Goodbye Dirt Rag Magazine

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Today was a sad day for mountain bike publishing. Dirt Rag Magazine announced that it was closing its doors with immediate effect after 30 years of publishing and organising events. 

Thirty years is a lot of back issues to re-read (this is less than two), but we’ll get started now.

While many newcomers might dismiss Dirt Rag as some old US magazine that they’d never heard of, to us at Singletrack, its demise has hit close to home. We considered Dirt Rag, and its Pittsburgh-based crew to be kindred spirits. Dirt Rag showed that a mountain bike magazine could be quirky, extra-local while also being international; that it could have beer reviews on one page and heartfelt trail advocacy features the next. 

As publishers and editors of an independent magazine, Dirt Rag was who nascent Singletrack Magazine looked to for inspiration and affirmation that, no, you didn’t have to be a big, publically listed, international publisher to make a mountain bike magazine work. 

Maurice lived by this code, regardless of bottom line…

Over the years, we kept close links with Maurice and his great team of editors, writers, artists and designers. Hell, we even employed ex-Dirt Rag designer Jeff Lockwood to edit grit.cx. We swapped print subscriptions and we wrote about a cultural exchange where Jeff Guerrero came to the UK to ride our trails and I went over to Pittsburgh to ride with the Dirt Rag people.

There, I saw firsthand the lovely, ordered chaos of the magazine, designed in the cellar of Maurice’s house. I met the team – and it really was a team – of people who made the magazine happen and who scratched a living in the blue collar urban surroundings of its Pittsburgh neighbourhood. 

Illustrated and quirky covers were very much Dirt Rag. Hugely innovative at the time.

The Dirt Rag Magazine booth was usually the first stop at any trade show or big event like Sea Otter. Maurice and the small team of passionate workers would look after bags, and offer beer and crisps to a fellow dirtbagger. They would usually ride to events, camp on site or live, six to a motel room around a keg of beer. Their parties were legendary and everyone, without exception, had time for anyone from Dirt Rag. 

Maurice would often (publically and privately) vent the same frustrations that other small publishers felt – in a world where it was hard to sell a single page of advertising, companies were spending tens of thousands with other media companies in a series of deals to which we were never invited. Maurice and team had only ever followed the premise that advertisers were to be respected, but the needs of the reader, and the integrity of the magazine, was always paramount.

There’s only so much of being a poor, beloved rebel that you can afford to be, especially in the expensive and fickle world of print publishing and so, after 30 years of publishing, Dirt Rag has closed its doors.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B77aXWbHfSE/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

We certainly hope (and know) that we’ll see many former Dirt Rag employees turn up here and there in the bike marketing and publishing world, but it’s sad to think that there won’t be another Dirt Rag magazine published.

And there certainly will never be another Dirt Rag.

With all of our best wishes. Godspeed.

Chipps and the Singletrack Team


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Chipps

Singletrack Editor

Chipps wasn’t around for the dawn of mountain biking in the UK, but he likes to claim that he arrived in time for second breakfast (about the time he shows up for work, then…) starting in the bike trade in 1990 and becoming a full time mountain bike journalist at the start of 1994. Over the subsequent quarter century, he has seen mountain bike culture flourish and diversify and bike technology go from rigid steel frames to fully suspended carbon fibre (and sometimes back to rigid steel as well.)

His riding style is best described as ‘medium, wheels on the ground, trail riding’ though he’s been spotted doing everything from endurance downhill racing to 24 hour cross country racing. He favours mid-travel trail bikes and claims to be wheel-size, gear, brake and tyre agnostic. In fact, his garage spans most bicycle flavours, taking in steel hardtails, carbon trail bikes, even a mountain bike tandem, along with road, touring and gravel/cyclocross bikes.

While he’s happy to chat about bikes all day, his real interest is in the people and places that bikes can introduce you to and he talks as fondly about the trails he’s ridden and riders he’s met as the bikes that took him there.

Comments (13)

    This is very sad; the end of an era. As much as I like online content, you can’t beat a good quality magazine (oh, that sounds wrong). Keep up the good work, folks; just bought a t-shirt to help out. A tiny bit.

    Just for the guys at Singletrack – I love Singletrack. Big highlight for me when the print copy drops onto my door mat 🙂

    Sad times. They were always gloriously out of step with the rest of the industry – I remember a competition they ran a couple of years ago where the grand prize was a V-brake groupset.

    Very prophetic, for me personally, as I was just thinking if I should re-new my Singletrack subscription.

    Sure now, I definitely will.

    Cheers!
    I.

    Very well said, Chipps. When I first started at DR, it was just after Jeff G’s trip. Singletrack was explained to me as “our British sister magazine”. It was a privilege to party with you — hope we can do it again sometime.

    First, I am really stoked you chose the “Sammy Davis” cover to put front and center. I thought I was the only one who liked it. Two, photo number two is a photo of and quote by Eric McKeegan. Big loss when he left the company. Chipps, you are omnipresent, love you!

    The “Sammy Davis”cover: Glad you liked that one Maurice! Apologies STILL to Karen – dropping the original on her desk deadline morning that I took liberties to alter. I spent several hours at my day job frantically photoshopping the dude back into a Joe Breezey attire to accompany the Klunkers theme. Sorry Karen!

    Always sad when another mag goes under.
    I never heard of Dirt Rag but now wish I had.

    Such a bummer. I had a small biz selling MTB garb, Rocket Parts, and Dirt Rag was The local East of California connection we had to a world outside of the hard baked So Cal MTB deal in the 90’s.

    Never heard of it,,,, ☹️

    Ok I never looked for it BUT, they never looked for me.

    In this day and age you have to be something special to maintain an audience/customer.

    Wish the ex employees the best of luck tho.

    A sad indictment of our times. In a world where the expectation is that everything we consume is free, it is no surprise that more and more publishers are going out of business. I still find it amazing that there are so many regular users of singletrack that don’t have a P but their name. To not be prepared to shell out a few pounds a month to use the forum and read the content is nonsensical to me. Particularly given the penchant of most of us for spending silly money on over hyped bikes and pieces. A sad day indeed, best wishes to all

    Too bad…
    For me, Singletrack is the only bike mag worth reading for the same reasons mentioned above. Honest writing about bikes and riding, with the minimum of advertising and a good vibe generally.

    Used to have just the digital sub, but couple years ago decided I want to support you more with an actual subscription, and paper is still much nicer – especially as now the covers are just one gorgeous image. I always spend a lot of time just looking at the covers …. And over the years I slowly went through the complete digital archive as well.

    Also ordered a few items over the years, last time a hoodie and t-shirt, just for support. Hope you guys keep on hanging on!

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