For years I've been using, abusing, testing, reviewing, and writing about gear. Through a lot of trial and error I've put together different processes in order to build up the experiences and perspectives needed to give an honest, detailed, and informative review. I call this "The Break-In Period." Quite simply, they are repeatable steps which help me become acquainted with new gear in a predictable way. This is process is the beginning of how I discover what needs to be explored further, researched, and written .
Here's my current methodology for putting cycling gear through the paces:
- Indoor Trainer: 1hr or ~30km on an indoor trainer (Currently using Zwift on a Wahoo Kickr). Why start here? This very controlled environment is great for first ensuring setups are correct. On a trainer there are no outside influences that may distract or colour an initial impression. There is no traffic, no bad roads, inclement weather. Importantly, if anything is going to go very badly, it's usually going to happen in the first hour. Being inside on the trainer makes it easy to stop and make fit adjustments as needed then the ride can keep going.
- Short Hills Ride: ~30-45Kms of interval hills. A good hills ride is an ideal real world scenario for testing cycling gear and apparel in quickly varying conditions. There is a lot more shifting in gears and position. Thinking about it, a good set of hills ride will have you using every part of your bike. Ascending and descending hills rides also provides a natural need for a lot of body vertical and lateral body movement which can help quickly identify areas of concern in both fit and function.
- Club Ride: ~60-100kms+. Season permitting, the break-in period concludes with longer steady paced rides. Why? From my perspective this distance and setting best match the common use case for the average cyclist. Equipment and apparel is most often used in group rides, with clubs, and on rides that fall in to the 60-100km range. A ride of this length also provides enough saddle and social time to address areas that may be an issue with endurance.
At the end of the day, this repeatable process works well for me. It serves as a solid starting point that can be adapted and changed as needed. More time can be spend inside, and out, or removed completely if it doesn't suit the intended use case. Example, I wouldn't ride a winter jacket indoors and form an opinion about it. From my experience this break-in period process allows for the time required to form initial impressions, identify key points to investigate, and construct a plan how to conduct the longer term test. The end result I hope is a better, honest, transparent review that helps other consumers find great quality products which they can make informed purchases of.