Thursday, August 14, 2008

The World's Pickiest Bike Tester

When it comes to bikes, we all have different standards, varying levels of what is acceptable and what is NOT. As long as the wheels go round, the gears shift, brakes stop, and the shocks work, then I am a happy camper. Turn the corner 180 degrees from my standpoint, and you have the total opposite. Meet Mr. Bike Tester Extreme, Raja. (that's The Captain pictured above, but he sure looks picky there, doesn't he?)

In the Southern dictionary, the word "Raja" is listed. It is a verb. To Raja is to put a bicycle through the most stringent of diagnostic tests, to analyze and compare to the 110th degree, to measure and weigh every component and then repeat those steps 10 more times. That is what it means "to Raja".

An extreme bike tester does not let something silly like his Day Job get in the way of testing the latest bike. Wednesday, Outspokin was having a Titus Demo Day at Blankets Trail. The Raja was there. Since I do not take my day job seriously, I was not about to miss out on seeing the Master in Action. Already being a proud owner of a purdy Blue MotoLite, there was no need for me to demo any of their offerings. But Raja wanted to put the 5" sofa to his test.

We have very different riding styles. He's aggressive, I'm not. He has a need for speed, I have a need just to survive. He likes to fly downhill, I like to look at the pretty flowers. Something told me the MotoLite would not pass his test. He wanted to ride it anyway.

These Demo Days are the best thing since sliced bread. Before when you wanted to buy a bike, you were at the mercy of whatever the local bike shop had in stock. Sometimes, we would drive to North Carolina just to be able to see a bike in which we were interested. Now you can go to your local trails and put practically any bike to the test without having to clean it up afterwards. What a great marketing idea!!!

With the help of the knowledgeable Rufus, you can get set up with your own pedals and whatever settings you prefer. It is the perfect way to truly compare different bikes in a real riding situation, not in the parking lot of a shopping mall. This is how Amy was able to pick out her nice new Specialized.

Of course, we had our own Tester along to make sure all measurements were within Raja Range. Robin also wanted to ride the MotoLite, so Raja knocked Rufus down to take over the set up for her.

I love it that Raja knows every measurement known to man. He can spout out stats in inches or millimeters depending on what language you speak. At first I did not understand his detail oriented mind when it came to all this bike stuff. But now I realize it is how his marvelous brain is wired and it serves a wonderful purpose. He's like a walking handbook for everyone to consult. "Raja, what do you think about thus and so?" "Do you think these tires roll fast enough?" "How do you like those new blah blah brakes?" Ah, the bike industry has no idea how much it could influence the consumer's buying power if they got a hold of him.

When he decided to purchase his first "real" mountain bike, it was going to cost us a whopping $1000. "Well, you'll have to sell your dirt bike in order to come up with the money," which he did. I thought he had gone stark raving mad when he told me of his plan. To top it off, he would have to assemble the bike himself. Yea, he's lost his mind for sure. At 25 years young, I had yet to fully understand how this quiet Einstein mind operated. Now I adore, respect, and revere him for it!

Raja isn't picky for the sake of being picky. He's super sensitive to every nuance of a bike and enjoys analyzing all the bits and pieces that work together to make a ride enjoyable. It's not that he's being critical because he thinks he's so smart. From my experience as a sponsored rider, I could not be truly honest with constructive criticism. You have to say what they want to hear, and that does not help anybody. (That's why I don't have any "sponsors" on my blog as of yet). Raja just wants to make the experience the best it can possibly be.

You know those obnoxious type that like to hear themselves talk with impressive technical language? He's not like that at all! Far from it. In fact, you have to listen closely because he does not say a whole lot. But when he does, everyone listens. Remember the old EF Hutton commercials?

Hanging around the parking lot waiting for a medium MotoLite to be available, we met some new faces. Buster recognized us from pictures and we got to meet a fellow Sorba Lurker.

We also met Pam, the Veterinarian. Pam and I actually rode together last January, but with my frail memory I had forgotten. She reintroduced herself for the 2nd time on last week's Wednesday night ride. Today for the 3rd time, she said, "I'm Pam, the girl you've met a zillion times. Will you please act like you know me." Well, she didn't say that, but I know she thought it. Robin invited her to join in our Test-a-Rama Run. Pam was testing a RacerX, Raja's current bike dujour.

With Raja and Robin on yellow MotoLites, me on my Litespeed singlespeed, and The Captain on a silver RacerX 29r we headed out for a run on the Van Michael Loop.

Everybody has their own riding preferences. It would be a boring world if we all had to ride what Raja deemed The Perfect Bike. With different body builds and riding abilities, we cannot all ride the same bike design. Raja knows this, but it still doesn't stop him from determining what the perfect bike is for his style.

The Captain was crazy in love with the 29r. I kept hearing him going on and on about it. Then he tried to appeal to my generous soft side. Finally I had to set him straight. "No, I won't loan you the money to buy you this bike."
Robin was not having the same warm and fuzzy feelings that Cyclesmith was having. "I can't turn this thing." Having a 140 Talas was definitely a different experience for her, and Raja dialed it down for her to see if it would help.

We regrouped often and compared notes. My bike wasn't shifting, oh yea, I was on the singlespeed, never mind. Robin's wasn't turning. Cyclesmith had to rethink his strategy for maneuvering his 18 wheeler, and Raja was rather ho hum. What do ya'll think?

So far, The Captain was the only one with a thumbs up for the 29r. Raja was undecided on the MotoLite, Robin was a big thumbs down, and I needed a bike with gears. Time to switch-a-roo. Back to the drawing board.

Raja was going to give the 29r a test since Cyclesmith was so exuberant. He and the Captain switched bikes, while Robin got her Turner, and I retrieved my MotoLite. Round 2.
Robin was a happier camper on her Flux, as I was on my Blue Sofa. Kevorkian Pass was made with much greater ease on familiar rides.

In fact, the first time through on my singlespeed, I wigged out and bailed. The terrain looked so much steeper and the rocks were wet and slippery. I am glad that Robin got to see the weak side of me. As I berated myself for not doing it and complaining about the line, she said "And this coming from the girl that always stands there saying Look Ahead, Look Ahead." Pretty funny, eh? Just plain silly I suppose.

But now on my MotoLite, the terrain was flattened as I remembered it and I motored up following Raja's wheel easily. Shew, I wanted to conquer that fear. It seemed so different on my singlespeed, and I've done it many times before on the Litespeed. But with the wet rocks, all my mind could compute was a slipping tire and me plummeting to my death. Definitely a different kind of riding altogether, the singlespeed.

But today was not supposed to be about me overcoming my irrational fears. What did Raja think of the 29r?

Well, that's no surprise. Actually, it's the big flexy wheels that gave it the thumbs down for him. The Captain wasn't crazy about the marshmallow ride of the MotoLite and was secretly coveting the 29r. Raja and Cyclesmith switched bikes mid stream and we finished the loop with happier faces. As we rolled out of the trail, we ran into an impatient cRASh. He was waiting for the MotoLite to appear for him to take on a test run. Some quick changes were made, and we went out for a 3rd run.

With The Captain on his singlespeed, the rest of us were on our usual bikes. cRASh and Pam were the only ones putting a bike to the test. Raja, Robin, and I were riding just for fun, all testing aside. Well, Raja is always in test mode, even when he's on his own bike.

How come The Captain can do Kevorkian Pass on his singlespeed with such ease? Guess that's why they call him The Captain!

By now, we were all getting exhausted. Testing takes alot out of a rider!

I was tired, but happy to have my marshmallow cush MotoLite. It gets the thumbs up from me.
Today was a Pivotal day for Raja. It wraps up months and months of testing many bikes, and perhaps brings him to a turning point. With the test results in, he might be ready to make a decision on his next bike. I am going to try and submit a real post with his thoughts and musings from some of the top picks he's ridden recently. But in the meantime, I wanted to introduce you all to the pickiest Bike Tester Ever.

Riding all these bikes is tough dirty job, but somebody has to do it!

Stay tuned. Test Results will be posted soon!
PS. Congratulations to SinglespeedAddict on his new addition, little Riley, born August 9th! Great to see you! And good to see Chris too! I love going to Blankets. You cannot go without seeing a dozen smiling familiar faces:-)

1 comment:

Robb Sutton (198) said...


I am glad to see that he might eventually be on a new bike. I had a feeling that other gray ride would suit him nicely. He just looked too "at home" on it with all smiles.

I know he would have regretted not riding the Motolite first. Looks like you guys had a great day while the rest of us were at WORK!