Something to Say, Part II

His father calls him “motormouth.”

In 2008, Radio Freddy arranged for the two of us to meet Brad Roe, then the editor of Hi-Torque’s Road Bike Action. While Radio Freddy was in town for the Tour of California, we met Brad and took a tour of the offices that had produced countless issues of magazines we did a better job of memorizing than the algebra texts found in our book bags during our school days.

From that one meeting a relationship with Brad and RBA grew. I’d admired the work those guys were doing and the chance to begin freelancing for them was a dream come true. I began freelancing for VeloNews once again, following a more than 10-year hiatus. And when Paved was launched, I was thrilled to hear from Joe Parkin requesting a contribution.

That I chose to launch Red Kite Prayer is an event I believe some BKW readers misunderstood. Comments in response to my post announcing RKP got snarky and suggested I was disloyal to Radio Freddy and I wasn’t showing proper appreciation for the “sponsorship” I received. Just what that sponsorship was, I’ll never know.

I really hadn’t wanted to turn my back on BKW and it wasn’t a slight to Radio Freddy. Facts were facts, though. His day job was busy and he didn’t have the time to put into a blog that I did. And it wasn’t really practical for me to assume the helm of a ship that wasn’t mine. He encouraged me to launch a new blog and even suggested he’d contribute to it, turning the tables in an unusual twist. For me, it came down to a matter of practicality: To make a living as a freelancer, I needed to make something off of all my work, whether it came from T-shirt sales, advertising or (preferably) both. RKP hasn’t made me rich, nor do I expect it to, but it’s added an important additional revenue stream (to use a technical term) to my business model. Ahem.

When Brad left RBA I was equal parts surprised and depressed. I loved working with him and feared that a terrific relationship was going to go down the drain. I knew we’d stay in touch, but I feared we’d never work together again. It’s not often you work with an editor who challenges you and then gives you enough leash to go do good work. Mere months later he decided he missed publishing and announced a new road bike magazine, peloton. When he called to ask me to be a part of the magazine and even offered me a column I didn’t need time to think before saying yes.

Unfortunately, once I began freelancing for peloton, my days at Road Bike Action were numbered, even though the writing I did for the two couldn’t have been more different. I’d never have written the analysis pieces or columns that have appeared in peloton for Road Bike Action. Conversely, the overview features that I typically did for RBA would never suffice for peloton. I really enjoyed the diversity. However, Hi-Torque hasn’t taken kindly to having an ex-employee (Brad) start a new magazine. Getting caught in the middle was zero fun, but then no one ever enjoys being collateral damage. For a period of time I put the Swiss Cross up as my profile pic on Facebook. That didn’t seem to phase anyone, so when RBA’s ad sales director pulled me aside at Interbike and told me, “You can’t freelance for four magazines,” I responded, “I’m not; I’m freelancing for three.” I added, “Look, I’m a freelancer, which means I’m a hooker. If you want me to spend the night, marry me.”

I admit, I was impressed when they offered me a full-time position. They offered to create a special status for me, so that while they didn’t want to see most of their editors more than four or five times in a month, they expressed a strong desire to have me in the office all five days a week. I’d have the opportunity to brainstorm ideas on the hour-and-a-half drive each way to and from work and I’d be liberated of the need to care for my year-old son on a daily basis. Though the allure of the position was strong—especially because their urgency was so great they never put an offer in writing—I realized that as a lowly blogger publishing a new piece five days a week probably hadn’t prepared me for the rigor of their publication schedule. I decided the best thing I could do was allow them to hire someone more qualified.

It used to be that in working as staff for a magazine you exchanged the freedom to freelance for a steady paycheck. It was a Faustian trade, I tell you. Today, though, we have a much better arrangement, thanks to 1099s. The good news in this is writers like me who are unencumbered by the strictures of employment used to face a dizzying array of possible homes for our freelance work. It was utterly confusing to get up each morning and wonder who I should pitch for which story. That needless task has been solved for me, though. The more my name has become associated with peloton, the less other magazines have been willing to work with me. I’m pretty introverted, so having the phone ring less with offers of work has lifted a tremendous burden from me.

Of course, I still query other magazines from time to time, but I really do it just to keep appearances up. I really don’t want my name getting around too much; that might get confusing for readers.

Though my involvement with peloton has been strictly freelance, the assignments I’ve tackled have been some of the most challenging and rewarding of my entire career. The chance to have my analysis of greats like Eddy Merckx, Fausto Coppi and Claudio Chiappucci appear alongside never-before-seen photos from some of the finest photographers in the biz puts a smile on my face while helping to pay the rent. Life is good.

So what’s the point of this story? First, it’s to say thanks (again) to Radio Freddy for giving me a chance to reinvent myself as a writer. That I’ve carved out a niche for myself as an author in the bike industry is both incredibly rare and something that came about as a direct result of my involvement in BKW. What has also been truly gratifying are the people who have come forward to tell me how much they enjoyed BKW and even some instances where other writers have noted how it influenced their desire to write or what to write about. That there are other blogs out there that owe some of their inspiration to BKW is something I’d never have guessed would happen.

But I’m not the only person who re-entered the bike biz due to BKW. Radio Freddy is back among us. I guess this sport is a bit like some viruses—once in your system it’s there for good. His re-entry has created an opportunity for us to collaborate again, though our involvement will be found at another web address.

To find out his real identity and see what he’s up to, pick up Issue 10 of peloton.

 

Image: Brad Roe

 

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11 comments

  1. cendres

    Another excellent piece, Padraig. It’s funny (funny strange, not funny ha-ha), the magazine business. In 14 years of Independent Creative Work (sigh) for magazines in another industry, I’ve had the same conversation several times, each with the same result. Lots of huffing and puffing, but I’m still ho-in’…

    There’s no question in my mind that you made the right choice.

  2. michael

    @Tom

    i waited for 8 weeks for my first issue to arrive. when it still hadn’t i dialed them up. my first issue showed up 2 days later. to say their customer care is outstanding is an understatement.

    contact subscription services and they will sort you out.

    they are good people :)

  3. Big E

    You’re an excellent writer Padraig. Peloton magazine is an excellent periodical. A match made in heaven! While I am a blogger and enjoy it thoroughly. Your passion and philosophy for cycling is, in my humble opinion, where your true merit lays. Thank you for all the wonderful words!

  4. MCH

    As one who’s known you since the early 90s / BG days, it’s been great to watch, and read, your progression in cycling and publishing. What you didn’t really get into in parts 1 and 2 was how difficult the path was at times. I only bring this up in order to point out that persistence and dedication to an ideal, backed up with a boat-load of talent ultimately paid off and we, your readers, are all the better for it. As you’ve shown, overnight success is usually the result of decades of hard work.
    Congratulations – keep it up!


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: thank you for your comments, you especially MCH. I was a little nervous as I hit the “publish” button for the post, but I wrote it because it felt not just true, but a valid thing to share. And yes, the road has not been easy. For the record, it still isn’t easy. But I didn’t want the post to seem like I was whining about my financial situation. The point for me was that all these twists and turns presented me with an opportunity to grow and I think my work is better for it, and as I wrote, to say thanks to Radio Freddy again. RKP wouldn’t have happened without him.

  5. James

    An interesting read. Thank you for sharing a bit of your life with us. I continue checking this site daily with anticipation and am never disappointed. Again, thank you for sharing.

  6. steve

    Padraig (Patrick)-
    Don’t be be timid about the “tale of the struggle”… Your plight is shared by lot’s of other good people in other professions. I too have been hard at my craft for too many decades and have been blessed as well as challenged by my clients. What binds us all is a unyielding pursuit of excellence in our “dayjob” .
    combined with a love for the road on two wheels. Some of us get to ride for our livelihood, some for our distractions from our toils and some for our pure and simple pleasure of the experience.
    Has been wonderful reading your work in BG, RBA, Peloton as well as RKP. Don’t stop, there are too many of us looking forward to your next adventure. Oldsac Racer

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