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.
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.
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.
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.
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