On Friday December 28 I got an email from Maurice Tierney, publisher of Bicycle Times and DirtRag magazines, regarding the status of Bicycle Times.
Bicycle Times spawned from our mountain bike magazine, Dirt Rag, in 2008, right into the economic recession. Much of the staff of Dirt Rag were commuting to work a lot at the time. We were covering non-mountain bike topics in the Rag and trying to live the full Bike Life in Pittsburgh, PA. It looked like a good time to launch a spinoff magazine to cover all aspects of bicycling and cycling culture. We felt the other magazines were a bit too obsessed with how to be a roadie, how to get six-pack-abs, and what to consume. Ugh.
We planned a fresh approach. We wanted everyone to live in these “Bicycle Times.” We wanted more butts on bikes, less competition, and more fun! We coined the phrase “Your Everyday Cycling Adventure” because that’s the way we wanted to see the world. A fun, positive adventure. Every day.
Some people “Got it.” Others did not. Many marketing budgets remained focused on racing, and we had to explain what the magazine was about, meanwhile, the media landscape was changing. Huge thanks to those companies who did get it and supported us with advertising. Ads pay the bills, in case you didn’t know. And of course, thanks to all our readers who gave us a shot, whether you got it from the get-go, or found us in our waning years. We hope you got enjoyment out of our passion project.
Here we are eleven years later. It’s been a great run, but for 2019 we’re going to focus solely on Dirt Rag Magazine. Yes, Dirt Rag is a “mountain bike forum.” But it’s much more, and now we get to bring back the content that originally inspired the new frontier back into the print and web pages of Dirt Rag, where it all began. If you are into adventure, bikepacking, camping, fiction, good times, fun reading, and general editorial excellence, we hope you’ll try us out.
This wasn’t really surprising to me, since in my eyes Bicycle Times ceased to exist about two years ago, when they shut down the print version and went strictly online. Part of this feeling was due to me liking print bicycle magazines. And yeah, most of it was because my comic contributions to Bicycle Times stopped when they went online-only. It was nice having my comic out in the world every couple of months, and getting paid for it wasn’t bad either.
Nevertheless, Bicycle Times was great in its day, and I enjoyed being a part of it. And DirtRag lives on, and will incorporate the “Bicycle Times” content back into its print edition, just like it was ten years ago.
But it’s not just them: Momentum Magazine, another bicycle publication I contributed to, has been MIA for a few years as well. The last known issue came out in fall 2015 (ironically about the same time as the last Bicycle Times.) Unlike Bicycle Times, there was no announcement about the print cessation, and there’s still no indication on the website. There appears to be new web content, but it looks generic and anonymous (no author), most likely its just branded content to pay some bills and keep the website going. For what reason, I don’t know.
The slow death of Momentum was more saddening to me than the demise of Bicycle Times, mostly because I knew the folks behind Momentum a lot better than those at Bicycle Times. Most of my interaction with BT was via the internet with people I never met (though their last editor, Adam Newman, lived in Portland and I did meet him), whereas I knew the folks behind Momentum personally before I even started working for them. I hung out with them any time I visited Vancouver, BC.
And Momentum’s trajectory was a lot more…interesting, shall we say. Whereas Bicycle Times conveyed mostly the same message throughout its run, Momentum definitely evolved. When it came out in the mid-aughts, Momentum was a “funky” bike mag centered around the types of city bicyclists I knew and loved. It had this “We’re all in this together, so let’s party” vibe. Around the end of the past decade, the original editor Amy Walker stepped down and the new guard changed its focus to what I’d call an “Aspirational Urban Cyclist Fashionista Lifestyle” outlook. Gone was the funkiness. In was a lot of fashion spreads, city profiles, “new product” features with no reviews (vs. the product reviews of old), and more bits about (or by) a particular man from Copenhagen. Also gone: my comics. I was probably too “funky” for this new direction, alas.
And yeah, it stung. It wasn’t necessarily the pay (it was never much), but the feeling of being a part of something, especially something I wanted to be a part of. And Momentum gave me a full page to play with, something I didn’t have before or since.
It’s been almost ten years since I contributed to Momentum, and about three since I contributed to Bicycle Times. I still get people who say they read my comics in either mag. And it would be nice to be able to contribute a comic to a magazine again.
Should I really be surprised? The death of print media has been talked about for the last twenty or so years, when the internet took off. I’m mildly surprised that there are still bike magazines out there. I like Adventure Cyclist and have been known to read an occasional issue of Bicycling. There’s of course Bicycle Quarterly. But while these three magazines have some aspects of “city” cyling covered, none of them concentrate on it.
It’s even more amazing when a new print magazine comes about. Bikepacking.com just put out The Bikepacking Journal. It looks cool, but its steep price ($68 for a membership) means that only the truly devoted are going to get their hands on it. I might consider a membership if I was more a backpacker (and less broke.) Same goes for subscribing to Bicycle Quarterly: I’m only tertially interested in French bikes, low trail, 650B, or Jan Heine in general, so I’ve never plunked down the $36 for a subscription. I understand that there’s a lot of work in putting out the magazines above, and not a lot of money in making a print magazine these days. So please do not interpret what I said as they are “wrong”. But it brings me back to my original point: It would be nice to see a general interest urban bicycle publication again, especially on a newsstand.
In any case, I’d love to draw comics and illustration for a magazine again. If you know of any looking for comics, let me know!