By: Forest Dramis
This past week I was fortunate enough to be invited again to the Outside Magazine Bike Test in Tucson, AZ. It's always a great week of sun, riding, great food and friends. Oh, and then there are the bikes. Spending your time riding the best bikes in the world is a good way to while away the days.
The test week is split into Road days and MTB days. This year road days were spent at Gates Pass and Saguaro National Park. Both of these loops are great for testing with varying road surfaces, fast sections, rollers and climbs. Gates Pass features a steep climb every lap, whereas Saguaro features endless, steep rollers. Mountain bike days were spent at Mt. Lemmon and Starr Pass. The Mt. Lemmon loop featured a 30 minute climb on singletrack with a 15 minute singletrack descent. Starr Pass featured more diverse terrain with a choice of loops featuring rocky terrain, steep climbs, fast desert riding and a little sand.
A typical day on the test begins at 7am. After a quick breakfast, bike loading and one last tea, we left the house by 8am and drove to the day's test area where we would ride laps until noon. After every lap we filled out forms regarding the bike we just rode. Data collected included everything from ride quality, handling, acceleration and stiffness to riders' fatigue level. Each form ends with us writing a paragraph describing what we thought stood out about the bikes, what we liked and disliked and whether we would like to own the bike. Ride. Fill out a form. Set up a new bike. Ride. Repeat. Around noon we'd take a break, have lunch and then get back to riding until 4pm. Load all the bikes back into the truck, head back to the house, and then the fun begins.
One of the best perks about the Outside Magazine Bike Test is the food. In the past Sam Lightner has been the house chef, busting out everything from beef Wellington to roast chicken stuffed with pesto and gorgonzola. This year we doubled our pleasure by adding Mark Daverin to the chef roster and we were rewarded with a fine repast. The highlight of which was a braised lamb chop with edamame hummus. Yeah, it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.
This year we had about seventy bikes. Thirty road bikes and forty mountain bikes. These are shipped by manufacturers to Tucson where they are built by the Bike Test mechanic. Think about building, and then unbuilding, seventy bikes. It's a monumental task, handled flawlessly. In addition to the building, unbuilding and setting up of all the bikes, the mechanic is also on hand during the day to make any adjustments, tweaks or repairs that come up.
Instead of talking about all the bikes that we tested, I've chosen a few that I thought stood out. Some stood out for being awesome. Some stood out for being less than awesome. Click below and enjoy. I know I did!