Then And Now | 19 Years Of Advertising Singletrack Supporters

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Surly – probably didn’t have a plan either. That’s why we like them.

When Singletrack magazine started, back in 2001, the publishing world revolved around print advertising. Online advertising didn’t really exist, and the online ads that were around normally sent the viewer to a web page inviting you to phone or perhaps email the company…

Advertising sales are a funny world of negotiation, peacock-like displays, poker bluffing and personal relationships. When Singletrack started, we didn’t have an ad sales team, or person, or even a track record to use as a selling tool for persuading people. We just had ‘Hey, we’re new, we know what we’re doing though, we have an idea for a magazine about the joy of riding mountain bikes and we have some kick-ass contributors. Want to advertise in Singletrack?”

The first four issues…

And, amazingly, some people did want to advertise. They either liked the sound of the magazine’s direction, they wanted to appeal to our readers in particular, or they were tired of the endless, slick sales approaches of the bigger publishing houses. And, in many cases, they just wanted us and our magazine to succeed.

Now that’s some confident advertising…

Silverfish was just one such company. Within ten minutes of the ’email everyone we know to tell them we’re launching a magazine’ email, Darren was on the phone to say ‘Yes, book us in for an ad. Is the inside front cover available?’

The ensuing first few months saw some advertisers puzzled that three blokes in spare rooms and a shonky office could make a slick looking magazine, and other advertisers take to the idea – to the point of making specific adverts for advertising in Singletrack.

That looks like the back of Chipps’ old Volvo in that photo.
The Guinness and Newcastle Brown cans were probably meant to appeal to Brits…

While much is said about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various published magazines, or whether the latest issue of X is better than Y, not that much is said about the ads – and there have been some innovative and clever ads in those same magazines over the years.

It really wasn’t that long ago. But it was long ago.
‘Call or email’ – not even a website back then…

Bearing in mind that these were the very early days of Photoshop, and nearly all photography was done with slide film and, er, film film. Digital cameras still weren’t any good for this kind of stuff. Photos were shot in studios, the film sent off for processing and drum scanning, to return (if you were lucky) on a CD or a Zip drive before the graphic designer could work their magic. The fact that there was ANY graphic and photo manipulation at the time was quite a wonder.

Every little helps. Even a half page ad helped pay the wages
The Duke! Anyone remember them? It’s a name that needs to come back, right RockShox?

Some of the advertising deals done at Singletrack were very personalised. Given that we were (and still are) a small employee-owned company, some deals were done because we wanted, say, inner tubes. And so we’d swap a small advert in the mag for a box full of (26in…) inner tubes. The company got an advert and we didn’t need to spend a fiver every time we ripped a tube.

Greg Minnaar and Ben Bardsley – both still going as strong as ever, 19 years later. Us too!

Another bizarre ad-swap was masterminded by Joolze Dymond, who moonlighted as our ad-sales team for a while. The lube company Gozon/Makt wanted an ad, and, as the boss was from Norway, Mark and I decided that we’d swap a small ad for a large block of sweet, brown, Norwegian cheese. While it was OK, it’s not really something we’re looking to repeat. Unless it’s Blackstick’s blue.

Wasn’t so long since we all ran cantis…
Might have to dig out a New World Disorder video after this…
Nice, but they’re no splatter paint Explosif and Cinder Cone

We need your help – Join Us

If you like what we do – if you like our independence then the best way to support us is by joining us. Every penny of your membership goes back into Singletrack to pay the bills and the wages of the people who work here. No shareholders to pay, just the people who create the content you love to read and watch.


Dial H for Hope

Even established companies like Hope didn’t have graphics departments back then because, well, they made bike components for a living, not magazine adverts. And we suspect that we gave them a free ad in the early issues because, at the time, around 5000 copies of Singletrack were being stored in one of Hope’s factory corners. And we didn’t know anyone with a) that much space and b) with a fork lift – have you seen how heavy a pallet of magazines is? It’s basically a metric ton of repurposed tree.

Genesis Geometry – longer top tube, shorter stem. Hey, it was a start…

There was a Gary Fisher ad on the back cover of the first issue. Initially, the company didn’t want to pay to advertise with this new fly-by-night operation. However, I remembered that I still had a Gary Fisher test bike at my house from a previous magazine’s test. “How about I sell it, and that pays for the advert?” I suggested. And they agreed. So the bike was sold and the money went into the giant pit of money that printing the first issue of the magazine opened up for us.

Chelmer Cycles were an early supporter. And then we poached their sales manager – Matt Letch.

This is another part of the complicated, and often amusing, world that Singletrack has been living in over the last 19 years. And we’re happy that we’ve managed to keep our close, personal, relationships with our advertisers and our apparent disregard for corporate profit with us over that time. And it’s great to see that there’s been a great amount of creativity in the advertising we’ve run over the years too. After all, as the great advertising writer, Howard Gossage, once said; “Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them; and sometimes it’s an ad.”

And very often, that ad helps us keep the lights on, so here’s a salute to you, companies who’ve advertised in Singletrack and the readers who’ve helped keep those advertisers going, that in turn helps us. It’s a small world and it all goes around.

The adverts you see in this feature are the brands and distributers that are still advertising with us today. We’d like to give particular thanks to the following brands who have committed to continuing to advertise in the next issue of Singletrack, despite all the difficulties that many of them are facing:

As ever, thank you also to all our subscribers, old and new. The next issue of Singletrack, Issue 131, is a special one – it won’t be available on the Newsstand. Since that means we got no coverlines to get in the way of the cover image, we’ve got something a bit extra special coming. Make sure you subscribe before 21st May in order to ensure you receive the printed edition of Issue 131. Once we sell out of our own shop stock, that’ll be it, you’ll have missed out!


Comments (15)

    I bought a Kona Manamano after seeing an advert. Assume it was in STW. It replaced a fully rigid Claude Butler I’d been crashing all over the peak district. That Kona was definitely the gateway drug into nearly 20 years of riding/buying/reading.

    Good memories 🙂

    Been along for the ride from day one, before Singletrack it was the short lived but excellent Mountain Bike World, MTB Pro etc etc. Witnessed the sad demise of Dirt Rag I know how Chipps negotiates I persuaded him to do a really filthy ride on the Mendips and the Quantocks years ago in exchange for cake!

    Looking through issue 130, I must say I love the advertising, not too many, but also not too few. The photos in them are excellent, see for example the Trek ad near the beginning.

    My Orange Sub 5 was bought following and early review of a Sub 3 and a cool Orange advert….

    I always liked the adverts Billy Crayons did for Sideways Cycles.

    I had an earlier Manomano, in red. I was at uni, had my Orange C16-R stolen and had the insurance money burning a hole in my pocket – Sunset in Cardiff had an ex-demo for exactly the same amount.

    Wildside Cycles used to be my lbs, bought the Orange there. That ad can’t have been long after they moved, the shop is still there.

    Photoshop in its infancy, someone did a bang-up job getting those corn-rows to sit atop Chipps!
    Matt sold me an F800 just before he decamped ‘oop North. It was still running well up until some scum bag removed it from my garage.

    Bought a Voodoo Wanga in candy red from Sideways after seeing the ads in the mag.

    I’m pretty sure my cheque for an advert was the very first cheque cashed for st magazine! At the time i was selling Proflex/K2 addons, replacement shocks, long travel kits. 19 years ago, I was riding a 5″ travel bike on trails. They thought I was crazy!

    I can’t remember if it was in issue 1 or another magazine, but there was a Sideways ad with the strapline “Making an arse of yourself on slightly nicer equipment” which has more or less summed up my entire involvement with mountain biking to date.

    “The next issue of Singletrack, Issue 131, is a special one – it won’t be available on the Newsstand.” is that because no enough shops are open to sell any?

    Casts my mind back to an email from RHS many years ago telling me to subscribe so some guys could buy beans. Turned out to be a great recommendation.

    @footflaps – basically, yes. We don’t want to print a load of mags only to have them pulped because people aren’t going to the usual places to buy them, so we’re only printing the Premier Edition. That means it’ll only be available to Subscribers, from our shop, or from our Premier Dealers. We’ll take a educated guess at how many copies people might buy direct from us, but once they’re gone, that’s it! So, subscribing is the only way to be sure of getting a copy this time round.

    That Shimano ad is a classic, absolutely love it.
    And RockShox Dukes, yeah ‘d forgotten about them and their ’30mm bushing technology provides unparalleled rigidity’.

    How times change….

    Why did my previous comment on this article get deleted?

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