It is easy to argue that the digital world dominates mountain bike journalism with blogs, reviews, ride reports, photo essays, and huge social media audiences. However, we still like to get ahold of physical magazines because they do something special: they prioritize. A digital world can pump out new content 24/7, but a magazine only has a limited number of pages. We kicked our feet up for a little summer reading to see how four different editors used those limited pages to move the needle on mountain bike culture and influence consumers.
Mountain Bike Action – July 2017
We initially grabbed Mountain Bike Action off the newsstand because our Boulder neighbor and resale partner The Pro’s Closet is featured. This magazine packs a ton of product tests into each issue. If you are easily overwhelmed by too-much-on-the-page, Mountain Bike Action might not be your go-to for gear reviews. The reviews cover a broader range of manufacturers and price points than comparable publications, so readers will likely find new or useful information. For example, the July issue includes tests of products from Rocky Mountain, Giant, Otso, 6D, Wolf Tooth, Terrene, E*Thirteen, and Northwave, among others. The only reason we didn’t give Mountain Bike Action a 5/5 for Product Info is many of the brands covered in this issue don’t necessarily align with SG’s product mix and core rider audience. One of our biggest complaints? In a heavily image-driven publication, a woman appears only 4 times. Come on, guys. That’s not sexy.
FREEHUB – Summer 2017
With it’s heavy handed paper and sexy cover images, FREEHUB is a more like a soft-cover coffee table book than a traditional magazine. The cover disclaims the book’s community-driven spirit, and the editor follows through from cover-to-cover. Some elementary math reveals the lowest advertising to content of ratio of the magazines we selected. But don’t expect to find any consumer-driven product reviews with technical specs. There are no bike test rides in FREEHUB. We’re okay with that. It is sometimes more wearisome than entertaining to see what new adjectives a writer will use to describe a bike’s pedaling, cornering, or descending.
FREEHUB spans the globe. The issue we are reading introduces us to riders from Idaho to Rotorua. The feature length articles and full page journalistic images really make you long to be a part of the adventure. FREEHUB, much to our delight, is a review of experiences rather than gear.
Bicycling Magazine – July 2017
Bicycling Magazine is unique among its peers as the only publication not exclusively dedicated to mountain biking. And yet there it is – bigger than Dallas – on the July cover: “Best Mountain Bikes of 2017”. Of course we were interested…Bicycling is the most widely read of these magazines. Perhaps we were reading our own press a little, as 4 of the 14 Editor’s Choice [EC] Award-winning machines are currently hanging on the demo fleet hooks at SG. But the EC awards are also transparently politically correct. They spread the love across the industry, with a careful balance of bikes from mega-manufacturers (Specialized and Trek) and boutique brands (Yeti, Pivot, Juliana). The images are pro and the reviews are very brief, but rah-rah. To be fair, Bicycling magazine never claimed to be a mountain bike magazine and we look at it through the lens of a dirt shop. This 14-page feature was worth reading for the photography of the trails in Bentonville.
Dirt Rag – July 2017
Dirt Rag stands it’s ground as a culture-creator in the mountain bike world with a combination of product knowledge, graphic illustration, and humor. Dirt Rag also hosts it’s own festivals each summer, making it a virtual lifestyle brand. With regular columns written by notable riders such as Rebecca Rusch, beer reviews, and advertisers like IMBA and MTB Project, Dirt Rag feels like a magazine written by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. Actually, that’s exactly what it is. In fact we unexpectedly found our own name in this issue!
That was a cool surprise. The content balances op-ed style columns, technical reviews, feature articles, and readers’ photos. The reader who can’t stomach dry humor bordering on an inside joke might not enjoy every page of Dirt Rag, but we certainly did.
One other noteworthy Colorado-based magazine to throw in your carry-on bag this summer is Mountain Flyer. We intentionally did not go on a witch-hunt for advertorial reviews or articles in any of these magazines. Our in-house test riders don’t always agree with every bike or gear review, and we will admit that we value being inspired over being informed. Enjoying to these actual, physical mountain bike magazines is a decision that comes from the same place emotionally as our commitment to shopping local and yielding to uphill riders; all good things to do this summer.