A guide to cycling magazines
Websites, chat forums, YouTube… There are more Windows into the cycling world than just magazines these days. The competition for eyeballs and advertising budgets means that the tide is slowly going out on print.
Yet most cycling magazines retain healthy (healthy enough) readerships, and some have circulations that are stable or growing. Since this article was last updated (in February 2022), no bike mags have folded and there’s been one launch: Stelvio.
Here’s an overview of the UK print magazines that are available, excluding one-off specials. It’s arranged roughly in circulation order, with hunches used for magazines without ABC certification or a publisher statement. This review doesn’t pretend to be objective: as editor of Cycle, I’ve got skin the game.
Cycle is the magazine of Cycling UK. Members receive it for free, often one copy per household, as a benefit of joining. Rather than being aimed at a single demographic like MAMILs or trail riders, Cycle covers all kinds of non-competitive on-road and off-road cycling – along with updates on the work Cycling UK is doing. It’s a broad remit for 76 pages but (our survey says) 82% of members read 75% or more of every issue.
Cycle isn’t driven by advertising or industry trends. It’s funded by membership fees. That provides the editorial freedom to dive deeply into topics like touring, transport cycling and old-school mountain biking that other titles seldom cover.
Bike tests aren’t identikit bling: in one issue it could be e-cargo bikes, another steel road bikes. Trip reports are written by cyclists who want to share their stories, not journalists on press junkets. Cycle is real cycling.
Circulation: 51,000 (membership mailing data)Price: Free with Cycling UK membership as part of your member benefitsFrequency: six per yearPagination: 76Digital option: yes
Cyclist is closing fast but right now Cycling Plus remains the UK’s best-selling cycling magazine, as its cover claims. It’s primarily a buyer’s guide for beginner-to-intermediate MAMILs. Each issue is packed with reviews of sporty drop-bar bikes and related kit, many of them very expensive.
The winner of this issue’s main bike test costs nine grand! There’s a review of a £500 stem (four stars, “makes a big difference”).
The photography is top notch, especially for fans of blokes in sunglasses riding out of the saddle on unaffordable bikes. Content can also feel formulaic. A sportive. Something on gravel riding. How to ride faster up hills/down hills/into the wind. Yet it’s leavened with some interesting columns.
And while the reviews are littered with princess-and-the-pea assertions, they include broadly sensible buying advice. Many issues come with a bonus supplement; this one’s is called Peak Performance and is exactly what you’d expect.
Circulation: 25,647 (ABC, Jan-Dec 2021)Price: £5.99Frequency: 13 per yearPagination: 132Digital option: yes
Cyclist’s circulation is up by more than 3,000 since last count, perhaps because it does a good job of selling the dream of cycling rather than the rain-spattered reality. It features sun-kissed European climbs, nice photography (small cyclists, scenic settings), in-depth features and a smattering of shiny products.
It’s well designed and very readable, not least because of its eyestrain-free typefaces. In a Cycling Plus/Rouleur Venn diagram, Cyclist is somewhere in the middle.
LATE FOR SCHOOL 2 / Gabriel Wibmer
The bike reviews, which include some useful numbers like trail, are always of expensive road or gravel bikes. The other products are professionally photographed but not, it seems, tested. You don’t buy Cyclist for reviews: you buy it for the views: of Alpine climbs, of bike tech, and of sport and industry figures.
Each issue feels substantial but ticks familiar boxes. It’s a bit like that clubmate who goes on several road cycling holidays a year and wants to tell you about Sa Calobra. Again.
Circulation: 24,952 (ABC, Jan-Dec 2021)Price: £6.30Frequency: 13 per yearPagination: 140Digital option: yes
The tide has turned – gravel bikes have the power
The king is dead, long live the king. The hammer has fallen – the GRAN FONDO community has decided that there are more gravel fans among you than road bike lovers. We asked you which bikes you ride and well over 11,000 of you answered. For the first time, the ranking of our international reader survey is topped by gravel bikes, which with determination continue the impressive trend of the last few years and take the top spot with a 5 percentage point increase and a total of 51%. After taking heavy losses in the previous year, race bikes remain at 43% and endurance bikes at 34% in second and third place, respectively. The question of what type of bike you want to buy also basically reflects the trends of your current bikes. Accordingly, gravel bikes are in pole position here, too, with 41%, while 31% are interested in a race bike and 23% would prefer an endurance bike.
The bike industry has long recognised this. For quite a while, it was enough for bike manufacturers to have a single gravel bike in their portfolio. All models seemed to have the same all-round characteristics. Although there were already considerable differences between the brands’ gravel interpretations at that time, a lot has changed in recent months: the market for gravel bikes is moving further away from its “one bike for everything” approach towards a finely segmented mass market. From gravel bikes for MTB light trail use to time trial gravel machines, there is hardly anything left that is not available. For the gravel fan in search of his perfect companion, this is of course both a curse and a blessing! Because apparently it is suddenly no longer enough to want to ride a bike that can simply take on any adventure. Instead, you get the feeling that you have to be classified as a gravel racer, pleasure rider, adventurer or commuter. At the same time, specially optimised bike models naturally offer clear advantages for specialised riders who know exactly what they want.
The GRAN FONDO community has decided: most of you ride gravel bikes or want to buy one. Gravel is in power!
If you take a look at the current market for road bikes, you can see that more and more categories are being combined. Technical innovations make road bikes able to do more and more, while the UCI and its rules tirelessly regulate and define with their statutes exactly what can and cannot be on a race bike. In the end, two types of race bikes remain: highly developed and pure bred race bikes (you can find our comparison test here) on the one hand and what is called an everyman, all-road, endurance or “whatever” bike on the other. You can find our comparison test of the best road bikes in general here (to the test).
In business administration, “shelf space” is an important metric and of course no bike brand wants to lose out here, so it seems that what contracts on one side expands on the other. But it is not just purely economic interests that are accelerating and favouring the segmentation of gravel bikes. Where there are more people, there is a greater desire and need for specialised solutions. So gravel race bikes, everyday bikes, adventure bikes and all-road offshoots are being drawn from the niche of the niche into the centre of the mainstream. Gravel bikes have the power, their hour has come and our test field reflects exactly that!
The test field: What did we test?
With the boom of the gravel segment, the choice of gravel bikes is also continuously increasing – and with it the difficulty of putting together a test field that keeps a sensible balance between relevance for you – our readers – and a look beyond the end of one’s nose and towards trends or exciting exotics. Nevertheless, we have dared to perform exactly this balancing act and have racked our brains over which candidates absolutely have to be there and which could be an exciting broadening of perspectives. With these considerations, we have put together an exciting and relevant test field, in which not only a deserving test winner is hiding, but in which there should also be a suitable gravel bike for everyone of you. What didn’t we test then? Even we as a magazine are not immune to the current poor availability and the limited supply capacity of the bike industry. Thus, exciting and brand new bikes from big manufacturers like Orbea and Trek are missing from the test, which unfortunately did not make it to us in time. The Trek Checkpoint SLR in particular would have had a good chance on paper to have a say in the title race. Here, we are particularly curious about the upcoming individual test. Below, you’ll find an overview of the 19 bikes that made it to us in time for the test:
Price matters: Why are some bikes so expensive?
In this comparison test, our aim is to choose the best all-round gravel bike. Accordingly, many manufacturers did not take long to send in their top models. Other manufacturers have opted for less expensive bikes, partly due to availability. In-between are the manufacturers whose portfolios do not include model variants equipped with the highest-priced components, such as gears, brakes and wheels, from the respective suppliers. Nevertheless, the average price of € 6,454 of the bikes in this year’s gravel comparison test has risen by almost € 800 compared to last year. According to our last reader survey, you want to spend an average of € 4,800 on your next bike, which is a good € 600 more than last year. It remains to be said that the average bike from this test is too expensive for the average reader. Especially gravel newcomers who do not come from the mountain bike or road bike sector, but are completely new to cycling, may be unsettled by the sometimes very high prices. How do they come about and do they really reflect the performance of the respective bike?
We think not! Because while price-driving factors such as current inflation and the low availability of the last two years affect all manufacturers, some manufacturers shine with mark-ups on high-end models that are higher than the total price of the cheapest bikes in the test. Can one bike have six times the utility value of another? That’s a question that can be debated indefinitely! If the Specialized S-Works Crux helps you win the cyclocross world championship, then that is certainly the case. For the majority of you, on the other hand, it’s probably not. Although the Crux is a bike that goes to the extremes, (spoiler alert) sets standards in weight, performance and speed, and has nothing to be ashamed of in being the most expensive bike in the test, its price is driven more by supply and demand than by pure performance gain for the average rider. And due to the fact that Specialized is probably one of the manufacturers who reserved the limited production capacities at the beginning of the Corona pandemic, when demand skyrocketed, the have only been corrected upwards accordingly.
Fortunately, there is a cheaper version of almost every expensive bike in our comparison test. Our test results allow to draw conclusions to a certain extent about the handling of cheaper alternatives because the geometry remains the same regardless of the price point. However, you should keep in mind that some manufacturers use a cheaper carbon resin composite for cheaper models, which can have correspondingly different handling characteristics. At the same time, manufacturers such as 3T, OPEN and BMC offer their frames in the same high quality as a frameset, so that the total price can be reduced with cheaper add-on parts.
And how much do you actually have to pay to get what you want? Even if you want to hear a concrete sum at this point: unfortunately it’s not quite that simple. The demands and requirements of each gravel bike are too different. But we can reassure you – you don’t necessarily have to spend the average price mentioned above to get a good bike for (your) gravel. You can find out exactly how much you should spend on a gravel bike and what else you need to consider when buying one here in our detailed gravel bike buying guide.
2. Dirt Rag Magazine:
If you ask people who live the sport what publications they like, the two most common answers will be Bike and Dirt Rag.
Started in 1989, Dirt Rag is the grittier, less glossy publication. Your earthy friend who’s been breathing mountain biking for ten years reads Dirt Rag.
Not taking itself too seriously, it’s more laid back than the rest. This is the magazine you want to have a beer with.
Oh, and once in a while, it will contain actual beer reviews. The magazine’s features tend to be well-written and treat a wide scope of the mountain bike lifestyle for the mountain bike geek.
It covers gear, events, destinations, bike races, and mountain bike-centric political issues, such as trail access.
Dirt Rag will even throw in something discerning about music or about the psycho-social aspects of riding or being in nature.
This kind of diversity keeps each issue interesting and capable of surprise. It’s East Coast base counterbalances the western bias of a lot of American mountain bike coverage.
3. Freehub Magazine:
A crude separator of publications on this list might be those that make you drool over the gear and those that make you drool over experiences.
On the one extreme would be Mountain Bike Action, where you’ll walk away with an expensive buying list.
On the other end of the spectrum is Freehub, where you’ll walk away with an extensive bucket list.
Freehub will make you imagine yourself shredding trails in Iceland; moving to Durango, Colorado; or riding a bamboo frame.
That makes the magazine great for dreaming or for people who live in epic locations, but it may not relate as much to average mountain biking experiences.
Regular riders, however, also like to be infected with wanderlust. This quarterly contains quality writing to go with fabulous photography.
Many of its features wouldn’t be out of place collected in a book. It’s a refreshingly far cry from guys on mtbr.com forums arguing about 15mm differences in dropper posts and bottom bracket heights.
And don’t worry, gear lovers, there are still product reviews!
Although you could say Freehub isn’t for casual fans of the sport, the unique and varied stories with striking visuals will draw in people that care nothing about life on two wheels.
4. Mountain Flyer Magazine:
Mountain Flyer loftily calls itself “The Mountain Bike Journal.” Based in both Vermont and Colorado, it claims the similar territory as Bike.
Four times a year you can read about racing, personalities, gear, bikepacking, destinations, and events.
Like Dirt Rag it also takes on political issues such as trail advocacy and inclusiveness in MTB.
It will make you more interested in handmade bikes and multi-day stage races in British Columbia than you thought you were.
5. UK Mountain Bike Magazines:
The Brits have a lot to say about life behind bars. In many ways, the location of the publication doesn’t matter.
The content is still about mountain bikes and mountain biking.
However, most of us probably aren’t going to pack our bags next week to head off to some local Welsh trails. We do not have access to Shwarf, Shand, or Million bikes.
Good thing, then, that there’s selective reading, brought to you by the internet!
International Mountain Bike Magazine (IMB)
Sign up for IMB free and it’s delivered to your inbox every two months.
Presented like a Patagonia catalog—in other words, high production values—it almost seems too good to be true.
Maybe it is. Maybe it’s covertly pushing product all over its pages. Maybe I don’t care.
And those pictures! Just tell me when the next issue is coming out!
Enduro Mountain Bike Magazine
of a German venture with a UK presence, Enduro Mag focuses on a segment of the market that has grown over the last decade.
In addition to enduro, it covers trail riding, hardly a narrow segment of the sport.
You can read it every two months on a free app as well.
If just saying “German-based” makes it seem distant, click on the website and get lost in all the interesting content!
The following also have their followers, and the list just shows the abundant riches that are yours if you want to soak up more mountain biking culture.
Singletrack. Not to be confused with singletracks.com. Registered users can download each issue free as a pdf or use the website.
Your Guide to Charging Your E-Bike on The Go
But one problem that cyclists often face with e-bikes is charging them. Not having enough ‘juice’ to continue the journey is a pain, so you need to prepare in advance.
Here is how to charge your electric bike on the go and make the most of your waiting time.
What’s the average time it takes to charge an e-bike?
Electric bike batteries are not the typical AA batteries that can easily be replaced. Rather, electric bikes use lithium-ion batteries, which have a huge capacity and are very efficient in terms of power consumption, operating through a combination of battery power and manual pedalling.
Generally, it takes about six hours to fully charge an e-bike battery. Nevertheless, this may vary depending on several factors, including the size of the battery, how much charge it has, the recharge rate of the battery, and the age of the battery pack.
To optimise your battery life, make sure you take good care of it. The battery is the most important part of your e-bike and isn’t cheap to replace. Don’t overcharge it, charge it regularly from bottom to top, and store it in warmer conditions.
In terms of the cost, charging an electric bike is extremely cheap. For example, a 10-amp battery in an area where electricity costs £0.09 per Kilowatt-hour will cost about £0.0015 per mile.
Ways to charge an e-bike
The last thing you want to happen to you on the road is to be left without ‘juice’. This can completely ruin your day, whether you’re commuting to work or enjoying a pre-planned bike touring journey. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can charge your electric bike while on the road.
The easiest and most common way to charge an e-bike is by bringing along a charger and plugging it into a standard wall outlet at a permitted spot. Cafes, restaurants, bike shops, libraries, and picnic pavilions in parks are all ideal for that. It’s best to plan one or more stops in advance before you set off.
Alternatively, you can charge your e-bike at purposefully built e-bike charging stations, through solar-panel charging, or by using a car.
The best cycling cafes in the UK to charge e-bikes
Whether you’re out and about in the city or are enjoying a peaceful bike ride in a beautiful park featuring woodland trails with stunning views, planning a stop to charge your e-bike is a must. While doing so, you don’t want the waiting time to feel like a waste. Hence, it’s best to choose a nice café where you can enjoy an indulgent brew in the meantime.
Cycling UK has ranked the best cycling cafes in the UK in their 2020 Cyclist Café of the Year awards. The ranking includes places where you can charge your e-bike but also feel part of the biking community, so definitely consider adding these stops to your map.
Cheap Bike Pro Rider Vs Super Bike Amateur Rider!
The headliner for England is Look Mum No Hands!, in London, which is one of the UK’s first cycling cafés. In Northern Ireland, visit Picnic Delicatessen in Killyleagh, where warm and delicious food welcomes you after riding for miles. Velocity Café and Bicycle Shop is Scotland’s pride, located in Inverness, and has been a winner for the second time due to its welcoming cycling hub and amazing food. In Wales, plan2ride Bicycle Café is the perfect stop in Tongwynlais, Cardiff, along the scenic off-road route, where you can charge your e-bike in the company of delicious cakes and also take a hot shower to wash off the mud while waiting.
One café has won a lifetime achievement – Capheaton Tea Room in Capheaton Village, Northumberland. The family-run café has been operating for over 25 years and has turned into a beloved community for cyclists.
Ellie Patterson, tea room manager, commented, “We first opened as a way to raise funds to maintain our village hall and for many years our tea room was a perfect stop to replenish while on a ride, but now we are very proud to have become a “destination” with a thriving community of cyclists covering all abilities. No matter what, we try to be open, ready to serve any cyclist who has battled the hills and Northumbrian weather!”
Now that you know about all the different ways to charge your electric bike while on the go, you can carefully plan your route and stops to have an awesome day on your bike!