I’ve always dug what Outside pumps out both in print and on the web. I subscribe to the magazine, and their webpage is part of my regular rotation of sites I visit on the internet. Most of what they publish, their gear reviews, and their book suggestions I find to be honest and helpful. The content may get a bit stale at times (by now I’m pretty sure everyone understands that getting more sleep will lead to better health, and that a ski vacation to Whistler will be awesome), and their “Best Places to Live” seem to be a popularity contest, but all in all I’m a fan of their work.
Every now and again, something they publish on the web pisses me right the fuck off, and I feel the need to vent/rage about it. That happened earlier this week, when I saw the headline of the “Speacialized has Mastered the Gravel Bike”. This is not a usual DC Pissing on Specialized post. Specialized sucks, but in this case I’ll give them a pass, because all they did in this situation was some sound marketing and PR.
Let’s start with the fact that the test bike is described as “the ideal winter training rig”, costs a hefty $8200, and is billed as damn near perfect. THIS IS TO BE EXPECTED OF BIKE THAT COSTS THAT MUCH MONEY. The same way that if you drop a couple grand on a hooker you expect them to be smoking hot. I get it that this may be a quick or first glance review of a product, but after only a few rides (I assume) can you really say that one bike has “mastered the gravel bike?”
Moving on, the bike’s got a dropper post. While I dont think a dropper post on a gravel bike is a necessity, I am sure it has its place, and will start to become more and more common in the future. If you like me are a little hesitant to believe the necessity of a dropper post on your winter training rig, don’t worry the author points out that Nibali rode a prototype dropper post on the cobble stage of the 2014 Tour. Dropper posts win The Tour, and will help you win your winters. You may as well quit your day job and join Astana (I’ll bet they have some openings after some off season drug tests).
Moving on, all of the high points in regards to the details of the bike seem like they have already been penned by the marketing and PR folks at Specialized. Cut and paste those keys points into the main body, and use that extra time to make sure your winter training enduro-roadie kit is looking oh so fly. This is something I also hated back in 2013 when VeloSnooze rambled on and on about how great the new SWAT system was. Is it impossible to describe the features of a bike and how it rides using an original thought? Key phrases like “plush .. yet quick and snappy”, “wanting to ride on fire roads more than pavement”, and “even light singletrack” get shoehorned into the final paragraph.
Obvioulsy, I think Outside has dropped the ball on this review. If they are reviewing a product, the least they can do is make it appear honest. It’s not hard to go through their magazine and website and see that the big S (and plenty of other companies) gets plenty of good press. Here at DC we can be hacks about products we review, and the companies we decide to promote (or talk shit about), because none of us are making a dime from advertising, and we don’t charge a subscription fee. But Outside does both of those, so a little journalistic integrity should be in order. Would they have written such a fluff review of a product from another company?
I’m sure plenty of people are going to think I’m just an angry bastard who is always looking to bitch about something. Some of that is true, and like I said before my main gripe isn’t with the bike. Its with the “review” of it. I’ll let you in on a little secret, that most of you probably already know. You don’t need a tricked out carbon rig to ride gravel roads, fire roads, or short segments of singletrack. All you need is a fucking cross bike and halfway decent handling skills. I pedaled a Kona Jake the Snake over, around, and through the back woods on Montana during every month of the year. That bike was just fine, serving a purpose of adventure bike, winter training bike, and singletrack companion. Now get out there and fucking ride.
The above photo is from an article in the October 2014 issue of Outside. Looks like some extra advertising for a certain company.by