Notable Cycling Magazines
While I may have grown up on a farm and enjoying through appealing hill country, mountain biking hardly ever has inspired me. The thoughts of guiding a bike downhill on a track while depending on quick steering and having a good set of brakes never has appealed to me and I did have a go while I was at university in Edinburgh. My idea of a pleasant cycle involves less concentrating slopes and country roads.
That gets me looking for route ideas in road cycling magazines and ones like Cycling Plus and Cycling Active have much larger gear sections than those devoted to routes at the backs of their issues. That leaves me a lot of paper that I don’t need as much and, even with recycling, it still seems a waste. Also, I also admit that sections focussing on fitness seem soulless too because the subject almost feels sterile compared with the joy of exploring delightful countryside.
What I have been seeking is a cycling magazine that places less prominence on gear and fitness while giving more space to routes and exploring places by bike. The ideal situation would be not dissimilar to what you’d find in a walking magazine where the walking destinations are key. The CTC’s member magazine came closer to this than the others mentioned above but I since have found two magazines that do even better again. If you know of any others, please do let me know because what I seek appears to be rare breed and they need more in the way of nurture.
Watching the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia might be what excites some but what I am after is a gentle bimble on country lanes and even away from road traffic altogether. It’s the sort of thing that some may consign to a rose-tinted view of yesterday but it has gained a foothold on some parts of the television schedule and cycling guidebooks are growing in number. It might be no bad thing if magazine publishers managed to make a saleable commodity from that need and diluting the dominance of the racing and commuting focus that there currently seems to be.
The first of these is a magazine that you’ll find on shelves in W. H. Smith branches though it has has a chequered history in recent years. In fact, I thought that it had disappeared completely only find a new issue had appeared again. It appears that it mainly is a touring title but cycle tours can be any length, even a day, and shorter cycles can be carved from longer itineraries. Hopefully, the future looks brighter for this magazine now and it deserves that from what I have seen of its content. We need more of its ilk, after all.
This is more recent entry to the cycling magazine market and it is their MagBooks (a Dennis Publishing brand, apparently) that have found their way into my possession. These get the name of The Big Rides and there have been two collections of feature articles from a similarly named series from the monthly magazine on sale so far. Though all of these have ventured beyond the U.K., it still is interesting to see what is on offer on European shores. The climbs on many of these routes are stiff to the point of testing professional cyclists and the bikes being taken are not cheap either. Still, they offer good introductions to the areas that are featured and the narrative includes a sense of the spirits of these destinations. The regular magazine features more in the way of gear reviews so it is not all about route ideas.
There are a few surprises about this magazine in that it mainly is a digital offering and it is free to subscribers. There is a print subscription for £4 a year too for those preferring a paper copy in their hand without having to do their own printing. The choice of editor is another interesting one: Cameron McNeish. Cameron is a person that I’d associate more with hill walking and backpacking rather than cycling. However, as a follower of his blog, it does seem that an interest in cycling has been rekindled with two long tours being undertaken: from Land’s End to John O’ Groats in the U.K. and from La Manche (the English Channel) to the Riviera in France. The magazine sticks to Scotland though and there’s plenty every season to keep things going. Scotland’s a wonderful part of the world with more than enough possibilities for the more leisurely cyclist as I have found from when I used to live up there.