Nine

Nine

Red Kite Prayer turns nine today. I started this site to do something different, an alternative to the other sites out there. Much as I loved the big cycling web sites, there was something I yearned for that they weren’t doing. And I wasn’t even sure I knew entirely what it was, but there was an itch, and I needed to scratch it.

If you’d asked me what RKP would look like nine years out from launch, I would probably have guessed a fair bit of it incorrectly. I began the site with posts largely about racing, what with the Tour de France occupying July. And I’d have figured that racing would always be a big part of what RKP would chase. But I never would have guessed that pro racing would be the mess that it is: arguably the cleanest it has ever been, but with a completely unknown percentage of the peloton doping in any way that can avoid detection.

I’d never have guessed that pro riders would cease to be inspirations for me. But the Reasoned Decision caused an upheaval in the way I look at cycling. The people who inspire me now are the folks who, like me, have to get up Monday morning and work. The people who balance work, family and riding are a bigger inspiration than some monkish cyclist holed up in a tiny Spanish town spending his days doing six hours in the mountains and then coming home to an almond. You know what inspires me? A woman coming across the line at Dirty Kanza after dark with her smile leading the way. It’s anyone who finishes Dirty Kanza who doesn’t already look like a pro.

I’d also never have guessed that RKP would give me freedom enough to be able to leave Los Angeles and move to Northern California. The move has given me the chance to really explore facets of cycling that were hard to pursue from where I lived in the South Bay. From mountain biking to riding gravel and playing on a pump track, Santa Rosa has given me the opportunity to chase other two-wheeled exploits, something that has made my cycling life immeasurably richer.

I’d never, ever have guessed that I’d be involved in not one, but two podcasts. I’d also not have guessed that my new podcast, the Pull, would allow me to finally find a format for presenting long-form interviews in a way that rings true to me. After all, there’s nothing like hearing the subject actually say the words, rather than having to infer tone from what appears on the page. I’m only seven shows in, but this is some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. And my list of interviewees does nothing but get longer.

I see all of those things as positive, truly. This next one, less so. While I have a great many friends who work in PR, the fact is, the rise of the PR agency has eaten up a big chunk, if not most, of the advertising dollars pie. It has made it much tougher for me to land advertisers and therefore recruit contributors, not to mention cover my own bills. I don’t write this to complain, but just to acknowledge that no matter how with the curve you might think you are, change will come from a fresh direction. It’s funny to me that I saw the writing on the wall with regard to ad dollars and magazines, but I couldn’t have guessed that online ad dollars would evaporate as well. It’s forced me to get creative as we did with our recent promotion with Seven Cycles, not to mention our volunteer subscription program, the latter of which has been very helpful. And if you haven’t already signed, on, RKP needs you!

Nine may not seem like a particularly momentous anniversary to mark; after all, ten years is the milestone, right? But here’s the thing: last year, when this date passed, I was still deep within the depression I wrote about in the feature “88 Temples” for Bicycling. I was doing all I could to hide it, in part because I was only beginning to appreciate that what I was experiencing was depression. If you’d asked me on July 2, 2017, where I would be in a year, I couldn’t have given you an answer. I was short on hope, and couldn’t plot a course from where I was to where I wanted to be. I let the anniversary go without a peep, in part because I was too overwhelmed to celebrate.

When I started RKP, I wanted to reach the universal through the specific. I was willing to write more about my personal experiences than I had at Belgium Knee Warmers, or most anywhere else, because I wanted to go subatomic, to really drill down on how cycling is more than just an experience, but also what that experience means to our lives. What I never bothered to calculate was how those most intimate of experiences—crashing, nearly losing a child at birth, an existential depression—would be some of the things that most resonated with readers.

The reality that this site is sometimes at its best when my life is hardest causes me to shudder at the difficulty of the path I’ve chosen.

This is a reminder that good writing is never easy, and that good material can’t be selected like a box of cereal at the supermarket. So we work with what’s at hand and we get up in the morning with nothing so well defined as a desire to do good work.

Oh behalf of everyone who has ever contributed to RKP, thanks for reading.

 


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10 comments

  1. Tom Milani

    Congratulations on nine years. I’ve relied on the site for product reviews before making some purchasing decisions; I’ve enjoyed the writing not only from you and your contributors, but also from the those who choose to comment. The quality of the writing is why I check it every day. Many happy returns.

  2. Bart

    The personal nature of your writing is what keeps me coming back and interestingly gives your reviews MUCH more power. We’ve never met but I feel like I know you and as a result your opinion carries more weight, more like that of a friend rather than an anonymous reviewer. Over the last 5-6 years of reading your site, I’ve bought 15+ items sight unseen simply based on your review. So far, ever item has lived up to my expectations. For many of them, I probably would have never known about the item if not for your review. I no longer bother to read other bike magazines/websites because I know that if it matters to me you’ll end up mentioning it at some point.

    Thanks!

  3. Tominalbany

    Congratulations, Padraig! I began reading because of the Beer Fund begun by Robot after your crash. I’ve continued reading because it’s such good stuff. Your evolution has been similar to mine. Hard into racing until The Reasoned Decisions and now, I watch only a little.

    Your writing has touched me in many ways from The Deuce to 88 Temples and, as others have said, your reviews are really, very good. I signed up during your fund raising drive and am never sorry to see that monthly receipt from Paypal.

    Excelsior!

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