Bike Reviews – All aspects of the test…
Here is a brief introduction to the way RIDE Cycling Review tests each bike. Over the years, the bike test pages have evolved. We strive to provide as much information as possible and in this issue we introduce a round-table discussion with all in the RIDE office.
We provide as much information as possible on each bike.
There was a time when the photos told much of the story in a bike review. Someone was then paid to ride it and write about it, offer an appraisal based on what they felt in the course of a few weeks of use. That’s still the premise of the actual text but the whole process is now far more complicated at RIDE than it ever was before. We want to give more than just one rider’s perception of how a bike handles; it needs to be a thorough overview of every aspect of the machine. For this reason many elements have been introduced over the years.
Not too long ago, a bike test was comprised of two pages, a few photos and a brief description that included some history on the brand, observations of the actual ride quality, and the total weight and price of the package. There’s a lot more to it now!
We introduced the ‘flex-test jig’ in 2005. Other publishers have mimicked our protocols because they make sense (and, of course, we take it as flattery). The notion is simple: it measures deflection of a frame at three points when a load (of 40kg) is applied to the crank arm. It offers a ‘snapshot’ of how stiff the frame is. It is also an empirical test (ie. measurements gained are comparable only to each other).
The lower the reading, the less a frame deflects. This offers a clue to how laterally stiff the frame is.
After creating an add-on to the jig to measure flex of wheels for a series of tests in RIDE #54, we have also decided to publish information from the jig on all the wheels of review bikes.
The evolution continued and as of RIDE #39 we have completely stripped back every frame on test and weighed each component, published the actual weight (not the manufacturer’s claim), and offered a chart illustrating what percentage of the total weight is found in the frameset, wheelset, groupset, components (ie. handlebars, stem, seatpost, etc) and miscellaneous (ie. bar tape and fittings).
From this time-consuming process came what is known as ‘The Build Report’ – a mechanic’s evaluation of the bike as we see it from the time it arrives in the office until it’s ready to ride. This includes details on how a bike is packaged, lubricated, what state the threads are in, how the bike is finished, and other information that is gleaned from complete deconstruction and reconstruction.
As of the previous issue, RIDE also conducts a new vibration test using accelerometers fitted to the saddle and chainstay. (An overview of what this protocol is all about was published in #53.)
We take great pride in the quality of the photos of each review and the captioning is now done by either one of our two in-house mechanics/writers, Alex Malone or Greg Chalberg. Some of the images may be published small but the full resolution is on file for when we re-launch our revised iPad App – something that will only be done when I’m satisfied that the reputation of RIDE is not jeopardised by any glitches in the operating system(s).
The reviews themselves are now three full pages (for each bike) but the sundry information extends right through to the comprehensive ‘Bike Test Spec’ – which offers pricing and sizing information, the distributor/manufacturer contact details, address of the relevant site(s) and a few footnotes that we believe may answer any final questions potential owners may have about the bike.
In this issue you will find the first incarnation of what we hope will become a regular feature of the bike tests. We have called it ‘The Round Table’ – even though the first one was conducted at a picnic table in the park beside our office. As you’ll see on p.220, this is a chance for everyone in our team to ride each of the bikes and offer a quick appraisal before the proper review begins. What we all noted on the day of this most intriguing bout of riding was how vastly different bikes can feel… particularly when jumping immediately from one to another.
It’s a process that we’re still refining but we hope you agree that little is left to chance.
You can now buy RIDE Cycling Review in the digital format. There are 10 editions (starting from the October 2009 release, #46) available on Zinio. Below you can see the the 60 bikes that are on test in those issues…