Product Testing 101
Jon looks at me straight-faced and asks “don’t they have test dummies”? Well, clearly the answer is yes …but unfortunately I am one of them.
The good people at Pearl Izumi are pretty relentless in their quest to bring the most durable cycling clothing to market and they also understand that fabric performance is paramount if you are going to claim to make some of the best cycling apparel in the world. So, when I was invited to take part in a fabric test for Pearl Izumi I jumped at the chance. Okay, I did not actually jump at the chance. I had to be pushed pretty hard. Guilt had a part to play as well. At the very least I was intrigued by the process. With all the effort that we put into testing our Yellow Line Rule products out on the road I was interested to see how a big company used a lab setting to compress this process.
The hitch is that there are just not that many places in the world where one can test the limits of both human and material in a controlled environment. So, PI came to Canada. Specifically Oshawa, home to the ACE Environment Wind Tunnel. (Honestly, who knew places like this even existed? If you want to test the limits of military equipment designed for use in the arctic, or if you want to see whether a new car design can withstand a massive pot-hole impact at 140km/hr at -40 Celsius, you come to ACE. If you need to test a drone in class 4 hurricane conditions you come to ACE. If you want to break the spirit of 16 road cyclists you come to ACE)
It all starts pretty humbly. We are wired up with heat and humidity sensors then we pull on test garments, which are also equipped with sensors. The mood is light-hearted as we warm up on computer-controlled stationary trainers.
And then the test starts. Humidity 75%, temperature 5 Celsius, wind speed 40km/hr. We ride uncomfortably hard with resistance computer-controlled and therefore impossible to hide from. 25 minutes creeps by and all sense of novelty is swept away to be replaced with the miserable cold that one can only feel when completely unprepared for a cold day on the bike.
This photo is just the beginning. nobody was laughing and telling jokes after a few minutes. We were pretty much driven to silence. Beaten into silence.
Okay, so now we truly understood what we were in for. We switched jackets around, adjusted sensors and did it again, and again, and again. For two days.
You know when you have one of those epic rides? The ones where you are cold and tired, but deeply satisfied. Even though other people don’t understand why, you would go back and do that epic again, and again. Yeah, well, this wasn’t like that. No beautiful mountains, no curving country roads. Just cold. Just wind. Just a concrete bunker. But in the name of progress I would probably do it all again.