That click-bait, buzzword title burns my insides with disappointment, because I don’t believe it. There are great motorcycle reviews out there. But I do believe that 80-90% of motorcycle reviews are complete garbage. The amount of variables that go into a motorcycle review muddy the water between a review and a sales pitch.
When someone asks for my advice when they are looking for a bike to buy, I always say, “If you are using reviews for your next purchase, use them as a list for things to check for, not whether you should consider that bike or not. People’s butts are not the same, not many ride the same ride.”
My Gripes with the Industry:
Moto reviews are wholly independent upon the skill of the review rider. So, what most outlets do in order to try to give their audience the “fairest” review is employing these “ex-racers” or “club/track pros.” While this does seem like a great idea, having a person with a ton of riding experience and skill, it doesn’t make sense for the audience.
Not everyone can push their bike to the limit, and most aren’t concerned with doing so. These ex-racers are too busy with trying to destroy the street or track, so a real-world, relatable test is never the result. What comes out of these reviews are garbled, incoherent, jargon-laced articles that some people think they understand, but really don’t. And it’s worse when the article is written in different voices, because the review rider and editor do not see eye-to-eye on writing styles.
The Length of Reviews are too Damn Short
Think of how long you own a motorcycle. 6-months, a year, half a decade? You obviously own it more than a week or two weeks, which is on the high end for how long motorcycle reviews last. Frequently, especially with larger “press junket” reviews, they are one day on the track and one day on the road on a predetermined route. That is a close to impossible amount of time in order to come to a complete review.
Some bikes have quirks, some bikes break down, some bikes have transmissions that blow up on you, I’m looking at you Yamaha. How can any of this be caught during a couple days of riding the piss out of a bike?
What do all of These Numbers Mean?
Horsepower, torque, foot pounds, bore/stroke size, piston degrees, gear ratios, 0-60 times: short of having a degree in engineering, or working on motorcycles for years, will make the audience understand all of this. But, in every single review, these numbers are what you hear. THE KAWASAKI H2R PUTS OUT OVER 300 HORSEPOWER!!!!!!!!!! Change out the italicized words for any other model and figure and it’s the same argument. Most motorcycles reviews, as well as anything that moves, is about the raw power and figures. We have moved away from the story of the bike, to more of how much distance you can put between yourself and your buddy’s supercar.
Another thing on numbers, how can you quantify a review? If you break down a motorcycle down by its components, (engine, brakes, handling, etc.) and give each one a respective number, (1-10) aren't you as the reviewer, setting yourself up for failure? If you give an inline 4 600cc motorcycle an engine score of 8.5, does that mean every bike that is not as fast or responsive, gets a lower score? Will an 800cc V-twin get a lower score because it's heavier? The number thing is bullshit, throw them out the window!
Shootouts are fucking pointless. More than pointless. Every time I see one posted, I groan audibly. There are so many variables that make every single one unreliable: different riders, weight, how much power the bike produces, how comfortable the rider is to push the bike. All of this, and more, changes the outcome of the shootout. And most of the results of shootouts are tenths/hundredths of a second, which proves little to nothing. Stop shootouts, just stop.
The Uglier Side of Reviews
It is hard to review a product and not have some sort of bias about it. Whether you like or detest the brand, you have to give a subjective review of it, and sometimes it's damn near impossible. People and reviewers will always have their likes and dislikes, but a good reviewer hides their inherent bias before they review. As a human being, it is pretty difficult to do.
Then, you have to figure in what product they are reviewing. Most motorcycle reviews are a “launch style” review. This is where a big brand (Kawi, Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Ducati) summons some of the top motorcycle journalists to ride their new bike/line/engine. This is normally the case with newly released or drastically updated models.
This is no cheap feat. The brand flies the journalists to a location (probably a good riding location), feeds them, houses them (or gets a discount for them), rents a track for them, and overall caters to the journalist’s needs. Now the bike review has been swayed in the favor of the brand, basically through a payola type system. How are you not going to like someone or something if they basically provide you with a $20,000 motorcycle, and $10,000 all expenses paid trip?
After that, you have the fear that haunts most journalists, especially in a digital and disposable age. The blacklist. No, no, not the TV show with James Spader.
The blacklist, or being blacklisted, means that you are essentially blocked from communications, or ostracized by a brand. A prime example is Kotaku being blacklisted by both Bethesda and Ubisoft. They don’t get press copies of games, no comments on articles, basically given the cold shoulder.
And this is a fear for journalists, who are extremely disposable with the advent of the computer. Ease of access to writing is higher, and as long as you can string sentences together, you’re well on your way to being a reviewer. Think of it like this, why would you pay for this elaborate trip for someone that bashed something you gave them? It would seem like a slap in the face. So, these journalists have to walk that tight line.
Hope is not lost for the industry. There are some awesome guys/girls and teams out there that are doing the good work.
Some reviewers I keep up-to-date with:
Neevesy: Club racer, but overall a good guy and fun to see
Sean McDonald: Working his way through the American Moto Journo ranks
44 Teeth: Solid team, with some decent ideas
I’m not losing hope for the industry, but I do see where improvements can be made. And that will be another post.