May 20 2005
Anyone who has so much as wiped their nose with an issue knows that Bicycling magazine is the pulpiest, blandest, most innane piece of tripe in the cycling world; the USA Today of two-wheeled rags. This much is not news. But, bored at work one day, I made the mistake of perusing a recent issue that featured their “Editor’s Choices” in bikes, gear and other things bike related.
Before I go any further, I’ll say straight out that this rant is not an exposÃ©. I will overlook that fact that 90% of the bikes upon which the title of “Editor’s Choice” was bestowed are current advertizing sponsors of Bicycling magazine, and focus instead on their “reviewing,” or lack thereof. The “reviews” of bikes basically consist of a few tester blurbs, some vague, qualitative assesments (ie – “descends like a rocket,” “feels solid,”"made me smile.”) and a rough rundown of price and components. And I do mean rough. For their “Women’s Enthusiast Road Bike” winner, a Cannondale R1000 (which was featured in a 2-page ad spread earlier in the magazine) is described as having “Ksyrium Wheels.” Whether these were the 1850g/$250 Ksyrium Equipes, the 1700g/$500 Ksyrium Elites or the 1500g/$800 Ksyrium SSLs is not specified; a huge issue considering one of the “strengths” of the Cannondale was its parts spec.
What was perhaps the worst part of Bicycling‘s alleged “reviews” was that for each category (chosen seemingly at the whim of the Editors; what the difference between “Best All-Mountain Bike” and “Best All-Trail Bike” is escapes me entirely) it posted a winner and two “honorable mentions.” No direct indication is given to the reader that other bikes were tested, but with the “honorable mention” title, certainly it’s implied. I had assumed as much, until I read the review of the honorably-mentioned Lemond Versailles Women’s Model. It begins:
“Close: Due to a shipping error, we didn’t recieve a bike to test in Santa Barbara, but this bike made our final cut because of its frame, a stiff, strong steel spine…mated to a lightweight OCLV 120 carbon cockpit.”
All I have to say to that is “fuÂ¢king weak” (in an Eric Cartman sort-of voice). They gave an “honorable mention” to a bike they didn’t even test, and proceeded to vomit back the features listed on the Lemond webpage. [I suppose this is a boon to Bicycling readers; certainly anyone with enough free time to read through an entire issue of this POS magazine certainly hasn't figured out how to use the Internet. - ed.] One is inclined to wonder if the testers’ “final cut” criteria consisted entirely of which companies were willing to ship out free sample bikes.
Now, I know what you’re saying. “Cosmo, you hard-headed douche, Bicycling is not Consumer Reports. Don’t expect them to buy their own samples, perform double-blind studies objectively examining preselected aspects of each bike by a strict rubric.” But dammit, now each of these comapnies can slap a “Bicycling magazine Editor’s Choice” logo in their adds in reputable cycling publications (like Cycle Sport, and to a lesser extent, VeloNews) and many deep-pocketed souls just getting into the sport will be none the wiser.
These neophyte riders will drop some G’s on a ride, thinking it’s awesome, ride it for two weeks, hate it, stop riding, realize a friend of theirs (who hasn’t quit riding because his bike is way sweeter) has a better bike and try to ride again with their friend. But, since they’ve been couch potatoing, the friend will be in way better shape, kick their collective ass, and leave the poor chaps taken in by Bicycling‘s half-assed Editor’s Choice to conclude that having a good machine is the only way to be a good cyclist. They’ll either drop even more money on a new ride (only to repeat the process), or quit right there; either way, they’ll end up leaving cycling fat and embittered, just like Greg Lemond. And let’s just face it: cycling doesn’t need any more of that.