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Old 01-29-10, 06:07 AM   #1
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An Open Letter to Bicycling magazine

To: Loren Mooney, Editor-in-Chief

Ms. Mooney,

Your March, 2010 editorial, "Cyclists at Play" contained a statement which finally allowed me to understand the strange coverage of cycling that your magazine proffers.

"We adults have schedules that make it harder to find ride time," you said, "but in the end, bikes are still toys." (emphasis mine)

Really, Ms. Mooney?

For many thousands of us, bikes are not toys. My bike certainly isn't. It is the vehicle that takes me to work every morning, to the grocery or hardware store, or to the dentist.

It wasn't a toy that I rode to the barbershop last week. Nor was my bike a toy when it had the trailer hitched on behind with a load for the town dump.

The "bikes are toys" attitude is the primary reason motorists refuse to share the road with us, creating unsafe conditions for cyclists everywhere.

As a cycling instructor, I have found that the "bikes are toys" attitude to be a major contributor to dangerous cycling behavior, such as ignoring red lights or stop signs, riding on the sidewalk, or wrong-way riding. After all, the rules of the road don't apply to toys, do they?

It truly is a shame that your magazine caters to the "bikes are toys" market. In doing so, you shoot yourselves in the foot, falsely limit the public image of cyclists to one of spandex-clad elitists playing on their $5,000 toys, and enable the motoring public's road arrogance.

I would hope that Bicycling, which bills itself as the "World's Leading Bike Magazine" would be capable of more.
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Old 01-29-10, 08:47 AM   #2
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Like it or not, the analysis is accurate. For most of us, bikes are recreational equipment. We use them for fitness or leisure, but rarely are they our primary mode of transportation.
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Old 01-29-10, 08:53 AM   #3
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BP,

I suspect that if you look around the world, you will find that most bicyclists are utility bicyclists. But here we suffer from decades of pressure from oil and car companies who have built up an infrastructure specifically designed to exclude us and push us into the ghetto of mere leisure use of bicycles. Bicycling Magazine should cover utility riding, or even better, create a sister magazine.

Ajenkins, I agree with you. And here's your answer

Bicycle Times magazine

They seem to be in the real world.
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Old 01-29-10, 11:17 AM   #4
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BP,

I suspect that if you look around the world, you will find that most bicyclists are utility bicyclists. But here we suffer from decades of pressure from oil and car companies who have built up an infrastructure specifically designed to exclude us and push us into the ghetto of mere leisure use of bicycles. Bicycling Magazine should cover utility riding, or even better, create a sister magazine.

Ajenkins, I agree with you. And here's your answer

Bicycle Times magazine

They seem to be in the real world.
+1. Recently subscribed.
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Old 01-29-10, 12:01 PM   #5
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OP, you must understand that Bicycling Magazine caters virtually to recreational road bike cyclists... well maybe some pro-racers will read it too. Under that premise, the article is not incorrect after all a Trek Madone 6.2 will never be used to haul you nor I to work/school. Or who would ride a carbon Cervelo to pick up groceries? So as such, referring the bikes from their perspective as a toy is not wrong.
It is liken to some fishing magazine that refers the activity of fishing is a hobby. But to the folks at the coast of New Foundland, fishing is part and parcel of life therefore calling fishing a hobby is ridiculous. But to the weekend anglers that head out to local streams or lake with their beer buddies fishing is just something to leisure past time.
I agree that in North America, cycling is still viewed as a sport... or in urban areas, a quirky transportation alternatives. For RoW, cycling is considered another form of practical transportation. Someday, we'll catch up.
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Old 01-29-10, 03:35 PM   #6
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OP, you must understand that Bicycling Magazine caters virtually to recreational road bike cyclists... well maybe some pro-racers will read it too. Under that premise, the article is not incorrect after all a Trek Madone 6.2 will never be used to haul you nor I to work/school. Or who would ride a carbon Cervelo to pick up groceries? So as such, referring the bikes from their perspective as a toy is not wrong.
This attitude is wrong, too. I am by no means a wealthy person, and I have two bikes. One is a lovely Bianchi and is for pleasure, and of course I don't leave it outside. It lives in my living room. The other is basically disposable, and gets me to work, the store, and wherever else I need to be; it isn't the sort of bike you go out of your way to sell or buy, it just happened to cheap and functional. It isn't worth much, and won't show up in a bike mag.

It is not unlike someone who is a car enthusiast, and has a fun car and a functional car. Both of those cars have equal rights to the road. Or, even the miles people drive to reach "non-essential" functions, such as the movies, sporting events, restaurants...if you're going to classify something as a toy by virtue of the purpose of it's vehicle-miles, you have to do it for motor vehicles as well.

This is the hypocrisy of the situation. You'd have to curtail the freedoms everyone has to use the road, which is quite wrong.

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Old 01-29-10, 05:09 PM   #7
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For ANYone in the industry to trivialize a bicycle as a 'toy' is irresponsible and wrong. Less knowledgeable, less experienced riders, as well as potential riders, will be jaded by this attitude, to the detriment of us all.

It's true that the bicycle is a transportation device, a people-mover, a vehicle in its essence; its use outside the 50 reflects that. But...

"THIS is the BY-GAWD U S of f'n A! We're the greatest country in the WORLD, and we don't hafta function on less like the rest of 'em!"

As long as this attitude is in existence, we will be marginalized as players with toys. Never mind that we cyclists, utility riders and car-free folks have chosen this as our form of transport -- it's perceived that we HAD to, not that we WANTED to, or that we're just a little loony.

To the knee-jerk drivers out there -- your next of kin will see me pedal by your funeral procession after your fatal heart attack or stroke. And they'll get irritated, too. After all, they're grieving, and I'm playing on my toy.
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Old 01-29-10, 06:13 PM   #8
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Heh, roadies.
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Old 01-29-10, 06:23 PM   #9
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This attitude is wrong, too. I am by no means a wealthy person, and I have two bikes. One is a lovely Bianchi and is for pleasure, and of course I don't leave it outside. It lives in my living room. The other is basically disposable, and gets me to work, the store, and wherever else I need to be; it isn't the sort of bike you go out of your way to sell or buy, it just happened to cheap and functional. It isn't worth much, and won't show up in a bike mag.

It is not unlike someone who is a car enthusiast, and has a fun car and a functional car. Both of those cars have equal rights to the road. Or, even the miles people drive to reach "non-essential" functions, such as the movies, sporting events, restaurants...if you're going to classify something as a toy by virtue of the purpose of it's vehicle-miles, you have to do it for motor vehicles as well.

This is the hypocrisy of the situation. You'd have to curtail the freedoms everyone has to use the road, which is quite wrong.
Have you read Bicycling Magazine? Their articles target folks who ride their $7000 carbon bikes on the weekends in bright lycra suits using words like peloton and practise the Lance' Jan Ulrich Look. You really need to read it. You will get a hoot perusing their "Top 10 Affordable Gear" review section. Their answer to a question for a college student who wants a cheap bike to ride to school - $600 fixie.
That is the magazine's angle about bicycle being toys. But feel free to write to them. I look forward in reading your responses on that magazine!
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Old 01-29-10, 06:51 PM   #10
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Years ago, Bicycling Magazine changed their format to a dumbed-down People Magazine clone for recreational cyclists.

Remember that the reason Bicycling (an all magazines, really) exist is to provide ad space for manufacturers, and encouraging keep-up-with-the-Joneses-equipment-collecting over responsible-adult-use-of-bicycle-as-transportation is the way the maufacturers make greater profits (they think).

THose of us fighting in traffic every day are just place holders waiting for the rest of you to join us, because while you sit in your air-conditioned cage on the way to work, someone is trying to squeeze us and your rights off the road.

edit: I am going to go see if the corner store has any copies of Dirt Rag or Bicycle Times left.
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Old 01-29-10, 08:17 PM   #11
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Bicycling magazine sucks.
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Old 01-29-10, 08:28 PM   #12
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Bicycling magazine sucks.
Hear hear!
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Old 01-30-10, 06:20 AM   #13
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I found it interesting that I also emailed my letter to Bicycling magazine and I didn't even get the courtesy of a reply, not even an automated one. You know, something that says "Thank you for contacting Bicycling. If we decide to publish your letter, one of our editors will contact you as soon as we can find one sober enough to type." You know, that sort of thing. But from Bicycling, nothing. Nada.
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Old 01-30-10, 06:44 AM   #14
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I commute, and ride to shop, etc., as well. But, I also see that utility cycling is a crazy small segment of the market. And, it's not a high margin segment, either. Utility cyclists will tend to fix up old bikes. Even if they buy new, they are not looking for a $5000 carbon grocery getter. The mag is just talking to the consumers who can pay the bills for them.
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Old 01-30-10, 07:06 AM   #15
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Utility cyclist do tend to fix up old bikes, at least in part, beacause there are few new bikes that meet the needs of a utility cyclist. Some people always like to have the best, or at least really nice, stuff, and they absolutely would (and do) buy multi-thousand dollar bikes for everyday riding. The dismissal of bikes as toys is partly the fault of the bike manufacturer, as their marketing departments don't seem to consider the bikes any more than that.
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Old 01-30-10, 07:20 AM   #16
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I don't like the new editor. I have subscribed for many years, sure, the mag has had it's flaws. But from time to time it also
had wonderful articles. I don't expect that now. I may let the subscription lapse and pick up something else.
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Old 01-30-10, 07:20 AM   #17
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Don’t you think though that many of the magazines out there are writing more to the fantasy aspect of cycling?

I would be willing to bet that most of the people who buy that type of magazine in the OP, can’t afford most of the bicycles talked about in them. But, love to read about the latest and greatest “Toy” bicycle out there.

The “Boy if I had that” fantasy. If I had the new $7000.00 super ninja carbon fiber ultra bike, with the radar jamming phramice, and the latest ultra wicking lycra low drag coefficient super kit, and half ounce nano tube super helmet… I would be faster than the wind.

I really think that is who most magazines are aimed at personally, very few people want to read about something they already have, or is a day to day item, so in many ways a magazine become almost like a catalog, or wish book. The magazine just aims at a target market… whether they are Cycling Magazines, Car Magazines, Fashion Magazines… and so on.

If we all just wanted practical advice, magazines like Consumer Reports would be the most popular magazine in the world.

As for Car Drivers marginalizing bicyclist… Car Drivers marginalize anything else they have to share the road with including each other. (period)
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Old 01-30-10, 07:21 AM   #18
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Yeah, Lardster, I am with you, in that I could spend thousands on the perfect rando/touring rig. But, blaming the manufacturers, or the magazine, is like blaming politicians. Yes, they did vote to crush the budget. But, if we did our job as voters, demanding a balanced budget, and voting out those who did not comply, what would happen?
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Old 01-30-10, 07:33 AM   #19
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When I was a kid my bike was not a toy. I rode it to school and any other place I needed to go. I used it on my paper route everyday. I would have to say that now my bike, like my saliboat, is a toy since I use it for recreation, although I do ride it to the office sometimes.
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Old 01-30-10, 07:34 AM   #20
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I personally do have a new bike I built for commuting and errands. Mostly new parts.
And the next manufacturer to get money out of me islikely going to be one that makes a practical bike... perhaps Steelwool cycle.
In this case we must vote with our wallets.

When I worked sales in a large LBS, I did my best to steer people toward the most practical bike that would suit their needs. SOme people were set on a full suspension mountain bike or carbon road bike for riding to work, but if their minds weren't made up, you can bet I showed them $600 - $1200 hybrids and IGH city bikes. And everyone that told me they were at least thinking about bike commuting I made sure they knew what type of bike was needed to mount fenders and racks and panniers.

Fenders and racks and panniers, IMHO, are the biggest hurdle for modern manufacturers. For all but the most race-specific bikes, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to run at least 700 X 28 tires and fenders, or mount a rack... but most of these bikes 700 X 25 without fenders can be tight. And do people really think a threaded hole in the dropout is such a big problem?
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Old 01-30-10, 09:07 AM   #21
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maybe if the person quoted had said 'joy' instead of 'toy' it would all be okay in the world.

there's a LOT of recreational bicycling going on.

Bicycling is more even handed than it appears on the surface but the sport is steered by the consumables mentality of the bicycling industry.

Must retire the old gear get the better new gear.

I like that bicycling added BikeSnobNYC but was surprised to see the absence of the legal advice column lately. maybe i missed it.
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Old 01-30-10, 09:12 AM   #22
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For ANYone in the industry to trivialize a bicycle as a 'toy' is irresponsible and wrong. Less knowledgeable, less experienced riders, as well as potential riders, will be jaded by this attitude, to the detriment of us all.
"He who dies with the most toys wins" The term toy can be applied to just about any item that you get enjoyment out of, including; cars, bikes, motorcycles, boats, planes, firearms, tools, home entertainment systems, RC stuff, etc, etc, etc. It's really nothing to get our panties in a bunch over, especially when....
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Bicycling magazine sucks.
exactly.
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Old 01-30-10, 10:12 AM   #23
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Bicycling magazine sucks.
+1000. I only read it because it comes free. After a quick glance, I give it away.
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Old 01-30-10, 10:42 AM   #24
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Bicycling magazine sucks.
I agree, they are also aimed at a market that I have little to no interest in. I used to read it back in the 70's and early 80's, but after I realized they were just rehashing the same articles every few months I dumped the subscription and went somewhere else.

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Old 01-30-10, 10:51 AM   #25
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+1000. I only read it because it comes free. After a quick glance, I give it away.
It doesn't take long to read through it. Last month they had the article on the guy that lost over 300 pounds, and that was one of the handful of good articles I've read in there in the couple of years I've read it. I sure wouldn't pay for it.
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