spooky bikes

Why Bicycling is evil

Posted in Random by Mickey/SpookyBikes on January 6, 2010

I read bike magazines for passion.

If I want to read something well written I’ll buy Harpers, McSweeney’s or a goddamn book.  If i want news there’s Financial Times or the Economist (at least they are upfront about who they serve) and some amazing RSS feeds and podcasts I can listen too just as easily as I can buy paper.
Bicycling magazine doesn’t do a damn bit of good to educate new cyclists.  But it does deliver a desirable demographic to advertisers who are quite clearly enemies of cycling.   Strong local club scenes are what develop racers and solid riding habits.  Hell, the Internet is about 100x better than Bicycling at introducing concepts of cycling to a starry eyed and wide audiences without strong local scenes.

Let’s not think we need to rely on Rodale to shove the idea of riding to work and for life down the gullet of middle-america.   Bicycling(the act, not the magazine) doesn’t and shouldn’t need general interest publications.  The barriers to bicycle access and acceptance in this country are doubly political and cultural.  Everyone knows how to ride a bike.  Manufacturers make bikes that are not intuitive enough, not reliable enough, and not-ungeeked enough to make riding a fine bicycle for practical uses seem as natural as getting in your car.   A niche magazine does nothing to help.  Fitness cyclists can become bike commuters- but if they think the solution to every problem is a product- what good is that?
Organizing- advocating- exhorting for the right thing is most effective on a local level.  2 people who give a damn and get themselves elected to the local planning commission, town council and actively wave banners and advocate loudly and truthfully causes a thousand times more change than 1200 words sandwiched by infographics and erectile dysfunction.  IBD point of purchase displays announcing “your partnership” with BikeTown, USA prove nothing. It means Trek or Giant gave you a placard to help move units..   Steve Pucci has done more for bicycle racing in America than Bicycling Magazine.

National advocacy means dealing with national government and national media- which clearly doesn’t give a fuck, never gave a fuck, never can and never will give a fuck about anyone or anything that doesn’t wave dozens of thousands of dollars in front of it’s face.  It matters what Rodale does in their own community- and they do great- but they don’t exact spread the love outside PA.  Just look at what they’ve been making money off of lately,  fad diets, feel good and Gore Bluster.   They try hard to be good corporate citizens, and I feel like they are- but they are also just a publishing company.  They make deals with the devil everyday to stay afloat- and one medium sized turd in a cesspool full of utter money-grubbing shit that is for-profit mass-media is no more than a lighthouse on a shoal warning all of us not to get too excited about the possibility of change.
Unless you want a Fred Junta telling you to raise your stem, put a hole in your saddle and wear a helmet, and ride on the bikepath give up on Bicycling ever helping Bicyclists in any meaningful way.  Give up on the media in general.  Become the media.

A niche magazine that makes cyclists look like bigger narcissistic buffoons than we really are(which is a feat in and of itself), on the face of it more concerned with fitness than access- gear than beauty- is of no benefit now or in the long run.

Consciousness, Change and Capital Exchange.   It’s 2010 y’all.  We can make it happen ourselves.


37 Responses

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  1. Mike said, on January 6, 2010 at 9:20 am

    jeezus chris mickey … poignant, funny, and well-written!! i felt like jumping off my chair for a standing o or to start a wave.

    in particular …”Give up on the media in general. Become the media..” …yes …

    your thesis — “Bicycling magazine doesn’t do a damn bit of good to educate new cyclists. But it does deliver a desirable demographic to advertisers who are quite clearly enemies of cycling. Strong local club scenes are what develop racers and solid riding habits. Hell, the Internet is about 100x better than Bicycling at introducing concepts of cycling to a starry eyed and wide audiences without strong local scenes.” — true.

    the print media … be it “news”, alleged investigative reporting, or Bicycling Magazine … sold out and useless. i’d rather have a tree than the daily newspaper or Bicycling Magazine.

    and you know … an upbeat and positive ending …

    “Consciousness, Change and Capital Exchange. It’s 2010 y’all. We can make it happen ourselves.”

    What did you have for breakfast this morning? I want some!

  2. Britton said, on January 6, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Last thing I need to see is some idiot on the cover riding an IraRyan with super record sprinting out of the saddle in the 39/11 gearing…made me want to throw up! The photography in that publication is a joke, most of it looks like it was done in the studio, not on the road, which is not inspiring to say the least.

  3. Greg said, on January 6, 2010 at 10:36 am


  4. plane - simple said, on January 7, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    pucci power on the hour!

  5. jd said, on January 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    You had me at Pucci. Wow, Mickey I just got amped up and now I don’t know where to lash out with all this anger. Well said!

  6. Jim said, on January 11, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Micky, lot of anger here–some accurate, some misplaced. It is ironic that Brendan linked here, where you express displeasure at the merchandising of bike stuff. CC, next to Rapha, can give master classes on thoughful selling of stuff. Every month when I get my copy of Bicycling I cringe at the cover, suck it, open it up and learn something. The story of Sonoma Co riders feeling the brunt of motor vehicle negligence was heartfelt and relevant, as I live close. re: rider education–learning how to eat properly, how to take off a jacket while rolling are good things. There’s room for the niche (you) and Joe Ten Speed.

  7. mike hogan said, on January 12, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Hey, Enjoyed your slamming of Bicycling mag, the mag been sort of a joke for the last 30 years or so.

  8. Aaron said, on January 12, 2010 at 9:05 am

    check out xxcmag.com

  9. billstrickland said, on January 12, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Hey Mickey,

    I think you’ve got it exactly right that people should become media, but I think you forget that media is already people, as well. And some of us who are already media are just trying to tell good stories as often as we can. I worked for nearly three years on this one with the writer, David Darlington. It sure still seems worth publishing to me . . .


    Anyway . . . off to make another deal with another devil so I can stay afloat long enough to try to get one more decent story out.

    Bill Strickland

  10. Phil said, on January 12, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Dear Bicycling,

    I hate bicycling magazine as well, it’s not “core” like I am, and it should be. After all I feel slighted for being such a “core” rider and fan of the sport in America. My niche brand one off custom fixie and matching CX bike proves my point. I’m sure there are at least 1,800 people just like me in America.

    I really wish mags like bicycling would throw away their mass market appeal and ad dollars for my quirky and selfish need for attention. ME ME ME ME! I’m over here to! You should ignore the millions of cyclists in america who read bicycling because they LIKE it, and learn how to have 6 minute abs (not 7 minute abs) from Chris Carmichael.

    I really need to have some attention over here in this dark corner of the cycling world, which by the way I’m very happy to be in…but I want more attention over here!



    PS: Why are your cover images always of newbies “doing it wrong”? You should put a real “core” rider on your cover. With my tats, we’ll sell magazines!

  11. mickey said, on January 12, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I think some of my stylistic vitriol may have distracted you from the point that I was trying to get across;
    If we make good friends-cultivate good relationships with the people we buy things from, and sell things to- Working within a progressively larger group of affiliates, we can send the idea of “media” to the curb (friends and cooperation are the solution to everything in society you can’t fix with a gun, imo).

    Everyone can and should be taking in the events that happen around them and integrating them on their own. Media- the kind GE and Disney own, aren’t any of our friends- spreading information isn’t their jobs. Ad revenue-marketshare-tie-ins, spinoffs… That is Media. And media just happens to be the exact same thing as the consumer products industry, and politics.- an intentional racket to accumulate and protect power.

    We (Informed Consumers and the Capitalist Critics of blind consumerism) are already the defacto press- BSNYC writing for Bicycling? Stories pulled from Internet forums in Dirt, etc etc. How is manufactured demand and profit-imperative created for and by products on the publicly traded mega-corporate end of bicycling? Focus-grouping for casual cyclists- and co-opting small niche products and fashions for enthusiasts… That means if we flexible small fry’s all try hard, find our markets and remain loyal to our customers- we can at least help to improve the industry and the sport for the better on some level, I hope.
    People like Competitive Cyclist, Speedgoat, Svelte Cycles, GoRide, et. al. provide more accurate product and cultural content than any of the glossy publications, and do it for the “right” reasons. It is forbidden to sell Cannondale, or Trek or Giant via their main distribution channels. They must support the companies that innovate, not imitate. SpeedGoat has done far more for Pivot than anyone except Richard@MBA- a 20 year old friendship based on shared ideals.

    Little companies that create new discursive spaces and differentiated markets for themselves, like Rapha, are the lifeblood of progress. I can’t afford Rapha stuff- and I wish it was made in the UK or the US, but Rapha is a brand that is actively and rapidly changing the high-end road marketplace markedly for the better. They started with a magazine- and developed products from the unique aesthetics of what many of us believed to be a better time and place in road racing- an entrepreneurial movement from outside to make and sell products and ideas that they wanted for themselves. Their marketing is shrewd and constructed- and I’m sure they maximize their margins and profits, but I’m really gratefull that they exist and act they way they do. When you can buy understated high performance softgoods from Specialized, well, It will create some saltiness among us Cultural Elites and Tastemakers who feel we deserve an exclusive license on Cool. But changing the industry from the bottom up- and creating a better, more fun, more aesthetically pleasing marketplace is a beneficial thing for more than just Rapha, as anyone with half a brain and a big enough dick can admit. The less people rolling around in Astana jerseys, the better.

    Turns out, there is a lot more financial interest in creating good content about bicycles if bicycles are what you are trying to sell. If the act of riding no-handed as you put your jacket in your back pocket and open a ClifBar- the art of wrapping a handlebar- the proper balance between rebound and compression- the perfect compound and cut- the proper angle… all the beautiful things are arcane, secret things-rites of passage into a community… Enthusiast culture and general bike culture don’t need to exisist in the same discursive spaces. General bike culture belongs in the same sphere as shoes and automobiles. Let’s not sell the possibilities for social change short because of how things are now.
    The arcane and exclusive acts of enthusiasts are rights of knowledge transfer- and they all involve transfer of capital as well. This is how we share. This is how we build lasting bonds between business and consumers- we all become partners instead of vendors and customers.

    There is no shame in selling things that you love to people who love them. We can’t really love a product in any proper kind of way, but we can love our Scene-our Friends-our Competitors. It’s a big boat, and if we are all in it(which I think we are) it’s going to be a lot easier to paddle it upstream.

    Until the little companies have as many resources to buy adds as the large ones and the desire to build many more bikes than we can now- our media access is more limited. DirtRag will cover us- and you can buy BicycleTimes in WalMart now- Bicycling or a Hi-Torque rag will throw us a bone every once in a while- especially if you know Zap, Adam, Richard or Jim. Do any of us actually want to exist that way? Can a small company even benefit from the demand created by large-scale media exposure? That’s not an easy question to answer, but I can at least answer it for Spooky. No, we wouldn’t benefit. I can’t make enough bikes to keep up with more demand if I want to make as many as I can here in Easthampton. If we organically build and regulate our demand and exposure we can grow responsibly and progressively- we can subcontract progressively more CNC, heatreat, forging, paint etc in our immediate communities- More Demand equals less control for small companies- more dilution of our brands, our intellectual content.

    I’d never deny that the traditional media is irrelevant to the Mega part of “the industry” or to small, innovative companies- but what if our goals are stability, social responsibility, local control and fostering the growth of our local scenes, industries and communities? Is quality of life really about the accumulation of wealth? I know many of you will say that’s just a load of Anarchist bullshit- but is stability and mutually beneficial self interest and vibrant, livable communites anything but responsible Capitalism?
    Fuck No. The real face of social and economic change is your local hardware store, your local farmer, your local coffee shop. Value doesn’t equal Values.


  12. Dean said, on January 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Blah, blah, blah. It’s easy to rip on others like Bicycling magazine ala the Republican Healthcare plan (death to all who don’t qualify!) but harder to come up with better solutions. Mickey, your attempt to clarify your point left me more confused. What’s your big solution here? Is it just to complain that you don’t like the world the way it is? Capitalism is a tough business? Gee, how long is that line? “Phil” was on the mark but congratulations for getting a link in the Competitive Cyclist.

  13. Jim said, on January 12, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Bill Strickland writes better and thinks more clearly than you. That’s all.

  14. mickey said, on January 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Solution- quit your job. sell your car. stop using credit cards. put your money in a local bank. Turn off your t.v. Start your own business that reflects your politics and worldview and incorporates the things you are most passionate about. Create and advocate for change on the level you can, your community. Build consciousness- grow organically.
    Maybe you can figure out a way to market half-assed cynicism!(I jest_

    References to “traditional” politics and “traditional” capitalism miss the mark completely. We all have control over our lives if we seek freedom over bondage. Some people dig on that, some people dig on accumulation of wealth and conspicuous consumption. As long as we pay our taxes we are given near infinite freedom here in America. Use it.

    Bill is definitely a better writer than me! I’m just a propagandistfor home-grown anarcho-syndicalism and avid manifesto writer!

  15. Jim said, on January 12, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    You are much better as a propagandist for Spooky Bikes.

  16. mickey said, on January 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Well, it is my livelihood Jim.

  17. billstrickland said, on January 12, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    I think Mickey showed a lot of heart in both the original post and the response.

    I get a kick out of criticism that comes from people who care so much about something. Not enough pure passion in our world. Lots of other stuff masquerading as passion, but rarely the real thing.

    Bill S.

  18. J$ said, on January 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Hey Mickey,

    FTW Man!! Don’t waste your breath giving explanations to morons. They don’t deserve it.

    This isn’t the first time this has happened. We had the same thing go on within the custom motorcycle community a while back. Folks took matters in to their own hands, gave up on traditional media, created blogs, built their own shit, and opened small companies. And guess what? They thrived and are doing well. Take Biltwell for example> http://www.biltwellinc.com/ bunch of BMX dudes got in to choppers figured out how to get shit done and are killing it. Same goes for DICE magazine. Coupla dudes fed up with major media create their own magazine for all of these same folks, and they’re doing well. After all this now guess who’s knocking on their doors, mass media magazines!! imagine that.

    Point is this. The ways of the old guard are gone, they’re done, dead. If you don’t want to listen to the folks that are out there doing this day and day out. No worries, we’ll take our business elsewhere. I can get a yearly sub to Bicycling for what 12 bucks, I can get one copy of Embrocation for about double that. Guess where my moneys going? Embro hands down.

    and guess where my money will be going when it’s time for a new frame?

    yep, it will go to Mickey for having the balls to stand for what he believes in. and for building a killer frameset in the US.

    Here’s a novel idea for Bill. Review a Skeletor in the mag, do a profile of Spooky, or better yet give Mickey space in the blog similar to what you guys did with BikeSnob. That’s something I would read.


  19. Colin said, on January 13, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    i commend this just for the shear fact that it got people to exhibit at least a modicum of critical thinking.

  20. Phil said, on January 14, 2010 at 12:59 am

    Mickey – blog link on homepage broken / taken down = poor decision. Own it friend, own it.

    Bill S. – I think we might know who mickey is, like, duh, we’re totally his friend on facebook so he probably can’t bring it like BSNYC does in his column in Bicycling.

    Alas, Mickey won’t get to go the dance, won’t make it big time, and won’t ever be a happy “miserable cynic” ever again. (I see it mickey, I really do).

    The world is a cruel place, especially with anon ass-holes like me.

    sincerely, phil(ip)johnson@gmail.com

  21. mickey said, on January 14, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Mouse over the armpit. When it turns red, yr good to go.

  22. Stevil said, on January 14, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Look at the big brain on Mickey. Well played young man.

  23. Joe Lindsey said, on January 14, 2010 at 8:23 pm


    I write for Bicycling. I’m pretty sure I’m not evil, but you never know. But Biketown? Biketown is surely not evil, and it surely has done good in the world.

    Mickey, I love your passion for the sport, but ready fire aim is the wrong order. Please don’t apply overly simplistic solutions to complex situations. It’s merely an excuse to turn off your brain. And no one wants that.

    Joe Lindsey

  24. TM said, on January 15, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Your criticism is way off-base. Joe Lindsey is the best writer in the bike industry and Bicycling’s article on Ross Dillon and articles like it are far more important than parking lot crits.

  25. Jim said, on January 15, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    If your bikes ride like your big brain thinks, sign me up!
    Moron Jim

  26. Anthony Rodale said, on January 16, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Mickey, Anthony Rodale here, random bike racer since 1976, Looks like you have some serious issues with Bicycling. Its saturday morning and I don’t want to spend much time on this, but your piece is intriguing. Just some FYI, Rodale has been in business since 1942 publishing magazines against the grain promoting health and wellbeing. Today so much of what we were promoting is now mainstream, which is a good thing. But if you have issues with the types of books we publish you should really be attacking the food and agribusiness companies for making people fat and sick! And governments for climate change! Rodale now reaches over 25 million people world wide on a mothy basis! How many people do you reach? We act local, national and internationally. We built the coolest velodrome in America in PA, 1976, that inspired tracks to be built all over the US. Of course we could do much more to help and promote the innovating ideas of cycling, but our approach is the more the merrier. We won’t stop until every single person is riding a bike or doing something healthy in this world. Rodale is now in its 3rd generation of leadership so we will be around for a while yet. So Mickey, Thank you for your comments, but think about the BIG picture before you write next attack pieces. Do your home work, go back to school, you seem pretty young to me.
    See you on the bike some day for a chat, a friendly ride or some shoving around.
    Anthony Rodale

  27. Brendan said, on January 16, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    While my inner cool guy also cringes, seemingly in obligation, at the copies of Bicycling that sometimes grace my mailbox (thanks Mom!), I usually just remember that I’m reading about bikes and try to find something worthwhile. IMHO there’s often some decent info in there, and everyone has to start somewhere. Not everyone is born with ideals, back issues of MRR, the ability to ride wheelies and a cool name like Mickey.

    If Bicycling can teach someone new to the sport something useful than more power to them. If you keep building nice bikes and have great people represent Spooky you should do well. More people on bikes is generally a good thing unless they’re riding shitfaced against traffic down a one way street. But, otherwise, a good thing, no? Especially considering that 99.9999% of the US population regards cyclists as oddities (health nuts, etc..) or worse; “Lance Armstrong”*, “fags”* and other assorted not so nice words. The more cyclists the better, even if only one half of 1% get to be as cool as everyone reading this 😉 Let’s hope for their sakes they don’t get that far…

    * As in “go Lance!” or “get off the road fag!”

  28. mickey413 said, on January 17, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    You guys are the easy punching bag- you’re guys are the biggest publishing company that publishes a bike mag (asg may be bigger- but their market is slightly less mainstream, but wicked valuable, for sure), and the only “mainstream” magazine here in the U.S.
    I most certainly used Bicycling as a punching bag- but if you re-read my rant, you’ll see that I am advocating for the same things you are- Bike Culture, health promotion et. al. I just advocate for community based change- not change from the top-down. It’s a political difference that lay between us – We aim to tear down the state and destroy the standard way of doing business. We don’t dig on profit- We dig on freedom. Freedom means a lot of things, social justice, local production of foods and goods, autonomous local control and production, consensus based government, and the cybernation of work to the point that work is fun and leisure time is the norm- 16 hours a week of helping your community and pursuing the things you are passionate about- not bondage.
    I know that sounds like a pipe dream- but in the inevitable coming economic collapse it will become more and more feasible. If we try to get a head start now, we will have a much better chance of success when the shit hits the fan. What are you guys going to do when ad revenue evaporates? What’s the exit strategy?

    We are currently 1/2 through a development project for a fully integrated commuter bike that will be made 98% within 90 miles of our factory. Fenders will be rolled by the people who used to make fenders for Columbia. Lights will be stamped and formed 5 minutes from our shop, wiring harnesses will be made 2 doors down from us, tubes will be made at a family-owned mill in CT that Cannondale abandoned- CNC parts will be made by a family shop up in the Hilltowns. Everything except what comes from Michelin, DT or Shimano will be made here, by family owned businesses. We are trading- not exploiting- and we all need each other, like each other, and have complete control over what we do. That’s Anarchism in practice, and we are fucking proud of it!
    Our power is hydro-steam co-gen that is made in the next town over (although the greed-mongers have ESI to create a market for energy- don’t get me started on that). The meat, potatoes, kale, milk and root vegetables(90% of what we eat, basically) are grown by local family owned organic farms. That is Anarchism in practice, and we are fucking proud of it.
    This can happen nearly anywhere except the desert Southwest or the Midwest. This is sustainability- this is health promotion- this is livable communities. This is freedom. This is the fullest promise of the human project. This is ecology- this is technology- this is the death of politics. Greed mongers can die in the hinterlands as far as we care.
    I’m okay with that. It’s called evolution.

    I threw a bomb in your lap- sorry about that.
    Spooky Bikes.
    Aiming to destroy the state since ’92

  29. Anthony Rodale said, on January 18, 2010 at 8:28 am


    Looks like we have one thing in common, we are both idealists. But I must stand up for my mates at Bicycling who are awesome people, riders and writers who love what they do and share the same ideals that you and I do, but we go about it in a different way.

    Your words or anarchism and fight for “local” freedoms remind me of when my parents dragged me to many organic hippy communes in the 1970s. I met tons of smart, articulate, young motivated people such as yourself. Many of those people I met on the farms across america were the founders of some of the largest organic food businesses today. Talk about selling out to the devil! These people sold out for big financial gain.

    I agree with you the whole local movement is where its at and its the key for long term sustainability on all levels. But we live in a connected world where natural and human systems large and small exist and come and go. Just wait until you have to make some decisions at Spooky that go against your core belief for the good of the business.

    Your tag line says, aiming to destroy the state since 1992, you would have been 14 yrs old then. How can any one at that age not want to go against convention. All of us wanted to change the state and our families at that age. Now today I have a 27 year old son who thinks the same as you. I thought the same as you then too. What ever we do now, we can only hope that we are doing the right thing and history will be our teacher.

    Keep on making bikes and getting people into racing! But don’t trash others who share the same dreams as you. We just see things a bit different. I will have to come up to the shop for a visit and a ride sometime.


  30. Bakunin said, on January 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    There is no chance for long term sustainability when we keep breeding like rats and consuming beyond our means or needs. And you can wave your black flag all you want, but frivolous consumption is counter to your ideal.

  31. Greg said, on February 1, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Can you please have someone stop sending me spam daily to buy “The Biggest Loser” cookbook?
    I think one request was more than reasonable and would be quite pleased if when I hot “unsubscribe” it actually worked.
    With Best Regards,

  32. nooneline said, on February 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I think it’s really cool what happened here.

    Also that locally made commuter bike sounds fucking rad.

    Also I love my Spooky Skeletor.

  33. […] politics I’d like to direct your attention to a post over on the Spooky Bikes blog called Why Bicycling [Magazine] is Evil. Doubtless, the author’s use of that mag as a punching bag – and he pulls few – […]

  34. avmed said, on February 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I would guess that treasury yeilds aren’t going lower. They are at historical lows. The govenment is not going to reduce spending. Obama’s policies will not result in the magnitude of private sector growth required to achieve balance budgets. We will not develop domestic nuclear and natural gas resources. Balance of trade deficits will continue. Fiscal deficits will continue. Default on our outstanding debt through currency debasement is inevitable. Interest rates will rise unless Americans use all of the printed money to by US debt instead of Arab oil and Chinese manufactured goods.

  35. Susan Forsman said, on October 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm

  36. shimano dura-ace said, on August 4, 2013 at 3:48 am

    I’m not sure exactly why but this website is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end? I’ll check back later and see
    if the problem still exists.

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