Perhaps you've noticed a trend in MBT these past few years. We've been steadily moving away from the misconception that newer always means better when it comes to bikes. Are there engineering advancements made with each new generation of frame? Yes. Are today's materials stronger and lighter than those of yesteryear? Yes. Does riding something shiny and new make you a better rider? Probably not.
Now what's funny is our reluctance to tell you that you need the newest tech, latest style bike and priciest bling to have fun, be all you can be etc. is of course the opposite of popular trend when it comes to the biking media. And why wouldn't it be? Getting you to buy the newest bike is how the bike manufacturer is able to pay for pricey magazine ads that put food on those editors' tables. It's a pretty efficient little closed-circuit economy but it certainly isn't an unbiased one.
That's what makes publications like Consumer Reports (and MBT) so special- we don't take advertising money. In their case they buy products, put them through their paces and pay themselves with money brought in through expensive subscriptions. In ours, we simply don't get paid for our time and effort but in either case the end result is the same: we don't have to worry what anyone thinks in our telling the truth.
Ask any magazine editor and they'll tell you the same bitter lesson about the time they slammed a product and had the manufacturer involved pull advertising, stop providing them with test units or both. Not only do we not take advertising, it seems fewer and fewer PR firms have access to media bikes for purpose of website testing besides. That means any and every company in the industry could despise our reviews but can't do a thing about it.
Fortunately, more often than not, we're not out there slamming anything just because we can. Truth is a lot of products earn our praise. And that's the beauty of my point in all this- if we do praise something, it earned it. It's not because we need to appease anybody to pay the bills.
Some of my favorite bike tests were the ones where we literally went into a store, bought a bike and just treated it like it was meant to be treated. Not only were we free of kissing any corporate ass but we didn't even have to worry about damaging parts before returning the specimen or expediting the testing process to get back on the FedEx truck in a couple of weeks. More honest reporting you simply cannot fathom.
Funny thing is the same editors out there telling you that the only way to achieve happiness is to drop $8,500 on the latest uber-light, gadget-loaded, intelligently-suspended wonder-rig can often be found tooling around the trails on restoration project bikes that weren't even that good when new in 2001; Smashing pedals and smiling like a little kid all the while.
I suppose a secondary lesson is that there are a lot of ways to have fun on a mountain bike. And you can count on us not to tell you that the expensive way is the only way.