Bike Magazines v. Bike Blogs

Fixedgear posted a photo of a tired Bicycling Mag cover and that started an impromptu conversation about bike magazines v. bike blogs

“the formula of trotting out the same tired articles over and over again.”

“Compare Bicycling to Cycling Plus or Cycle Sport (both UK products), and you realize how pathetic the grand dame of US cycling mags is.”

What do you think? Are blogs offering more value than mags? Has Cyclingnews ever wrote a critical review?

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11 Comments

In the 14+ years I’ve been on the Internet, there has been a steady progression of letting what magazines subscriptions I had lapse and then not subscribing to any new ones.

For me, it’s a matter of efficiency—the RSS feed almost always trumps the snail mailbox—so apart from the odd gift subscription I get, magazines almost never enter the equation for me anymore. In that sense, blogs definitely offer more value.

Also, I like the customization aspect of the feed collection. I can choose from a plethora of voices on an infinity of topics, as my interests wax and wane. That’s hard to do, not to mention expensive as hell, with magazines.

Finally, if I’m reading offline, it’s almost always books, so there’s little or no room for magazines anymore, no matter what their content.

I don’t read much of Bicycling Magazine anymore, except maybe Style Man. But even that’s rapidly going away in favor of BikeSnobNYC.

Thanks to having family buy Cycle Plus overseas, then mail it back, the price is much better than the $6-$9 you get if you buy the issue stateside. It’s a significantly better magazine, with only two drawbacks: the prices are in pounds, and often reviewed products aren’t available here in the US. Other than that, Bicycling (and to a lesser extent, Road Bike Action and the rest) could really take some notes.

Cyclingnews is good to read press releases and that is about it. Why wait the month for the same thing from a magazine?

Cycling Mags (with the general exception of Dirtrag) are dead. They have been for years. I think they have the same value as People or US, which is pretty much nil. Long live the Borg! Wait I mean long live the blog!

mags like velovision, vbq, and momentum are very enjoyable and informative reads.  blogs sometimes can run stale when people realize the weight of writing non-fluff on a regular basis is more than they can handle.  i get frustrated when blogs degenerate to “filler” and snark for snark’s sake.  recently “the recumbent blog” ended it’s tenure and the author started a new blog (ecovelo) that have kept his insights fresh and material new.  i believe some current blogs should reflect on whether they need to continue or not…the flipside is that the longtail emergence or the bakfiets rise in popularity is best documented by the blog-o-sphere.

lil rant sorry

jorge

Blogs are free and magazines are not.

With both, you have to pick through a lot of fluff to reach the real gems.

Great comments all. @Jorge—blogs are def lots of work and you see that here. We haven’t published a podcast in about a month, but they’re coming back. I’ve noticed formulaic posting from other bike blogs. I think (especially potential advertisers) wonder what we’re doing, cause we mix it up a lot and try different things.  It’s all the same theme, but you may read about the Modal, or Bianchi lust, or commuting, or bike lights.

To me, Bicycling is like reader’s digest and it’s good for plane rides. To their credit, they’ve published exceptionally well done essays, like the series on Africa Bike.

This is a tad unfair to Bicycling. The demographic of that magazine vs. the demographic of most blogs and definitely those specific UK magazines are totally different. Bicycling is a general-interest magazine about sports. It’s designed for the cyclist who is picking up a copy at the airport, as opposed to a blog reader or race fan who is looking for very specific information and topics.

If you were to look at the impact of pubs like Bicycling vs. the impact of blogs, I’d bet you’d see that Bicycling has actually helped convert more people to better riders. On our club rides we often get riders who have upgraded their bikes or riding techniques based on Bicycling articles. I’ve never had someone say “BikeSnobNYC has helped me ride a faster cadence and not get tired as fast.”

Meanwhile, the niche-market pubs (Randoneur, Cog, Dirt Rag, Road, etc.) serve a smaller market.

Now, UK mags are typically better than their US counterparts, partially because they have a smaller audience to serve, and partially because they have to hit lower advertising marks for those lower circulation numbers, and so don’t have to make the topics so broad.

But Bicycling (and Runner, and Backpacker, etc.) have a very specific and useful place in the market.

Gotta go with Whiskeylips on this one.  I used to subscribe to Mountain Bike, Bicycling, and Dirt Rag.  Now, the only one that gets a nickel from me is my beloved Rag.

I think the real problem is Rodale Press and how terrible all their magazines are.  Let’s not forget the pressure for ad sales in the print industry. So most of most of Bicycling reads like advertorial cheerleading. Also there isn’t much incentive to write interesting articles or provocative articles that may not drive newstand sales when the tried and true “Train for a century in five days” and “Lose 10lbs” and “Five foods you must eat to improve everything” reliably sells copy.  Look at any of the cover stories for the other Rodale mags like Runners World, Mens Health, Prevention.  They’re all the same.  The regular editorial talent is also abysmal, I wouldn’t ask any of the regular contributors of bicycling for bike advice at all.  I don’t know if anyone remembers the “Staff Openings” section of Bicycle Guide in the 80’s and 90’s great stuff by people who cared about bikes and could write well.  Remember when a bicycle review included more than headtube/seatube angle and the frame material/weight?  Remember when reviewers actually wrote more than two paragraphs on a bike?  I do, and I really miss those days.

Road magazine is the only one I really like a lot.  Bicycling is still worth subscribing to, since it seems to appeal to casual riders and potential converts—but I don’t really care for it.

Velonews is overpriced—and I’ve only read a couple Road Bike Action magazines, but they were AWFUL. 

Blogs and forums are definitely a better source of information.

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