We all look forward to the big bike shootouts in all of the magazines each year. I just got a freshie in the garage (that’s Urban Dictionary for “new bike”, so don’t go to the gutter) and it got me to thinking about these bike tests. It takes a good few hours to break-in suspension and motors, etc. and a well set up stock bike obviously performs better than “straight off the showroom floor.”
So here’s my question: When a manufacturer shows up with their bike for a test, I assume that, to get the best reviews from test riders, that bike should already be broke-in and gone through pretty thoroughly, maybe even to the point of servicing the suspension after an initial break-in ride by someone. How about tweaks to the mapping that nobody would know about? It seems that you could get a better “score” and review with a well-prepped stock bike. Or, is there some unwritten rule that everyone shows up with a box-stock bike that is brand new?
Great question. There are a whole slew of problems with bike “shootouts” and after delving into it for a bunch of years we decided to stop doing them completely. The first problem is that it is a total conflict of interest. How can you give an impartial opinion about a bike or a product when they pay money to advertise with you? Unless you like shooting yourself in the foot and going bankrupt there’s no way you can be honest when a product isn’t good. On top of that, every test rider has a certain brand that they prefer and nine times out of ten they will choose that bike because it is the most comfortable to them. And to be honest, all of the bikes are good these days and choosing one over the other really comes down to a personal preference rather than pure performance. I know I’m ranting a bit but I tried for a long time to put together the perfect shootout scenario and it was like reorganizing the chairs on the lido deck of the Titanic. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has an opinion about how a bike test should be organized and we realized all of it was pretty much useless. Thanks for letting me dump that on you, Werner.
Now, let me really answer your question: Yes, bikes are typically ridden a little bit by the manufacturer to break them in. Brand new bikes can feel stiff, tight and like there is too much engine break if they don’t have a little time on them. Do they cheat? I don’t know. Do they take the air filter screens off so they breathe better? Do they plug in different maps? Do they run lighter oil or less oil for less resistance? Well, there’s no AMA to break you down and check so what would you do? My suggestion is to ride your buddy’s bike and see if you like it before you buy something. Don’t waste $4.95 on a magazine with a shootout and think you are getting information that can make that decision for you.
Hello Mr. Pingree.
First off let me compliment you on your mastery of the English language. It is most impressive in this day and age of ignorance and lack of public speaking skills. That being said, I’ll get to the point. I believe that the top riders, past and present, should be required to take a class on speaking at interviews after the race. I am constantly amazed that the phrases “I mean”, “you know” and “like” should be used so many times while not completing an actual sentence. Is it just me?
I am looking forward to your response on this troubling matter.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I’ll play the devil’s advocate for a minute and say that interviews right after a race are difficult. You have an obscene amount of adrenaline running through you, your heart is racing and trying to put together a succinct overview of your last twenty minutes is tough, let alone a detailed and grammatically accurate summation of the day’s events. That said, some guys sound awful when standing in front of the mic, even hours before or after a race. There’s no excuse for that and it’s really up to the race teams and the parents of these kids to help them improve. When I rode for Suzuki they would bring all of their riders in every year for a media training class. They explained different things they wanted you to say in interviews, as well as things to avoid. We would each get up and do mock interviews then critique each other and it was a great way to learn the things you needed to improve upon. One year they brought in Stephen Baldwin to teach the class. It was difficult to take him seriously after seeing Biodome but he had some great insight. Simple things like looking at the person who asked you the question when you are giving an answer. How many times do you see riders staring off into the stadium as they stumble through a response without ever looking at the person who asked the question? You wouldn’t do that in a normal conversation so don’t do it in an interview. There are plenty of folks in the industry who could put on great media training classes if teams would just ask. Lets hope they do.
I saw on Insta-ham that you got to ride the new electric bike from Alta. There have been other electric bikes but this motocross-specific version seems to be a little more legit then the others. I don’t get the hate from some people about this. I mean, I don’t want to ride a bike that sounds like an RC car but I’m also not a closed-minded living in a ten by ten shack in the smoky mountains that threatens to burn down the house of the first person who buys one. What can you tell us about that thing and what are your thoughts about electric bikes in general?
I appreciate the open-mindedness, Gabe. Any time one of these electric bikes gets mentioned there is a thread of hateful comments that makes the KKK’s nasty rhetoric look like one of Mitt Romney’s annual Christmas letters. I rode the bike last Thursday at Glen Helen, which was the first time they’ve had it in Southern California on a legitimate national track. I was impressed with the way the bike felt; it rode like a real motorcycle, not like a downhill mountain bike with an engine. The suspension was solid, the brakes were good and the ergonomics were all comfortable right away. The power plant made impressive power as well. It is supposed to be competitive with a 250F and I think it’s pretty close. It was really weird not having any sound or not being able to hear where your RPM’s were at any given time but I think you would get used to that. I also struggled with the lack of a clutch lever. My finger instinctively wanted to sit on something and there is nothing there. Again, it would just be a matter of time. My initial impression is that they have done a great job on that bike.
I would still buy a gas powered bike if I had to choose… all day long. But there are some cool possibilities with a bike that makes zero noise and it opens up riding areas that would otherwise not be an option. You can’t stop the future from coming so all the haters that have their pitchforks out ready to riot in the streets need to just chill out. I don’t know if gas powered bikes will ever go away but it’s cool to know that if they do there is a viable option.