Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Dirt Rag Reaches The End Of The Trail

"Dirt Rag" gave me my first break and published me, making me a "pro", I suppose.
 Dirt Rag Reaches The End Of The Trail:

Wednesday night news broke on Twitter that the venerable mountain bike publication, "Dirt Rag", was shuttering operations after a 30 year run.

It is hard to explain to young people what the impact of this publication upon mountain bikers was back in the 90's. So......I won't even try. You had to be there. This publication kicked butt then. Later on they kind of cruised and when all the other magazines went away, or to digital, "Dirt Rag" carried on. The 25th anniversary edition rocked, and in a way, it was an early requiem, a send off that we didn't know was a send off.

Subsequent years found the "Rag" floundering. Advertisers left, the page numbers dwindled, articles became bland and lacked the verve, irreverence, and vigor that the publication was marked for in years past. You could kind of feel that the wheels were coming off in the last couple of years. Changes in editors and style couldn't bring it back. It was just time, I guess, to end it.

The magazine meant a lot to me. They gave me a chance to write a feature story, and not just once, but twice. They talked about gravel grinding ten years ago, back when no other major cycling publication would give gravel a mention. The publication championed 29"ers starting in 1999! You could count on the "Rag" doing justice to any new trend, no matter how bizarre or off track. And you know what? They were right on more times than not.

I've had the pleasure of knowing several former "Dirt Rag" employees, writers, and editors. I've met Maurice Tierney, the founder who is a member of the Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame. The whole line of the members of that publication were committed and bled the passion for cycling into the pages of "Dirt Rag". Loosing this publication marks the end of an era.

Thanks for the ride, "Dirt Rag", it still is a Great Big World, and we all should still keep on riding on it.


teamdarb said...

Dirt Rag was the first magazine outside of my culture of which I was allowed to subscribe to and have come to our house. We had evey single Black empowering and fictional media in the box weekly like Jet down to Ebony teen. My folks would tell me no to things like Business or even Sport Illustrated. I think it was the art on the covers and inside which swayed them to allow it. Plus, having a bicycle was less likely to attain over a skate board, which was seen as not something Black people ought to be doing. I could read about all these skills, places, rigs, and politics, but I could not have a bike. It reminds me of folks who read that magazine with those automobiles over six figure prices. The magazine is what inspired some of strange adventures growing up of stealing cars, hopping buses, or planes to travel to far away place I had read about. Where I am from still to this day "out of town" meant going beyond two blocks, very much akin to New Englanders "up to camp". I continued to read the mag and buy its swag as an adult.

Rydn9ers said...

Sad to see them go, I had a physical and then digital and then physical subscription for years and then just didn't renew it one year. To be honest it started getting read less and left on the coffee table more as a decoration or coaster than something to read. I'm not exactly sure why that is other than to guess that online content is so much better than it was when the magazine was king... and it's "free" to boot, which sometimes seems to matter more to folks than accuracy or bias.

Doug M. said...

I'm a relative newcomer, but I love Dirt Rag and am/was an active subscriber. Sad to see it go.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rydn9ers- That's an interesting point about free internet content. I saw a comment on the demise of "Dirt Rag" by James Huang, the famous "Angry Asian" of He said that the advertising model and the free internet content were both things that doomed print media. But then again, free content has been with us since the dawn of radio 100 years ago.

I feel like we are on a path where that is changing though. Content is starting to show up more and more behind paywalls. I feel like there will eventually be a two-tiered system where premium, believable news and opinion will be behind paywalls and the "fake news" will be what is free to anyone to read. Conditioning folks to start paying again for what their grandparents used to get free over the airwaves, and their parents got free over the internet, is going to be a long process and may never be successful.

It'll be interesting to see where it goes.

Rydn9ers said...

One of the main hurdles I see to getting everyone on board with a pay for play model is A) they gave it up for free for years so there is going to be some push back now that they want to charge for it and B) they waited too long to try to implement it. The delay in realizing that a free content for all "business" model was a horrible idea has lead to the demise of several publications (newspapers and magazines) and some of those that have survived have been so gutted of writing talent that they aren't much more than glorified blogs at this point. Trying to get talented writers back while trying to convince people to pay for their content is going to extremely difficult since you won't have the revenue initially to pay those writers. It will be interesting for sure.

Tman said...

I think #7 was my first issue? They started to lose me when they killed the message board on their website. Ironic huh? Paywalls have proven to be a failed business model. If the WSJ has the news I want behind a paywall a half dozen others will have it for free. I will miss DR, a good pal even sprung for the lifetime subscription they offered years ago. Guess lifetime meant theirs, not his.