We were very sad to hear over the weekend that the iconic and influential American magazine, Bike, had closed its doors, magazine and website, along with its stablemates (and equally influential magazines) Powder and Surfer.
Bike Magazine launched in 1994 and last year celebrated a 25th birthday. Powder started in the early 1970s and Surfer another decade before that. Over 100 years of magazine history was closed in a single day.
To say that Bike Magazine was influential, both personally and professionally on Singletrack would be an understatement. As a reader, Bike was the first mountain bike magazine to look beyond the ‘What’ and ‘How’ of our sport and to look at the ‘Why?’. It showed that mountain biking was more than a trend or a niche, that it could be a lifestyle to live by too. And along the way, it introduced us to writers and photographers that would go on to become (mountain biking) household names. Writers like Mike Ferrentino, Stevil Kinevil, Rob Story and Bob Roll entertained, informed and amused, while the photographers helped push the level of mountain bike photography to an art. Bike introduced us to pioneering visionaries like Sterling Lorence, Paris Gore and Dan Milner and, along the way, ‘discovered’ previously unheard of riding scenes like Vancouver’s North Shore. Bike followed those new, exciting riders as they continued to push what could be done on a bike and helped pave the way for events like Red Bull Rampage to happen.
Bike was also good at looking at the ‘Who’ as well as the ‘Why’ and its stories were as important as the photos that accompanied them. Back when I worked for MTB Pro magazine, our publisher decided that the magazine needed a re-design to pep its look and feel up for a modern rider, or somesuch nonsense. I can remember walking into the meeting room and slapping a copy of Bike on the table. “Make it like that” I said. And the revamped Mountain Bike World owed many cues from those early issues of Bike. And, as Singletrack lore has it, the eventual sudden closure of Mountain Bike World by its spreadsheet-focussed publishers (to the dismay of its readers, who loved it) helped inspire a collection of friends to start a website, ‘GoFar-MTB’ to replace the hole left by that much-missed magazine. GoFar-MTB then reorganised a couple of years later and launched a magazine called Singletrack and its singletrackworld.com website too.
We’ve always looked to Bike for inspiration and have been delighted when we’ve been able to employ writers and photographers who’ve graced their pages. Unfortunately, in the modern world of shrinking profits and a million different ways in which to spend marketing money, magazines are genuinely hard work and a true labour of love. Explaining that to an accountant who only sees those years of culture and reputation as either a positive/profitable box on a spreadsheet, or a red/negative warning sign is a hard thing to do. And the bigger the company that owns you, the smaller that box gets.
I’ve banged on about it in the past, but it always bears repeating: If you like something and you want it to be around next year, whether that’s a record shop, or a coffee shop, or a bakery, a band, a pub, a corner shop or a cycling magazine, then try to spend some of your disposable income in their direction. It’s no good bemoaning the closure of your local bike shop when you get all of your components by mail order, or being sad that you can’t buy coffee beans on a Sunday from the cool little coffee shop when you’ve spent the last month buying coffee from the Costa as it was a tiny bit cheaper.