I’ve been writing about frame builders, particularly New England-based frame builders since 1992. During that time, I’ve been quietly tucking away amazing tidbits about bike building in the region. I’ve teased remarkable details from Richard Sachs about the start of his career, and learned things about the apprenticeship of Ben Serotta and Chris Chance that those guys haven’t revealed to magazines. I first pitched a story about the interconnectedness of New England bike makers in ’97, to my boss at Bicycle Guide, Garrett Lai. It got shot down. And while I meant to do it with Asphalt, we ran out of money before I ran out of ideas. Brad Roe, the publisher of Peloton, turned out to be the guy who got the appeal of the story with almost zero prodding.
I mention this because on Friday I learned that Bike Rumor posted a piece about Chris Chance’s return to the bike biz and in it they lifted the family tree diagram that ran here at RKP as well as included a great many details from my Peloton piece. While the family tree was credited to RKP, there was zero attribution to details from my Peloton feature, without which, their post simply wouldn’t have been possible. Had Bike Rumor contacted me and asked permission to use the image and draw from the feature and had they mentioned the feature, I wouldn’t be writing right now. Instead, Bike Rumor’s Tyler Benedict began with the excuses, that he was only human, that it was only a mistake, that it happens to them all the time. He sent me a friend request on Facebook so that he could “respond to the comments.” Dude has known me for years and only reaches out when it’s time to do damage control. Wow.
The problem is that this has happened on a recurring basis and it was clear from our numerous emails back and forth that all he was really concerned about was not being called out publicly. Sure, he said he was sorry, but in every instance where images of mine have been used without permission, the conversation has always been brief—an apology followed by a request for where to mail the check. I never outed any of those organizations because they handled the situation with such class.
So this would be where I, perhaps for the first time, post something on the actual site where the theft occurred. Bike Rumor has ripped material—everything from photos to whole paragraphs of material—from a succession of Cyclingnews stories by my colleague James Huang. James tells me he has had to contact Bike Rumor for four very specific thefts, but there have been a number of other stories where he believed attribution was warranted. These thefts have gone largely unnoticed, except with James’ followers in social media, which includes virtually everyone in the cycling media. James warned me, and it became clear in my dealings with Tyler, that his biggest concern wasn’t doing right by me (the offending piece has been removed, I’m pleased to note, but that wasn’t his first course of action), but avoiding public embarrassment. In emails with colleagues, whose names I won’t reveal just yet, the sentiment ran high that it was time for a public declaration that Bike Rumor doesn’t respect copyright, doesn’t respect original work, doesn’t really care about being friends with the rest of the bike media.
I’ve gone to some length to cultivate relationships with my fellow editors. They’re good guys and they work hard, and when I get to a product launch, that friendship helps make those events enjoyable, in part because everyone present is confident that all they have to do is good work. There’s not a sense that we’re in competition with one another; we do the work and the readers read what they want. Our brotherhood is one built on mutual respect, but we just can’t seem to get that from Bike Rumor.
The latest surprising twist to this saga is that Bike Rumor announced that to atone for their “error” (that theft was no accident), they are making a $1000 donation to People for Bikes. Let me go on record saying I’ve signed their pledge and I believe that organization is doing some of the most important advocacy work being performed on behalf of cyclists in the United States. But Tyler isn’t Robin Hood. Stealing from me and giving to them is just salt in the wound. By stealing my work without my permission or attribution, he’s making it harder for me to feed my family. Normally when you harm someone, you make amends to them, not someone else. Honestly, I’m stunned that anyone could drag an offense out for days and manage to make the situation worse at every turn.
I really don’t know how to close this piece (which is rare) except to say that I’m grateful to Cyclingnews’ James Huang, Bicycling‘s Matt Philips and Bike Hugger’s Byron, for their camaraderie and support as I’ve tried to make sense of something that should never have happened, at least, not if we were all true professionals.