A guide to cycling magazines

There are so many cycling magazines now available it is tricky to pick the right one. Photo: Cycling UK

A guide to cycling magazines

Read all about it! The editor of Cycle magazine Dan Joyce offers an honest appraisal of UK cycling magazines.

All bike magazines claim to be the number one for cycling enthusiasts. But what are they really like, and are they worth your cash? Here's my take. It's not objective: I'm the editor of Cycle. So feel free to disagree on the forum or on Twitter. I've left out digital-only magazines for space reasons, and haven't included print ones that just cover racing, such as ProCycling and Cycle Sport; you know what you're getting there.

Cycle

Cycle magazine October 2017

The membership magazine of Cycling UK explores the wider cycling world, beyond sportives and trail centres. It features adventure cycling such as touring and bikepacking, champions transport cycling for all, and celebrates everyday recreational cycling on and off-road. It also reports on what Cycling UK is doing to promote and protect cycling.

This diversity is a strength or a weakness depending on whether you like cycling as a whole or just one type. Pagination is lower than newsstand glossies, but the content has an oily-fingered authenticity they sometimes lack. Ride reports come from members and writers who want to share their stories, not journalists on press junkets. Reviews are measured – in tone, millimetres and degrees.

Price: £3 or free with Cycling UK membership

Frequency: 6 per year

Circulation: approx 51,000

Cycling Plus

The bible of the modern MAMIL, Cycling Plus sets the agenda and circulation target for other road bike mags. A typical issue has a shootout of carbon fibre road bikes, reviews of 17 pairs of lurid shoes you can't walk in, six reasons you should eat more quinoa, and a classic ride you could do: in a day/on a different bike/with 1,000 strangers.

Its remit is wider than the robo-cyclist covers imply, however, with regular tidbits for commuters and tourers. The reviews can be insightful, the photography is rarely less than excellent, and it's a lot of mag for your money. The best of its bunch.

Price: £4.99

Frequency: 13 per year

Circulation: 43,746

Cyclist

Slotting neatly between Cycling Plus and Rouleur, Cyclist is as roadie-specific as shaved legs. If you smile wryly at the Velominati's so-called Rules while sipping your espresso or have logged your ride up Sa Colobra on Strava, you'll like it. Cyclist only reviews extraordinarily expensive road bikes but does so individually and in some depth; you won't find shootouts of six £1,500 clones.

There are features on nice road rides in nice places, foreign sportives, industry-insider stuff, and technical commentary. Its view of cycling is affluent, painfully aspirational, and somehow adrift from the real world; any one issue feels much like any other. But it's polished and well-targeted.

Price: £5.50

Frequency: 13 per year

Circulation: 26,734

Cycling Weekly

Affectionately known as The Comic, Cycling Weekly has been struggling for a raison d'etre ever since the internet made printed news and race results largely obsolete. It still covers racing well enough but lacks the there's-my-name-in-the-mag draw of grassroots results, and it turns a blind eye to competitive cycling it doesn't like, such as mountain biking.

Each issue is filled out with sportive ride reports, product reviews, and training information, making it feel a bit like a rushed-out Cycling Plus. Dr Hutch is a good columnist, however, and its recent relaunch may help it to reconnect with its club-cyclist base.

Price: £2.99

Frequency: weekly

Circulation: 24,448

Mountain Biking UK

As mountain bikers have aged, mountain biking's best-selling title Mountain Biking UK has evolved (or devolved?) from an anarchic adrenaline mag (mountain biking out of an aeroplane/under the sea/down the disco) into a more formulaic offering for riders who like to get their wheels off the ground and sometimes land on their gorily-snapshotted faces.

So you get bike tests – typically full-suspension trail bikes or hardcore hardtails – kit reviews, ride guides with maps, interviews, etc. If it lacks some of its old exuberance (Tym Manley) and gravitas (Steve Worland), it's still got the ineffable Mint Sauce cartoon.

Price: £4.99
Frequency: 13 per year
Circulation: 28,992

 

Mountain Bike Rider

What was a more grown-up alternative to MBUK is now so similar in scope that I have to check the mastheads. Like MBUK, MBR is a magazine for trail riders (helmet, knee pads, 5in-travel bike) rather than cross-country riders or relaxed rough-stuffers.

It features: ride guides with nice OS mapping; trail centre visits; people telling you how to 'boss the trail'; maintenance tips; reviews of trail bikes and suspension forks and the like; and largely pointless long-term test bike updates (sample: 'I've fitted a completely different fork'). There's even a section for photos of nasty injuries. MBR orMBUK? Try both and pick.

Price: £4.99

Frequency: 13 per year

Circulation: 16,945

What Mountain Bike

What Mountain Bike proudly proclaims to have 'more reviews than any other bike magazine'. It's a buyer's guide. That puts it in a difficult position for a print magazine: surely an online reviews database could do this job better? It also makes it relentless to read cover to cover.

It's pretty much all about the bike, with relatively little about riding. If it's mountain bike buying advice you want, however, you won't be shortchanged. There's lots – and the range of reviews is wide, covering all price points and featuring everything form cross-country race bikes to 'all mountain' trail bikes. Long-term test blags – sorry, bikes – also feature.

Price: £4.75

Frequency: 12 per year

Circulation: 11,131

Singletrack

The magazine for middle-aged mountain bikers – like you, perhaps, and me. Singletrackbenefits hugely from understanding the difference between a magazine and a website. Things like news, 'letters' (there's a forum), and bike show snapshots are online only, freeing up the magazine for longer features and bigger pictures.

Coverage is of wheels-on-the-ground riding, and includes cross-country days out, trail riding domestic and foreign, and bikepacking. The bike tests are a bit woolly - I'd rather know a bike's effective top tube length than its 'personality' – and the us-and-our-Calderdale-mates atmosphere sometimes feels cliquey. But it's broadly what a grown-up off-road magazine should be.

Price: £5.95

Frequency: 8 per year

Circulation: approx 10,000

BikesEtc

Launched in 2014, BikesEtc 'delivers more pages of bike and kit reviews than any other road cycling magazine', according to the blurb. While I think time is running out for print magazines that major on reviews, if reviews are your USP then it's important that they're rigorous and informative.

Those in BikesEtc reminded me of Charlie Kelly's Universal Bike Review. The rest of the magazine is big on arbitrary lists: '40 fat-busting foods', '10 reasons you'll love this bike', etc. In a word: shallow.

Price: £4.99

Frequency: 13 per year

Circulation: not stated

Smaller circulation magazines 

Rouleur (£10, 8 per year) Goes in search of the soul of road cycling and sometimes finds it. Ten quid a copy(!) buys lovely paper-stock and photography.

Cycling World (£4.75, 12 per year) What was a rustic touring magazine is now so diverse and bitty it's not clear who it's for. Distribution has been erratic too.

A to B (£3, 4 per year) 'The alternative transport magazine' often reads like it's written by the Brompton Fan Club, but its coverage of folders and pedelecs is extensive.

Cranked (£10, 4 per year) The successor to Privateer, which was modelled on Rouleur, this expensive mountain bike mag has in-depth features, lovely photos, and no reviews.

Velovision (£7, 2-3 per year) So alternative it feels more Dutch than British, with detailed coverage of recumbents, HPVs, cargo bikes, family bikes, folders and more.

Casquette (£free + postage, 4 per year) Launched in autumn 2016 this fledgling women's cycle style magazine is quickly gaining a following.  

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