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December 16, 2017
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  • Velt

    Your reviews are some of the best around and are a large part of the reason I come to this site. Especially your reviews of the many of the bespoke builders as people looking at these bikes may not get a chance to ride them.

    My main question/criticism is that I feel like there should be some comparison to other bikes you’ve already reviewed. Some examples: Matt has a Baum but there is no comparison to this in the Wittson Supressio review. The Bond Custom Alloy review has no mention of the CAAD12 Matt rode earlier in the year. I fully understand that it can be difficult to make comparisons without the two bikes side by side, and in the case of time lags (6 months between the CAAD and Bond reviews being published) it becomes even more diffcult. I’m not asking for a huge comparison but even just a line or two would (imo) be helpful.

    • Thanks @disqus_PoTHXvNz2E:disqus I’m always reluctant to make these kind of specific comparisons for a bespoke frameset because the final product is not set in stone like a mass-produced bike. Nevertheless, such comparison can make for good discussion, so it’s worth posing them as a comment.

    • Ragtag

      Yeah agree. Reviews are top notch and more comparisons will only add to this.

  • David Alexander

    You and the others here write excellent reviews. I appreciate both the content and the style.

    Would you like outside contributions? I write quite a bit on Amazon, it’d be gratifying to have a more focused forum. I was ranked in the top 50 on that site last year.

  • jules

    You could always buy a product if the supplier won’t lend it to you. Obviously there’s cost, but you could use it as a prize for a CT competition or something.

    Restricting access to products is one of the oldest tricks in the book by product suppliers to influence positive reviews. Reviewers have an ethical obligation to resist this conflict of interest. Some (I’m not thinking just bikes) do a terrible job and head straight to the queue for a ticket on the gravy train of product launches, etc.

    • I’ve always wanted to position myself as a super-consumer and achieve complete freedom and independence by buying all of the products that are reviewed, but in an industry where the cost of products often reaches into the thousands, it’s just not a sustainable model @disqus_bDUiSNPQWN:disqus (though I’m sure there would be plenty of enthusiasm for a weekly contest giving away the latest bike to be reviewed).

      I think it’s far healthier to view our relationship with the industry as symbiotic. As I’ve mentioned above, we experience a lot of respect from the industry, as well as our audience, and that keeps us honest. The tech team also brings a lot of passion to their work, and that’s something that a gravy train can’t compete with or corrupt.

      • jules

        fair enough. I’ve had the opportunity to meet several of the CT crew and my impression has always been of passionate people with a disposition towards integrity. I don’t have any reason to doubt you. but you are still being influenced indirectly, by what you can’t review – namely products they don’t want you to review.

        I’ve experienced this in other industries, where scam products (uncommon in cycling, but not unknown) will sue reviewers who burst their bubble. that’s more extreme than just not supplying one for review, but it does happen. I appreciate that budget constraints are a key factor, as in almost any industry.

        • I think it’s better to say that the content of our site is being influenced rather than the actual reviews. After all, our assessment of any product doesn’t depend on a competing product (though it may limit our market experience).

          • jules

            I agree. But as a consumer in an ideal world, I’d like you tell me not to buy the Schwinn Corner-Cutter R-IP if it’s a poor quality machine.

            • This is where the crowdfunding model I’ve proposed above would work to your advantage, because the audience could elect (and to some extent, fund) reviews of the products they want assessed.

    • Velt

      I’m sure they could straight up just sell the frame after they’re done with it to keep costs down. I know the local Avanti plus tried to do that after Matt’s foil review.

      • That’s always going to happen at a loss. But we could resort to crowdfunding to get a group of products to review, sell them, and then return the difference to the crowd. Otherwise, do want to talk about a subscriber-based model? :-)

        • Velt

          You’d be operating at a loss, for sure. I guess you’d have to do the numbers, or maybe even a trial to see if the increased traffic was worth it. That is, assuming it even leads to increased traffic.

          I’m totally in agreement with Jules that in an ideal world you’d buy everything. But on the same point I understand that it doesn’t make financial/logistical sense when it comes to bikes, unlike say DCRainmaker who is generally looking in the hundreds of dollars instead of the thousands.

          I think you guys do well with what you have avaliable but its such a pity you don’t have access to more things.

          • James Huang

            Don’t let Matt fool you; it’s a rare occasion when we can’t get our hands on something we want to cover.

            • Velt

              I’m going to assume here you’re referring to the ‘big carbon’ brands. While your reviews are among the best I can google any brand and model from them and get half a dozen reviews.

              Part of what differentiates you guys is your reviews of the much smaller operations. Many of which have little or no ‘formal’ reviews. I feel like these would be less inclined to lend their stuff out as a bad review would have more impact on them. But this also means reviews are more important so consumers can be better aware of any issues. Especially seeing as many just can’t be ridden before purchase.
              Edit: Or because they’re made to order and they don’t keep inventory

              Anything you get from ‘big carbon’ is going to be solid.

              If crowd funding is what it takes to get reviews on these frames then that’s what it takes.

              • James Huang

                Nope, I’m not necessarily only talking about bigger brands. Perhaps unexpectedly, sometimes those are the ones where we have more of a problem sourcing product. I’ve actually found most small builders (at least the ones who actually have solid businesses in place) to be quite amenable in this respect.

                I have a gravel/adventure bike review coming from a tiny company called Otso, I just took delivery of an Allied Alfa All Road, I’ll soon drop my Alchemy Oro review, and I’ve been meaning for ages to take up Nick Crumpton’s offer to review one of this bikes for ages.

                It just depends on the brand, not the size.

        • Velt

          Thinking about your crowdfunding proposal, It is something I would (potentially) be open to. Also, preferrable to a subscription model.

        • Spartacus

          There’s another way, which I assume you’ve already considered so interested to know your thoughts on it Matt – why not put the call out to the Veloclub members if you are having trouble sourcing a product – eg “who’s got a less than 6-month old [Look 795 in large] etc they are willing to swap for 3 weeks?”

          • James Huang

            That’s a great idea, and one that car magazines use on occasion. We’ll have to keep that one in mind.

  • One thing worth noting from where I sit. Before I had any experience in the publishing world, I was convinced that almost all reviews in all publications were commercially influenced. In the past 9 years I’ve learned a few things. Some publications that may look extremely ‘commercial’ from the outside are rock solid in their reviews from a church & state perspective. Other publications charge for review (which actually isn’t a bad idea since this comes at a hard cost to the publisher and it gives the brand free exposure – some of who never pay for advertising and just get by on reviews) but it could be a slippery slope. More often than not, reviews on publications with proper editorial processes can be trusted. But social media influencers – probably not the best place to get your recommendations from. I know…I’ve been there and recognised the trap you can get yourself in.

    • Ragtag

      Apart from you, Ride Media does honest reviews and maybe Tour Mag. But the rest are either descriptions of the product literature or just out to appease the bike company. Some of the American mags are the worst.

  • Nick

    I generally enjoy and respect the CT reviews but as we’re being all meta I’d thought I’d voice a minor criticism which is the over emphasis on artistic photos of products. I get that the good photos do attract readers and show-case products but I feel they often go too far and lose sight of the overall aim, which is to convey information. An example is some recent wheel & helmet reviews where there were something like a dozen photos of the products from different angles and lighting but c’mon, after the first 2 it just became eye candy. After recently reading 2 separate helmet reviews I was left wondering “what does it look like when being worn by someone?”. How do the straps/retention system interfere when you’re wearing sunglasses (or not)? Sure, its going to look different on some people than others but we understand that and the same logic applies to how the reviewer experiences any product.
    TL;DR; photos in reviews should be taken from the perspective of how will they best inform the reader about the product and less from “how can I make these photos get the most likes if they were on instagram”.

    • This is a highly subjective topic but I understand where you’re coming from @disqus_8PRrefvNq6:disqus I’m always striving to satisfy both ends of the spectrum, namely the pragmatists and the romantics, however my bias leans towards eye-candy and romanticism.

      It’s worth pointing out that our goal is not to decide how well a product will meet the needs of the individual. That’s something that he or she can decide for themselves (eg. by trying the helmet on) because there are far too many variables to consider (sunglasses over or under the straps? That one’s an entire minefield in itself!). What’s more important is to consider the performance of the product in general terms so that the reader can decide if it warrants a closer look for their needs.

      • Ragtag

        I agree with Nick here. As I recently requested for the Campags, it will be great to actually see the wheels on the bike. Thanks

    • George Darroch

      I like the pretty photos. CT does a very good job, better than any other publication I can think of.

  • slartiblartfast

    There are inevitable difficulties in framing a negative review. James has always been known as a fearless reviewer. Matt’s reviews are more nuanced although it is often possible to read between the lines regarding his true impression of a given product.

  • Ben

    Great article guys. I’m really happy you tackled this topic. I had actually been wondering about the level of impartiality you held since the sponsored review scales and tech sponsors. I didn’t feel as though the reviews must be paid but it ushered some doubt about outside influence. Happy to hear it’s just good business and ad revenue to keep the independent reviews going!

  • Chandler

    Thanks for sharing this process! I work for a bike startup, aiming the big thing, though barely surviving now. Hope we could make two stunningly good bikes and get reviewed by CT next year.

  • slowK

    I’m not adding much, but the quality of the reviews is one my favourite features of this site. The well-known experience and backgrounds of the review team counts for a lot, at least for me – i’ve bought or not bought equipment based on what has been written here.

    Thank you.

  • Joshua Colp

    Who to email about getting a new unreleased product to for review?

  • jh

    Thank you for the excellent article. CT is the first cycling site I visit, and it has been since the beginning. I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to them everytime I visit the site and consider them among the best. I especially appreciate the inclusion of boutique, bespoke and lesser known brands.
    I do recommend a “catagory” for you to consider reviewing…Amazon’s Bike lights…
    Reviews for bike lights on most sites and magazines are always “name brands” we all know. Technology of bike lights has advanced rapidly in the past 2-3 years. They’re smaller, have more power, more features, and most importantly—> continue to go DOWN in cost.
    Finally, to my point…
    Amazon has an endless array of lights available, many with staggering numbers of reviews. (We can all agree it’s easy to identify legit reviews vs b.s. reviews by now, right?). The 3 “amazon” front and rear lights I purchased compare favorably to my name brand front lights (beam performance-battery life) and are superior to the name brand rear lights I purchased, but at less than half the cost.
    Thanks again for the awesome reviews. I’m looking forward to reading James’ upcoming reviews. Keep up the good work.

  • Patrick

    CT does a great job with writing actual reviews instead of just regurgitating manufacturer info or sugar coating everything. I would not have bought my BH sight-unseen if it weren’t for Matt’s review. He was spot on and I really, really like riding that bike. It’s a fantastic all-rounder.

  • mrp33p3rs

    its pretty clear that this site does a better attempt at an honest assessment than most of the other (predominantly) uk-based online trashjournos out there.

  • TT

    Firstly, thank you for posting this article, I read CyclingTips purely for “Bikes of the Bunch” and product reviews & CT has certainly given me hours of enjoyment.
    My question is why have a score ranking out of ten? I judge the reviewed products on your words and how those words are expressed. CT reviews often have scoring that does not correlate to the written content, Bombtrack Tempest is the prime example of this. My suggestion would be to just give each product a “Buy” if one of the best in class or “Try” if it ticks the readers required boxes.
    Secondly… has CT thought of video reviews? ..

    • George Darroch

      I like the scores – it gives more information that I might otherwise have missed.

    • Based on the feedback that we’ve gotten over the years, there is no universal review format that will satisfy every reader. There has always been strong support for a scoring system even though each reviewer has reservations about how much information it leaves out. However, it does serve to crystallise the reviewer’s overall impressions and provide a measure of where the product stands in relation to others.

      As for video reviews, this is a very expensive and time-consuming undertaking that is arguably out of all proportion to the ease with which this content can be consumed. And with four reviewers located in four different parts of the world, video production costs would be quadrupled. Personally, I don’t see that video offers any more than the printed word other than to speed consumption, and there’s no strict need for that. I can also see that it robs the viewer the opportunity to stop and stare at the product as they reflect upon its appeal and utility.

  • valiumct

    Quite interesting article. I’m an editor at a print/web publication in the U.S. that is known for testing/evaluating products. My company doesn’t take free samples for evaluation and scoring. We buy everything that we test—selling the items (from blenders to cars!) later on to recoup some money—and don’t take advertising.

    I think the CyclingTips team does a commendable job in their reviews. So long as they are devoid of the press release text and are critical thinking (i.e., not just quoting/spewing the “laterally stiff and vertically compliant” BS), you’ve got a good thing going.

    I do agree with others about the images…beauty shots are nice, but dialing back the beauty on some so that function comes through is important.

  • rmonster

    Have you ever considered publishing the list of products you requested to review but were turned down for? I think that might be journalistically useful in and of itself, and it would definitely help to combat the feeling of bias some of your readers might feel when they don’t see the products they were expecting to. Maybe just an end of year summary; it doesn’t have to be a huge to-do, just something we can check up on ourselves.

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