I’ve been wondering – Part I


It was about 6 and half years ago I took an old bike into my local bike shop (sadly no longer there – Bertie Maffoons) and walked out soon after with a new mountain bike and have never looked back.

However I will be looking back today – as times, technology and Tim have all changed and I have been wondering about mountain bike media/press. This is an area I have tried to become part of with this blog and even getting myself published (twice) and photographed once.

Back a few years ago I was subscribing to 1 magazine a month and buying 1 and sometimes maybe 2 others. Print magazines are having a tough time and in the last few years at least 2 have disappeared that I used to read from time to time; Dirt and more recently What Mountain Bike have gone.   Is this a surprise when we consume more and more of our news and reviews digitally? Lets have a look at it.

Spending £5 and maybe £15 some months on magazines makes a dent in your finances and for what return? Mostly a growing pile of expensive glossy paper I wasn’t reading. Why wasn’t I reading it?

I often found the same and more detailed information on line for free so my magazine purchases slowed. I justified some by subscribing by getting a free gift.  The magazine is practically free, but did I really need another hydration back pack or pump?

Increasingly, editorial articles were either simply not relevant or the same topic was being discussed by different journalists and in different magazines.

  • 10 reasons you need to ride in Utah
  • Why I moved from the city to the country side
  • How to kit out your van for a road trip
  • How to ride drop offs like a pro
  • Which size wheel is best
  • etc

You know the sort of things.  Essentially I was spending £4-5 a month on a magazine that was showing me glossy images of bikes and components that either I couldn’t afford to buy or had no need for. They showed me dream holidays and trips I had no chance of going on due to family commitments and opinions I had heard the month before in another magazine, written by another journalist but with a slightly shorter beard.

I bought my first 3 bikes by going in to a shop and not reading a magazine review

Something a little more “grown up” was available in Singletrack magazine but even here, the content (re)cycle soon comes around and the inevitable £6000 bike and £200 waterproof jacket group tests appear.

Simply put I found the content mostly uninteresting.

Its probably unfair to say this really, but I simply don’t need to read group tests every month. When I’m in need of a new frame, jacket, wheel, tyre, dropper seat post or set of winter gloves I’ll research it and no doubt come across these tests but when I need them.  Heck, I might even buy the magazine to read about it. But I won’t subscribe any longer.

A Classic Ride in Wiltshire with Tom Hutton / Singletrack / oh and that's me!
A Classic Ride in Wiltshire with Tom Hutton / Singletrack / oh and that’s me!

Its not all bad, both MBR and MBUK have regular UK riding features with maps, places to stay, turn by turn instructions etc.  I often check the covers of these magazines to see where this months routes are, and decide to buy the magazine based on the riding destinations. Singletrack also does this with longer more informative articles in the shape of a Classic Ride. This is the sort of content that I seek out, but there simply isn’t enough of it and it looks like even this sort feature could be disappearing.

The February 2018 Issue of MBR will be the last to contain our routes section. Dropping sales have hit editorial budgets … no longer feature in the magazine

– Tom Hutton / MTB Guiding

Simply put though, I found that Singletrack magazine number 113 was arriving on my door mat before I’d even opened issue 112 and read issue 111.

And its not just me that does this and many of my biking friends simply don’t buy magazines at all.

Mountain biking is such a broad and rich subject with so many topics to cover, different types of bike, different types of riders, riders who seek out knowledge, riders who just want to ride, people with deep pockets and those on a budget, those that want to shred down hill and those that want to ride along tow paths.

I’m going to wrap up this post with a short summary, and that is…

There is no longer a mass market for any one mountain bike magazine due to the depth and variety in the sport and its therefore impossible for a magazine to cater for all users.

Is the cover-it-all mountain bike magazine now a niche?

Check out Part II here