When the pile of cycling magazines by my chair got so big that it toppled over I thought perhaps it was time for a bit of a sort out. In these days of internet blogs and forums you could be forgiven for thinking that the humble magazine has had its day. Who submits technical queries to a magazine and waits a month or so for a reply when you can ask on a forum and have a dozen replies by the end of the evening? I can spend hours on internet cycling sites but you can’t read them on a bus, train or plane or curl up and read them with a nice mug of tea in the same way that you can with a magazine. I do eventually clear them out and distribute them to other members of the Wayfarer Cycle Touring Club.
So just what have I got in my pile?
A fair assortment!
I’ve had a subscription to this for several years but its changed a lot recently and not for the better. At one time this had quite a broad coverage including touring and retro articles in amongst its main diet of sportives, new bikes and kit. Now its coverage is exclusively sportives, pro racing and eye wateringly expensive bikes and kit. Its handy if you feel the need to justify your expenditure to your other half ‘Look dear, I’m so frugal, my custom bike cost less than this pair of wheels!’ but its way beyond the reach of most people.
It may be better titled ‘Men’s Cycling’. The current issue arrived this morning and its not until page 163 that you get any suggestion that women ride bikes too – a mention of the female member of ‘Team Cycling Plus’. Women obviously don’t buy cycling clothes either. There are reviews of 16 bib longs and 16 winter jackets – all for men. Maybe they intend to do a feature on women’s clothing in another issue but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I wrote to them about this but they didn’t reply or publish my letter.
There are still items of interest and there have been a couple of good free gifts but I won’t be renewing my subscription.
The new kid on the block. I wasn’t too impressed with this when it first appeared – all sportives and bikes you could buy on the Cycle to Work scheme but its gradually become my favourite magazine. The tagline ‘For Cyclists by Cyclists’ does seem to be true. It goes out of its way to be inclusive, with women frequently pictured on the front cover and good reviews of womens kit as well as mens. I’m just waiting for them to have an appealling offer for taking out a subscription.
Once essential reading for all club cyclists, ‘the comic’ now concentrates heavily on sportives and pro racing with little mention of the UK time trialling scene that was once its life blood. This is the one I flick through in Smiths, but very rarely buy.
I once had a subscription to this too but its arrival was a very hit and miss affair and when I last phoned them about it they had no record of me ever having had a subscription at all! I do like this magazine, it has a much less commercial feel than the others and is more geared towards touring and leisure riding. Unfortunately you don’t get many pages for the price and you can read similar articles on CycleSeven for free! I buy it occasionally but generally just read the most interesting bits in Smiths!
Magazine of the CTC. Unfortunately tries to please everyone and generally ends up pleasing no one. When it sticks to its original ethos of touring and touring bikes its an enjoyable read.
I’ve only bought one issue of this but I was quite taken with it. Its published quarterly but it is only available through a few bike shops or has to be bought online. This is a very different magazine to all the others. It contains no adverts, is printed on matt paper and writers are not paid for their contributions. It has some lovely quirky artwork and photographs. I particularly liked the series of photos of Indian cyclists posing proudly with their huge machines. The introduction to Issue 5 claims ‘it will seduce with the whirr of spokes and the hum of tyres on open roads. From Africa to Goa, from New Orleans to Guatemala, from the Appalachians to the pulse of London beats, all the way to your very own backyard.’
I’ve often toyed with the idea of a subscription to Bicycle Quarterly but as its an American magazine the postage costs almost as much as the magazine itself. I recently discovered that single issues can be bought in the UK although it still works out at £7.50 an issue. I think its worth it. That gets you 70 odd pages of solid text and excellent photos with no advertising. Test reports are very detailed and scientific. Its main focus though is custom bikes, particularly those in the French randonneuring tradition and I particularly enjoyed Part 1 of Jan Heine’s quest to build his ultimate custom bike. Obviously not everyone has the same tastes or wants a bike for the same purposes but I found his attention to detail astonishing and there are some sumptuous photographs (black and white). If, like me, you share the editor’s retro tastes this has to be worth buying and as its quarterly the annual expenditure does work out less than on monthly magazines!
I hadn’t realised there is such a range of cycling magazines out there. Unfortunately there is no one perfect magazine so I suppose the pile by my chair will just grow and grow!