Bespoken word – Test and reset (or how bike and gear testing is a never-ending process)

Maxxis Severe MTB tire being ridden
(Image credit: Maxxis)

If you’re thinking that headline sounds like a fancy way of saying I get it wrong sometimes then yes, you’re right and my rewrite of the Maxxis Severe tire earlier this week illustrates that perfectly. I rushed to get the initial review up faster than any other site after getting on the tires early and as a result I thought they were better than they were – as a potential fast trail tire. In my defense, they actually hung on pretty well during initial testing on treacherously wet, limestone trails in Italy where I rode them first.

Then again, that was on a Canyon XC bike with steep angles and flat bars. Plus, I was riding with a seriously screwed ankle (not the tire's fault) so there were other items higher up the ‘probably making things feel sketchy’ list. There was probably a ‘Maxxis rarely make a bad tire so it must be me’ element to my take on the slips and slides I was experiencing too. And then the trails turned from sloppy spring to drier summer and they proved they were just as blisteringly fast in the dry as they were in the wet. As they’re designed as a race tire that’s a pretty big deal too, so it all seemed to be good.

However, bigging them up as a potential XC/fast trail all-rounder has been nagging at me every time the MaxxSpeed compound and sparse cyclo-cross style tread has spun or slipped since the trails have got wet again. So I sucked up my pride and got stuck into a rewrite.

Tool being used in T-Bar set up

It's not perfect but I've come to absolutely love Feedback's multi-mode pocket torque wrench over the past few months (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Uppers and downers

As an example of going in the opposite direction, I’m potentially going to have to rewrite the Feedback Sports mini torque wrench review too. From a mechanical point of view, the time it took to start reading accurately is annoying. There’s also a lot of play in the ratchet compared to other wrenches I’ve got. While the little zipped pod with space for puncture patches/cash/chain links is nice, it’s also an expensive package overall and relatively heavy to use as a pocket tool. Especially as you’ll need to add a chain tool to complete the set up. So in terms of a cold, analytical review I got this one right.

Thing is though, I absolutely love using the thing. The hefty weight. The way the magnetic sections pull apart and then ‘thunk’ back together. The fact I can configure it inline, semi T bar or full T bar. It genuinely cheers up my workshop time and I’ll fight to find it on the bench amongst other Torx torque wrenches that could do the job just as well or maybe even better. But how do you put a score on that, and is it even relevant? I really don’t know, but I’m definitely going to check my words and see if I gave it enough warm fuzzy love. Because even tools aren't totally about cold hard engineering if they manage to make owning them blissful in some other weird or esoteric way. 

RAB cut and shut jackets

Shoe, kneepad and glove testing is always a game of two halves for me, so I'm keen to see if that'll work with jackets too (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Cut and shut job

And this process of re-evaluation has been a constant part of pro testing since I started over 25 years ago. But it was also what I loved doing as a kid whether that was with working out which Hot Wheels was fastest down the orange track. Or spending hours diving deep into muzzle velocities and armor angles of obscure French tanks to create ultra detailed spreadsheets for table top war games. And those nerdy years turned out to be a perfect prep for what I do now. Contextualising and comparing new kit against old stuff in as comprehensive a way as possible and then communicating it as honestly as I can. 

That's why I'm currently questioning whether I keep using those Five Ten downcountry shoes just because they’re the closest to hand. Or because even though the Boa is in a vulnerable spot, the heel pull is tiny and they’re very expensive, they somehow just work really well on a subliminal level that drags my hand towards them every time? And don’t even get me started on the merry go round of clothing changes that I’m putting myself through at the moment trying to work out the differences between the latest fabrics. 

I’m even plotting cutting a bunch of jackets in half and then stitching them back together in different pairings to see how big the differences are. I mean that works really well with wearing different shoes and gloves together on the same ride, so I’m hoping that it’ll really give some insight. And if it doesn’t then at least I’ve tried. As my wife who works with research scientists points out, even if an experiment that didn’t give you the results you wanted it wasn’t a fail, because it ruled out on potential option and means you won’t waste the time again. Actually that sounds like a basis for a whole lot more loosely mountain biking related mind meandering in future Bespoken Word pieces.

For now though it’s back down into the workshop to get some more fresh kit prepped for weekend testing and drag out some old friends to check I’m calibrating them properly too. And if that changes my mind on them – and therefore the scoring or previously written review words – then I’ll dive back in and change them. Because while the fact that the internet is infinite and indefinitely updateable is a monkey on the back of conscientious testers, it makes reviews a lot more refined and relevant for you than the days when whatever we printed was set in stone forever.

Guy Kesteven

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg