The last couple of months have seen a new entry to the pantheon of cycling magazines, with Cyclist, a magazine that promises to deliver the ‘thrill of the ride’ and is apparently based out of answers from a questionnaire that asked people ‘why do you ride a bike?’ Answers apparently included ‘to annoy Dail Mail readers’ but eventually settled on more conventional issues. However, the cycling magazine market is rather crowded already, with various titles already well established, and so it will be interesting to see if Cyclist can break into it, especially when cynical eyes will see it as simply having jumped on the bandwagon of cycling’s current UK popularity. So I thought it might be interesting to do a few little reviews of the top UK titles to see which is the best.
Tag Line: ‘The UK’s best bike magazine’
In a nutshell: Life teaches you to always be suspicious of anything that calls itself ‘the best.’ As we shall see, Cycling Weekly certainly isn’t the best magazine in the UK, but its still reasonable quality – it gives a good digest of the weeks cycling news, as well as bite size chunks of training advice and technical information, as well as the occasional feature every month or so to aid the flow. Unfortunately, like their sister publication Cycle Sport, they are essentially indebted to Team Sky for any professional racing insight, having appeared to have lost interest in other teams ages ago. Whilst less biased then their chums at Cycle Sport, they still have a healthy love in with the Sky boys and a thinly veiled dislike for Americans and Spaniards. All in all though, its ok.
Value for money: It’s weekly, so it’s not hundreds of pages, but there’s enough to occupy you if you read a bit for 15 minutes during breaks to last for the week. The price fluctuates, with the Tour issues, which this year were laboriously dragged out for 6 weeks as ‘special editions’ with ‘specials’ that just rehashed the previous weeks, then added in the Olympics as well for good measure. At these points it goes up to £4-5, whilst it’s usually £2.99 ish. Its certainly worth looking at the weeks issues before buying it, as sometimes it can be painfully thin, and it now faces competition from Cycling News HD, the iPad e-magazine that is only 69p a week and concentrates on the professional racing scene.
Most likely to say: ‘We went behind the scenes with Team Sky…’/Refer to all British riders by pally nicknames such as ‘Cav’, ‘Wiggo’, ‘G’, ‘Swifty’ etc/Something overly patriotic
Least Likely to say: ‘Team Sky are useless’/’In news from cycling outside the M25…’
If it was a mode of transport: It would be a jog – it’s meant to cool, up to date and trendy because lots are doing it, but you never really get very far and you’re pretty much always doing the same route, allthough every so often you might chance across something interesting that renews your enthusiasm for it.
Worth a buy?: Worth looking at the issue before buying, but usually it’s reasonable, as long as there’s a decent feature.
Tag Line: ‘The World’s best cycling magazine.’
In a nutshell: Hmm, where to start. This is the first cycling magazine I ever bought, and was, like most people’s, a Tour special, and in those days of 2004, the magazine was large, dense, informative and had a playful but professional tone. Somewhere along the line, they’ve taken a horrendous detour to become the antithesis of their tag line. The writers, who have apparently decided they are somewhat minor celebrities and take frequent opportunities to get black and whit pictures of their faces in followed by features boasting of their prowess at predicting a Peter Sagan victory (you know, like everyone had), have given up on serious journalism unless it is on the subject of Team Sky.
It is hard to find a cover that doesn’t feature a Brit (Bradley Wiggins has been on 4 of the last 5) and it’s not hard to find a reason why other teams and riders are not so keen to talk to them – they mercilessly insult them on any subject, from Fedrigo’s nose being a bigger talking point than his Tour stage winning prowess, to simply saying every other none-Sky rider is rubbish. They keep a healthy line of hypocrisy as well – they loved Armstrong until they decided he was Satan himself, and claim to be against drugs in sport but love Jonathan Vaughters, David Millar and employ Pedro Delgado every so often. As the letter page reveals, many readers are greatly annoyed about biased, malicious and simply untrue articles that were more about inflating the Ego of the writer then actually producing any informing journalism. Typical features now seem to involve the writers going to the pub, or the ‘pubs on a route’, and they are very keen to promote themselves as laddish beer drinking self deprecators despite the ego massaging features. For balance, they do have a good statistical department, but there always has to be some joke to be made, and they have to get an insult in, and it’s just too pathetic all in all.
Value for money:
The price has crept up, interestingly as the readership goes down, judging by the numbers they publish, but given the letters in are always complaining about the ‘Team Sky newsletter’, this is understandable. Only the end of year review and season preview issues are really worth it, as well as the Tour preview issue because you’ll need something to read anyway (One Tour review issues managed to have a feature on Mount Ventoux that consisted of pictures of fans….thrilling), but avoid the rest – it’ll quickly get on your nerves.
Most likely to say: ‘The Cycle Sport lads discussed the race over a pint’/Some godawful pun/Not very subtle ‘veiled’ hatred against Armstrong/Spaniards/’Did we mention we went to the pub?’
Least Likely to say: ‘Lance Armstrong did have a positive impact on cycling’/Anything bad about Mark Cavendish or Bradley Wiggins/Anything that isn’t designed to lead into some tedious joke.
If it were a mode of transport: It would be a bus – it’s over priced for what it is, you know you’re going to see the same old stuff every time and the driver has a superiority complex and treats you like an idiot.
Worth a buy?: Besides the ones mentioned above, no.
Tag Line: ‘The Thrill of the Ride’
In a nutshell: Cyclist is the new entry into the field, based on an idea that ‘cycling is my passion.’ There’s only been two issues, so there’s more room for development, and it currently has a main feature, ‘The Big Ride’, which features analysis, information and stunning photography of a lesser known ride. The majority seems to be focused on gear however, and there is little on professional racing or history, although this may change when the season kicks off again, as September was an odd time to launch a magazine. They have given Eurosport’s excellent blogger Blazin’ Saddles a column though, which will be worth a read, but you worry if it’s trying to jump on a bandwagon and hasn’t quite managed to find a niche but instead cast its nets too wide instead of focusing on a specific area. I worry that the magazine will be worth a buy only if the ride feature is interesting, and in comparison to other magazines, it seems a little dull in colour scheme – an odd gray scale rather than the cheery shades of others. Still, thr magazine is young, and the first issues have been good, so hopefully it will evolve as it goes.
Value for money: It’s a fiver, but it wouldn’t be fair to judge until they’ve had a while to establish themselves and a regular set of features – magazines do start out with more then they usually produce to draw you in, so it’ll be worth seeing what they do in this respect.
Most likely to say: It would be unfair to judge this on two issues
Least likely to say: See above.
If it were a mode of transport: It would be one of those modern horse drawn carriages. Whilst they think they’ve found a gap in the market for stary eyed nostalgics who yearn to go back to basics, behind the gloss and polish it’s not really that useful, and once the novelty wears off, it could be in trouble.
Worth a buy?: Probably, but be cautious.
Tag Line: ‘Inside the World’s Toughest sport’
In a nutshell: ProCycling is simply the best cycling magazine there is. It reads like an academic journal but for anyone, with sharp, astute and knowledgeable writers on interesting and innovative subjects, rather than the bland repetition of closest rival Cycle Sport, and when combined with large and excellent photography from Tim De Waele, its all draws together into an excellent piece of material. It’s clean minimalist design makes it seem like a work of art in your hands, and the size is always constant – there’s no month where they suddenly lose 50 pages for no apparent reason. Sensibly, they are neutral in their opinion as well – they cleverly produced a feature on the Lance Armstrong scandal that was simply an alternate history, with no judgement, leaving that to an expanded letters page, whilst others aforementioned magazines produced what is essentially libel and spouted mocking bile about things they’d promulgated in the first place. There is one flaw to ProCycling however – its timing. The issues are clearly finished around 10-14 days before the publication date, so if one is out the week after the World Championships, for instance, you’ll have to wait two issues for any coverage on that. Given the high quality, this isn’t too much of a problem though, especially when they get an exclusive interview with a top rider every month, unlike other mags who simply use press conferences and claim that to be their interview.
Value for money: Like Cyclist, it’s £5, with the price having increased when they relaunched the new format in May 2010, but it’s really worth it – there’s always great features and photography, and they’ve begun expanding the gear section at the back of the magazine as well.
Most likely to say: Well, sensible things I guess. The fact no obvious stereotypical line comes to mind must be a good thing.
Least likely to say: ‘We’re going to tell you what to think about this instead of giving you the information and leaving it open ended.’
If it were a mode of transport: It would be a beautiful Italian racing bike (see, you knew there was a reason for the ‘mode of transport’ thing) – it’s lovely to ride, offers unseen depths of yourself and the sport you’d never seen before, and takes you back with misty eyes to better, happier times whilst simultaneously being modern and fresh, if slightly behind the top advancements.
Worth a buy?: Definitely.
Tag Line: ‘Britain’s best selling cycling magazine’
In a nutshell: ‘Best selling’ magazine in Britain, and it’s easy to see why. The magazine is focused more on everyday riders then the professional racing circuit, and so is the magazine for you if you need bikes, equipment or clothing reviewed. It’s very thick, although padded out with adverts, although in this type of magazine, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as you’d want to see them anyway if you’re buying. As such, there are little in the way of features, but thats not the point of the magazine, and the numerous bike reviews etc more than make up.
Value for money: Alot of it seems to be repeated each month, so it’s not worth getting every month, but like ‘What Car?’ or Autotrader, it’s useful for comparison and the like.
Most likely to say: ‘Our testers got back tired having greatly enjoyed their time on…’/’We all have trouble buying x, so here’s a guide to the best of x’
Least likely to say: ‘This is &$%^$.’ (Not sure I’ve ever seen a review below 6 or 7/10)
If it were a mode of transport it would be: The Tube. It’s very busy and packed, and you don’t need to use it, but every so often when you want to go get something important its worth it to get there despite the price.
Worth a buy?: See Above