I’ve got a big problem with product reviews these days. To me they are about 99% chaff. Seldom do I come away from one thinking it will influence my decision to buy the product.

Let’s be clear, the current media/company relationship presents a terrible trap. Companies rely on media to broadcast their products. Media relies on companies for advertising revenue. Company sends media a product to review and even if it’s nowhere near spoken, the threat of pulling that revenue slips like an undertow beneath the transaction.

And what happens? Well, undertows are hard to fight. A banal and toothless review follows that limply prods about the subject, drops some flogged out old phrases and generalities and concludes that the product is perfectly fine for its intended purpose.

For its class, the bike was surprisingly capable on the climbs, but it’s when the trail pointed down that it really came alive…

The bike is long and slack and the suspension supple. It soaks up the big hits without sacrificing playfulness out on the trail…

The comp build represents superb bang for your buck. I would’ve liked to see it specced with a different saddle and slightly wider bars, but those are largely matters of personal preference…

Give me a fucking break.

Even worse, a bit later on you get a review of the revised edition of that product and the reviewer praises the company for sorting out the “issues” with the previous model. Yeah, the issues they happened to leave out of the earlier review. Fucking twits. I don’t know about you, but it leaves me thinking Why did I bother reading that? I could’ve used that time to pull fluff from my navel.

Given the catch–22 above, you can understand the reviewer’s predicament. But let’s not for a minute excuse it. If you’re in a position to review a product, it’s because you either know enough that people should listen to you, or you can articulate your thoughts clearly. Either way, your primary duty is to the reader, not the company who is lining your pockets and slinging you freebies. And if you can’t take that duty seriously and approach it with some integrity then you should fucking well move aside. Otherwise you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

So I’m putting it right up front. I’m going to post a review of the Niner RLT 9 Steel and I’m going to call it like I see it. It’s going to be weird and rambling but it’ll be honest too. Niner NZ might well hate it. That’s their journey.

Furthermore, you deserve to know what sort of deal I got. I bought it as my bike, but Niner NZ gave me a modest discount on the wholesale price and all that really did was enable me to secure a lower price through the LBS. The frameset still cost me over $2000 so I’ve definitely got some skin in the game.

But it’s important for you to know the deal, and the deal I wrangled included me writing this review. It’s an incentive, and when I give an opinion on the bike’s function or form you deserve to be informed of the relationship. Then you can decide whether to trust the opinion or not. Like an adult.

If you’re interested, stay tuned.