12 Things That Mountain Bike Magazines Need To Stop Doing

by 42

Oi! Stop it!

The response to our ‘Ten things the bike industry needs to stop doing’ feature a couple of years ago has been very good, with readers outraged and in agreement in equal measures. So, just because we like giving the hornets’ nest a prod every now and again, we thought we’d respond to one of the comments on there from cynic_al who suggested we need to do a ‘Ten things magazines need to stop doing’. Given that his article never appeared, we’ve taken it on ourselves to get the ‘Mirror of Truth’ out and see if we can admit to a few failings here and among our peers. We hope you enjoy it… 

Dirt Rag. They won’t be bothering you any more

Number One: It’s 2020

Harping on about the Glory Retro Years. In order to remember the glory days of Tinker and Tomac and chainstay-mounted U-brakes, you need to be at least 45 years old, which makes you a bit of a has-been already. Those were the days of cantilever brakes that didn’t work, tyres made of hard plastic and pudding bowl helmets. Get with it, grandad! There’s much better stuff going on right now.

It’s John Tomac, not a deity, OK?

Number Two: Deifying Riders.

It’s not all about Peaty, Peron and MacAskill you know? Just because they’re the quickest this week, or they have the best #shredits doesn’t mean you have to feature them Every Single Feature. It’s not that there aren’t a load of other great personalities and bike riders, racers and bike people out there. Where’s the John Peel fanzine version to the Top40 of the glossy magazines?

danny macaskill
OMG! It’s DMacA!

Number Three: The Mouthpiece

Being the mouthpiece of the bike companies. Seeing everyone come out with the same press release with the same information on the same day is getting a bit dull. Don’t you do any proper journalism any more? Where are the scoops and the industry insider leaks? 

Not that kind of Scoop

Number Four: Not Everyone Has A Bike Journo Shed

Assuming everyone has a bike shed full of top shelf spares to play with. It’s all very well for you to talk about the merits of different 12 speed chains, or to play with three different widths of carbon bars. Most of us are riding around on ten speed Deore. And the next time someone says ‘Oh, I just reached into the giant box of free tyres and swapped treads on my carbon rims…’

Oh this old stuff? I just keep it around because I like the colour of the boxes

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Number Five: Where Are The Women?

Ignoring women. There are plenty of female mountain bikers out there, so why aren’t there any on your pages and staff rosters? If half of the mountain bikes are being bought by women, they don’t want to see sweaty blokes on every page. And don’t get us started by noticing how white everyone is…

Fort William World Cup 2017
Bloke, bloke, bloke, lass, bloke, bloke, bloke, bloke…

Number Six: Too Much Glamour

Always focussing on the exotic locations. No, we’re not all off to Whistler this summer like you are. We’re going camping in Wales. Having magazines full of exotic sunsets over places we’re never going to visit isn’t inspiring, it’s depressing!

whistler for mortals
That’s not Scotland! I want to see photos of where I live

Number Seven: Not Enough Glamour

Always featuring some dull woods or a quarry in England. Where’s the glossy magazine inspiration? We don’t want to see the same Surrey corners or Lee Quarry drops. We want exotic sunsets in Whistler to inspire us! There’s enough dull riding to be seen out the window.

That’s not Whistler! Where’s the glamour in that?

Number Eight: Going With The Standards

Ignoring the price of things. No one buys a new bike every year. How can you review six different SuperBoost wheelsets when we’re all on 142mm (that you told us then was the best wheel standard in the world…) Do more £500 bike tests and forget the £500 handlebars and GPS units…

syncros carbon silverton wheels scott spark
Ooh, no, it’s all about Super Extra Boost now, didn’t you hear?

Number Nine: What a waste

Ignoring the environmental impact of our sport. Yes, we’re riding push bikes, but what about the raw materials used, the carbon fibre we can’t recycle and the endless trips in the company VW T6 up and down the M4 to do all of those shoots at BikePark Wales? Not to mention flying off to California and the Alps a few times a year to get that one shot… 

But where does it all go?

Number Ten: You Print Magazines On Paper?

Printing magazines on paper. Don’t you know that the world’s gone online? Why are you still chopping down trees to print stuff months after we could have just read it on an iPad screen while simultaneously watching Celebrity Bake-off?

That’s a lot of wallpaper…

Number Eleven: Catch My Drift, Moto-Bro?

Talking like you’re from California/the Pacific Northwest/14 years old. ‘We’re stoked to see the gnarly trails being shredded by the sick cool dudes, man. Steeze’. You’re from Kent, you numbskull.

Pic from Skidsville. Look it up. It’s awesome, er, bro…

Number Twelve: Stop Making Lists!

Stop making lists of ten, twelve, twenty things that annoy us. You know that we never read this kind of thing…


Comments (42)

    Agreed, Though I enjoy a feature about a drizzly day in the lakes more than one about some exotic place I’m never gonna get to, find it more relatable. Paper over screens everytime for me as well, love thumbing through a good magazine or book.

    Read Mike Berners-Lee. You’d have to read a lot of paper magazines before the co2 impact is worse than making/purchasing/packaging/daily charging an ipad (or other electronic device)…quite apart from the server farms providing the Internet from which to download said content….

    The magazine is like a lovely little novella through the letterbox. A moment of tactile joy…

    Guilty as charged, but I’m still dreaming of dusty trails in Spain looking down on a high flying eagle with the sun reflecting off the Med whilst the blood dries on my shins….show me the world outside of mine.

    I’m lucky to ride the Vosges & Black Forest most weekends, with semi regular trips to the Alps.
    I’m always more than happy to read about those small corners of the UK that I’ll probably never get to ride, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
    As for the mag proper, I read all the web content on a daily basis, check the classifieds, contribute to the forums occasionally, but always, always read the mag in paper form. Have some downloaded for airports etc. but realised fairly early on that it wasn’t the same thing.
    As for the female riders & contributors, yes, we need more, but then Singletrack are leading the way there too.
    The other mags, not so much…no matter what they tell you on social media.
    Just keep on doing what you’re doing!

    Oh & being the wrong side of 45, maybe not a Deity, but ‘Tomes’ is still a bona fide Legend…always will be. 😉

    Another: Avoiding criticising products. We’ve all had completely duff products – hardly ever picked up by the magazines beforehand.

    I agree with it all except the magazine side. I subscribe to three MTB publications including Singletrack. Singletrack is by far the nicest magazine to thumb through. The iBooks download misses so much out! I need my glossy image-packed magazine fix! Keep up the good work.

    The wrong side of 45? How about staring down the barrel of 65? Pardon me for not feeling upbeat but when your E Bike tries to kill you then a few days later you get a ride in an Ambulance with chest pains reality hits the fan with a resounding splat! I’m actually so old some bikes are now more expensive than our first house

    Love reading the exotic locations, the travel and adventure articles/features are the first things I read in the mag. I consider Singletrack an outdoors/adventure mag that happens to concentrate almost exclusively on bicycles. Product reviews I can read on line.

    Far fewer reviews of high end kit and more of the kit that people not in the bike trade can afford. Fanny packs – include the cheapo’s along side the EVOC £110 job etc.
    How about a test of forks from one range – ie. basic pike, more expensive and top end, with guest punter testers so we get a real unbiased verdict on the real world benefits of the top end over the more basic options. It must be hard to think of original features to write, I don’t envy you that task.

    I love the uk based routes, especially with Maps.

    Well, at 65 I am not so much a has been, as a never quite was. It is some years since I had a jolly weekend in the coronary care unit, and indeed contrived to set off the cardiac arrest alarm 3 times ( and caused consternation when I sat up and told the medical team to bugger off).
    I think your main sin is in promoting kit that is ridiculously expensive, but advertising being what it is I don’t suppose you have much choice.

    Remember your a bike magazine. We’re not all interested in coffee or many of the so called lifestyle stuff. If I want to read about coffee or craft beers etc then I’m sure there are magazines catering for those interested. I realise it’sa tough year but i don’t really care about cargo bikes our step though schwins. I’m sure their owners love them but you are a mountain biking magazine.

    Had a digital only subscription, I upgraded to print & digital because I missed reading the actual magazine.

    “but i don’t really care about cargo bikes our step though schwins. I’m sure their owners love them but you are a mountain biking magazine.”
    We’ve not had any coffee or cargo bikes in the magazine. The website, well, that’s free to read and it covers a wide range of interests. The paper magazine just has mountain bikes in it.

    I rather like coffee and beer. And can afford to try a few more of them than £7k bikes.

    Maybe I should upgrade my subs to add on beverages.

    Pork pie* reviews would be worth an article too. From grey nasty petrol station ones, through the quality farm shops at the services at Glawster and Killington, and something if a classic benchmark from Melton.
    Cured ham in it or not ? Mild or peppery? Worthiness of being stashed in the camelbak for mid ride snack of delight, or left on the chiller isle shelf.
    (* vegan options NOT available)

    If I start wearing a frock to work, and shave, and start to practice personal hygiene… I think the Singletrack staff Male:female ratio might flip to a somewhat unconvincing mainly female.

    There’s one thing I think ST does pretty different than the rest of the bike media: you guys/gals write from a blue collar’s perspective. Even when you get to throw a leg over 10k dream bikes a lot more often than the rest of us, you reckon we don’t all need top-shelf stuff to enjoy the trails.

    The sport is becoming more and more exclusive, both on the bikes and the equipment departments. Finding a pair of decent bike shoes for less than a hundred bucks or a pair of riding shorts in the same price bracket is getting harder and harder every year.

    I get it, MTB is in the “disposable income” column of almost everyone’s budget, but living in a third world country the ladder is getting steeper every single year. As you say, most of the folks our there don’t change their bikes or equipment every single year, and I believe most of us do think a bit about where are we going to spend our hardly earned salary.

    “We’ve not had any coffee or cargo bikes in the magazine.”
    You definitely had the e-cargo bike in the lockdown edition. For understandable reasons that were explained, and it was IMHO the best head to head test article I’ve ever read.

    @chipps Amanda‘s e cargo bike was in the lockdown issue

    This month we have articles on gravel bikes, and a rambling column about lockdown and Tictok and going vegan

    Shame I never saw that invite to write this article…

    It is the quality of the writing over the location that makes an article interesting for me. It needs to be a story and, if I remember rightly from my English Literature classes at school (O’ Levels and not GCSEs, so that dates me), the ending must be linked to the question that was posed at the begining. So, forget the, ‘Day One, we rode over this gnar. Day Two we did some more of the same with our rad mate Cheesy Dave ’cause he’s a dude’ and keep up the interesting well written tales wherever they may be focused.
    In the latest edition I particularly enjoyed the bothy article and the recounting of the Moroccan race by single speed.
    Keep up the good writing on paper and I’m will stay with you.

    I saw a comment earlier. Mountain bikers drive two hours ride for one hour and drive two hours, no mention where the coffee and cake came in

    “This month we have articles on gravel bikes, and a rambling column about lockdown and Tictok and going vegan”
    All sounds more interesting to me than Ohlins new damper or a £900+ fork test, tbh. Fat tyred bikes off-road is a wonderful world full of varied and/or interesting people and all the satellite stuff is fair game. A good writer makes it interesting.

    I’m guessing you know your readership but I’m another 62 year old. I started mountain biking in 1993 on a rigid steel Rockhopper. Strangely I’m not sure what I like in a mountain bike “magazine”. I guess I also like good writing. I guess I like to be inspired to try something new even if I never do it, and I think I like to read about someone else’s experience of horrible rides in a Scottish winter. I also like to hear opinions on the latest kit, and sometimes I even buy a new bike. So I’m not really sure what you’re doing right but I keep on reading!

    Re your 12 things; I think the most important is sustainability. I know I’m being an environmental hypocrite each time I buy something new but it would be good to hear for example an informed opinion on whether my next tyre should be a European-made Continental rather than a Taiwanese-made Maxxis.

    But keep up the good work.

    I do love the way the magazine feels in your hands and the quality of the paper. It just feels nice

    Well I think its a Cracking Magazine Oh and I’m on the wrong side of 70
    Built in the 40s ‘most’ parts still in working order

    Singletrack has done a brilliant job in not becoming an ebike mage, like all the others! For that reason its still the only mag I buy.
    only thing that bugs me is the price of some of the kit…like all the sunglasses well over £100… Mtb glasses get scratched,broken,crashed and sat on, I certainly can’t afford £190 pocs …as for lens distortion, what a crock, you’re riding a bike, not performing microsurgery! Love you anyway.

    “The sport is becoming more and more exclusive, both on the bikes and the equipment departments.”
    And yet entry level bikes are getting SOOO good! The same goes for gear. In the same way that digital cameras (including those on phones) now have enough pixels and features to become ‘good’, even the cheapest of mountain bikes would outperform the top machines we struggled on in the early nineties. It’s not all bad, by any means!

    “Shame I never saw that invite to write this article…”
    You’re welcome to write me the ‘proper’ version of this, any time. It’ll save me trying to imagine what our critics think. I’m sure you know my email address, Al 🙂

    The only thing that niggles me is when the word from the editor is just a “Coming up in this issue”, but you don’t do that, so it’s all good.

    There are a lot of things I like about the mag and the website, and some of them have already been said above, so I shan’t ramble on. One thing that gets me every time, though, is when I read an article about something I didn’t think I would find interesting, and I do.

    I agree with this:

    ““This month we have articles on gravel bikes, and a rambling column about lockdown and Tictok and going vegan”
    All sounds more interesting to me than Ohlins new damper or a £900+ fork test, tbh. Fat tyred bikes off-road is a wonderful world full of varied and/or interesting people and all the satellite stuff is fair game. A good writer makes it interesting.”

    Well written articles about riding bikes off road is what I’m interested in. If I want to find out about a new damper I’ll look it up on the internet.

    Singletrack is the only MTB I look forward to reading these days. I love the quirky article and the fact that it hasn’t gone down the macho gnar route of most of the other mags.

    I realise all mags rely on advertising, so can’t upset the manufacturers too much but I would love more reporting of long term pit falls of equipment. One example that springs to mind was Avid Juicy brakes – at the time all the mags gave them rave reviews. Not long after we discovered that in general they didn’t stand up to real world use, and even received criticism from the mags when the next generation appeared. Some of us can’t afford to replace kit every year, and so some honest reviews are important.

    I fear that you’ve just added that bit about printing to prepare us for you stopping to print 🙁

    Magazines come on paper. There’s no such thing as a digital magazine, that’s just a website. And I like websites fine, but I don’t pay for ’em.

    I’m a total convert to e-readers for books but it’s something that just can’t (currently) replicate the job print does.

    Do more £500 bike tests and forget the £500 handlebars and GPS units…

    You’ve been telling us (and dismissing those who disagreed) for years that no one wants to read about cheaper stuff.
    Not because entry level stuff was getting better, but because the ultra expensive stuff was ‘inspirational and aspirational’.

    Talking like you’re from California/the Pacific Northwest/14 years old….

    There’s a u in favourite.
    And you still use the term ‘swap out’…..

    I was about to comment on the lack of low end bike reviews and the general industry trend for making expensive bikes, but I thought I’d check my sources before starting. Like @neilblessitt I began mountain biking in 1993, but on my dad’s 1986 Saracen Kili Flyer, my first mtb purchase was a bottom of the range Orange P7 in about 1997 at £650 (I think!) – that’s about £1,200 in today’s money according to the BoE inflation calculator. Orange currently offer the Zest 26 for £1000 so on that basis (and pitiful sample size!) the industry is still offering lower priced good bikes. Couldn’t find a review of the Zest on Singletrack, but judging by the comments on here the readership may not include many youngsters..?

    I used to subscribe to Singletrack but now I subscribe to Cranked. There’s a few reasons for this:

    – I find Singletrack a bit repetitive in terms of format and after reading the mag for a few years it got a pretty boring.

    – I find some of the writing a bit self-indulgent.

    – I got the impression from the mag and the forum that Singletrack isn’t aimed at younger riders. I’m not a 60-year-old dentist with an Audi so it’s not for me.

    On a positive note the design and photography is always brilliant – every time I received an issue I was excited by the cover and photography.

    Apologies for being negative this is just the honest feedback of a former subscriber. I genuinely wish you every success and hope to be tempted back in the future.

    I’m 38 and remember Tinker though. And Tim Gould with his rumoured scalextric that ran around the upper floor of his house.

    I’m the ‘right’ side of 45 and remember Tomac, Tinker and U-brakes. My younger brother would remember them too.

    Love it!! From the comments here you hit the nail on the head! And please *always* keep doing inky print (as well as the digital things), it’s a fearless physical manifestation of thought, art, informed insight & opinion, it’s a beautiful, perfectly-proportioned object created with expertise & care, and will never run out of juice or lose signal. Much like our beloved bikes!

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