(Rider Opinion Of The Month)
Every month, or so, we give a team rider carte blanche to sound off, however they see fit. So, you really never know what you're gonna get, except yet another reason to bookmark this site.
GOODBYE MAGAZINES. HELLO BLOG!
First I’d like to say a big thank you to Brent and Ryan for making some kick ass cycling gear, giving me the opportunity to be part of the Twin-Six team and for asking me to do the first R.O.O.T.M.
When Ryan first asked if I’d be interested in writing something I kinda froze up. “What am I gonna write about?” I asked myself. Then the more I thought, the more stuff I started coming up with. If the cliche “opinions are like ***holes” is true than I’m like freaking Swiss cheese.
Should I write about how discovering cycling 10+ years ago helped turn me from a 300 lb. tub o’ goo into a 175 lb. endurance racer? Do I give my thoughts of why the average American motorist seems to hate cyclists sharing the roads with them? Or do I write about how cycling news in the U.S. is reduced to a small blurb in the newspapers and how we’re lucky to even see taped tv coverage of major European road races and NO coverage at all of mountain bike racing, yet “sports” like Paint Ball, Poker and Cheerleading get prime time coverage?
I could go on, but I won’t. I decided to write about the demise of cycling magazines and the advent of Blogs, and not just because I have a blog. I’m writing about them because it’s my opinion that blogs, forums, and similar web pages are way more useful tools in providing information about our sport of cycling, the products we use and the events that we participate in than magazines and other similar media can or will provide.
As an art school graduate and a print media graphic artist I’ve always had a special interest in magazines. I remember drooling over early issues of BIKE Magazine with its cool look, tales of epic riding and sweet photography. I remember buying Mountain Bike Action and cringing because I thought it was the ugliest magazine I’d ever seen, but provided some good info for a “wanna-be racer” like myself. Then there was Mountain Bike before it went to a twice a year “supplement” or whatever the hell it is now, and Bicycling before it became nothing but fluff with it’s pages devoted to telling me what kind of coffee maker I should buy .
Dirt Rag will always hold a special place in my heart since they are published locally, here in the Pittsburgh area, I’ve contributed to them in the past, and done some riding with them too. Plus you have to love the creative forum that they have created for cyclists to have their art, photos and writing published.
Over the years BIKE became mostly photos of riders hurling themselves off cliffs, MBA became the same rehashed articles with the pages devoted to bikes that look more and more like motorcycles, not sure if Mountain Bike event exists anymore, Bicycling is “off my radar” and Dirt Rag, even though I’ll always read it and dig it’s vibe can be a little too “fixed gear, single speed”, for me right now (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
As I got more into racing I loved reading VeloNews but it’s to a little too roadie heavy and plus you can get all that info on their web page, so why buy it? I also really started to dig the magazine Twenty Six since it was heavily devoted to XC racing, but then it promptly went under due to the apparent lack of public interest in XC racing. There are some mags that give some coverage but who wants to read about Sea Otter three months after the fact and pay $4 or $5 to do so?
Now that I’m done with the negative vibes I’ll make with the positives: Cycling Blogs.
Blog culture began for me when I became addicted to reading fellow T6 rider Jeff Kerkove’s blog a couple years ago. He provided (and still does) a well designed web site filled with training information, real world product testing, web links, and fun ride and race reports that weren’t limited by “available editorial space” or what might piss off and advertiser. Jeff’s friendly helpful advice also helped me in my own racing and inspired me to do my first Solo 24 back in 2004 and start my own blog: The Soiled Chamois soiledchamois.blogspot.com in April of 2005.
Along the way I’ve discovered many other cycling blogs that entertain and inform. NORBA pro Jason Sager’s blog (jasonsager.com/blog) continues to be one of the funniest insights into a cyclist “living the life” and Trek pro Nick Martin’s site (ridewithnickmartin.blogspot.com) inspires with stories of life as a 2nd year NORBA pro living and training in Boulder, Colorado.
On the Euro side of things Specialized sponsored World Cup pro Christoph Sauser has a pretty good site called sauserwind.com. It’s more of a full fledge web site devoted to him and his sponsors, but he updates his news / diary section pretty regularly and it makes for a good read.
In the everyday man, cool as eph, faster than shit, and funnier than hell department you have people like FatMarc’s fatmarc.com, Indy Fabrication grass roots racer Jeff Whittingham’s whittingham.blogspot.com, and my fellow Bikeman.com teammate Rick’s racinrick.blogspot.com and Matt’s bucketrepublic.com/blog.
Not to mention Adam’s Epic Riding blog, epicriding.blogspot.com. This one is up there among the best bringing together great photography, good writing that both inspires and informs from the mountains of Utah.
I could go on about all the blogs I read- my friend J.B.’s Love2Ride blog, Andy’s,
Solo Goat’s, Buddy’s etc., But I think you may be getting my point. I recommend checking out bikeblogs.com for a full list of cycling blogs.
With my own site soiledchamois.blogspot.com I make it clear that I’m no pro, I do the best I can and flirt with the podium occasionally, but for the most part I use my blog as sort of a training diary, to entertain and show people that you can keep riding, racing and having a good time even with a full time job, wife and two year old son. Although having a super wife and son like I do sure does help. I also use it as a way to put the word out about my great sponsor Bikeman.com, our team sponsors Salsa, SRAM, Panaracer, Lazer and of course my personal kick ass clothing sponsors Twin Six!!
Don’t get me wrong I don’t believe that blogs are the savior of cycling media, I think that Velonews.com, cyclingnews.com and mtbr.com are kick ass sites worthy of checking out.
I also recognize just like some magazines are hesitant to give negative reviews of products due to the fear of losing advertising dollars, some racers are fearful of giving out negative reviews or views due to sponsorships, but I do think this happens less often since for most of us our financial lively hood does not rely on it.
As “real world” racers and riders who don’t just race the products we use, but train, commute and trail ride with them, many of our sponsor rely on us to say - “this doesn’t fit right, that broke way too soon or this could have been better”.
For most of us, our sponsorships consists of product discounts, so we’re still forking over some dough, just not as much due to the sponsor’s generosity and their confidence in us to get the word out about their products and provide feedback. Since it’s dough none-the-less though I think we’re more apt to talk about a product like we’re talking to a riding buddy.
I think there’s a voyeuristic element to reading blogs too. I find it sort of compelling to read and see how many of us balance racing, training, work and family on a daily basis.
And reading the pros blogs allows us regular folks to dream a little bit and get motivated to get out and ride after before or after work or after the kids are in bed.
I also I think being able to check in with riders and see what they are up to on a daily basis brings our already smaller than you think cycling community even closer together and adds a more human element even though we’re using such an impersonal medium such as computers and the internet.
The ability to comment and leave feedback for each other allows us to interact with each other and with what we’re reading rather than just skim an article, look at a photo and throw away.
I still have dreams that a great cycling magazine will return one day, filled with race reports, results, reviews, stories and great photography. Who knows, maybe I’ll start one someday, but until then I plan to continue getting my blog on.
Thanks for letting me blather on with my opinion. Remember, it’s like they say- “opinions are like….”
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