m.

Thank you Tim and Marty.

I’ve worked the majority of my adult life in a customer facing role in the bike industry helping riders and shops make purchasing decisions.

I know I will be, and certainly I have been, held to account if the performance, value, longevity, after sales support, and etc of a product doesn’t meet the expectations I lay out. 

As with Tim’s retail experiences, I take that into every review I write.


In all fairness Dave does say:

“I'm generalizing and projecting here...”


+1 Andrew Major
Mammal  - June 6, 2018, 8:53 a.m.

Andrew, did you ever finish off that Min/Max tangent? I seem to recall you were going to do a final summary of a complete bike with components (Frame, fork, brakes dropper etc). Maybe I missed it...



Andrew Major  - June 6, 2018, 11:23 a.m.

It’s a particular passion of mine and I’ve continued to write on the subject - for example I tested Bontragers Line Comp wheels which are 108pt engagent for ~320 USD w/upgrade.

I also min-max with my own purchases a lot. For example a used CCDB CS coil + service was way cheaper than buying a new shock for my Rift Zone.

I don’t have plans to write any more editorial on the subject at this time.


*edited to remove superfluous material.


Mammal  - June 6, 2018, 2:16 p.m.

Our loss. I feel like that subject, combined with your level of detail /interest, is a niche that really not explored anywhere else and is sorely needed. I'm extremely value-oriented, and I know plenty of others riders that fit that description too.


+2 Niels Mammal
Andrew Major  - June 6, 2018, 3:30 p.m.

Thanks - that means a wealth to me. 

I think there's a ton of untapped potential for material. Here's a couple of bikes that have me intrigued right now:

Check out Trek's Roscoe 7 @ $1500 CAD // $1100 USD

Plus tires are largely splitting hairs on a high-end Enduro bike with great suspension (ideal for some terrain, personal preference, but not 'game-changing') - but they have the potential* to really open up the terrain a beginner-intermediate rider can attempt on a hardtail. 

Shimano clutch derailleur, 68° HTA, decent Tektro hydraulic disc brakes that come with real brake rotors (not the resin only sh*t that comes with basic Shimano brakes). 

With good rubber where can't you ride that bike on the Shore? I'm not talking about winning a Fiver or hitting the seeking out the hardest trails but for example, most of the higher traffic trails on Seymour and Fromme would be really fun.  

It's even ~30lbs, for a medium, as stock (so ~32lbs with real rubber). Oh, and it comes in seven sizes!

I'm surprised it's not a bike that Trek was sending everywhere for review.


Another bike is the $1000 CAD Rocky Mountain Growler 20. 67° HTA with six sizes of bikes and the large has a reasonable 440mm Reach / 630mm Stack. 

Alloy lowers on the fork mean it's not light but it can technically be bumped up to 130mm travel and it's E-Bike and 203mm-rotor rated so it should be decently stiff. 

The XXS and XS both use 26+ and I can't believe for all the multi-thousand-dollar metal I've seen teens riding around North Vancouver on I've yet to run into one of these Growler 20 bikes on the trail - it screams 'a real North Shore mountain bike for your kids' for 1k. 

Same story in terms of reviews. 

*with the right rubber

+7 sospeedy AJ Barlas Cr4w Todd Hellinga Ac Kenny Mammal
DMVancouver  - June 4, 2018, 10:56 p.m.

That said, reviews from people who paid money for something are often relief of cognitive dissonance, attempts at validating their purchase and convincing themselves they made the right choice over another option. There's really no winning when it comes to avoiding bias.


+2 DMVancouver Mammal
Cam McRae  - June 5, 2018, 8:46 a.m.

Confirmation bias is a strong one for sure.


+2 AJ Barlas Mammal
Alex D  - June 4, 2018, 11:06 p.m.

\> Each time a review suggests that this brake is so much better than that one, or this drivetrain shifts quicker than the other, or that the carbon version is worth it over the aluminum

One of these is not like the other. If you're reviewing, you're supposed to describe differences, objective and subjective. Whether they're "worth it" is for readers to decide.  

I've found that flipping older bikes is a grounding experience. I recently sold a mid-2000s 26" hardtail Cannondale with 60mm of undamped travel and geometry that felt sketch on my driveway. Couldn't believe anyone would want to use it on a trail, so I listed it as a hybrid. First person to show up went on about the gnar he was itching to tackle. Hard to segue from that back to fancy part minutia.


+1 Alex D
AJ Barlas  - June 5, 2018, 6:29 a.m.

Couldn't agree more with you, Alex. Noting differences and leaving the decision to readers of whether it's worth it is important imo. I also agree with DMVancouver and have personally had issues with it in the past when chatting with friends about something I purchased, trying to justify it even though I may not be enjoying said purchase.


Dave Tolnai  - June 5, 2018, 7:33 a.m.

Agreed, but there is always some element of "is this worth it" in a review.  I was just reading an article on Bike yesterday where they were talking about consumer direct bikes.  They talked about how, overnight, the value of an Intense they were testing dropped from $6000 to $4000 \(or something like that\) and how it totally changed the way they looked at that bike.  One could argue the point of a review is "should you pay money for this".  All I'm saying is that the answer to that question might be a bit skewed.

You're entirely welcome to think that I'm full of shit.


+2 Tim Coleman Mammal
Alex D  - June 5, 2018, 10:42 a.m.

I don't think you're full of shit. I do think Bike is, though. That site triggers me. Since we're talking about reviewing, I'm going to quote a few things so we can all write better by counterexample.

Means Whatever You Want It to Mean: 

"Front and rear suspension had a controlled, adult feel; this is a grown up's bike. It's not a poppy jalopy."

"blurs the lines between the all-mountain and trail bike categories but doesn't let go of its endurance-racing roots."

We Only Compare to Bikes Direct: 

"Sixty-eight-point-five degrees felt slacker than its nominal designation."

"but it puts up with them better than one would expect"

If It's Better, It's Good Value:   

_Testers agreed \[the $8000 bike\] was a good value. ... Just five years ago, \[similar bikes\] often hovered around $10,000, and none were \[as\] capable ... _

It Has No Weaknesses:

"A true all-rounder in every sense, \[bike\] does everything well"

"each tester lauded \[bike's\] well-rounded manners and equal-opportunity capability--the \[bike\] did everything well.

It's Good For Everyone: 

"It's ideal for aggressive trail and all-mountain riders who love jump lines as much as natural tech and all-day epics."

"could be ideal for a trail-minded rider seeking optimized climbing efficiency and plenty of travel to smooth out a wide variety of terrain."

All Downsides Must Have Upsides:

The \[bike\] doesn't have adjustable geometry, but the bike was so agreeable everywhere that nobody mentioned missing it.

Didn't Say If It Actually Worked:

"The effects of \[innovation\] were most evident in the chunky rocks on the inaptly named Flow trail ..." \[paragraph ends\]

This is all from the 2018 Bible. It's actually an improvement, the previous versions were straight-up ad copy.

Anyway, to return to your point: the best you can do is convey whether it's good value to you, with enough detail so we'll know where you're coming from. I think trying to gauge value for a 'typical' reader is a fool's errand.


+2 ExtraSpecialandBitter Tim Coleman
Cam McRae  - June 5, 2018, 8:58 a.m.

Identifying biases is an important exercise for all of us, but particularly so for those of us who judge consumer goods for others. I take no offence to Dave's suggestion because he is right. These biases are real and there are others I have highlighted as well -  https://nsmb.com/articles/the-media-is-corrupt/ 

The alternative to being aware of these factors is pretending we are immune to bias and that leads directly to hell imho. Anyone who thinks they are always 'objective' and impervious to the push and pull of myriad factors almost constantly hasn't studied psychology and certainly hasn't been paying attention. 

Dave is right that being out of the normal consumer sphere can be problematic for reviewers so it's essential we use our experiences in other consumer environments (as Tim mentions) to help us stay somewhat grounded. 

For me it's essential that I remember that my audience, and my customer, is the consumer rather than the company who produced the product I am reviewing. That knowledge informs many of my conclusions and it helps me ask the right questions of those behind the products.


+2 Mammal Cam McRae
fartymarty  - June 6, 2018, 1:20 a.m.

Strength is knowing your weaknesses.


Dave Smith  - June 5, 2018, 9:05 a.m.

Dave, are you suggesting the media squids and magazines to all go full Consumer Reports and buy all their bikes to remain impartial? Given the niche-ness of mountain biking and the diminishing nature of ad buys across the board, I'm not sure that is economically feasible. With the exception of a few sites, I think that most reviewers in the bike industry are unafraid to say publicly in their reviews when - advertisers be damned -  anything has been less than great. Cam and Pete have instilled that in the reviewers on NSMB and likewise I have a lot of time for reviews written by Travis Engle and the Mikes, Kazimer and Levy over at Pinkbike.  The best advice a consumer can take is to have their internal bullshit detectors set on fleek and to establish their own notions of value.


+3 Metacomet Alex D Todd Hellinga
Dave Tolnai  - June 5, 2018, 9:34 a.m.

But the reviewers still wouldn't be paying for the bike...

I'm in no way challenging the conclusions drawn by reviewers here.  I'm not suggesting their opinions on how the product works are in any way invalid or wrong.  I'm suggesting that this whole review game is lacking some context in what it actually means to walk into a store and throw down a credit card to pay full retail price for said item.  I'm saying there's something weird about how casually we toss off opinions about really expensive bikes that most people can't dream of affording.  I'm suggesting that when people are shopping for a bike and thinking of bumping up a trim level based on what a review says, they should remember these things.

That is all.


+1 Cam McRae
fartymarty  - June 6, 2018, 1:27 a.m.

I guess the flip side to the argument is you (the reviewer) don't get post purchase rationalisation we (the paying customer) get.


+2 Andrew Major Dave Smith
Dave Tolnai  - June 6, 2018, 11:21 a.m.

Bitching and complaining about bad things that I have paid money for has never been a problem for me.


+1 Andrew Major
Pete Roggeman  - June 6, 2018, 12:57 p.m.

I certainly didn't take anything you wrote as a direct affront, but I did wonder if you were having a crisis of conscience. Which you kind of always are. Which is what we love about you. But, when you say "there's something weird about how casually we toss off opinions about really expensive bikes" I will stop you just long enough to say that the reviewers we engage (you included) aren't so casual about those opinions. I make sure to be careful to only publish things I can stand behind. It's an imperfect process that we try our best to get right. I don't think anything you wrote was unfair, and there certainly are a lot of bad reviews out there, but we do try to make sure the ones we publish are as fair and balanced as possible.

As is often the case, I'll point to what Cam wrote and say I agree, but that's partly because we have shaped each other's opinions and ideas about bias in reviews over the years. We do have biases. We try to understand them and not to conceal them.


Dave Tolnai  - June 6, 2018, 1:32 p.m.

That wording isn't the best, but wasn't meant as a comment about the substance of the review.  More that we treat these really expensive bikes as totally normal, and not a big deal.  That's what I meant by that.

And, honestly, I really wasn't ever trying to suggest there are bad reviewers, or that the things they say are biased.  I mean...they might be, but this isn't about that.

Remember the first bike you ever received in the mail, totally free of charge.  I assume it was something like "I can't believe somebody is letting me do this."  Now, you're generally rocking, what, $30,000 worth of bikes at any given time?  Not to make this about you.

I'm just saying somewhere between that first "free" bike and here (wherever here may be), things change.  And we should all be aware of that.

I'd say that as you review more and more bikes, your (technical) context grows, and you probably get better at picking up on the details.  But it also subtly changes you in other ways, as well.  And then it gets to a point where you have a garage full of expensive bikes and you don't think anything of it.


+4 Tim Coleman Todd Hellinga Merwinn Cam McRae
LWK  - June 5, 2018, 10:28 a.m.

appreciate the honest approach from the NSMB folks on acknowledging that bias is real.  In general, I think you guys do a pretty good job on this.  I thought the alu vs. carbon Knolly article a few weeks back was excellent example of at least trying to take an honest look at one of the biggest biases in our sport \(carbon is definitely way better than aluminum\).

Less of an issue on your end, but I think consumers need to acknowledge their own biases as well.  I have several and have always been very picky in what I think is good or not.  For the first time in about 5 years I have a new bike and while its a top end bike, it is full of things I would normally thumb my nose at including house brand wheels, dropper, cockpit, SRAM Guide brakes and the like.  But I approached it with a more open mind than usual and... it is an excellent bike.

and finally, if I dont get to ride the latest and greatest every 6 months then maybe good reviewers and my excellent LBS do actually have some advice worth listening to.


+6 Tim Coleman Todd Hellinga Andrew Major Paul Lindsay Mammal Cam McRae
Nouseforaname  - June 5, 2018, 10:40 a.m.

This is why I come to NSMB - confusing reviews that don't tell me whether Carbon is better than Aluminium, testers who don't know how much the bikes they're testing are worth and hate themselves a little because of it, reviewers who want to put $$$ shocks on $ frames and guys who according to RideMonkey don't know how to tell a good DH bike from a bad one.


+4 Alex D Tim Coleman Mammal rvoi
Andrew Major  - June 5, 2018, 11:52 a.m.

Don’t forget all the hyper-sexualized, yet intimately-erotic, moody full-ISO photos published of Tim with his knees splayed open riding phalliclly organic carbon Enduro steeds. 

It’s little wonder Dave Smith is always telling Tim to keep his knees together - supply and demand. Probably making a fortune selling wall sized canvass prints.


+1 Mammal
Tim Coleman  - June 5, 2018, 10:52 p.m.

Hahaha ... post of the day!


Dave Tolnai  - June 5, 2018, noon

You're welcome?


+3 Niels Tim Coleman Andrew Major
Nouseforaname  - June 5, 2018, 12:47 p.m.

Don't sweat it Dave - it's all bullshit. The bike industry is not the pinnacle of "first world problems" but it's pretty close.



Cooper Quinn  - June 5, 2018, 4:25 p.m.

This comment needs more upvotes.


+2 Cam McRae Velocipedestrian
ws  - June 5, 2018, 1:11 p.m.

Thank you Uncle Dave for again remembering average guys like me for whom riding is a part of \(and often antidote for\) an otherwise taxing and maxed out life.   In addition to my own needs for high end components that make up for my shortcomings as a rider \(which are aplenty given I came to this sport a few years ago in my late 40's\), I also sponsor two kids on full suspension bikes.  I want the kids and I to have bikes that we can grow on as we progress, but also in no way can justify the high end bikes that are often in reviews, and can in no way notice the limitations/benefits that are often listed in reviews \(e.g. flex when entering corners at warp speed, becomes somewhat uncomposed on 89 degree rock faces, didn't explode when dropped 20 feet to flat\).  I still don't know what to do about reviews that say things like "really comes to life at speed" other than think "sh\*t, there's another bike that an average guy like me won't unlock... where do they keep the feels good even when you're riding like someone who needs to be back at work on Monday to feed the family?" 

I loved your review about the Kona Precept a number of years back.  You reviewed it exactly as it is \(especially your rant about the brakes\)... not high end and with some definite shortcomings, but with a few changes, something that can be a lot of fun to ride and at a price my kid can have dual squish.  My son has loved his and my daughter will be growing into it soon.  This is the information I need.

I demo'd an Altitude recently and fell in love with it.  Set PR's climbing and descending.  But I wish Rocky Mountain had an A50 as well as the C70 in their demo fleet because I'd love to see if I could notice a difference that would make a 2K difference in my riding... and even if I could, I doubt I could explain it to the other party in the financial decisions of my family.

I think some of the commentary that "the buyer needs to decide on value" is valid, but I would also love to see more written from the perspective of "I'm already spending more than I should given that the kids need \[whatever\], is this going to be fun enough to forget my guilt at least while riding?" 

Please keep doing more of what you \(and Andrew\) are doing to report on the amazing things about bikes, but remembering a large segment of the market that would love the $10K whatever, but is thrilled to be able to get our hands on your cast offs and ride.  And if that's not possible, see if Cam wants me to start an "average guy's guide to average bikes and components."


+1 ws
Bagheera  - June 5, 2018, 2:01 p.m.

"The Average Guy's Guide to Average Bikes". Great. I'd read that. Can I help with the testing, too? ;)


+1 Cam McRae
Morgan Heater  - June 5, 2018, 4:28 p.m.

As a non-reviewer that pays for his stuff, I was shocked to hear myself tell a friend that $2k is about what you need to buy in for a decent bike, and think to myself that it was pretty cheap. That's when I realized I'd been reading too many reviews.


+1 Morgan Heater
Dave Tolnai  - June 5, 2018, 7:49 p.m.


I mean...2k is pretty cheap for a decent bike.  But still.


+1 Todd Hellinga
Cooper Quinn  - June 6, 2018, 7:22 a.m.


Best thing you've written in a while.

Thanks for that.


+2 fartymarty Cam McRae Velocipedestrian markisfat
[user profile deleted]  - June 6, 2018, 7:58 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

markisfat  - June 6, 2018, 1:20 p.m.

"This is a problem (for you, not me)..." I love it. And it's true, I reckon, since you are an editorialist, who entertains us with sarcasm, wit and slander, not pseudo-objective bike/equipment reviews. Your colleagues, however, should pay attention. So too, should the readers of NSMB who digest the articles on this site. This is a problem for us. Professional reviewers inevitably fall prey to unconscious bias on many levels, parallels having been studied in other industries. (Here is but one example: https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/26/3/204/510492) If a bike company wines and dines me, then sends me a delicious bike to ride for months on end, with no cost to me, the likelihood of a favorable review is high. It costs the bike makers little, with huge pay offs (ie free advertising / "objective" reviews). One of my favourite recent images from NSMB was that of a DH sled piloted by a privateer who was scoring some solid results. His choice? An aluminum frame, not carbon, to "save a few bucks, and redirect costs to suspension and brakes". Wait, what? Carbon frames aren't absolutely necessary to improve my riding? Well @#$% me....


+1 Niels
Dave Tolnai  - June 6, 2018, 1:52 p.m.

You know you've written a really good article when you have to explain yourself in the comments a bunch of times.

I more liken it to camera reviews.  I'll get into spells where I'll read camera reviews.  And whenever I do, miraculously, I find myself wanting a new camera.  I think the average camera reviewer is probably really, really great at comparing technical specs, and at telling me which camera works better, or is the best.  But they also go to work every day in a room full of the latest camera gear.  And while I believe them when they say the new Sony a7 III's are amazing and are a massive upgrade from the last series, I tend to forget that this is largely academic towards what I really need a camera for.

Reviewers are usually pretty good at telling you how something works, or which one is better.  But they can often be pretty bad at giving you any sort of context as to whether or not that might be necessary.  And the fact that they can walk into a room and pick up any number of high dollar cameras to use on any given day probably changes the way they think about what might be necessary.  Most of us have never even held a D5, let alone shot with one, or worked it into our context of how a camera should work.  I mean, once you've used the best autofocus system on the planet, it must change the way you look at a $600 DSLR kit from Costco.

Of course, now I'm going to get a lot of angry messages from camera reviewers.  And this is actually kind of a terrible analogy, because camera reviewers actually review bottom of the line equipment.


Alex D  - June 6, 2018, 6:54 p.m.

I have a similar opinion about context, this is the first time I've seen it expressed by another reviewer. Photography was once a passion of mine. You might appreciate this (rather old, though with useful context) camera review.



+1 Alex D
Cam McRae  - June 7, 2018, 12:05 p.m.

The update based on 'what you have now' recommendations are amazing in that review. Is there an analogue in bike reviews? I'm not sure but I wish there was. 

What will you notice about this 12K wonder bike with fancy carbon rims if you are on a Walmart Rebel 88 Plus? Your world will explode.

What will you notice coming from a $3600 aluminum duallie? It depends on the duallie, and where you ride, and how you ride etc. etc.


wizardB  - June 8, 2018, 11:35 p.m.

It's really too bad that mountain bikers are becoming hardcore fashionistas instead of hardcore riders. Ride more buy into the industry crap less equals far more fun per dollar spent.


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