Protest

We seem to be living in a world full of protests. From North Africa to the Middle East and clear into Greece, 2011 has been a year of the common man stepping forward to protest oppression, entrenched dictators, alleged democracies, failing economies and, in the case of Occupy Wall Street, the looting of the U.S. by a bunch of bankers.

I site these examples not to draw battle lines but to illustrate just how far-reaching that revolutionary spirit extends. There’s little that could possibly unite the average man on the street in Libya and the typical fast-food worker in the U.S.

Red Kite Prayer was started as a kind of protest, if I’m honest. The work I’d been doing for Belgium Knee Warmers had attracted a surprisingly large following, but I knew from my previous attempts at querying most of the publications that the pieces I was writing for BKW would never be run by any of the print magazines. What I was doing was mostly uncharted water. I believed that there was room for what I was writing and that there were bike companies that would see it as a viable advertising vehicle to reach readers. And that’s why I started RKP; Radio Freddy wanted to keep BKW true to its garage band roots, the great un-signed act.

I wanted a paycheck.

Most of my life has been spent at the shallow end of one bell curve or another. Cyclist. Writer. Masters degree. Apple owner—for 25 years. I’m almost never part of the 99 percent. That said, I understand the outrage at Wall Street, and why the protest Occupy Wall Street started. (For the record, Goldman Sachs advised Petersen in preparation for its sale to Emap and was directly responsible for Bicycle Guide being folded.) I’m not about to go live in a tent on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall. I’ve got a family; besides, there’s no wifi there.

OWS is chaos. Most can’t really articulate what they want to change and feel so powerless to effect any change that they’ve taken to the streets. Folks, this is how revolutions start. The whole point to having government is to eliminate chaos. However, if you’re still not convinced that there is adequate reason for OWS, check out this article by Matt Taibbi over at Rolling Stone.

In the bike biz, we’ve had some chaos of our own. If you haven’t been following the drama at Competitor Group Inc. over the last year or so, on the order of three dozen people have either left or been fired from CGI’s titles—VeloNews, Inside Triathlon, Triathlete and Competitor. They are bleeding people faster than they can hire them.

For months I watched the departures with a kind of detached fascination. I couldn’t imagine what could be going on in Boulder to cause as many people to quit as were being fired. Then, last August, it was announced that CGI had laid-off (a really passive term for fired) Charles Pelkey and John Wilcockson.

Pelkey, with daughter Annika. She's gotten older and even more beautiful ... so beautiful that Pelkey is reconsidering his position on gun control.

The changes at VeloNews (okay, now Velo) have really pissed some people off. Check out what Richard Sachs had to say.

When it comes to bike racing journalism in the English language, Wilcockson and Pelkey are two of the very best. And Pelkey’s “The Explainer” column is routinely some of the best analysis in the bike biz.

Folks, I’m not a socialist, but I do think what Wall Street is doing to the rest of the U.S. is wrong. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” There’s a lot of change that I’d like to see happen in the world, but my sphere of influence isn’t all that great. So, I’ve decided to take the most significant stand I can.

I’ve hired Charles Pelkey to contribute to RKP.

Charles will continue to pen his “The Explainer” column, just now for us. I’ve decided to stand up and say that he’s a journalist of great talent and integrity and if his former employer won’t stand by him, then I will.

And if I had the cash, I’d hire Wilcockson, too. Who the hell fires their database?

I plan to be there for Charles as he recovers from his cancer—yeah, he’s recovering from breast cancer that was diagnosed in August—and for years to come. Initially, Charles will post every other week. He writes his column the day before his chemo treatment, which is the best he feels all week. After the chemo ends and as his strength returns, we will begin running work from him more frequently, with the goal of providing one piece from him per week, more when the opportunity presents. Watch for his work beginning next week.

Pelkey has lost his hair, but he hasn't lost his touch.

This represents a significant investment for RKP as a business and me personally. One of my advertisers, when informed of the move, asked if this meant an easier workload for me and more time with the family. Amazingly, the answer is no. My workload won’t go down a whit. I’m not doing this to make my job easier, I’m doing it to make RKP better. In barest terms, this is a chance to stand up for quality.

The addition of Charles to RKP’s already terrific roster of contributors is certainly a protest against MBAs who focus on the bottom line above all other considerations. A spreadsheet isn’t what makes a company or a product great. The greater truth here is that I love his work and I believe by bringing him into our fold I increase the value of this blog to both you our readers and our advertisers. I aim to deliver a blog that is ultimately smarter and more diverse in its offerings than I, alone, could present. At the end of the day, RKP is simply a measure of content that I like to read, and I’m stubborn enough to believe my vision will resonate with readers around the world, so in that regard, maybe I am part of the 99 percent.

 

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32 comments

  1. Rick Vosper

    Well played, Patrick. As cycling becomes Big(ger) Biz, the cultural value guys like you and Charles bring to the party increases exponentially.

    PS: I was one of the folks who got stiffed by Bicycle Guide (Petersen) back in the day. I only wish they’d lasted a little longer so I could have not spent even more advertising dollars with them than I actually did.

  2. grolby

    Padraig, you care about quality work and you care about people and that makes you ok in my book. I’m really looking forward to reading Pelkey’s work on RKP, welcome.

  3. Shawn

    Ironically, as the words of Pelkey and Wilcockson inexplicably faded from VN, I turned my browser more often to RKP and now that will happen even more often! (Feel free to quote me to any potential advertisers.)

  4. Pingback: Charles Pelkey has some ‘splainin’ to do « Mad Blog Media


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: I can’t thank you enough for the wonderful things you’ve written. I feel like I’ve just purchased the ultimate boxed set of my favorite band. And to see the way industry friends have turned up to show their support for Charles is just the flippin’ coolest.

      Right now, I can say without a doubt, RKP’s readership has just confirmed I’m doing the right thing with my life. Thank you. Thank you.

  5. Souleur

    Padraig, it takes guts to stand on what you believe and be consistent. Chapeau friend! This espresso is to you

    I had no idea those things had gone on (i have alot more reading to do), and to make good things happen in such circumstance is admirable! I had missed other pieces but they just faded over the last few years into oblivion, like the friday foaming rant and others. I love that stuff.

    Some things cannot be replaced, and no matter what field it is whether its journalism or medicine, when you lose experienced people, all degree’s aside, your product…no matter what it is WILL suffer. Sit and watch.

    I have also learned that (most) bean-counters and suits-ties don’t really care about quality no matter what and how fast their lips move, they only care about the bottom line and their own salaries

    Looking forward and ahead

  6. MikeG

    I’ve only recently become a regular RKP visitor. This announcement further confirms that I’ve found the right (and righteous) place to further feed the habit.

    Well done, sir. Very well done.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      In a credit where due mention, I’d like to remind everyone that Andy Shen and the guys over at NYVelocity were the first folks to stand up on Charles’ behalf. They set up the Chipin account to help cover Charles’ medical expenses when he really wasn’t sure how those costs would be met. It was a truly terrific way to rally the troops.

  7. Jeff B

    It made me really sad when an email got bounced back from CP’s Competitor email address. He’s one of my favorite writers in the biz. Very glad to see he’s where he should be.

    It’s a real shame what CG has done. While I suppose I understand the idea that they want to change their magazine’s profile, they’ve jettisoned/lost some of the best minds and most talented writers.

    It’s like when Maximum Rock and Roll rolled out a new monthly column. I was always excited, but this time, I know it’s going to be a good read.

  8. Jim

    Wall Street has a partner in crime called “Federal Government.” The money flows back and forth in between them. That money comes from a garden hose linked back to us. The money generally does not flow back into the this pool.

    There is nothing wrong with capitalism or a focus on the bottom line; and in fact sooner or later if there is any demand at all for something, a market springs up, as long as the barriers erected by government and other competitors are not too steep. What most of the problems seem to involve, I think, is the concentration of power and money in the hands of a few who rotate between government and the private sector, and who work to preserve and build their wealth and exclude others from doing so. At the margins – Goldman Sachs – they are plain rapacious. I do not know what the cure is for this, but I suspect that smaller government and smaller big business are some medicines we need to swallow along the way.

    I applaud you opening this blog and making some money off it; in fact I hope you get rich, though you’re in the wrong industry for that. Everybody knows that the easiest way to become a millionaire in bicycling is to start out a billionaire. But you’re doing something productive. Would that the OWS folks would find a passion, open up a business, and market themselves. Small businesses fail in great numbers, but I know oh-so-many people who succeed as long as they stick with it. And I think small business is in a lot of ways capitalism and our country’s best hope. People who live and dine and ride next to us are generally not going to act out against our interests, the way the jet set will.

    Ultimately, I just want to be free to ride my machine and not be hassled by the man, whether his office is on Wall Street, or Constitution Ave. I’m willing to support those who share that interest…

  9. Skippy

    Since installing my ” chipin ” on the blog i have tried to find and follow ” Charles ” w/out luck until today ! I know there are people who used ” Chipin ” as a result of this action .
    Now you not only have helped a Great Guy but you have helped me and my friends who have missed Charles’s take on so many aspects of the Cyclists’ world .
    Perhaps you could contact ” fatcyclist.com ” and show him how to install the ” chipin ” for his following to use to help his neighbour ” Stephen( subject of the latest ” Fund raiser ” )

  10. Rod Diaz

    Wow… just wow. First, your view of OWS is similar to mine – these people are just pissed. Maybe not enough to start a revolution, but neither were the (original) tea partiers on their first go, or the middle-eastern demonstrators before they toppled their governments.

    And then you pick up Pelkey. This is just getting better.

  11. Hautacam

    +1 for RKP. Nice addition. It’s starting to be quite the lineup here. Not sure of the right analogy, but maybe Panasonic of the 1980s? La Vie Claire of 85/86? PDM? Mapei/Quickstep? You get the picture.

    Meanwhile Velosnooze stands to be hoist by their own petard, what with cutting loose the likes of Pelkey and Wilcockson. It’d serve VN right.

    I haven’t checked the VN page in years, much less the print rag.

    No reason to do so now.

    Allez, RKP!

  12. Big Mikey

    I echo the congrats from the other posters. Well-played, and we look forward to the additional content and insight from another talented writer. Going to make a great site even better.

    Chapeau for choosing to do what is right, even though it might be harder.

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