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Next time you’re on a ride with somebody, watch how often your conversation turns to bikes. Or maybe trails or racing or injuries. Anything bike-adjacent. Put two or more of us together, and the topic of riding suddenly becomes magnetic. And for good reason. We have a shared vocabulary and experience that works as a shortcut to insight, humor, and truth. At its core, The Beta Tests is a series of conversations just like ones you’ve had a thousand times. We just happen to study a little more for them.
Each of the 20 bikes we’ll be covering in the coming weeks was paired with three veteran testers. Testers who often let their personal bikes collect dust as they evaluate the latest and greatest our industry has to offer. When those testers arrived at The Beta Tests, they brought with them their years, sometimes decades of experience reviewing countless bikes. They also brought their personal preferences and prejudices. Some are XC hammerheads, some are fearless shredders, some are tech-minded malcontents. But all of them have done this before. You might recognize many of the characters involved because, although this is technically our first Beta Test, it is not our first rodeo.
In the days before we ever clip on our microphones, clear our throats and roll the cameras, each tester has poked and prodded each bike with shock pumps, measuring tapes, and more 4mm allen wrenches than you can shake an 8mm allen wrench at. They then spend a day on a test course pre-selected to exploit each bike category’s strengths and weaknesses. In this case, those courses are in Ely, Nevada, where, if you drive down its time capsule of a main street, you’d never guess there’s a booming network of trails just above you.
When their test loops are done, and with dust still in their eyes and kneepads still on their knees, the testers take notes on everything they experienced. They check their impressions against the facts, as well as against those deeply held biases, and they prepare to debate every aspect of every bike in hopes of throwing a lasso around what that bike is good at and who it’s for. Then, they finally sit down and do what we all love to do. They talk about bikes.
Multiple new reviews will be dropping every week until we’ve gone through the entire list. Stay tuned, get involved, join the conversation, comment, like and dislike. Welcome to The Beta Tests.
Want to wet your whistle? Check out our Beta Tests review of the Santa Cruz Nomad
Photos: Anthony Smith