I have recently found myself in a unique situation in my amateur career. A local company has asked for me to provide rider feedback on a pre-production, protective part. Even though I’m utterly excited for the opportunity, I am honestly a little nervous about it, and a little lost on even where to begin.
Seeing how DBT has become a industry go-to for bike and part reviews, I was wondering if you could share some of your general testing procedures? Particularly, how many hours go into testing? How many conditions/locations do you test in? How much of your testing is data acquisition of weights, dimensions, and other measurable variables? How do you translate all of the information you gathered into coherent feedback for manufactures and subscribers? And most importantly, how do you test a single protective part without totally destroying the rest of your bike? I’m pretty good at wrecking as is, but I don’t know how I feel about intentionally trying to punch a hole in my case.
I don’t want to screw this up. I want to make the most of this opportunity, and provide quality feedback. Are there any other suggestions the pros at DBT would give to someone new to product testing? I understand some of your testing procedures may be proprietary to what makes DBT the leader in product testing, but any guidance is greatly appreciated.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
RD from Idaho
Thanks for the compliments and for turning to us for this. There really isn’t a “secret” or “proprietary” testing method it is more about experience and knowledge. It is very wise for a company to look outside of their inner circle to test products and sometimes sponsored riders are great for this. Having some real-world feedback often reveals things that are overlooked. Just like in writing a second set of eyes never hurts. Yet we’ll let you into some ways and methods we use.
The time that goes into testing is product dependant. Being that durability is one of the most important aspects, ranking right up there with outright performance for many riders. For us it becomes a timeliness versus newsworthiness dilemma. Here we will look into ways to accelerate the testing or use past experience to help predict as accurately as possible the durability. And often time it takes beating up our own machines or bodies to do this. Luckily I have a fleet of rental bikes where I can subject stuff to real world punishment without much effort. We have test riders who ride five days a week and race often. We know plenty of riders who are very good at wearing out certain parts, so we flow stuff to them to use and abuse.
Next understand the product’s goal and make sure the testing is conducted in that environment. Don’t test MX suspension off-road and complain. It was never intended to do that. So if you take things out of what they were intended to do, it is a crap-shoot. This includes the locations for testing, the times of year, the types of bikes we put products on and the gear we ride in. No rain in Nevada, we use a hose and simulate the best we can…
As far as super scientific data acquisition, we have connections to get this stuff done when needed. But it can get expensive quickly so it depends how much of this data is required. So for more development work we will do this. In real world testing we may devise a less precise method that will yield consistent or repeatable results so improvements or changes can be measured. It is amazing how different weights of hammers, a simple tape measure or a set of different lengths of bar or tube will go in making a test procedure.
Now it all comes down to the feedback we give. Here is where experience and largely trust and credibility come into play. Everyone has a valid opinion, especially to them. But it is what goes into formulating that opinion that can make or break the value of it. Going into a product test with an open mind and understanding who you are working for when you are doing it makes a large impact on the outcome.
We have sponsored riders who write reviews on their sponsor’s products, and we are not afraid of that. Because they are not the only ones who have tested that product. So the information is verified by riders who are very familiar with the product as well as by some who may not know much about it. They know that a biased review is their last review. We do a lot of “blind testing” where we have riders try one thing while there is another thing we are checking to see if it goes unnoticed or not. We know rider’s preferences and often give to them things we know they will not really like or appreciate to see what it is that could be improved.
And to the point of breaking your bike or body in the process…Well sometimes that is the price you pay. Lucky we are often on bikes that are loaned to us but that does not mean that we intentionally abuse them. We treat test bikes as if we own them, right down to proper maintenance because that is all part of our testing. Bodies are not so easy and especially on protective gear we must rely on a mishap or a certified testing standard that has been met to comment on that front.
Hope this information is of use to you and it gives a little background into what we are doing here at DBT. A portion of our business is done behind the scenes and not editorialized. Testing of products you may see in the future or early or pre-production stuff to verify it works as expected. Often times as a single rider all you can do is to put on the part and use it, then give feedback on exactly how it worked for you. From installation or fit to performance and durability. Then the person who is collecting information has the job of evaluating and compiling it to determine how to use that info.
I’m pretty sure we all learned this type of procedure in basic science class. But I was more interested in lighting stuff on fire with that burner and dreaming of roosting the minute I got out of school. Now it is a job too.