Ask Uncle Dave

Why do you Jerks get to Ride such Expensive Bikes?

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Nov 7, 2017

Dear Uncle Dave, 

I was recently scrolling through the trail bike reviews of various popular MTB online publications, where as is the long running trend a vast majority of review bikes were in the top build kit. And I was wondering what the real reason for the press fleet to be binged out. Is it to get people drooling at the new superbike, or is it to remove as many variables as possible to make what the frame the standout kit vs the other bikes tested. It also made me wonder the effect on the average reader, does hearing the $10,000 dollar dream machine is a great bike seem kinda obvious because of the price tag alone, and all that performance won't trickle down to the $4,000 dollar price bracket? Well now I'm just sitting here confrizzled.


lost the plot

Dear Lopes:

I’ve really been enjoying these answers lately where I make other people do all of the work. That was my plan this time around, but when I reached out to the one industry person that I knew would relish the opportunity to anonymously tear apart some bike reviewers, they didn’t seem all that interested.

If you send a $3K bike to a reviewer who is used to riding $10K bikes, they criticize the bike for the reasons that make it cost less (its heavier, it doesn't have carbon wheels and aluminum rims are flexier, the brakes aren't as good, the dropper post lever isn't great, the dampers are lower quality, etc etc etc).

Which, is an answer, sure. But not the no-holds-barred, rip-out-the-stomach-through-the-asshole, shit-kicking that I was hoping for, and leaves us gasping for a few hundred more words.

Looking at my personal situation, I tend to not have to worry about things like that. Cam and Pete keep all the $10,000 bikes for themselves and it’s only the bargain shit that trickles down to my level. So I’m pretty used to testing bikes with terrible brakes, suspect droppers and weak tires. But, between your question and our industry response, I have a few thoughts.

1 – It’s a pretty crappy reviewer that can’t judge to a price point.

There are a few parts that don’t belong on any bicycle (Shimano resin only discs, perhaps?) but most things have a place somewhere, at a certain price/performance level. If a reviewer doesn’t seem to be getting this, I would probably give most of what they have to say a pass 

2- If I was one of these companies I wouldn’t trust the reviewers either

So, you’ve just spent 2-3 years developing your new suspension platform. You’ve forked out for your carbon molds. You’ve fondled the right balls and wined the right people…and then all some jackass reviewer has to say is that they're disappointed that the wheels aren't carbon? I’d be pissed too.

3 – Profit is a strange beast

I think we’ve all been curious as to why McDonald’s charges $1.50 for a small pop, yet you get twice as much pop for an extra 20 cents. It doesn’t make any sense. They probably make a full buck of profit off that small pop, yet only squeeze an extra 10 cents or so out of you on that large. The math seems a bit off to me, but the people who actually make money on business insist that this is the way to do things, even if they have to give you diabetes in the process. I would imagine the profit calculations on these top spec bikes are a lot simpler than that, and I'm pretty sure normalizing high dollar specs helps them move a few extra high dollar/profit units.  There seemed to be a point in here somewhere...but maybe not. 

4 - Some companies really suck to deal with

Sometimes it feels like a lot of these people really believe their own marketing materials. That each and every new bike they've ever made is revolutionary. That there can't possibly be a valid piece of criticism against their wonderful new product. And you obviously don't know what you're talking about when you point it out. It's probably a lot harder to feel that way if you've sent out some low dollar, price point special.

So, there you go. Yes, yes and yes. And yes. It seems like you had all of the answers, all along, and didn’t really need me to tell you anything.


Uncle Dave

Uncle Dave's Music Club


I'm not going to talk about music this week. I'm going to talk about something else. We're in a heating standoff with our landlords, so for the last few weeks or so I've been climbing in to a nice, hot bath before heading off to bed. I feel like I'm creating the template for my retirement years.

After one or two of these evening, I got tired of staring at my feet so I started watching the Epicly Later'd series from Vice on Youtube. You should do the same.

Start with the Spike Jonze episode. It's nearly impossible to listen to this guys story and not come away impressed. I love his laid back path to success. There's something to be said for having so much talent that no matter what you do or how you do it, you find your way to the top.

Next, the Spanky and Andrew Reynolds episodes have a fair amount of overlap, with a nice arc of redemption. It feels immensely gratifying to watch potentially squandered youth find a direction.

Lastly. Muska. I don't know why, but I love the jackassery that is Muska. It's really, really strange to see him old and trimmed back.

I think my favourite part of all of these is the soothing interviews with Atiba scattered throughout. Maybe Harookz can play that part when mountain biking eventually gets around to making a series like this?


Oh fine. One song. We've talked Kevin Morby before, but he put another album out a few months ago. "Crybaby" deserves a listen or two.

Lopes - sadly we aren't giving you a top of the line bike, (and we have a Huffy lined up for Uncle Dave next) but we are going to hook you up a cool prize.  We continue to raise money for the Stevie Smith Legacy fund and selling these stickers and mudders is how we do it. We’ll make the donation for you and you just get to keep the free stuff. Send us an email (with your address and phone number) to claim your prize. If any of the rest of you are keen to get your full fingers on some sweet prizing, you'd best tap out a question or two for Uncle Dave

Stevie Smith

Keep the mud off and represent for Stevie! #longlivechainsaw

Trending on NSMB


Kelly Barnes  - Nov. 7, 2017, 7:20 a.m.

The older Ed Templeton episode is also outstanding.


Lowcard  - Nov. 7, 2017, 7:39 a.m.

+1 for the smattering of Epicly Later'd episodes. Can't be complete with the king, John Cardiel, though.


+4 Merwinn Cr4w ExtraSpecialandBitter woofer2609
DMVancouver  - Nov. 7, 2017, 8:47 a.m.

The first time I saw a bike going for $5000, I nearly spat out my coffee. But after becoming desensitized by countless reviews of $10000 bikes, $5000 seems like a deal. Mission accomplished.


Bilkamonga  - Nov. 7, 2017, 10:44 a.m.



natbrown  - Nov. 7, 2017, 11:51 a.m.

I'm sure it's not at all in the interests of the editors and reviewers to request high spec models to review either. I know I appreciate the way they suffer for our benefit.


+1 natbrown
Pete Roggeman  - Nov. 7, 2017, 1:50 p.m.

On the contrary. We know many of our readers appreciate reading about mid and lower level bikes and componentry - we all have a different sweet spot as far as price/value is concerned, and our reviews of lower-priced bikes are always well-read. And sometimes there is a certain model that was particularly well-spec'd or well-priced.

There are a lot of occasions where we have requested lower-spec models, and the manufacturer couldn't accommodate the request. If it's at the beginning of a model year (ie. the last four months for many companies' 2018 models), they simply won't have their media bikes available yet in all price tiers. If we want to test it early, we often have little choice over what we can get. 

Obviously, it's a happy day when a top-shelf bike arrives with your name on it, but that doesn't mean that's all we want to ride or write about.


natbrown  - Nov. 7, 2017, 3:02 p.m.

I've cultivated quite the rep as a curmudgeon here I suppose, but I did intend that comment to be lighthearted in tone. I certainly didn't mean is as a deep criticism of you, Cam, or NSMB more broadly.

I back you up 100% with your assertion that you seek bikes that a collectively appeal to a range of budgets. My opinion is that you guys find a pretty happy balance, and my household income is surely at the lower end of your audience. All that capitulation aside, I do want to say that I figure there is a grain of truth to my comment. I was just trying to point out that hanging all the shit on the bike companies might not be entirely justified. I also wasn't just referring to NSMB.

EDIT- The top comment (most popular) on this pinkbike article makes a decent point that fits with the context here.


+1 natbrown
Pete Roggeman  - Nov. 9, 2017, 9 a.m.

On the contrary (NATch!). Your curmudgeonly ways don't conceal your true nature, one of the voices of reason that regularly pops up in the comments and helps keep us honest and thoughtful.

I know you were partly tongue-in-cheek - my response was intended less for you, more for other eyes.

You have to test the high end in order to know the price/value position of the lower tiers. If they're as good performance-wise and the only difference is weight, we need to know that (I'm looking at you, Eagle XX, XO, and GX).


+1 DMVancouver
Cam McRae  - Nov. 7, 2017, 1:34 p.m.

Happy birthday to Uncle Dave! The man is 40 today!


Perry Schebel  - Nov. 7, 2017, 3:08 p.m.

happy b-day to the old guy! we're a proper gang of geriatrics.


+2 natbrown Dave Smith
Dave Tolnai  - Nov. 7, 2017, 3:16 p.m.

Isn't this the sort of information we're supposed to keep to ourselves?  Reputations to uphold and whatnot?


+1 Cooper Quinn
Perry Schebel  - Nov. 7, 2017, 3:31 p.m.

shouldn't you be on some sort of epic bender rather than cruising comment threads?


Dave Tolnai  - Nov. 7, 2017, 4:28 p.m.

An "epic bender" these days is two beers and in bed by 10.


Pete Roggeman  - Nov. 9, 2017, 9:01 a.m.

You're the youngest uncle I have, by far. Enjoy that status, because the others are far better looking.

Happy birthday Dave!


cxfahrer  - Nov. 7, 2017, 10:52 p.m.

Happy birthday- man, my 40th is sooo long ago, had a really great party, way back in 1999...


+1 Pete Roggeman
Endur-Bro  - Nov. 7, 2017, 10:58 p.m.

Happy Birthday Uncle Dave!

Hopefully a fitted flat-brimmed ball cap was gifted to yourself


dreamefx  - Nov. 10, 2017, 7:21 a.m.

I'm that "rider" who rides an $8k bike. The "rider" that everyone loves to hate on. The internet comments are flooded with the same comments: "Why would someone spend that much on a bike when they could buy a damn car or motorcycle?", "So was it worth all that money to be a few seconds faster?", "It's all marketing B.S.", "I'm still faster than you on my cheap bike", and "An expensive bike doesn't make you a better rider."

The last comment is one I totally agree with, though. However, even though I'm no pro rider going as fast as those we love to watch racing the UCI I'm still having fun and fun is subjective for all of us. Can I have fun on a cheaper bike? Sure! Can I have even more fun on a more expensive bike that's lighter and has some features that make my life easier? Damn right I can. 

Am I the "rider with an expensive bike" that's a jerk? No, not at all. I could careless if you're on a cheap bike, old bike, or new bike. All I care about is that we are all out having fun on our bikes. Regardless of what we ride, how we ride and where we choose to ride. Riding is a personal thing. I don't look down nor do talk down to anyone because of what they own. I wasn't raised with a silver spoon. I had to work hard to get to where I am today. I take pride in the things I save up for and never take it for granted. 

This article has some truths. Almost every type of hobby can get crazy expensive. Skiing, racing cars, cycling, sky diving and golfing. We all make different incomes, we all live different lifestyles, and we all have different levels of what we are passionate about. If you truly love something that becomes more of an obsession than yeah, you'll find a way. 

Where there's a will there's a way.


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