I know you about as well as you know me, so who am I to tell you which bike to buy?By now, or at least by the time you get to page 52, it’s likely you’ve read through most of the 2009 motocross bike shootouts: In Dirt Rider and probably other magazines as well. Surprised to find different winners and rankings? Well, don’t be. So on the way to your favorite message board or even down to your local dealer to hold court and tell most everyone how the magazines are all jacked up, think about this: The bikes are all that good. I can see how almost any of them could win, so I have a hard time disputing any one rider’s personal picks. Many of our test riders had different personal rankings than our final result, but when all the opinions are added up they form the collective voice expressed in the test and, in the end, the overall winner.Now, talking from a position of power-as one of the guys running the comparisons and looking at the results of the testing we use to come to a conclusion about picking a winner-here’s why we do it the way we do it. I’ve had the opportunity of test riding for manufacturers and doing evaluation-riding for most of the other magazines you read at one time or another during my career. I’ve seen comparison testing done a number of ways, some good and some downright scary. But I feel we have the most consistent and dependable comparisons for a number of reasons. First, we only pick a winner because you, the reader, seem to demand it. Plus, the winning manufacturer likes to hang its hat on the victory as well. If I were left to my devices, a lot of times there would not be a declared winner, yet the comparison would, like ours do, focus more specifically on the strong points, the weak points and then spell out which bike is best for what type of rider. In our shootouts this year, I personally would not have declared a winner. Three of the bikes in the 450 comparison and two in this 250 class were that close; the ones that didn’t “win” got robbed.We have radar runs, lap times and setup charts to show you what was done to each bike. You can look at that information and see what a particular bike is doing and what it takes to get it to do what it did…before you look at the winner. You can see specific riders’ opinions, and we usually pick the opinions that explain some things in detail that may be a little different than what our collective voice might say in the test, because every rider is entitled to his or her own opinion, and a lot of times you can learn from riders you relate to. In the main story we try to describe each bike as it compares to the others. I know we ride our bikes at more tracks than any other magazine. We put more real-world riders on our bikes than other magazines. We work on the bikes ourselves during a fair portion of the comparison, so we know what is going on with them. The comparison bikes never leave our possession or go back to get freshened up, they are all on a schedule and have very close to the same amount of time run on each of them. And if one doesn’t or has had a problem, we tell you about that.But most of all, we don’t have an axe to grind with anyone and we aren’t out to tell you, “This is the only bike for you.” A lot of that is precisely why we don’t rank the bikes after picking a winner. Is it prestigious to win a Dirt Rider shootout? I’d hope so but I’m shooting myself in the foot to say it doesn’t matter. We’d rather deliver the info you need to know to help you understand these bikes since we do get to ride them all at the same time and at a number of different places with a lot of solid testers. And that, my friends, is why you need to read the comparison and not just the last paragraph.Besides, the bikes I liked the best didn’t win the comparisons in my magazine, so I’ll see you at www.dirtrider.com to tell you what I really think.