SPOTLIGHT 

Cycling magazines

Bicycles might have been around for 200 years but they are still in fashion for exercise, transport and fun. Alan Geere takes a tour round the cycling magazines on offer.

By Alan Geere

Cycling magazines
Photograph: Coen van de Broek on Unsplash.

Cycle

What’s it about: ‘The magazine of Cycling UK’ – strapline on cover.

Vital statistics: December 2020/January 2021 issue: 76 pages of 280mm x 210mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. Cover price of £3 and distributed free to Cycling UK members. States a circulation of ‘approx 51,000’. Published bi-monthly on behalf of Cycling UK by James Pembroke Media in Bath.

Cover: Full bleed picture of a young person on a mountain bike illustrating the cover story, ‘Teenage Picks’. One other small image to go with ‘On Test’ and seven further coverlines, including the enigmatic ‘and much more’.

Content: Welcome from editor Dan - ‘This winter is likely to be one of discontent’ – and contents, divided into the prosaic Features, Products and Regulars, all neatly wrapped up on page 3. ‘Great rides’ and ‘Staycation inspiration’ bring the outdoors inside while the cover story is an informative trawl through what mountain bikes are available for 11 to 14-year olds. Gear Up looks at components and accessories, Group Test is just that (workstands) and those trusty regulars of Freewheeling, Weekender and the Cyclopedia Q&A provide quick reads for the hard of concentration.

Digital: The magazine has its own area on the Cycling UK website with the opportunity to flick through a 16-page ‘snapshot’ of the magazine via issuu. No dedicated social media for the magazine although the publisher is on Twitter, with 1,059 followers, and Cycling UK has 58.2k Twitter followers and 32k likes on Facebook.

What they say: “Ride reports come from members and writers who want to share their stories, not journalists on press junkets” – editor Dan Joyce revealing the secrets of the newsroom saddle in a “non-objective assessment” of cycling magazines published in his own magazine.

Verdict: There’s been a members magazine ever since the Bicycle Touring Club was founded in 1878 and with it the first ‘monthly circular’. The Cyclists' Touring Club was rebranded Cycling UK in 2016 and Cycle has been there for the ride ever since. Pleasingly jargon-free but clearly aimed at the serious cyclist – after all they have paid to join the organisation – this approachable magazine will happily take you to places you’ve never been.

Cycling Electric

What’s it about: ‘The ultimate guide to buying an e-bike’ – strapline under masthead.

Vital statistics: Issue 02 (no date, but purchased December 2020): 140 pages of 295mm x 210mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight matt cover, perfect bound. £5.99 cover price. Published by Dennis in London.

Cover: Big picture of a man on a bike to illustrate the cover story, ‘Ride to work’, small picture of an electric scooter which is the prize in a competition, three more coverlines and a masthead won in a lucky dip at the font library.

Content: No less than 10 review sections – from folding to trikes – that give this magazine the feel of an upmarket catalogue. Some beautifully illustrated features of actually doing e-biking as well as thinking about it, help give this cleverly designed product a happy home on the coffee table as well as in the saddle bag.

Digital: Has its own section on the Dennis website cyclist.co.uk with plenty of e-bike specific content. A Twitter account called @CyclElectricMag has posted eight times and gathered 57 followers since a breathless launch on July 1, 2020.

What they say: “I wanted a couple that were physically fit (without being obsessive or overtly so) in their late forties, with a non-cycled related backdrop. Not tagged, urban ‘concrete porn’ either – just a warm, inclusive and relaxed portrait of a couple emitting pride astride their new e-bikes.” – photographer Emile Holba gives an insight into the shooting of the cover pic for the launch issue.

Verdict: These e-bikes are not cheap – the most inexpensive ‘budget friendly’ option is £999, while it’s also possible to spend £6,000 – which gives some clue to the quality and quantity of the sumptuous advertising that adorns this start-up title. An object lesson in seizing an opportunity and Dennis should be proud of how it has turned out.

Cycling Plus

What’s it about: ‘The manual for the modern road cyclist’ – explainer on Twitter page.

Vital statistics: December 2020 issue: 132 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Quality matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, perfect bound. £5.99 cover price. Combined ABC of 27,712 (Jan-Dec 2019). Published monthly by Immediate in Bristol.

Cover: Full bleed picture of a man on a bike surrounded by six neatly packaged coverlines. Even room for an enigmatic quote on the spine for the binder brigade.

Content: Picture-led contents on page 6 before a welcome from the editor and a promo from the technical editor promising ‘bike-buying advice you can trust’. No less than 14 pages devoted to testing just four bikes ‘under a grand’ demonstrates just that commitment to the tests. That aforementioned technical editor pops up again later opening the door of his shed where he keeps the bikes he’s fallen in love with. There’s even room for a book extract from Tour de France champ Geraint Thomas.

Digital: A promo on the spine to Bikeradar.com, the publisher’s all things cycling website, while cyclingplus.com is also still out there with plenty of likeable content. Links to Twitter, with 38.9k followers, despite sporadic activity with only nine posts from end of August to middle of December, and 44.1k likes of Facebook.

What they say: “In his spare time he drives a car and he never rides on pavements and always stops at red lights and only swears at drivers who really deserve it – whether on two or four wheels.” – content director Rob Spedding’s profile as a contributor to HuffPost.

Verdict: Super close-up photography with the bike tests and delightful graphics for the rides shout quality at the turn of every page. Enough to keep enthusiasts of every pocket size happy, only enhanced by the quality advertising that complements the power and grace of the editorial.

Cycling Weekly

What’s it about: ‘Inspired to ride’ – inspirational words tucked into the masthead.

Vital statistics: November 26, 2020 issue: 64 pages of 265mm x 200mm. Gloss paper, self cover, stitched. £3.25 cover price. Combined ABC (Jan-Dec 2019) of 16,838. Published weekly by Future in Farnborough, Hants.

Cover: Big picture of a cyclist labouring up a hill to illustrate ‘Winter riding survival guide’. Two other pictures (one man, one bike) and six coverlines, including this week’s winner: ‘8 pairs of thermal tights tested’.

Content: Editor’s blurb on page 3, followed by news up to page 14. No contents page for guidance so travel through Opinion and Letters to that winter riding cover story which is swiftly followed by the Christmas gift guide. The tights don’t disappoint (Rapha Pro Team for £210, anyone?) while six pages of Generation Z…oom about young race riders is the most space devoted to any topic.

Digital: Neat website with tons of content across news, reviews, videos and even bikes for sale. Links to Facebook, with a whopping 432k likes, 245k followers on Twitter and even 197k subscribers to a YouTube channel.

What they say: “You can pick up the latest copy every Thursday in all good newsagents (and some rubbish ones too).” – magazine does its bit for entente cordiale with the newstrade in the ‘About us’ section on the website.

Verdict: Cycling Weekly has been wheeling them in since 1891, so knows just what keeps those pedal fans happy. Amazing to see them curate so much content on a weekly basis and assemble it in such a readable and orderly fashion. Happy 130th birthday, you deserve a good year ahead.

Cyclist

What’s it about: ‘The road bike site and much more besides’ – explainer on website.

Vital statistics: December 2020 issue: 148 pages of 275mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight matt cover, perfect bound. £5.99 cover price. Combined ABC of 20,702 (Jan-Dec 2019). Published monthly by Dennis in London.

Cover: A picture of two very small (or far away, as Father Ted might say) cyclists on a winding mountain road supporting the only main coverline ‘Alpine dream’. Three items in a strapline and the wide-open acres of the spine populated only by the title and number.

Content: Clearly numbered contents page followed by ‘Ed’s letter’. Kicks off with ‘Gear + Tech’ including a small bottle of stuff to oil the chain for £32 before the sexier section of ‘Pro + Racing’ which is indeed ‘inside the peloton’. Diet and exercise, that Alpine cover story with more delicious pictures, classic climbs, bikes tests and touring around the Scottish highlands all make for a broad church.

Digital: A stylish website has news, reviews and up-to-the-minute helpful hints like ‘How do I get a good night’s sleep before a big ride?’. Links to social media with 31.3k followers on Twitter and 48.1k Facebook likes. Also riding the latest media wave with a podcast free via Apple podcasts.

What they say: “I promise to tweet something soon. Perhaps.” – editor Pete Muir’s profile on Twitter. Since joining in February 2012, number of tweets = 0.

Verdict: Lots to look at, not least the decorous advertising, make this an amiable companion to the rigours of road cycling without having to stir from the sofa. Obviously knows its subject and appreciates its audience with a mature yet lively approach.

Procycling

What’s it about: ‘Inside the world’s toughest sport’ – tagline nestling in the masthead.

Vital statistics: December 2020 issue: 132 pages of 285mm x 232mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight matt cover, perfect bound. £6.20 cover price. Lists a circulation of 13,000 on publisher’s website. Published monthly by Future in Bath.

Cover: Full bleed head and shoulders picture of a smiling double world champion with her hair partly obscuring the masthead, eight other cross-refs and a mention of a challenging piece on deaths in pro cycling.

Content: Preface (very posh!) from the editor, contents page that goes big on the features and then into ‘Gallery’ which showcases three double-page pictures. Gossipy news and other quick reads in ‘Prologue’ before 12 beautifully-illustrated pages on the cover story. Interviews, big race analysis and the thoughtful reflection on when death came to cycle racing offer all facets of the sport.

Digital: Has its own section on cyclingnews.com that offers the full range of news and features plus links to Twitter, with 24.9k followers, and Facebook with a very healthy 150.3k likes. Not forgetting the 66.3k subscribers to cyclingnewstv on YouTube.

What they say: “As well as our standard benefits, we have a number of awesome perks available to our staff including: Unlimited paid time off (yes, you read that right!)” – ad for staff writer gets the sell in early.

Verdict: Living up to its tagline, this bold and beautiful magazine spares no detail in bringing the heights and depths of pro cycle racing to the newsstand. First class journalism aligned to impeccable design and glorious photography make this a must to have in the musette.

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.