One of the most popular mountain bike publications in the country California based Bike Magazine just finished up a two week stint in NWA riding the Oz Trails while testing the latest and greatest mountain bikes for 2017. The comprehensive product test (Bible of Bike Tests) is highly anticipated each year and considered one of the best gear guides in the country. Sounds like a sweet gig right!? I had the opportunity to meet a few of the testers and get a feel for their processes. I checked in with Ryan Palmer Gear Editor for Bike Magazine. Take a sec and see what he has to say about NWA!
Bike Magazine Interview
Ryan Palmer | Gear Editor
OCA: How’d you choose Arkansas for your Bible of Bikes Tests this year?
Ryan: We’ve been hearing about the trail expansion effort in Northwest Arkansas for a while now, and we thought it was time we checked it out for ourselves. We came here last March to get a feel for the terrain and it proved to offer plenty of variety for our testing needs.
OCA: What has been the biggest surprise about Arkansas so far on this trip?
Ryan: For people who aren’t familiar with the area, I think it comes as a bit of a surprise to realize just how beautiful the region is. More specific to what is happening with mountain biking in Northwest Arkansas, I think the entire team was surprised and amazed at the region’s commitment to the sport. We’ve never seen trail projects get approved and built this quickly anywhere else.
OCA: Favorite trail system?
Ryan: For me, it’s got to be Kessler, but Slaughter Pen and the Back 40 are a very close second. I’m originally from the Northeast, and the singletrack I grew up riding 20 years ago was a lot like the stuff at Kessler. Riding chunky, technical singletrack takes me back to my roots. Literally.
OCA: Can you tell us about your comprehensive testing method?
Ryan: I could, but I’d have to kill you. Seriously though, we basically just ride the crap out of the bikes and record our thoughts on test forms, which have become known to as the “testaments”. Get it? We write down bike settings, such as tire pressure, suspension sag, and any other setup information, then we go ride the bike on a course that we think matches the bike’s intended use. Before our heart rate recovers from the lap, we start jotting down all of our thoughts on suspension performance, component spec, ride quality and value for the price. We take notes on standout design elements (good and bad) as well frame geometry. Then, we grab another bike and do it all over again. And again. And again. Until all 35 bikes are thoroughly thrashed.
OCA: What is a typical day like?
Ryan: Each morning starts out with a home cooked meal, prepared by our amazing cook, Anna. She’s been feeding our ugly mugs for four Bibles now. After stuffing our faces, we suit up, and do one of two things: We either test bikes all day, or work on getting video clips of each bike to accompany our popular “roundtable reels” videos. The days alternate between testing and making sure our video and photo needs are met for the print and online coverage of the Bible of Bike Tests. After crushing it in the woods all day, we all sit down around the dinner table, smash more delicious food in our faces, and then prepare for the night shift: filming the roundtable videos. This, and the consumption of a few pints (provided this year by Bike Rack Brewing Company) usually takes us, technically speaking, into the next day. We sleep like the dead for 5 or 6 hours and then do it all over again, for two straight weeks.
OCA: Favorite place to eat on this trip?
Ryan: Well, we eat most of our meals at the house, but we did get to go out on the town a couple times during our stay. We sampled Pedaler’s Pub, The Forge, Table Mesa, Pressroom, Flying Fish, Oven and Tap, The Hive in the 21c hotel, and we had handcrafted drinks at Foxhole Public House, all in downtown Bentonville. For such a small downtown, Bentonville has a surprising amount of quality dining establishments. And everyone was friendly and welcoming. We’d like to thank Northwest Arkansas for the hospitality while we were there. It was a pleasure.
The 2017 Bible of Bike Tests issue drops in January. Get ready folks! Here are some links to see what they were up in NWA.