Can MTB Spy Shots Hurt the Consumer in the Long Run?

We'll be the first to admit it - we get a huge rush when we see an unreleased bike or product for the first time. Who doesn't want to be the first to see the latest (and possibly greatest) mountain bikes and products? Most of the time, our eyes gaze upon these out-of-reach toys under strict guidelines of secrecy. Other times, however, the stealthy steeds fall into our sights as spy shots; photos not sanctioned by the unsuspecting brand being outted.

These unreleased bikes and gear give us that dopamine hit we all crave, especially when there's an air of mystery around the product we're trying to decipher. As fun and exciting as these photos can be for us lurkers, is there a potential downside to revealing bikes and components before they're finalized and ready for sale to the public? Vital MTB Test Sessions shredder, Mint Henk, asked us this question. We didn't know the answer, so we took his question to some long-time bike industry folks at Interbike and recorded their answers. The responses are interesting, but there's a general sentiment of fear when thinking about a legitimate, unsanctioned leak of a product not ready for prime time.

Mick's prototype Polygon at Crankworx earlier this year.

Mike Ferrentino (Uncommon Communications), Joel Smith (Alchemy), Bobby Brown (Maxxis), Carla McCord (Pivot) and Darren Murphy (PUSH Industries) all weigh in on the question, do MTB product spy shots help or hurt the consumer in the long run? 

In this modern internet age, you Vital readers have become faster than TMZ at discovering MTB's nipslips out in the wild or even due to a mistake made by a brand nearing a press release. If the local shredder for Brand X is on an unlabeled bike at the trailhead, your eyes see that the tubeset is different. If Brand X forgets to mark their launch video "unlisted" on YouTube or Vimeo, your eyes are on it blasting screen grabs and spraying about it in our forum. Sometimes the leaks by brands are strategic, sometimes they're not.

Fabien's Canyon Sender before it was the Canyon Sender. A public event, loud-as-F sticker kit and Eddie Masters within a 200 mile radius is a sure-fire sign this is an *intentional* leak.

Prototypes or early production bikes are often ridden at local races or public events, only to have them blown up on our site. That's happened a few times here at Vital, and we've received calls or emails from the brand asking if we'll take down the images. We won't take them down and we're actually perplexed by the ask. If you're riding a secret equipment at a race, open-to-the-public bike park or public event, we call fair game - we're going to post it. Did you really think it wouldn't get leaked?

Nick Beer in 2013 on a Devinci prototype pulled from a race video. Some people weren't too excited we posted this, but it was in a video on the internet, what did they expect?

However, if your team is on a private testing mission in the woods and some local iPhone-wielding party-crasher is trying to unscrupulously leak the secret, we will definitely call foul. We work with the brands to keep their secrets in cases like this. Some secrets are good secrets.

2016, La Thuile EWS. A Rocky Mountain product specialist was ripping the new Slayer. Sometimes we get carried away with some *stickers* when we know a photo is going to get poached. As Vital forum sleuthers pointed out, if a bike is in carbon, it's probably pretty darn close to production.

Team rumor season is upon us and so is new bike season. It's a world full of eyeballs, cameras and drones and hopefully new, cool bikes and products that will sneak up on us. It's brutally difficult for brands to keep secrets these days, but it sure makes our times behind the keyboard during the off-season that much more exciting.

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9 comments
  • mamath7

    11/4/2017 3:48 AM

    "Sometimes the leaks by brands are strategic" like these stupid paint we can call Hey look at me i'm a prototype!

  • ThisGuy

    11/2/2017 9:14 AM

    It may sway the customer to wait for the "next/new" one, and end up hurting the retail or LBS from selling what they have in stock, and now your LBS is stuck with "old" bike, that is still listed as a current model.

  • Johan_Norberg

    11/2/2017 12:31 AM

    Hurt the cosumer? More like help the consumer, the more the companies know about each other the more competetive they will be which will always in some shape or form be a gain for us. Plus any hype or exposure is good for a company, it reafirms their position in our mind and pushes out another.

    And come on, you take a bike to crankworx, paint it in a way that ISS can see it and complain about "spy shots"? Personally I dont think I want to buy a bike from a company that stupid and entrust them with my safety

  • freebiker

    11/1/2017 4:35 PM

    Nothing exciting to see here. Pray for new Turner content soon.

  • onenerdykid*

    11/1/2017 10:24 AM

    As a product manager in a different industry, I have a hard time thinking that a spy shot would directly hurt (or negatively affect) the consumer. Not saying it's impossible, but just not a very real threat. A far greater threat is the damage a leaked spy shot could cause to the brand. This is far more common and something all brands are keenly aware of. Unintended spy shots (or even intended spy shots done too early) can hurt sales of products currently available in store now, give competitors a glimpse into a brand's secret future, etc. Brand damage is far more real/common than consumer damage, in my opinion.

  • sideshow

    11/1/2017 10:09 AM

    Weird to hear that a brand would kowtow to an overly excited (and minor) consumer base and produce a product ahead of schedule in hopes of gaining an early foothold with their forthcoming redesign(s) or new piece(s). Sometimes it feels like the bike world is going the way of consumer electronics, pumping out incremental changes with little to no performance gain, just in the hope of pushing up sales. I've always thought that brands who eschew the "year model" in favor of just producing bikes and changing them as needed are the thinkers who are ahead of the curve. Many sides to the story, just one of the side I find curious.

  • TEAMROBOT

    11/2/2017 10:35 AM

    That's what I was thinking. Who would release a product early just because customers are antsy and want it now? You know what else customers want? Products that work.

  • canadmos

    11/1/2017 8:58 AM

    If someone shows up to an event like friggin' Crankworx or a major (or really, any race...), they'd be dumb to think that there won't be pictures or video floating around. Like that picture of Nick Beer, if people are upset by the photo, why is there even a Devinci and Sony logo on it? Those logos exist for people to look at and to take pictures of. It should be fair game for anything at places like that.

    If you're out on some random trail in the middle of no where testing a bike, sure, keep those private maybe. But then, there aren't photographers hanging out there taking photos. Ask the one dude that passes by to not share the picture.

  • Yossi_Sarusi

    11/1/2017 8:53 AM

    keep the pics rolling

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