Singletracks Product Reviews: Full Disclosure

Updated 11/26/2014

We’ve published hundreds of in-depth mountain bike product reviews here on the blog and from time to time we get valid questions about how the review process works. Readers are right to be skeptical about what they read online and to consider the writer’s motivation in publishing a review. So here’s the deal.

Do companies pay you to review products?

Absolutely not. Unfortunately it is becoming more common for blogs to accept payment for articles but we never have and never will. In fact, we happen to know several competing mountain bike blogs offer “editorial coverage” as part of their online ad packages which to us, isn’t cool. We’ve undoubtedly lost out on some ad deals because of our position.

Do your advertisers get more positive reviews than non-advertisers?

Nope. We’re a small operation but we try to keep our ad sales and editorial team functions separate.

If everything is separate, why does it seem like you never publish negative reviews?

Several reasons. First: most of the MTB gear being sold today is high quality. Clearly we don’t review entry-level items which helps, but the fact is, it’s in all companies’ best interest to put out good products people will buy and will tell their friends to buy (shocking, we know). Ask anyone how they like the mountain bike they’re riding and 90% of the time the response is “I’m really happy with it.” Go figure.

Now, we do come across bad products every now and then and in those cases we communicate this with the manufacturer to get a better understanding of the issues. Sometimes it’s bad luck (something breaks) other times we’re not using the product as it was intended. In a few cases, the product just plain sucks. Rather than publishing a negative review, we simply return the product and let the manufacturer know we can’t review it for quality reasons.

So – if you haven’t seen an in-depth review of a product on singletracks (or anywhere else for that matter) – it might just be because it isn’t worth reviewing.

But don’t positive reviews help you sell more stuff?

Many mountain bike blogs include affiliate purchase links in their review articles so if their readers end up clicking a link and buying the product, the writer gets a cut – but we don’t do this. Again, it’s hard to be objective in a review if you stand to make more money if the review is positive. Our revenue is based on ad impressions so we (basically) get paid based on the number of people who read the article – positive or negative. While we don’t ever include affiliate links in review articles, we may include them in round-ups or buyers guides and when we do, we’ll make it clear at the start of the article.

Our user-generated reviews (often linked within articles) DO include affiliate links so feel free to use those pages to research products and compare prices.

Do you get to keep the stuff you review?

Sometimes. For many products like clothing and hydration, companies aren’t able to re-use samples for hygiene reasons. Other products, like forks and handlebars, need to be modified (cut) to fit our rigs. Things like tires and grips tend to get worn so they aren’t easily returnable. Also, many of the reviews we publish are for items we’ve purchased using our own money.

Test bikes are always loaners and also things like electronics and wheels are usually sent back after a review is published. In cases where we get to keep an item it is our policy not to sell the used item – ever. We still use many review items and give others away to folks we know.

Whenever a writer keeps a product being reviewed, we include a standard disclosure line at the end of the article thanking the company for providing the product for review.

How long do you typically test products before you review them?

It depends on the item and the reviewer. We try our best to put items through their paces but we are constrained by time (a review of a 2011 fork isn’t helpful when it’s 2012 and you can’t even buy the ’11 anymore). This is one area we’re working on; fortunately most of us ride A LOT and are able to get enough mileage on parts before we review ’em. Still, a regular “wear update” on products we’ve reviewed in the past would be helpful in the future…

We want to make sure our product review process is transparent and we suggest you ask these same questions of the other websites you visit (even the non-MTB ones). Our mission is to provide mountain bikers with the best information available – about trails, gear, how-tos, events, and more – and we hope you can appreciate the difference that makes. Happy trails!

Final note: We may choose to modify policies from time to time and will do so publicly at that time.

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