In my seemingly never-ending search for information about the world of cycling, I’ve sought magazines, books, websites, videos, followed Tour coverages, consulted friends and retailers… You name it. I am a sponge not yet even slightly damp.
Coming from my previous career in magazine publishing, I know some of the ins and outs of producing a rag and many of the challenges that face today’s publisher. Diversified advertising budgets, an audience with all sorts of electronic toys and reduced attention spans, and a tricky business model all aim to stunt the noble goals of producing a quality product on a monthly basis.
In terms of the cycling world’s print media, there are many magazines to choose from. Many are American, many British, and at least one is Canadian (Canadian Cycling). Each offers a different twist. Many, I’ve found, to their detriment try to cover everything – the lifestyle, the equipment, pro cameos, rides and destinations, and various disciplines (MTB, Road, pro tour, etc.), likely with the aim of attracting a similarly expansive readership and (more importantly) advertiser base. With such broad mandates and limited page counts to work with, these efforts often result in a product that is a foot deep and a mile wide: stories that are shallow and abrupt and fail to delve into anything informative or compelling.
Some, to their credit, target specific aspects of the sport – Velo, for example, is acutely focused on the professional cycling world. They also appear to maintain a stranglehold on cycling “news” as it pertains to the UCI governing body, pro teams, tours, races and the like. In this, it’s a great up to the minute social media and online resource, but as such I have shied away from the print version for its lack of diversity.
One of the better North American magazines I’ve found (and subscribed to) is Bicycling, an American publication that by in large relies on sub-100-word snippet stories about what’s new, what’s cool and barbed-hook headlines like “10 ways to become a better climber.” The content (albeit brief) is handy and useful, however. Nutrition, new equipment reviews, and guest columns by some of the industry’s more animated personalities, like pro rider Jens Voigt, make it something to look forward to each month. I subscribe to the iPad version, which is quite good. The digital medium is taken advantage of with touch-responsive graphics and stories, making the experience interactive and immersive.
However for a truly excellent read, with what I judge to be superior journalism and long, interesting stories, is what I think is the best magazine on the newsstands: Cyclist. It seems to be a relatively new addition to the fold and hails from Britain (so advertising, information on product pricing, stockists, and featured personalities etc. are all UK-centric). Cyclist is full of excellent photography, compelling stories and is an overall massive effort. I’ve found the magazine very enticing, so much so in fact, that I’ve refused the readily-available (and significantly cheaper) iPad edition in favour of the hard-to-find print edition at $14 per issue.
An example of the quality of editorial from the October edition – it’s 164 pages for starters; includes a five-page story on the Orange/Dutch Corner at the Tour de France; a two-pager on philosophies behind why cyclists shave their legs; and an extraordinary 13-page cover story on the budding cycling destination of Tenerife, replete with gorgeous photography. It’s neither too novice, nor too technical, and best of all focuses entirely on road cycling – no wasted space on MounTain Biking for example, for which I have zero interest.
A highly recommended publication indeed, and subscriptions are even available to us Canadians, for a reasonable $99 per year for 13 issues (when you consider postage charges and the quality of product, it’s a great value). Cyclist is high on my Christmas list, and until then I will hunt it down at local newsstands. I only wish I could get my hands on some of the attractive-looking back editions.