State of the Blog

I’m a selfish bastard.

I needed to get that out there so that we’d all be clear about where I’m coming from. I created RKP so I could write about the things I want to write about, things that it used to be wouldn’t get traction with any of the magazines. Now that has changed, but the freedom that I took here (and before this at BKW) helped lead the way for the opportunities I’m afforded elsewhere.

But, like I said, I’m selfish bastard. That’s why RKP isn’t just my voice, but also includes Robot, Charles Pelkey, John Wilcockson, Whit Yost and Jeremy Rauch. I’m a fan of each of them. So RKP isn’t just a measure of what I’d like to write, but also what I’d like to read. You might say RKP isn’t so much a vanity press as a selfish press. I need to clarify here that Pelkey was a friend, so it wasn’t a big stretch to give him a call, but Wilcockson, on the other hand, wasn’t someone I really knew; reaching out to him felt a bit like trying to date above my pay grade. His interest in RKP was tantamount to a lingering look through long lashes by the prettiest girl in the room.

Really? Moi?

When I brought on these new voices, it was with the intention of increasing the amount of content available to you, dear reader. Publishing seven days a week with double posts on some days is what I had in mind and what we achieved, until recently. Here’s where I apologize for having been off our game—well, I’ve been off my game. If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook (or me personally on Facebook) then you might have caught that I’ve had an illness or two. The fact is, I’ve spent most of the last two months destroyed by a series of flus propagated by my young son. And for reasons I can’t fathom or explain, I’ve been largely unable to write through this. Truly, I’m sorry for delivering less content than I intended. This is less about what you expected of us than what I expected of myself. The good news is I’m better and there’s a fire burning.

RKP could be said to be an elaborate thought experiment: What happens if your first concern is the quality of the writing rather than being the first to review the latest gonkulator? I’ve never been absolutely certain that the choices I’ve made will “pay off” in any traditional sense, but part of my guiding vision could also be said to be the moral compass imparted to me by my parents. I believe that guys like Pelkey and Wilcockson have earned their stripes and have the right to be heard by an audience, rather than throttled back to monthly missives when the Tour isn’t going.

We’ve picked up a number of new readers in the last three or four months. Seeing the readership grow has been more rewarding than getting a clean bill of health from a doctor. With that new traffic has come a big increase in the number of comments some posts receive. For the most part, that has gone well. There have been, however, a few folks who believe that the duty of the commenter is to say something nasty and check out. Just to be super-explicit, I want to take a moment to say that’s not how we play here. We begin with the basic assumption that because you’re a cyclist, you’re a friend. Maybe we haven’t met, but we’re kindred spirits; in that we trust. You may have noticed us dress down an occasionally snarky comment. I can’t stress how important it is that we keep the comments section a safe place for rational, if spirited, conversation. The moment it becomes okay to insult another reader that conversation shuts down. It’s a bit like going to a dinner part and insulting the wife of your host. Really puts a damper on the evening; even the lampshade on the head loses its funny. As proof, I offer the stream of comments that have followed Robot’s last two Friday Group Rides. People wouldn’t have shared poignant memories of bikes if they had suspected they risked being ridiculed for keeping around an old Stumpjumper. And we’d all be poorer for it. I’ve relished reading about so many old bikes and what made them special.

People have come to me on several occasions and suggested that we start a forum. The Friday Group Ride is our forum. And it’s better than any forum I’ve ever visited precisely because it stays cordial. It’s a lot of work to read every comment and gently police what’s said, but what we get out of it is worth it. And hopefully, in sharing, you feel a greater sense of connection and ownership with the blog.

Which brings me to the commercial side of RKP. You’ve probably noted an increase in advertising ’round these parts. I hope that you’ll take some stock of just who advertises with us. Each and every advertiser we have has stepped forward to say they believe in what we do. It’s a true industry endorsement. And I can say that with a straight face for a couple of reasons. First, we don’t have an ultra-experienced ad sales guy plugging ads into an ad service widget that will serve up views by the thousand. We’re low-tech and unsophisticated, insofar as our ad sales strategy goes. The companies you see at the right have had their eyes on us and it means the world to me. The horsepower they bring is how I’m able to present the likes of Pelkey and Wilcockson. Even if you don’t buy a bike from Specialized or a pair of bibs from Assos, I hope that you’ll think better of them for the support they offer us. They deserve at least that, in my opinion.

Helping round out our “revenue stream” are the odds and ends we sell in our store. I’ve got a few updates on the scene.

The Roubaix shirt is back, and just in the nick of time. Also, we’re about to do another kit order. If you’d like to save 15% on an RKP kit, you can join the pre-order and get the stuff a bit quicker; we’ll have stock on the kit in case the timing of this doesn’t work for you. This order will mark the first time that we’ve offered the jersey and bibs separately. Watch for a post on this coming soon.

As I mentioned, I’m a selfish bastard. Which is how the image of a 25-year-old T-shirt came to lead this post. At the point I bought that T I didn’t fully understand how cool, how amazing, how dominant Eddy Merckx was. I just knew he was the best. My appreciation of that shirt has grown over the years, despite its ever-increasing threadbare existence. But that shirt is stylish and speaks to legions of devoted cyclists in a way few shirts I’ve ever owned could. It’s not dorky like most century T-shirts and the fact that the art is stylish and eye-catching gives it cred in a way that cycling Tees rarely achieve even when they’ve escaped dorkdom.

So, none of that proves I’m selfish. This does: I wanted more shirts like that. And other stuff, too. The stickers, the Suffer T-shirt, the kit, it’s all stuff I wanted for myself. That other folks like it is really, truly, amazingly cool. I’m letting you in on this because I want to be clear with you; most of this stuff is being sold less for the chance to make money on it than I needed to order a bunch of whatever it is just so I could have two or three of them in my wardrobe.

In the not-too-distant future we’ll be offering a few new tidbits to you; again, this is about stuff that I wanted for myself. They weren’t borne of a need to find a way to make a buck on a commemorative bottle opener. To that end, there will be a ball cap, which will look more or less exactly like this:

Except without the cat hair … and the back will say “to suffer is to learn.” There will also be a new T-shirt which might turn a head or two; those of you who were Bicycle Guide readers and recall the illustrations of Bill Cass are in for a real treat. Those of you unfamiliar with his work are in for the same treat, as it turns out.

Our other effort here is perhaps the strangest thing I’ve considered. That you are even finding out about this has everything to do with Robot; it was his suggestion—”Why don’t you sell them?”—that is the reason you’re even finding out about this little effort. And what is the effort? Well, back in the 1970s and ’80s I was really into cool belt buckles. I had a big brass Peterbilt one, plus some amazing rock band ones, my favorite being my Led Zeppelin one. God only knows what became of them. I never really stopped digging cool belt buckles, though. Well, I found a company that will do an incredible zinc-cast belt buckle of the RKP logo. It’ll be three inches wide by two inches high and a quarter inch thick. Solid and sturdy. Gorgeous, too.

This is the designer’s approximation of what it will look like. This will be a one-off effort. I’m doing a short run of them and Robot has convinced me that there are at least a few of you who might dig having one. So here’s your chance. They are not going to be cheap. Depending on just how many of you order one they’ll be between $40 and $50. If you’re interested, say so in the comments and I’ll be in touch. And let me be ultra-clear: The only way to get this is to pre-order. I will not be stocking these.

As it turns out, I’ve saved the biggest news for last. Charles Pelkey will be bringing even more of his talent to RKP this year. RKP will be running Charles’ inimitable Live Update Guy race commentary for some of the season’s marquee events. If all goes according to plan, we will begin with Paris-Roubaix, but the bulk of the coverage will be focused on, as usual, the Grand Tours. And to make sure the Charles is properly rewarded for his efforts, we’ve added another talented guy to our ad sales team, Nick Ramey. Nick‘s been in the biz for ages and has sold advertising for some of the best-respected publications out there, including Bicycling and VeloNews. How we got access to his talent is yet another mind boggling development.

Now, more than ever, thanks for reading.

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  1. JohnG

    I was into belt buckles too, but I think the jersey/hat will be the route I go with. The cool part about the cap is that people will ask you what RKP stands for and that was covered in an earlier post….. History people… you can explain the future if you know the past!

  2. JoePete

    I’ve been trying to share with fellow cyclists how great RKP is, keep up the good work boys. Just a side note, I have no problems with a few ads here and there, as long as they don’t totally dominate the layout. Just visited VN and was bombarded with ads, including pop-ups for some Japanese animae, I can hardly find the articles anymore. Kudos to RKP for content and discrete, relative ads. Padraig, hope your feeling better and are back out on the bike soon, reinspiring us and keeping the small pleasures in cycling in mind.

  3. Jesus from Cancun

    I discovered RKP when Charles Pelkey was brought in, and I got hooked. Then I was thrilled to see John Wilcockson step in too. I think that RKP now has what I liked best about VeloNews before they started to sink themselves down.

    I hope that Nick brings a lot of advertisement business for RKP, but I also hope that his participation won’t bring any of the stuff that many readers hate about VeloNews: Too many annoying over-the-text ads, articles divided in multiple segments so you get different ads each time you click for the next page, too many brown-nose articles and infomercials…

    This is a very unique site and I love it. I am only wishing that whatever you bring from other sites and blogs is nothing but the good stuff…

  4. Tom Moore

    Great Post! I would buy the hat in an instant (mine would also sport cat hair). Might do the jersey, if it will fit “an old guy who gets fat in the winter”

    Hope you feel better soon!

  5. Doug Page

    A big RKP sticker occupies prime real estate on my bike rack. The new RKP goodies look tempting as well. Good luck Padraig, and may RKP’s finances and your immune system prosper!

  6. Christopher

    I’m a recent convert to RKP and really enjoy the freedom of this blog. I read this blog because it makes me feel happy- excellent writing and an emphasis on the positive- with no charatcer assassinations, condescending attitudes or judgements in the writing or the comments. Thanks you for RKP.

  7. Steve Bauer

    I’m not to bothered by advertising. I completely understand that delivering content requires money. It will either be in the form of advertising or subscriptions. Unfortunately our society has come to expect content for free on the net to the death of most subscription based media. Until content consumers decide to fully fund content cost (read, never), it’s pretty hard for us to complain that advertisers are buying content, or distracting readers from content. That’s the price of free.

  8. Rich

    I would like to see you add a thumbs up button to the commets. Only thumbs up. So many of the commets are so good I would like to be able to second them.

    1. Author

      Everyone: Thanks for your kind words. You’re an amazing bunch and we’re lucky to have a readership like you. Incredibly lucky.

      I’m pleased to say I’m healthy once again and back on the bike. I’ve got some stuff to review, so it’s time to log the miles (and burn some fat).

      Oh, and to those of you who can be counted as RKP evangelists, I need to figure out a way to deliver a special thank you to you all. Yours is a kindness that makes the world a brighter place.

      JoePete: Thanks for sharing your views on advertising. For us, the priority will always be on editorial. That’s our first job. Advertising is a way to serve the industry and give us a greater editorial reach.

      Jesus: We have no designs on becoming the next VeloNews. We didn’t adopt VeloNews strategies or features; We hired two writers cyclists are clamoring to hear from.

      Christopher: We make you happy? Wow. I need a minute to wrap my head around that. Golly. Thanks.

      Rich: That’s a neat idea. We’ll look into it.

      Cat: We have cycling caps. You can find them here. I’ll look into the ladies’ Ts as well. You can’t be the only rider/reader who wants them.

  9. Jon

    Thanks for the continued top-notch content Padraig. You and the team that you have brought on makes this blog something I look forward to reading on a daily basis.

    I would love to support RKP out on the road and am interested on getting in on the pre-order discount. What’s the mechanism for letting you know which items and sizes?

    Thanks again!

  10. Adam

    Count me in as an RKP Evangelist, I’ve got more RKP stickers than I know what to do with. Now I just fasten them to the non-drive side chainstays of my team-mates bikes. They ask me what its all about and I just tell them they have to log on.

  11. sam findley

    Ok, I admit it, I’m a total geek, but is there any way you could make the “to suffer is to learn” reflect its Greek provenance? ἐν παθει μαθος, from Aeschylus, I believe…

    How about a RKP microbrew?

    And discovering your website has been a great joy, though it’s killed my productivity, some days. (again, a Pelkey follower. But there’s something about the clarity of explication of fine points of law, protocol, and culture here that makes me want to send my humanities students to RKP to learn what good writing looks like)

  12. Matt Schwartz

    Newish reader… belt buckle enthusiast as well. Completely on board with a RKP one.

    RKP is definitely where I stop for news now. Velo what?

  13. David

    What happened to the RKP water bottles? I procrastinated getting a couple when they were up on the site because it seemed crazy to spend as much on shipping as the item itself, and now I regret it…. (although it still seems crazy)

    Indeed, this is the best cycling blog/ site on the net, and the eloquence and civility of both the writers and the comments (in addition to the great graphic design) is why. I’ve been reading for what seems like forever, and coming back every day. I subscribed to Peleton because of this site, too.

  14. naisan

    Now that I’m washed up as a racer, and not in LA anymore, this is one of the tightest links I have to what I consider the best of both of those subcultures.

    I have to admit I’m disappointed when there aren’t new posts. Reading my favorite blogs in the evening quiet hour after putting the kids to bed is now part of my daily ritual, much like waking up early on race days to listen to a fuzzy dutch simulcast re-streamed by some generous euro. But I’d rather be kept waiting and know that it’s a sustainable, long-term commitment on your end rather than have you push out a post that’s not quality.

    Get well soon, and excellent work on the blog.

    1. Author

      An RKP Microbrew … hmm … I could get behind that. I could see doing a Pinot as well.

      David: The bottles will return. I’ve just been sidetracked with other stuff. We’ll do another gift pack to make the shipping more reasonable.

      I have to stop reading all the nice things you all are writing. I’m gonna get an ego if I keep this up.

  15. sam findley

    The microbrews and wines would have to be seasonal, though. Beer for the Belgian classics, Pinot for the tour, beaujolais nouveau for the Giro di Lombardia…the possibilities are endless, and not going to make me any faster!

  16. sterlingbbiking

    diggin’ the t’s, love ’em…by the way thers’s a group leaving Jacksonville, Florida for Ghent today, sadly I’m not with them on this epic journey, I had the pleasure in 2007. so if you see a bunch of ugly Americans wearing Champion Cycling gear, just smile and wave…(sigh)

  17. SWells

    Padraig = commitment to honesty & quality…that’s why I’m here. Glad you’re feeling better.

    That Roubaix shirt is awesome and I’m “in” for the RKP buckle. (I remember those large ’80s belt buckles. Growing up in S.Tx, I had one that was a UT Longhorn head that was about 4″ across from horn tip to horn tip…it was awesome).

    1. Author

      Brent: I’ve done all I can to try to track down the makers behind the original shirt. It was a brand called Feroce (Italian for ferocious). They did another shirt that was taken (I believe) from a shot by Graham Watson of riders’ legs as they rode across the pavé at Paris-Roubaix. Genius shirt. I can’t find anything about them or that art.

      So I decided to start fresh. Stay tuned.

      Oh, and SWells: of course your Longhorn belt buckle was awesome. A 4″-wide belt buckle of a longhorn can’t be anything but.

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