In 2002, over an anguished lunch with my father at a Cajun restaurant, I asked him for a five-figure loan. He agreed, but he told me it was contingent on me talking my mother into one as well. My post-meal heartburn had nothing to do with the jambalaya. Days later, in a phone call, I persuaded her to extend me a loan. I’d already emptied my 401k account, taken the penalty and sold four bicycles.
I could have made a down payment on a house. The way people were falsifying income at the time, I’d have gotten the loan. If personal stability was my goal, what I did was probably among the dumbest decisions I could make.
The thing is, I wasn’t really thinking of myself.
I had a dream; yes, it was my dream, and one that had the potential to bring me a reasonable income, but that wasn’t really my motive. Dedicated cyclists needed a new magazine. I confess I had a covetous eye for the former subscribers to Bicycle Guide, too. Petersen Publishing folded that magazine in 1998 on the eve of the road market resurgence that began a year later with Lance Armstrong wearing the yellow jersey in Paris.
My ambition was to give roadies a cultural water cooler around which to congregate, and I figured the way to do it was on nice paper and with a minimum of advertising.
Asphalt lasted but five issues, and we failed for more reasons than I have fists to shake.
In the 18 years that have passed since Asphalt‘s first issue, Road Bike Action has been revived, Peloton, Road and Paved launched, the latter pair folding in just the last five years with Decline, Dirt Rag and Bike all going the same way. And let’s not forget how Rodale, Bicycling Magazine‘s former parent launched, shuttered, re-launched and re-shuttered Mountain Bike. Imagine the whiplash the editorial crew felt.
Each time one of those magazines shut down, friends lost jobs. Some of them landed elsewhere in the cycling world; some pushed on for other endeavors. To a person, everyone who got out of magazine publishing is making more money now.
So it’s safe to say none of us are doing this to get rich.
I write about cycling because the sport bookends my life in a way that nothing else does. Via the bike, I’ve lived some of the most satisfying experiences of my life. Cycling has taught me more about resilience, determination and self-belief than I learned by any other method. It also kept my head screwed on straight when nothing else could.
My goal with The Cycling Independent is to create a publication that doesn’t speak to just one little slice of cyclists. I’m adamant that we should endeavor to reach all cyclists, to say that anyone riding a bike is one of us. Yet I’m also aware that each of those publications mentioned above went under not for lack of readers, but for lack of advertising dollars. That’s why The Cycling Independent operates by a different business model: voluntary subscriptions.
NPR just finished another fall pledge drive, so I’m keenly aware of just how annoying it is to hear someone beg for your support between each story. We want to avoid that.
But I have to be honest: If you’re reading this now, we need your support if you want to be reading us a year from now. We are a lean operation. Every dollar that comes in the door goes directly to the content you read. We aren’t paying bonuses to some guy in an expensive suit who doesn’t ride a bike.
We’ve got a subscription level that will work for any budget and at $3 per month, no other subscription in cycling media is as affordable.
There are some exceptionally talented voices out there we’d like to bring to you, but they have to pay rent. The sooner you sign on, the sooner we can publish their work.
If that resonates for you, do us both a favor and click here.