HOW WE TEST PRODUCTS!

HOW WE TEST PRODUCTS!



By: Richard J. Cunningham

The best part of my job as Editor of MBA is throwing a leg over the top of mountain bikes in the world and riding for a job. Who wouldn’t love a trip to France to test the latest Rock Shox suspension? How about New England in the Fall for Cannondale’s ’01 lineup? In the shadow of this euphoria lurks the dark side of being in my position-writing the tests. Once published, my compilation of opinions inevitably sparks some heated debate.
There’s the e-mail from an MBA reader who happens to own the model in question, who goes off on me because he disagreed with how I tested it or what I thought about some tiny aspect of its handling. Nobody’s perfect, but the MBA test staff and I have test-ridden more different mountain bikes than anyone else out there. You get a feel for it after a while. Usually, I can sense if the bike is fish or bait in the first five minutes on the dirt. The remainder of the test session is devoted to exploring the more subtle nuances of its performance.
I instruct MBA’s editors and test staff to write about the products we evaluate as if we were talking to our best friends. MBA readers deserve the straight story. I am aware that the pages of MBA are filled with advertisers who would love nothing better than great reviews. I know that positive ink in MBA can dramatically influence how that product sells. In the end, it’s MBA’s readers who will foot the bill for the triumphs and the boondoggles of the bicycle industry. That’s why our readers are number one in my book.
It’s tough to meet face to face with the injured party after we’ve published a poor review. In a magazine evaluation, especially a shootout, positive ink for one is poison for the other. In the opinion business, you make a new crop of enemies and friends every month. Nobody likes to lose, even if it means a strong second place. The people who design, manufacture and market mountain bikes are very passionate about their profession. They treat their creations like their own kids. There’s no room for mean spiritedness because all of our good fortunes depend upon each other’s health in the end.
The best I hope for when I pen a product review is to be able to reread it a year later and find it to be fair, factual and entertaining. Better still, if it spurred an improvement or a new and better model. The hardest part of my job, is to make sure that no matter who’s product prevails within the pages of MBA, our readers always win.

 

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