I don't think I've ever rescinded a recommendation in the almost-eight years this blog has been spewing opinion, but unfortunately, I'm about to break new ground.
Despite my initial positive, nay glowing, nay almost fawning review of Bicycle Times back when they first launched in 2009, I am sad to report that in this never-humble blogger's opinion, they have now jumped the shark. I was concerned when original editor Karen Brooks moved on, but I knew new-editor Gary Boulanger's reputation and witheld judgment. Now that I've digested a few issues under the new leadership, I'm prepared to say that the current iteration of Bicycle Times is not for me. Here's why:
ONE, THEY GOT FAT: I'm not going to claim that fat bikes are not a "thing." Anyone watching the industry knows that tires wider than those on my Prius are big in both the literal and metaphorical sense. But I'm not convinced that fatties are a "thing" for the everyday cyclist that was the original Bicycle Times audience. The new Times, however, dedicates a lot of column space to big rubber, as if somehow we all commute through the woods and hunt squirrels for our dinner. News flash: We don't.
TWO, THEY PLUGGED IN: Electric bikes are not new to the pages of Bicycle Times. However, there appears to be a new focus on e-bikes under the new management. One can argue (successfully) that the e-bike is a game-changer that could turn a lot of non-cyclists into everyday cyclists. In fact, I suspect that argument will be the Helmet War of the new millenium. But this lone, opnionated reader is interested in motorless bikes and thus yawns at the sight of a 30-pound battery pack.
THREE, THEY HEADED TO THE HINTERLANDS: Man, there's been a lot of "I loaded up my bike and pedaled alone across the foreboding wilds of the Outer Nowhere desert" content since the editorial switch. It's like the subtitle of the magazine is now "Your everyday Cycling ADVENTURE!!!" Don't get me wrong. Self-contained touring is amazing. I've done it myself, and wish I could do more of it. In the hands of a good writer, it can make for a ripping yarn. But as my "wish I could do more of it" might indicate, it's far from "everyday" cycling. Those of us living in the real world are confronted with any number of responsibilities that prevent us from simply packing the panniers and heading to Burma for a few months. Sure, when you get your cycling in dribs and drabs, commuting during the week and getting out for a longer spin on the weekend, maybe the occasional touring story is entertaining or inspirational. But making it a focus of something that claims to be an "everyday cycling" magazine says to your reader, "Here's the real cycling you could be doing." Mixed messages, anyone?
FOUR, THEY STARTED DRINKING: As soon as I saw a beer reviewed on the pages of Bicycing Times, I was done. Not that I'm a teeotaler or beer-prude... open my fridge right now, and you'll find a selection of malty adult beverages waiting to be quaffed. But in the same way that I don't ask my bartender to recommend a chain lube, I don't read bicycle magazines to learn about beer.
Add it all up, and you have a magazine that has strayed from its mission statement into the territory of the Surly blog (minus the e-bike content)... fat tires, bearded dudes (did I mention that Bicycle Times now has a fictional columnist called Beardo the Weirdo?), drinking beer under bridges, and showing off the scars you got from doing stupid stuff on your bike after drinking too much beer under a bridge. Maybe that describes your everyday cycling adventure, but it looks nothing like mine. Thus, I'm letting my subscription lapse.