A semi-serious idea...
I had an astounding idea! In addition to the lucrative marketing potential that CycleDog represents, what with it bringing in tens of dollars every year, I could develop another revenue stream by renting out my expertise as a long-time bicycle commuter. Think about it. The car magazines do long-term testing of various automobiles. I think the motorcycle magazines do something similar. So it's only logical that bicyclists should have access to long-term testing information as well.
I wouldn't want to test high-end racing bikes. I don't have the expertise for that, and besides, racers generally don't intend to keep the same bike on the road for years and years. Commuters, on the other hand, ride them until they're completely worn out, then re-build them and ride them some more. I suspect that commuting and comfort bikes are growing niche markets for the manufacturers, so it may be worthwhile to provide the prospective buyers with information on long term use, maintenance, reliability, and durability.
Bike of Doom is performing destructive testing on a department store bike, something I'd given some thought to attempting. But since my weight is in the Clydesdale category, I'd hesitate to rely on a Bicycle Shaped Object as a daily commuter. I'm averse to those long walks home alongside a broken down, unrideable bike. Been there – done that – don't wanna do it again.
I think it would be a good testing approach - me (or any other year-round commuter) atop a purpose-built commuting bike on Oklahoma's notoriously bad roads. If the bike survived “Ed's vertical crush test”, it would be subjected to various road surfaces, most of them not terribly smooth. It would bake in the summer sun and freeze in the cold of winter. Since my job involves torturing small electronic devices until they puke and die, a job that I've become adept at doing, I'd be especially merciless on bicycle electronics. Heat, cold, dust, rain, and vibration are the road to Hell for electronic devices, and we have all of them in abundance here, sometimes in the same day. Oklahoma is actually an Indian word for this-place-is-only-a-mile-from-the-sun, which seems true today since the outside temperature is about 105F and the heat index is somewhere around 115F.
Now, I'm not going to offer big, splashy ads right alongside the copy for a particular manufacturer's product, not unless that manufacturer wants to spend a boatload of money for ad placement. I'm a whore, just not a cut-rate one. And it's funny, but I seem to recall seeing full page ads for products right next to an article purporting to 'test' that product, but I don't quite recall the name of the bicycling magazine. It'll come to me.
Still, some questions about methodology come up. Should long-term testing be performed as if the tester were an average cyclist, unskilled at bike maintenance and repair, or should regular, thorough maintenance be the norm? The car magazines follow the manufacturer's recommendations, yet when I think of it, there are no recommendations for similar maintenance intervals from bicycle manufacturers. I'm not over-zealous about maintenance, except for drive trains. Most of my bikes get a yearly overhaul at best. I know of people who overhaul hubs, headset, and bottom bracket if the bike gets ridden in the rain. Professional team mechanics do this as a routine, but I doubt it's a good idea for amateurs. So there's a maintenance spectrum that ranges from zero to anal-compulsive. Where should that balance lie for a product test?
I'm open to ideas if any of you want to put them in comments.