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.
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.