I know I shouldn’t be mean. I know body dysmorphia is a terrible thing. And I know I shouldn’t judge by appearances…but what the fuck is that on the cover of NutsEtc??? Not the rather bland-looking Merida…I’m talking about the weird twerking man-child with the hairless plasticine legs. Eeuuuw! Creepy.
I thought the purpose of the front cover was to attract attention and act as an advert for what’s inside the mag. I suppose an image of a naked mole-rat on a bike attracts attention, but it’s still a hugely unappealing cover. It looks like a studio shot superimposed on a photo from their Lake District article, and lit by half a dozen different light-sources. It’s horrible. Truly the stuff of nightmares. And NutsEtc is finally running low on their stock of exclamation marks, so have to limit themselves to just a couple per month these days. If anyone buys this magazine it will be in spite of the cover, not because of it.
Inside, BlokesEtc is the usual steaming pile of crap. Take, for instance, “10 Reasons You’ll Love This Bike”. Aside from the fact that it makes no attempt at any kind of journalistic impartiality, it’s just bollocks. Only an 11-year-old would get excited about “space-age design” and “a bike of champions”. The same things could be said of the Austin Allegro (designed in the space age) and an A-Class Mercedes (as not quite driven by Lewis Hamilton).
The first test is of “Gravity Defying Racers”, but is basically just three random bikes costing between £2000 and £2400. Why these three? We don’t know. Why is there one female-specific bike in there? We don’t know. Why does the Merida have egg-beater pedals fitted? We don’t know. Why do they bother? We don’t know.
The story about the guy who cycled to Hong Kong could have been good, but basically it’s just a collection of (nice) photos with captions, which doesn’t tell us much about anything. The Editor’s piece entitled “40 Fat-Busting Foods” starts with “Eat yourself thinner with our hit parade of nutritional superstars!” and goes downhill from there, blithering on about “scorching fat”, “boosting metabolism”, and “flushing out toxins”. I’m pretty sure I read this article in an 18-month-old copy of Closer magazine at the dentist’s recently.
The £100 Make-Over piece was actually fairly decent, giving some sensible advice about inexpensive upgrades. The same author also wrote the piece about get-you-home bodges, which is also pretty good. The same cannot be said of the “Expert” Guide to the Spring Classics, which rehashes the oft-told stories that can be found in Peter Cossins’ and Les Woodland’s books and contains this gem: “The final climb of the Tour of Flanders, the Muur van Geraardsbergen, often proves decisive in the race.” Basic factual errors such as this make me wonder if anyone at NutsEtc knows anything about bikes and bike racing. If you’re calling it an “expert” guide, then it better be bloody expert – the Muur van Geraardsbergen used to be the penultimate climb (followed by the Bosberg), but is no longer featured in the race at all.
Next we come to the kit section, which features custom shoes (not bad, but a bit lightweight), some random summer kit that will “get you noticed in the peloton” (really?), some random helmets (meh!), and a piece about brakes based on the hugely flawed assumption that no one thinks about brakes when buying a bike, and containing an admission that the staff at NutsEtc never bother looking at a spec sheet, or giving the bike a once-over, before they “test” it. Describing a bog-standard dual-pivot brake as “clever leverage-boosting tech” makes them sound like they’re writing for The Gadget Show.
The main bike test is of four (again, seemingly chosen at random) “sportive superstars”. It’s pretty turgid stuff that fails to adequately explain the geometry figures, doesn’t give a stack or reach figure, and which just feels like the same old shite. Similarly, the ride like a pro (John Degenkolb) is the same regurgitated twaddle we’ve seen many times before. And after seeing Degenkolb sprinting to victory in last year’s Milan-Sanremo, bobbing up and down furiously like a demented German porn-star in the throes of vinegar strokes, no one should want to ride like that. Perhaps that’s what the naked mole-rat on the front cover is attempting. The piece about better braking reads like it was lifted from the Early Learning Centre Guide to My First Bicycle and includes a horribly soft photo taken from the Ventoux feature.
At the back we have a lengthy piece about cycling in the Lake District. This was clearly a freebie laid on by the Cumbria tourist board, judging by the gushing tweets emanating from the BikesEtc account. It treads the well-worn path of Windermere, Hardknott and Wrynose, but at least the photos are good. The short article about Ventoux is OK, but feels vaguely familiar which makes me wonder if it’s been re-purposed from something in Cyclist magazine.
And that’s it. A
rancid puddle of shite pretty terrible mag written by people who don’t seem terribly knowledgeable or erudite when it comes to cycling. It just feels so amateurish, as if they consider their readers to be utter fucktards and the staff are just having a laugh pissing about with bikes. It just doesn’t feel very Dennis Publishing, somehow, it feels like dilettantism.
And that brings me to a subtle change that occurred on the masthead in the last (April) issue. At the top it says “Produced for Dennis Publishing Ltd by Illuminated Media Ltd”. In other words, it’s not actually a Dennis Publishing publication at all. Illuminated Media is a company set up by Nick Soldinger (the Editor), and it appears that BikesEtc is now published under licence from a different address. Exactly what this means is hard to know. Certainly the mag is very different to how it used to be, and we’ve seen a major shift in emphasis (and quality) over the last few months. Does this mean Dennis Publishing is trying to distance itself from NutsEtc? If I was the publishing director at Dennis I would certainly be making like Pontius Pilate at the moment.
Tomorrow I’ll be pontificating on the latest issue of Cyclist. Or Cycling Active. Probably.