In paleontology news: workmen undertaking road repairs in Croydon, south London, recently unearthed the moribund remains of a once-great beast that used to roam throughout the land. Back in the days when pterodactyls ruled the skies and Phil Liggett was just a nipper, this enormous behemoth stood, Colossus-like, astride the cycling publishing world, all-powerful and lord of all it surveyed. But that was many decades ago, before they built an information superhighway that bypassed Croydon altogether. Since then, this poor decrepit old thing has been slowly fossilising amongst the concrete towers and flyovers of south London.
Known by its scientific name of Comicus Irrelevansis, Cycling Weekly was actually found to still have a very faint pulse, but it was clear that the poor old thing was on its last legs. We can only hope that some workman is dispatched with a spade to administer a coup de grace.
Rather like Motor Cycle News (and maybe even Angling Times), Cycling Weekly is one of those titles that everyone used to buy, without quite knowing why. In pre-internet, pre-satellite TV times these weekly titles were where you got your product news, sports news and where you advertised stuff for sale. With no other frequent sources of information available, the weeklies became a kind of habit. You knew there wasn’t much in it, but you bought it anyway because there wasn’t anything else.
And it was a pretty good business model for CW…all the racers bought it to see their names in print (they reported on even the smallest local races), and the rest of us bought it to buy or sell stuff and find out what was happening in the Grand Tours. Now, of course, it’s all on the interweb for free. We don’t need MCN or CW for the things we used to need them for, and yet they’re still with us, like some ancient Great Aunt, sitting in the corner and smelling of wee.
Suffering an on-going crisis of relevance, CW has been rendered largely irrelevant by the changing landscape of publishing in the 21st Century (much like myself). This week’s issue illustrates the point perfectly. We have Wiggo on the front cover (Wiggo is to cycling mags what Princess Di was to gossip mags), plus turbo-training, Steve Cummings and Fred Whitton, none of which gets me very excited. Then we have a non-story about the GB track team (so that they can put Wiggo on the cover) and page after page of racing news we’ve all read already on the cyclingnews.com website/Twitter feed.
The first feature is an interview with Steve Cummings of MTN-Qhubecka. I’m sure he’s a nice bloke, but I JUST DON’T CARE. Just because I watch endless amounts of cycling on the TV, that doesn’t mean I give a toss what any of the riders have to say. They’re professional sportsmen, so they will never say anything interesting until long after they retire. And I don’t trust any of them not to cheat, so I’m not investing any kind of emotional attachment to any of them.
Next is a very nice piece by Sophie Hurcom about women cyclists, and the Rosslyn Ladies Cycling Club in particular (slightly ironic, given that CW’s predecessor campaigned vigorously AGAINST women’s cycling). It’s an interesting and well-written five-pager. Then we have a few pages of product tests (mostly winter stuff) and a bib-tights grouptest. As is always the case with these things, we are not told why Assos, Rapha, Castelli, La Passione and a host of other very good bibs are not included in the test. Nor is there any mention of women’s bibs. But, in the spirit of Time Inc’s determination to weigh absolutely everything cycling-related, we now know that the B-Twin bibs are 5g heavier than the Lusso ones. So at least they’ve got their priorities right.
Then we have a four-pager on why Zwift, Trainer Road and all these other indoor training programs. Personally, I only ride my turbo when I feel I absolutely have to get in a bit of exercise and the weather is absolutely foul. Probably half a dozen times a year. I’m not a racer, so I don’t have to obsess about off-season fitness. And riding the turbo is the worst of all worlds…all the pain, none of the joy. The pull-quote on the third page sums it up… “I cannot get as good a workout outside as I do inside: I worry I’d lose it on a corner”. FFS! Really? At least Steve Lampier from Team Raleigh GAC wades in with some sensible advice to get out there and MTFU.
The short piece on ultracycling that follows is interesting, but left me wanting to know a bit more, and then we have a couple of pages of cookery and training intervals (yawn). And so to one of the magazine’s many in-house adverts, for the Cycling Weekly Shop. Rendered irrelevant a decade or more ago by the internet, this is where you can buy books and DVDs about cycling at full RRP, and pay extra for postage. I know…quaint, isn’t it? Bless them. But it is a little embarrassing that this page is headed “Cycling Books & DVD’s”. Where did that apostrophe in “DVD’s” come from? It’s plural, not possessive. Blithering fuckwits!
Next is a piece about the Fred Whitton Challenge, which is happening next…um…May. It’s a popular sportive, the stuff of (slightly exaggerated) legend and thus worth sticking on the cover when there’s not much else going on. It may or may not be related to the 12 pager on the same subject in their sister-magazine Cycling Active this month. Then we have a four-pager about a cycling club. Again, not relevant to me…I don’t do club cycling (Groucho Marx, and all that), and I’m not even remotely interested in reading about a cycling club that’s nowhere near where I live, however friendly and supportive they all are.
Probably my favourite part of CW is the bikemart bit at the back, where you get to see just how badly some people set up their bikes. It’s a horror-show of of badly adjusted saddles, ludicrous stem angles, overly long cables, and handlebars pointing in every direction except the correct one. That’s assuming you can see anything at all, given the crappy quality of most photos and strange camera angles that appear to have been adopted to showcase the inevitable herbaceous border behind the slightly out-of-focus bike. Dr Hutch at the back is generally pretty good for a chuckle, even though one page would probably do it.
With 53 editorial pages out of a total of 78, and costing £3 an issue, CW’s crisis of relevance and identity are clear to see. The new editor has his work cut out deciding what CW is going to be in the future, but in the meantime the magazine has little relevance to me, and I stopped buying it regularly several years back.