My quest for the most comfortable bike is designed to be as much objective as possible.
It starts with the mobile phone (Huawei Mate 10 Pro) and a Vibration meter app that uses a phone accelerometer to measure, as the name suggest, vibrations. The less overall vibration score measured in m/s2 the more comfortable the ride.
The ride that I measure contains 2 different scenarios.
First is a forest path with a lot of tree roots and different big and small bumps. It measures 720 meters and it emulates a challenging gravel riding (but not a true singletrack because I believe that gravel bikes are no mountain bikes and should not be measured in MTB conditions).
The second is a true gravel road with only a very small bumps and rocks. It measures 350 meters and I use it to emulate gravel racing.
The first route is more challenging that is why I measure the vibrations while going at steady 15 km/h on average. The second route is used to emulate a fast gravel riding that is why I go there with speed around 35 km/h.
The measurement itself is designed to achieve most accurate results possible in real life situations (but despite my efforts you have to remember that this is not a scientific lab measurements).
I do at least 3 runs always in the same direction and following the same route. If the measurements are very similar then I calculate the average. If there is an odd measurement I discard it and go one more time. Most of the time 3 runs is enough, especially on slow forest runs (the fast gravel route is producing much more vibrations so sometimes the results may vary more).
I measure both the front and the rear comfort of the bike.
To measure the front I ride on the hoods (to put more weight on the handlebar that will allow more flex from the handlebar and/ or flexing stem) with a phone mounted just in the middle of my left forearm.
EDIT: after my bike fitting session and a significant change in my position on the bike I moved the phone as close as possible to the wrist just to minimize the impact of the arm movement on the final readings.
To measure the rear I use a belt mount and put the phone on my back on the aitchbones level (this measures the vibration just above the saddle).
To get the most scientific and comparable results I always use the same phone mounts, the same phone and app, the same bike saddle, the same bike shorts and the same Giro Bravo gloves (because I am riding on hoods I do not take bar tape into consideration). Before the test I always try to achieve the most similar bike position (saddle height and saddle position most appropriate for my body and my inseam length and I try to stay seated in every situation which sometimes can be even harmful but hey, I do this for the science!). And my weight… is rather stable at 83 kg 🙂
Everything is done to make sure that I can really measure the bike comfort and compare it with other to find the truly most comfortable gravel bike in the world.
Additional note: I am really focused on delivering the most accurate measurements possible. That is why I tested different phone mounts on my forearm and found out that they can produce much different results. I currently use the one that holds my phone very closely to my forearm not allowing for additional movement that could increase vibration readings (the results you find on my website are now based on my new phone mount). But despite of all my effort you have to remember that all of my measurements are limited by the technology itself. I measure noticable vibrations and thus can’t test solutions that are dedicated to mitigate a high frequency vibrations like Spank Vibrocore handlebars. I also can’t totally accuretaly measure a very small difference for example between 5 psi of air pressure change in the tire. This means that results that show a marginal difference like 1% or even 2% should be read as basically the same. The higher the difference between tested solutions the more confidentely we can say that it is indeed more comfortable in real life usage. At least in my specific case, with my specific body and roads I am riding.