A bike review is only as good as the humans providing the feedback. Since humans are about as different as the 25 bikes at the 2014 Vital MTB Test Sessions, our test riders needed to reflect a wide variety of style, sizes and tastes with an ability to turn experiences on a bike into words that we can all find informative. Our five test riders did just that. Get to know the five test riders who climbed, hucked, carved, jumped, and rallied in Sedona, Arizona.

Evan Turpen

Age: 28

Height: 5'10"
Weight: 170 pounds
Bar width preference: 750-760mm
Flats or clips?: Clips
Where’s home?: I moved to Boulder, Colorado 6 months ago from Santa Cruz, California to be with my awesome girlfriend and ride some real mountains. It's been a really crazy/cool experience thus far with the 100 year flood, snow and ice, new friends, and wild riding terrain not far away.
Occupation: I'm currently a bike mechanic at Boulder Cycle Sport's North Boulder location.
Years riding mountain bikes: 14 years
Riding style: That's a tough one. I like to think I'm smooth and calculated. More of a rider who floats and flows his way down the trail trying to flirt with the edge of control. I come from a downhill racing background so any chance to really open it up and get wild I'm all about.
Trail style preference: I'm learning more and more that I prefer some width to my trails to allow for unique line choices (it's hard to separate yourself from others on a 6" wide trail!). I like fast and flowy trails with a good mixture of technical and rough sections that can be taken at speed as well as corners. Give me as many awesome arcing corners as you can and I'm stoked! Just don't make it flat.
Accomplishments on a bike: Became a Pro level downhill racer in 2005. Stood on the podium at U.S. National Champs that year and got to represent the U.S. at the World Championships in Rotorua, New Zealand the very next year.
What qualifies you as a good tester?: I'm one of the pickiest, most detail oriented people when it comes to bikes. As a downhill racer I was always testing new products and looking for any performance advantage I could find. I'm very into the technical side of things when it comes to bike design. I've helped develop and test products for some major companies along the way and I feel like I have a great grasp on what makes a good bike tick.
Bikes you're looking forward to testing: The BMC Trailfox TF01 29, Orbea Rallon, Nukeproof Mega AM 27.5, and the GT Sensor Carbon.
Favorite trail in Sedona: Hi-line Trail was classic. They're all good, really!
Random fun fact about yourself: I once failed a Pro Engineer class (3D product design software) because I wasn't doing any of the assigned in class work. Instead I spent my time designing a replacement open bath motocross style fork cartridge for the 7" travel Rock Shox BoXXer fork. With the help of all the guys at Gamut USA we prototyped the cartridge and I raced on it my Semi-Pro year. I won the U.S. National Championships by 13 seconds at Mammoth Mountain that year on the fork cartridge I had designed.

Steve Wentz

Age: 29
Height: 5'8"
Weight: Get lost (around 175 pounds)
Bar width preference: 740-750mm
Flats or clips?: Flats
Where’s home?: Just moved to Truckee, CA
Occupation: I build mountain bike trails around the world.
Years riding mountain bikes: 18 years
Riding style: I really don't know, I just like to have fun on a bike most of the time and push myself on occasion. I'm either being really efficient or I flip a switch and go 100% - there isn’t much middle ground.
Trail style preference: Anything where I can have line of sight and is rough or twisty.
Accomplishments on a bike: I've sometimes been able to help others get a little better. That's the best thing I've done.I've also raced Pro DH for 11 years, including World Cups.
What qualifies you as a good tester?: I'm able to set up a bike close to perfectly (for me) within minutes, ride at near 100% on new trails and replicate what I did that first time over and over. That's the challenge I like, almost like a puzzle. Go for it and put all the pieces together, push a bike hard even if it has a long stem, or whack suspension or geometry that isn't what I like. (Editor’s note: Steve can g-out a bike harder than anyone else we know)
Bikes you're looking forward to testing: Nothing specific, really. I am looking forward to being surprised, for better or worse. Good bikes are fun to ride and I like knowing how different bikes reward different styles. The bad bikes though… I guess every test needs low balls for reference points.
Favorite trail in Sedona: Hi-line was good, but I prefer the short, good mix of terrain on Ridge Trail.
Random fun fact about yourself: I've traveled within at least one new country every year for the last dozen years, and am trying to keep that up for the rest of my life. I can cook pretty well too.

John Hauer

Age: 25

Height: 6'
Weight: 160 pounds
Bar width preference: 750mm
Flats or clips?: Clips
Where’s home?: Santa Cruz, CA
Occupation: Cyclist, Marketing Professional
Years riding mountain bikes: 13 years
Riding style: Trail cat
Trail style preference: Any trail that has a good mix of terrain while keeping you on your toes with technical sections, jumps, and a bunch of turns! My favorite trail is Time Warp in Mt. Ashland, Oregon.
Accomplishments on a bike: Handful of NORBA Junior Expert Gravity Podiums // Ranked Top 10 in both DH and 4X 2007 and 2008 NORBA Pro overall // 20+ Pro Super D/Enduro podiums // 2013 Santa Cruz Super Enduro Champion //Gaining Elite status in XC and cyclocross
What qualifies you as a good tester?: I’ve been an Elite level racer for DH, 4X, Enduro, XC and cyclocross for several years. I also spent 7 years as the head test rider for X-Fusion Shox. My typical week includes 15-20 hours of saddle time, and I’m extremely picky when it comes to a product/bike's performance.
Bikes you're looking forward to testing: I’m really looking forward to spending time on some of the new 27.5 bikes for 2014. The Lapierre stands out because of its electronic suspension, the Giant Trance intrigues me due to their riders’ success, and lastly the Orbea because of its new design and BOS suspension.
Favorite trail in Sedona: Hi-Line trail is definitely my favorite because of its speed, big impacts and technical finish.
Random fun fact about yourself: I must wear brand new socks when I race my bike.

Jess Pedersen

Age: 33

Height: 6'0"
Weight: 175
Bar width preference: 780-800mm
Flats or clips?: Clips
Where’s home?: Durango, CO
Occupation: Structural Engineer
Years riding mountain bikes: 15 years
Riding style: I hate doing things that don't feel smooth and fun on a bike.
Trail style preference: Steep and techy but with good flow. I can only handle so much funny business. High speed is a plus. I also love me some dirt ramps.
Accomplishments on a bike: I would say that my biggest accomplishment is that I have managed to keep riding bikes fun through out many years of riding and racing, even at the Pro level.
What qualifies you as a good tester?: I have been riding and racing for a long time so I know my way around a bike. I am also an engineer, so I have a technical mindset which allows me to analyze mechanical things well. I also hate when bikes make noise on the trail, so I have a good ear for subtle noises.
Bikes you're looking forward to testing: The Intense Carbine 29… oh wait that's a medium. Damn. I am really looking forward to the Evil Uprising. That thing looks mean. The Nukeproof Mega AM 27.5 looks sweet too.
Favorite trail in Sedona: Ridge Trail was my favorite. That was awesome.
Random fun fact about yourself: Cougars dig me.

Brandon Turman

Age: Though bar tenders never believe me, I'm 27.
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 175 pounds
Bar width preference: 765mm
Flats or clips?: Which way is the wind blowing?
Where’s home?: Where the riding is good and the weather is warm! When I’m not traveling to cover events and product launches, I’m fortunate to be able to roam North America in an RV looking for the next best spot to call “home.”
Occupation: Vital MTB’s Product Editor
Years riding mountain bikes: 14 years
Riding style: Semi pro? Haha. I like to have fun, pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when I feel in tune with a bike and the terrain, and love to really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill.
Trail style preference: My perfect trail has a good mix of flow, tech, and balls-to-the-wall speed. I love little transfers, rollers, and the occasional gap that gives me that momentary stomach in my throat kind of feeling. Toss in some rocky bits with the option to double over them or risk pinch flatting, then mix all of those things together and you've got a winner in my book.
Accomplishments on a bike: Though I'd hardly call myself accomplished, I did race downhill for several years, eventually working my way up to the illustrious rank of a Pro pack filler. I had a good run in my collegiate racing days while heading up the Colorado School of Mines team (hot dog suit, anyone?). After college, my focus turned to dirt sculpting and jumping with the occasional slopestyle contest thrown in for fun. More recently I've been pounding out the miles and spreading the stoke with Vital. (Editor's note: Brandon can tuck-no backflip)
What qualifies you as a good tester?: I’d say the biggest thing is probably on-trail familiarity with nearly every new innovation in our sport. Because I’ve ridden nearly everything out there in the past 4-5 years, I have a really good feel for what’s what.
Bikes you're looking forward to testing: All of them? I'm pretty pumped to try out a bunch of different platforms and price points.
Favorite trail in Sedona: It’s a toss up between Brewer, Ridge, Hi-line, and Slim Shady northbound. They’re all so good.
Random fun fact about yourself: I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and previously designed massive robots to tear down decommissioned nuclear reactors. I also can't grow a beard.

Photos by Lear Miller

So there you have it - five guys on a mission to put the hurt on 25 bikes in the Arizona desert, all with various qualifications and backgrounds. Test Session reviews start dropping on Monday, January 20th. Curious what bikes are in the lineup? Check out this gallery.

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