The value of reviews

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  • The value of reviews

    I know it is popular to write reviews and evaluations of various motorcycle products and motorcycles. Such reviews, comparisons and such are the staple of most motorcycle magazines but, while interesting to read, I often find them lacking in real world relevance. For example, those technical explanations are a waste of ink and trees to me. I suppose there are gearheads who care about and understand that stuff but what really matters are three things:
    1. What does it cost?
    2. What does it do?
    3. How long will it last?

    I don't need an explanation of how they saved 8 ounces by making narrower gears. Will anybody tear apart the transmission to marvel at the engineering? Nope. We just want something that works.

    I recently bought some expensive riding pants that had an excellent reputation and reviews. The "experts" failed to mention that the pants are so heavy that you can't keep them up with a belt. I hate suspenders, BTW. The pants are also cut so low that a waist length jacket won't cover my backside when seated on the bike. How great is that in the cold and rain? Those are two obvious flaws that should have been noted in a review.

    Part of the problem with reviews is that the reviewer doesn't live with that product long enough to experience all that is possible. I have loved every motorcycle I have bought for the first few days or weeks of ownership. However, once that "new car smell" disappears and the real world occurs, the flaws start showing up. Most of the flaws are ignorable and can be compensated for but a comprehensive, long term real-world review would have been nice beforehand. With touring bikes pushing or exceeding that $30,000.00 mark, it sure would be nice to have more solid, unbiased reviews available before writing that check.

  • #2
    You have raised an excellent question, and one that I struggled with for years. As it turns out, I am on both sides of this conundrum, as a consumer of reviews and a purveyor.

    For the last 17 years my girlfriend and I have owned and operated, a website that was founded on the idea of providing in-depth, honest reviews of cruise lines, cruise ships, and other cruise-related products. In addition to our own "editorial" reviews, we also allow consumers to submit their experiences. Therefore, throughout the cruise industry, we are considered journalists.

    Even though most of my experience is with travel journalism, I also dabble in motorsports journalism with my YouTube reviews of aftermarket products. But, the basics are the same, as are the problems you describe. In the cruise industry, travel journalists are routinely invited on press trips by the cruise lines. Here's how it works: the journalists and a guest (often a spouse) will be given complimentary airfare and transfers to the ship. They are wined and dined for 2 days aboard the ship, often given some sort of pillow gift each evening, and attend special cocktail parties where cruise line executives talk about how wonderful their new ship is. The same is true of motorcycle journalists. They are invited by the motorcycle companies to press junkets with free airfare, hotels, meals, etc.

    The problems with the motorcycle reviews is the same as the cruise reviews:

    1. The reviewer usually works for a media outlet that survives on advertising revenue. And, who are the biggest advertisers? Cruise lines and motorcycle manufacturers, in each respective case.

    2. The company paying for the junket expects a good review. They don't want to spend thousands on meals and airfare, then read about a bunch of problems with their cruise ship or new motorcycle.

    3. As you stated, quite accurately, the reviewer/journalists does not have enough time with the product to accurately or thoroughly review the product. 2 days of riding a bike, or 2 days aboard a cruise ship, are simply not enough to get a real feel for the product.

    When is comes to motorcycle journalism, especially for those of us who ride a Goldwing, there are other issues as well. The typical motorcycle journalists does not ride a touring bike every day. They probably ride a sport bike. They get on ANY Goldwing, and they are going to talk about how comfortable it is, how great the sound system is, they won't even test the GPS because A) they don't have time, and B) they don't use a GPS anyway. They will be blown away by things like Apple Carplay, simply because no other motorcycle has it. But, the won't have the time to really test it. They rarely talk about storage space, and if they do, it is so much better than what they are used to, they will probably say good things about it. The same seat that you and I find to be hard as a rock, they LOVE, because it is much more comfortable than the Ninja 600 they ride every day.

    When we started, we told the cruise lines up front that we would not post a review on our website resulting from a 2 day press trip. Period. We require a 7-day or longer cruise where we travel as a guest of the cruise line, but nobody onboard the ship knows we are journalists, other than perhaps the Hotel Manager. We also have an understanding that, if we experiencing a problem it will be included in our final review. However, we give the cruise line an opportunity to respond to our claim. Now, as a result, many cruise lines will not invite us onboard their ships. They don't want the scrutiny, or they have strict media guidelines that we will not adhere to. There are other cruise lines, however, that invite us onboard their ships every year because they love the honest coverage.

    When I reviewed the Garmin Zumo 595 LM, I did so after a 7-day road trip to Wing Ding where I used the Zumo EVERY SINGLE DAY. The same is true of my review of the Bohn Body Armor (which, btw, I am wearing under my jeans right now as I write this article).

    But, for a professional journalist, it is a challenge. Journalists serve two masters; the audience of consumers and the manufacturers of the products they review. If your reviews are nothing more than an advertorial, consumers will not trust your objectivity. If you are "too honest" or negative, you get a reputation as being unfair and manufacturers will simply not work with you any more. It is a real balancing act.

    Consumer-written reviews can be pretty useless because most people only write a review when they want to ***** or complain about something. And, they are generally not thorough at all.

    As for your experience with the riding pants being too heavy, that is something that you can reveal to others through your own review. And, that is THE VALUE OF A FORUM. You can come on here, and other forums, and tell YOUR STORY.
    Save $1000 a year in labor by doing your own maintenance!

    Website | YouTube | 2001-2017 Videos | 2018+ Videos

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    • #3
      Thanks Cruiseman! In these days of numerous online media outlets, message boards, etc., there is no shortage of expertise out there but it is hard to wade through all of the muck, sometimes.

      Indeed, I am guilty of giving advice but, usually, they have asked for it. 😁

      Perhaps part of the problem is the potential inaccuracy of the written word plus the time required to craft an article that says what the author means. Message board writers seem to have a need to condense everything into a one or two sentence post that leaves out a lot of key information. If somebody asks about those pants I bought, I could just say "they suck" but that means nothing more than a 👎. I have received criticism for "writing a novel" when everybody else puts in their two cents worth in ten words or less. Magazine article writers are constrained as well and often the article ends up with more space dedicated to pictures than prose.

      We often hear the "we want pictures" mantra on these message boards. I like pictures and videos too but without some explanation they don't mean much. Is everybody too busy to spend a few seconds reading or have we become like two year old children who can only identify with the obviously visible things?

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      • #4
        I do not put much trust in any single review.
        A review is nothing more than the person writing it's opinion of something that they generally do not own or ever will buy.
        There have been many reviews on motorcycles that I have owned at the time of the review that I thought,"what motorcycle were they riding?"
        "That is not like mine at all."
        That is why I like forums.
        Mainly motorcycle forums.
        There are those that rave about the motorcycle they ride and portray it as the best motorcycle ever produced.
        They truly do love it.
        There are those that ignore the short comings because they do not want to admit they spent alot of money on a motorcycle that they are stuck with.
        There are those that own one and actually admit they regret buying it.
        There are those who don't even own the model that they are slamming on a forum.
        For whatever reason they just decide that an actual owner's opinion based on experience is not as good as their perceived opinion.
        Some just like to argue or stir the pot.
        Then there are those in the middle like myself, who will ask questions,sift through all that we have read to gather information about the motorcycle to draw our own opinion.
        In the end it comes down to what we as a potential buyer have decided what we want to it or don't.

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        • #5
          The ones I hate are the test ride know it all kind. 30 minute ride and they usually bash the bike.
          2013 Black F6B

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          • #6
            Nice looking F6B Jeff!

            Comment: (For off-topic replies)

            • JeffP
              JeffP commented
              Editing a comment
              Why, Thank you sir.

          • #7
            Originally posted by flat6bagger View Post
            I do not put much trust in any single review.
            That is excellent advice.

            Save $1000 a year in labor by doing your own maintenance!

            Website | YouTube | 2001-2017 Videos | 2018+ Videos

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            • #8
              I agree. Many reviews are written by someone who has not researched the market and ends up making ignorant and false
              statements about the product while overlooking flaws like the low waist on the pants.
              My girlfriend recently bought a Yamaha Tracer 900 (which she loves). All the early reviews were stellar, and she’s very happy with her decision. Just lately, reviews have started questioning the ‘value’ compared to the base midel FZ-08/MT-09 that it was based on and how much more expensive the new model is. There are parallels in other brands, incidentally, when they make an exceptionally well equipped model. Anyway, thanks for the thoughts- you’re not the only one out there who has been disappointed by bozo reviews.

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              • #9
                The topic is about gear - whether it be apparel or motorcycles themselves. A challenge, since someone has to take the time to write something that provides a 'good/bad' on the item - and why. If they are a strong writer, it's easy to believe what is there on the screen. Conversely, if they suck at writing, the belief I have in the review - good -or- bad - is now tempered by how they wrote it.

                A challenge, but that's all you might have. My wife and I experienced this not long ago while looking for a new moto jacket for her. The best piece of info came six months earlier when we went to a SoCal powersports megastore and spent an afternoon looking. The female associate that helped her out was what eventually sold her on getting it - mail order, from the same place.

                What about -other- stuff - like lodging?

                I used a combination of Yelp! reviews as well as the reviews provided on Google Maps (disclaimer: I do participate as a Google Local Guide). When I laid out my lodging for my 48 state ride, I used this info heavily to influence my decisions. I'd also chosen a couple of "Mom & Pop" places not only on this trip, but my earlier trip in April with my wife. This was done as a 'test'; how accurate are the reviews, and specifically, how current are the reviews.

                On these two moto trips this year, I was not disappointed in any accomodations I made.

                My wife and I are going to visit son & DIL between the holidays. I used this to find a modestly priced place* in the heart of Los Angeles. We shall see if my batting average is still high with this method.

                * A modestly-priced place in LA is vastly different that a modestly-priced place in Manchester, NH. It does take research to identify that price point.
                Ken (IBA #50030) & Grace (IBA #62768)Tucson, AZ"Get busy living, or get busy dying." -Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption 1994ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕMy blog

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