Not since Navin Johnson (played by Steve Martin) got overly jazzed about the arrival of the new phone books in The Jerk (a film I’ve referenced as recently as my post Jerks in Cars Messing Up My Bike Rides) has a printed and bound document been quite so anticipated and well-received. Well, maybe that’s kind of a little bit of a possible smidgen or a skosh of hyperbole. Sure, when I became a member of the League of American Bicyclists, and Bicycling was was offered as a perq, I was glad to hear it. Just not jumping around shouting it to the whole street glad — only to my blog readers. Anyway, after four long months of anticipation, the last four weeks or so have brought incessant emails from the publisher but not actual magazine, it finally arrived. Let’s take a look under the hood.
The Look and Feel
Well first, let’s do something we’re told not to: judge a book by its cover. It’s attractive without being too showy. Weighing in at a medium 100 pages, the wider than usual ‘zine was fortunately not spewing forth subscription cards (Men’s Health, I’m talking about you).
Also, the paper feels nice — it’s not totally flat, but it’s not too glossy either. So it’s sturdy but lightweight — like a good road bike. Although once turning them they seemed to develop little tears easily. Look and feel may seem superficial but aesthetics are important to the reading experience. It said to me, “Hey, pick me up and check me out. I’m fun and useful without being boring.”
For some reason, I started reading at the back. Sure, there are a few pages of ads, but not many. (One for pheremones!) And then I found myself drawn into an article that was a portrait of the kind of writing I aspire to: descriptive, emotional, personal, and memorable. It’s the story of a woman whose partner died during a bike race. Really gut-wrenching, but factual and ultimately hopeful. Both about bikes, and really not. You’ll have to read it for yourself to see if you agree. It was lovingly written by Gloria Liu with photographs by Benjamin Rasmussen. I think it’s well worth the cost of the issue alone, but you can be the judge.
The other sections of the book ranged from pictures and descriptions of bicycles, natch, to all kinds of gear, bike history, repair, how to improve your riding, and more. Trying to please everyone from racers to amateurs, roadies, mountain bikers and commuters, is tough.
So yes, there’s a bunch of good information packed in here, which is good, because I don’t think it’s coming out monthly anymore. Yet, for the average utility / commuter bike rider like me, there are probably a few too many products that aren’t in the budget. The recreational / group rider in me does covet better stuff. And the information about better cycling tips is certainly welcome. The other profiles and sections looked interesting, and I’ll spend time reading them all. Overall I think it’s evident that the publishers really know bikes, and love them, and want more people to ride them. Whether that works or not is anybody’s guess. But it made this rider feel more part of a larger sport, which is a cool and unexpected benefit.
Room for Improvement
One thing I noticed: While several features are about women, including one working on her bike, there are not alot of people of color in the pages of Bicycling, at least not in this issue. Especially during Black History Month, you’d think there might be some effort to be more inclusive and have “diversity.” Then again, that’s tokenism. Why is BHM just one month, and the shortest one at that, anyway? One guess: Racism.
A Hearst Magazine published in New York City, one would think it would be a bit more like America. This is national problem is reflected in the privileged white bike “culture” in my city, Austin, too. In my part of town East Austin, I mostly see utility riders who are people of color. They don’t have gloves, helmets or lights, and I don’t think they’re stopping by the library to read the latest issue. I may be wrong on that. But if you don’t see yourself in a media outlet, you’re probably less likely to want to check it out. Just sayin’.
Without having read the entire thing yet, I can’t give a full review. And besides, what one reader gets out of it may not be the same for another. Your mileage may vary, as they used to say. Do they still? I don’t keep up with the lingo. Kids these days! Aargh. But my cursory reading shows that Bicycling is a well-thought out collection of news and views that would benefit even a beginning bike rider. Of course, they also have a website, and all those emails unless you opt out. Who knows? Maybe one day A Dude Abikes will appear in their pages! Don’t hold your breath. Especially while biking. You need that oxygen.
You can check out Bicycling Magazine online.
What did you think of this post? Did it make you want to read Bicycling? Or go on a bike ride? Comment below
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