Who's still interested in long product introduction articles on CT?

This afternoon I noticed on Twitter that today at 18:00 Central European Daylight Saving time all the articles about Giant’s new Propel aero bike were published. All the cycling websites in my timeline tweeted about it at that time.

So, I had a look at the very detailed article that @James_Huang wrote. After a few minutes I wondered “Has James already ridden this thing?”, and thus scrolled to the end of the article to find out that he has not yet.

So I wondered how much of his precious time James has spent to write this article and whether we as regular visitors to that site cherish that investment. Or would we rather see him and colleagues invest their time into reviews, actual tests, articles which provide some real insight?
This is the second time within a week that this same question came up in my mind with Ronan’s also long article about the introduction - no review - of Cadex’ new wheelset being the first instance.

I could go on explaining why IMHO those long articles about product introductions, as well written as they are, are a waste of precious time which could be used much better but I would rather like to learn what the community thinks about it.

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I want these introductions, actual product reviews, and deep dives into tech topics. Simply put, I want the tech writers to keep doing what they’re doing, and I don’t find these long intros a waste of time at all.

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I don’t mind technical descriptions without riding the bike and tend to gloss over subjective reviews about the riding characteristics of a bike. Ride reviews always seem extremely subjective to rider size, frame size, rider power profile, local environment, and skill level. If all the reviews could have technical specs and critical measurements of apertures and deviation from tolerances, frame alignment, and an independent ultrasound of multiple frames/forks then I’d be ecstatic. Different horses for different courses I suppose.

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Provided such intros are balanced and thoughtful, and not simply a rehash of marketing spiel, I want to read them.

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What he says! Why is that even a question? I get that people are entitled to opinions but such pieces are what CT makes CT.

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Yeah that was a great article!

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I completely agree with the OP.

Waste of time for the many great CT journos to rehash industry marketing materials from the big brands.

Also, why give the big brands extra coverage for free? (Unless CT is paid for these no-review pieces, which wouldn’t surprise me considering Outside is flexing its muscles with CT…).

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I worked as a testing engineer and tech editor for a cycling magazine for a few years two decades ago.
Back then the cycling media was of course mostly print.
We were not paid for those articles but the journos were invited to some typically nice location with great riding and other fun stuff to do.

I don’t know but I guess the brands still (mostly at least) do not pay for these articles. And I’m pretty sure CT would let us know if they were paid.

That said I understand that you agree with my thoughts about the value (for the critical readers) of that kind of article. And I posted that question - thanks for your answers, guys, really appreciated - knowing that most guys on that forum are experienced cyclists. I have assumed, that we don’t want to learn about the manufacturer’s claims about the umpteenth new aero wheelset and how it is stiffer, lighter, faster and less affected by cross-winds than all the established competition. Same for aerobikes and other stuff. For most of the new stuff these days there are claims of performance gains.
Yeah, I know, we all want to go faster, but at the same time we all already have aero wheels. Some of us probably even have (had) a few. Provided you haven’t destroyed yours recently, you’re only in the market for a new pair if the promised performance gains - and those are typically always the same - are for real.

But, and that’s my point here, we won’t know until some experienced tester has really ridden them. Until someone has tried to find out, as James usually does, how those wheels behave in cross-winds on the descents he frequently rides on the often windy Colorado Front Range.

So why not cut those introduction articles short or make those “from the source” articles entirely and then invest even more time - if that creates a tangible benefit - into the actual review of that product? Or use the time to write other in-depth articles or record in-depth podcasts. There are so many subjects / topics which are really interesting and potentially beneficial for performance-oriented cyclists.

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Our preference is always to have a full review done by the time a product is introduced. However, that isn’t always possible, which was the case here. Giant did provide a sample to me, but not sufficiently early enough for me to do a proper review, hence the detailed intro article that was published. Not writing the article wouldn’t have provided anywhere near enough time to do a real review.

Here’s the thing: I get that you might not find an intro article like this to be useful; that’s your choice, of course. But the reality is that the business model of modern media is fundamentally bonkers. It’s akin to a grocery store giving away all the food for free and somehow figuring out how to monetize people walking in the door. Our membership model absolutely helps us rely less on advertising, but my understanding is it doesn’t support us completely. As such, we still have some advertising on site, and I believe the expectation is that a certain minimum number of people will see those ads. If we don’t publish news like this – and do a good job of it, no less – that means Google doesn’t rank us as well for those articles, which then means fewer people see it, which then means we might not fulfill our ad commitments (and usually it’s not even the same brand as what’s being covered), which then means we don’t bring in as much money, which then means CT eventually ceases to exist as we know it.

Sorry for the long-winded answer.

TL;DR version? The bicycle media business is beyond broken. We’re doing the best we can – and we’re holding up better than most, I think – but a big part of that is making sure we still carve out our position in the almighty Google.

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You didn’t need to put the “bicycle” descriptor in that sentence…the whole media landscape as a business is broken. And I say that as the father of a journalist.

Your grocery store analogy is a very good one and describes the situation perfectly. For too long, media (as a whole) gave away the thing that held the value - the content. Now they are trying to figure out how to create a business model that works and it is a struggle.

But I believe you guys are in the right track in terms of a membership model. I know it works on a local level…whether it can be scaled up is the bigger question.

Unfortunatley, you now also have larger masters to answer to….and that puts a squeeze on non-traditional methods usually.

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You need to slip a free t-shirt or Vélo Club membership to a BEX or Liv pro to give you some secret pro opinions. Or better yet, their mechanics!

Regardless, big brands can send out a truckload of bikes to media to make sure their bike is featured, without a lot of worry about supply. Smaller brands not so much.

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The example I would like to use is the recent releasees of aero wheelsets from Enve, Zipp, Reserve… and I’m probably missing others.

While the announcement of these wheels is nice and reading provides some entertainment I find it frustrating that manufacturers can make totally bonkers claims without being fact checked.

Just recently manufacturers were making claims that 25mm tires are always the fastest no matter what and they even tested wide tires etc…- buy our wheels. Now the same companies are saying 28mm is fastest, huge improvement! Even worse are the claims that they tested against competitors without providing further details. Which wheels, at what depths? No one knows.

At this point the only wheel company I trust is DT Swiss. They make claims and then they back them up with data.

It’s frustrating as a reader! It’s frustrating to read manufacturer claims being simply regurgitated without being fact checked. Am the only one that feels this way, that manufacturers should be held accountable to their claims?

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The only one who can really hold them to account are the consumer by not buying the product.

Thank you very much for your thorough reply, James. :pray:

I hadn’t thought about the need - caused by Google and the need to sell advertisements - to even make product introduction articles stand out amongst the wave of articles about a new product which are usually published on the same day. Complying to that need even if you have not yet had the opportunity to actually ride / test the product must be really frustrating for you guys. That’s at least how I would feel about it.

I hope you guys still find enough time to create the (other) kind of content - which is not product introduction articles IMHO - which will help you increase the number of subscribers you clearly deserve.

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How is Cycling Tips supposed to fact check aerodynamic claims? It is incredibly expensive to book wind tunnel time, let alone hire an engineer to run CFD analysis.

The claims made are often subtle in terms of real-world feel / results and can’t necessarily be noticed in the field.

Add in the skill of the rider, weather conditions, etc and it is almost impossible to fact check claims quantitatively through field testing.

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It’s frustrating to me! I would love to fact-check all of that data. However, it’s not only often impractical for a variety of reasons, but also just about impossible since so much of those numbers are incredibly conditional. That’s why I’m always very careful to point out when something is a manufacturer claim, as opposed to a confirmed and verified fact.

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I am - the parts have such a long time getting to us - so we do have the time … right :wink::+1:

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In the latest spate of wheel releases the go to line has been daily ridability and how well wheels behave in the wind.

How can CT test this? Let’s see, send the wheels out to CT staff for testing? Even Wind tunnel testing isn’t accurately quantifiable because wind almost never behaves the way it’s made to in the tunnel.

What it would come down to is subjective feel from the testers like James or Dave; CT staff are excellent and I trust them to inform us without bias, as they have always done in the past. When riden in 15mph cross winds, are the wheels in fact controllable? Test ride!

I’ll give you an example. CT reviewed the Santa Cruz Stigmata a few years back. James noted how stiff the ride was - I own one, and I can tell you it’s like riding on a bag of rocks. In this case SC never made any claims about comfort, but if they had, CT could use their expert judgement to fact check it.

In 2021 Canyon released a new Speedmax and claimed that the bike was designed for comfort despite being a Time Trial/Tri race bike. These claims are easily put to the test - the bike rides like a magic carpet. In fact, you can grab the wheel and watch it flex in the stays. Seriously, its stupid comfortable to ride - no data required.

I trust CT tech staff and know they are more than capable of handling the equipment.

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You just proved my point….the skill level of the CT riders is pretty high, so what they perceive as “rideable” may not be what some of their readers find. It is a subjective evaluation, not a fact-check. Add in rider weight, etc.

I know people who find some wheels squirrelly in winds that I have no problem with.

If you trust them in their actual evaluations, then why don’t you trust them when they write about new product introductions and they say “this is what the manufacturer claims, but we haven’t had a chance to fully evaluate their claims yet”?

New product introductions are news….and CT is a cycling news site. They would be remiss in not reporting on new releases when they come out. There is nothing wrong with saying “further field test results are coming later”.

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