News of the Tweet: Reefer Madness or Transfer Madness?

A cloud of Enduro shame, Lance sits in Oprah's lap, cynical readers and not-so-sinister transfers

By Seb Kemp

It's been a busy week in bikes. Not much of it happy news.

First up, there was the #gwingate (thanks for that @RicMcLaughlin). For those that were not hooked up intravenously to the internet, basically…

…sorry, I can not be bothered with it. If you care then you already know and you probably have an opinion on the matter anyway. Despite this 'breaking news story' creating a bunch of late nights and fueling a series of frantic phone calls for Bike Magazine staff, I personally feel a little detached from it all.

It was probably more interesting to see how people reacted to this news than the news itself. It was a losing situation for some, win for others.

Among the furious Twitterings, the terms 'media seeking controversy' and 'drama' popped up several times. I think that's unfair and it places the cart before the horse. If it wasn't genuinely demanded by the readership then I don't think the 'media' (the use of this term appears to insinuate that the press is actually a collective brain with nefarious intentions) would bother stirring this up. However, that's not to say that it wasn't seen as an opportunity to gain a few hits by being up-to-date with the claims and counter claims, or scoring hits that forum heroes fed with assumptions and rumors.

I totally and utterly agree that it was stirred up - by everyone: the readers, the 'media' and those inside this story with a invested interest. I know personally that for a few mad days it felt like it was necessary to get to the beating heart of the issue. Looking back though, I think lessons were learned. I know Bike Mag learned some things about itself and its news policy after getting burned while so close to the goal line.

Enough of the Gwinger One. America's yellow fella, Lance Armstrong, also came back to the spotlight this week. Early in the week there was mutterings that Lance might be considering confessing for his sins. Then a few days later it was revealed that Lance Armstrong was going to sit down with America's agony aunt, Oprah. Two plus two equals dollar bills, baby.

Armstrong to confess on Oprah? Nope, it's probably hype generated by Oprah's publicity people. Of course, the episode was filmed last Friday and will be aired next Friday, meaning the world waits to hear what he will, or won't say.

Another topic where rumors and assumptions acted like dry leaves on a bonfire was the, sort of, revelation that an Enduro athlete was caught doping and is currently serving a six-month ban.

A racer was tested at the 2011 Megavalanche on the Reunion Island and found positive, according to UCC MEGAVALANCHE boss George Edwards. The FFC (La Fédération Française de Cyclisme) instigated a six-month ban on the unnamed athlete, meaning it was certainly a French racer who holds a French race license. The FFC are keeping the name under tabs at the moment and George Edwards has said, “it’s not my place to put the French Cycling Federation under pressure to reveal the name.”

George Edwards has also said that “drugs aren’t advantageous in marathonDH and Enduro, so that reduces the notion of an undeserved result by the offender.” This is an interesting argument and led to a slew of rumors and speculations that the offender was caught with a recreational drug in their system, or that what was detected was actually a masking agent to cover the drug. Of course, until the truth is reliably and transparently communicated, everything is just speculation.

To read the report from the FFC then click the link in the Tweet below.

Just in time for the launch of Bike Magazine's annual Bible of Bike Tests issue, Steve Worland's story in the latest issue of UK periodical, Privateer Magazine has stirred up some emotions about how reviews are conducted.

Basically, Steve argues that readers have become very cynical of reviewers opinions these days, tending to believe that they are in the pockets of the brands, "The sad truth is that a lot of magazine readers have decided that they really don't trust bike journos." He argues against claims of ads for reviews and summarizes his experience of being a tester for twenty years. More so, he goes on to argue that perhaps consumers should be genuinely cautious of the 'peer' reviews that are becoming more and more prevalent in the digital age. His argument is that professional testers take their job seriously, and have a huge amount of knowledge and expertise built up from testing some many products. Whereas peer reviews tend to have inbuilt biases and a disconnect between experience and knowledge.

I'd add that testers aren't really privy to the business dealings that cynics believe affect reviews. There is a distinct separation of church and state in publishing, the writers doing the writing, the sales guys doing the ad sales. And although the bike industry media is not as entirely as equitable as the big boy media (an entire drawer of bike brand t-shirts and a few nice meals is testament to that), a real tester will truly attempt to remove themselves from any influence that might be directed their way. I believe that, ironically, the more reviews and media launches they go on, the less and less they tend to be leveraged.

And that was perhaps the saddest News Of The Tweet. Chin up.