Bike Boom is a history book about cycling, and I’m a bit of an antique myself. I’ve been a bike journalist since 1986. My first article appeared in Bicycle Times, a nationally-available British magazine – it was an article on cycle touring in Turkey (I had just returned to the UK from a two-year tour of the Middle East). I was gobsmacked at getting paid to write about what I loved. I remain gobsmacked. The Turkey piece was followed by a monthly column on mountain biking, billed by editor/publisher Peter Lumley as “Off-Road Reid”. I used this column as a publicity platform to create the British Mountain Bike Team, which took part in the first ever MTB world championships.
As I was the co-manager of this team (the other manager was Peter Darke who still runs his eponymously-named bike shop in Sunderland) I naturally picked myself as a team rider. I was relatively fast in those days (in the race I DNF’ed because of a puncture) and that was because I was riding thirty miles a day on the roads of Tyneside, to and from my studies at Newcastle University. I might have been a cycle tourist and then a mountain bike racer but first and foremost I was a transportation cyclist.
After university – where I read religious studies – I started a publishing business. By 1992 I was employing five people and gained the contract to produce Cycle Industry, an upstart trade magazine from the then publishers of Mountain Biking UK. As well as writing I was also dabbling in TV presenting at this time. I was terrible but I somehow managed to front Chain Gang, a six-episode magazine programme for TyneTees-Yorkshire – this is a publicity still from the series:
This was some seven years before my business was jettisoned from Cycle Industry and I was forced to create Bicycle Business, which I later sold and is now the very successful BikeBiz. Cycle Industry is no more but it’s interesting – for me, at least – to see what I was writing about cycling infrastructure back in the early 1990s. I was very much in favour, as can be seen by these clippings – although I now prefer the word cycleways to cycle paths.
As well as having the contract to produce Cycle Industry I also created, in 1997, a consumer magazine, On Your Bike. This was a short-lived family cycling magazine. Within seven issues it had grown too big for me and my small team to handle, so I sold it. I sold it to EMAP of Peterborough, the publisher of Country Walking and a load of fishing titles. They turned into a mountain bike magazine. Dumb.
Anyway, to promote the mag I also wrote articles for newspapers and sometimes also sent in letters. Here’s one that was published in The Independent in 1997.
I wrote that “enthusiast cyclists are happy to mix with motorised traffic” but that “non-enthusiasts don’t want to be anywhere near cars, lorries and buses. Many thousands of new cyclists will be created when Sustrans and their local authority partners lay down the kind of segregated cycle routes – through car-free city centres, for instance – common on the Continent. This is not ghettoisation, it is a realisation that cycle use will not grow unless truly safe routes for cyclists are provided.”
It’s apparent that I continued writing about cycling infrastructure, and I also commissioned articles about it. I even employed an in-house Dutch journalist, Kirsten Oosterhof.
I’ve been banging on about the benefits of “going Dutch” for an awfully long time.