Loving and hating Bicycling Magazine

Back when I first took up “serious” biking, I tried to read a lot of material about the sport, so I could bring myself up to speed quickly. One of my monthly reads was Bicycling Magazine.

Actually, it still is. I read it every month. The trouble is, I can read what I consider the important stuff in less than an hour’s time. Even the featured articles are so short, they often don’t cover more than two pages. And much of those pages are taken up by ads or pictures.

And the teases on the cover — they drive me crazy. Talk about promising more than you deliver! A cover headline that reads, “Stay With the Pack,” will often have no relation to the article title it’s promoting. After skimming the magazine fruitlessly, a search of the table of contents points you to something like, “21 Tips for Getting Faster.” Then, when you finally find the article, those 21 tips are a list, with short descriptions. Usually, some of the tips (many of them?) are so elementary, they even offend the Bike Noob: “Learn to draft.” Ah ha! That means next month, there will be another article on how to draft, and since there are no new breakthrough techniques on drafting to report, the one-page article will rehash stuff you probably know already.

Rodale, the publishing house that owns Bicycling, is feeling the same economic pressures as all media are feeling these days — falling ad revenue. So they laid off 10 percent of their workforce last week, or 111 people. I don’t expect the look of the magazine to change much, since a lot of it seems to be done by formula anyway, as these three covers suggest:


“OK Herb, just plug in the ‘Get Lean Now’ headline on the cover again this month. We’ll hold off on the ‘Great Abs’ headline with the picture of the good lookin’ girl in the unzipped jersey until next month.”

abs“Wait a second, Herb. When you do the abs cover, let’s not be sexist about it.”

cplusThere are alternatives. In my opinion, the British magazine Cycling Plus delivers a lot more solid information each month than Bicycling. The ride reports are well written, with terrific maps and good pictures. Of course, all the rides are in the British Isles, and it’s not likely I’ll get over there anytime soon. And its big drawback is the $10 news stand price here in the U.S.

Ah, what the heck. I know darn well what the weaknesses of Bicycling are. But I still find myself looking forward to picking it up every month. I’m part of that “old media” generation that likes to hold pages in its hands when reading, instead of squinting at a flickering computer monitor. I suppose the evolving media landscape will solve my dilemma for me — when Bicycling and just about every other print publication adopts online as its only delivery platform.


  1. Bryan says

    Couldn’t agree more. I find that as I search for information or inspiration it print form it is getting hard to come by. There are hardly any good cycling books to be found. Indeed it seems that Lance Armstrong is the most prolific writer of cycling-related books and I’ve read and re-read everything he’s written. The internet has provided relief in the form of blogs such as this one. Wonder where it will go form here?

  2. says

    Wow. You did a great job putting all the similar covers together! I knew Bicycling had a tendency to be redundant, but that locked it in for me. Great post.

  3. says

    Great post. Bicycling magazine get their money from advertising, so we as the consumer have more ads and less articles. I agree that the articles pose little insight and I’m left feeling a little empty. On the other hand, I still race to the store to get the latest copy.
    Some of the European mags are fantastic but here in Canada I’m looking at a minimum of $15 an issue. That hurts the wallet.

  4. says

    Hey Noob

    If Bicycling mag isn’t really your thing, have a look at MOMENTUM magazine, available as a free download from http://www.momentumplanet.ca
    Published in Vancouver, BC it focusses on everyday, transportation cycling and has quite a bit of variety in its articles.
    If you like it, a mention on your blog would be appreciated.

  5. Dana says

    Bycling Magazine has become the Cosmopolitan of the biking world. The same headlines (as you so cleverly pointed out) and the same sort of covers.

    Occasionally I’ll mention a recent article I read in this publication to a friend of mine who also has a subscription. Then she’ll make the tragic mistake of asking me what’s on the cover. I typically respond, “A girl/guy on a bike”. Yes, the all look alike.

    Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade to Velo News, Cycling Sport America, or Road [Journal Magazine], or even all three??

  6. says

    Bicycling isn’t near the magazine it was 10 years ago. Back then they fired all their staff and brought in a new crew. They turned it into a magazine to appeal to the 20 something extreme sport male. As Dana said it is the cosmo of the biking world. They sell sex as much as anything.

  7. mildstallion says

    When I first ventured to my old LBS (RIP 3-D Cycles), the staff there told me that Bicycling was the People Magazine of bike publications.

    While I will peruse their online site from time to time (I like the Boulder report blog), the print version is a waste of cash.

  8. says

    For me, it’s the “new gen” writers such as yourself that help keep me motivated. As a fellow noob, I often find it inspiring to read other cyclists’ riding experiences. I’ll be most disappointed if web writing gets reduced to a few token paragraphs, accompanied by large product advert’s, just as you described for BICYCLING magazine.

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