We’re into the final 24 hours of my Kickstarter campaign and I’m pleased to say it has gone very well. Pledges from good folks like you have helped me meet the pledge goal of $20k (and even surpass it). The book “Why We Ride” is now a reality. If you haven’t already joined the party, I hope you’ll stop by. We’ve got ribs on the barbecue and some great beer out back.
On behalf of my entire family, thank you.
Go directly to Kickstarter HERE.
Writing about cycling is a necessarily topical endeavor. From the latest gadget to the doping scandal du jour (année?), writing about cycling means keeping up with the times. I launched Red Kite Prayer with a mandate that centered less on the ‘who, what, when, where’ of traditional journalism than the ‘why’ of cycling itself. I’ve been more interested to publish good writing than to make sure we are the first to publish 300 words about the newest brake set out of China, but then that’s only because I believe that my job isn’t to provide data as much as it is motivation. You can find plenty information out there, but it’s harder to find work that helps remind you of why we stick with cycling even after Lance and the appearance of ghost bikes at an ever-increasing assortment of intersections.
We call those pieces that feed the jones and keep the off-the-bike demons at bay “evergreens.” For me, as a writer, they’re what I live for. They stand outside the typical focus of articles you’ll find on other sites during a given week. Evergreens matter because they find those opportunities to say something true about cycling, something that will be as true in five years as it is today. There’s a good chance it was true the year you found cycling as well. That chance to transcend time and get at experiences common to us all results in a far more satisfying experience for both writer and reader.
Such a book represents a pretty lofty goal. It’s not one I set out to swing at; it took a few years to realize I was circling this particular quarry.
I’ve wanted to pull together a number of my posts into a single volume for some time. While I talked to some publishers about releasing the volume with them, I realized that no one was going to be interested in offering a short run of hardcovers, an option I thought was important to present to my more dedicated readers. I’d been looking at ways to self-finance the printing of the book when I ran across Kickstarter. It seemed the perfect way to marry my desire to offer the collection to readers in both paperback and hardcover formats while hopefully realizing enough profit to serve my larger goal, which was to build a nest egg to move my family into a home in Santa Rosa.
Then the Deuce happened.
By “happened” I mean a couple of things. First, my wife’s search for a job in Sonoma County, which is essential to any move we wish to make, was put immediately on hold when we found out she was pregnant. You may wonder why we were even trying to get pregnant while she was in the middle of a job search. The easy answer is that because she was 41 and I was 48 at the time, we weren’t exactly sure how successful we would be. As it turns out, we’re crazy fertile, at least together.
By “happened” I also mean the Deuce’s NICU adventure. No one planned that, much less wanted it. My wife’s insurance coverage with Kaiser is pretty good, but in the inevitable calculus of health care, the interaction of deductible, co-pays, coverage limits and caps, the Deuce’s real-world value makes the sum the Beer Fund covered look like chump change.
Which brings me to the deeper why for the Kickstarter campaign.
The Beer Fund that my friends Robot and Eric put together following my crash last fall was a stunning outpouring of support. It re-ordered my world and taught me things about community I’d have learned no other way. Six months later and I need help, again.
But I can’t rely on charity. I can’t. That’s a well I drank from once, if reluctantly. I won’t permit myself to do it a second time, at least, not in the same year. But Kickstarter is different because it isn’t charity. The principle Kickstarter works on is patronage. It’s a way for a community of fans or followers to provide financial support that goes beyond simple commerce while still receiving something meaningful in return. It’s a way to further an artistic endeavor by a method that works for your wallet.
In what seems an unlikely event, should the Kickstarter campaign actually earn more than we need profit-wise, whatever is leftover will go toward that aforementioned dream of a nest-egg. One of the reasons we cut the Beer Fund off after only 24 hours is that we had earned enough to pay what turned out to be nearly all my emergency room bills. Ultimately, we were within a couple hundred bucks. Robot and I were of the same mind, that realizing a profit off of your kindness was untenable. Think Lance Armstrong flying on private planes at Livestrong expense distasteful. And that, dear reader, is why it’s so important for me to offer you something in return, something fun, something lasting, a concrete expression of both my gratitude and work.
I’ve come up with a number of different rewards so that there are options to fit anyone’s bank account.
Believe me, I’ve struggled with this. I’d hate for it to seem like I was profiting off my son’s personal calamity. What I’m attempting to do is profit from my work to pay for my son’s personal calamity; there’s quite a difference between the two. One I’m okay with; the other makes my skin crawl.
Check it out here.
I took some time out from my visit to the Sea Otter Classic last week to speak with Diane Lees of The Outspoken Cyclist radio show. It was a chance to discuss the implications of the Boston Marathon bombing for cycling as well as (much more pleasant) spend a bit of time promoting the Kickstarter project for my book “Why We Ride.”
Most of the world’s cyclists don’t actually live within the broadcast range of Cleveland’s WJCU, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hear the show. Diane’s a delight to talk to and this particular episode serves up the Bike Snob as well, who was promoting his new book, “Bike Snob Abroad,” which I look forward to reading.
You can check out the podcast here.
BTW: The Kickstarter campaign is doing well and as of this writing has just passed the $17,000 mark with six days to go. I’ve put some great rewards together and if you haven’t checked the project out, I encourage you to drop by. I hope (and suspect) that you’ll find at least one of them appealing.
The Kickstarter is here. Drop by before time runs out!
I had the good fortune to meet Carlton Reid last summer at the industry event Press Camp. Carlton is the executive editor of the English trade publication Bike Biz and the editor for BikeHub.co.uk. Bike Biz is a terrific publication that features more Euro-centric bike industry news, making it a great alternative to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. For those who really want to know what’s going on inside the bike biz, they are indispensable reading. His other publication, BikeHub is aimed at newer riders; as someone who has written extensively for beginning cyclists, I really appreciate what he does with the site.
Carlton has a Kickstarter campaign for a cycling history book, called “Roads Were Not Build for Cars.” While I can’t offer a review as I haven’t read the book yet, I can say that I was intrigued enough that I decided to pledge my support for it. What I know of it is that Carlton examines the history of roads and cycling’s contribution to road building and automotive history. And it’s not just a U.K.-centric book. He examines the early roads built by Romans as well as American roads and the influence of automotive titans like Henry Ford.
Carlton has a light and witty style of writing, which I’m sure will make this a pleasant read. And next time you’re in polite company discussing what a nuisance bikes are to traffic and the proper movement of people, this will surely give you some fun talking points, though it seems cyclists never win these debates.
Pledge amounts have been strong enough to allow the project to hit some stretch goals. He recently commissioned a graphic for his play on a Monty Python bit, “The Motorist’s Front of Judea.” The joke might require a brief refresher on the Pythons’ “Life of Brian.”
My gut says this book isn’t for every cyclist, but I bet it’s right up the alley of RKP readers. If you’re interested, act quickly, the campaign only has five days to go.
I don’t live in the world of my parents. Yes, the house I grew up in still stands. Yes, the schools I went to still educate young people. Yes, the bike shop I first worked at still sells, fixes and fits bicycles to an ever-growing community of cyclists. But beyond those rudimentary similarities, my life has none of the surety, consistency or security their lives have enjoyed (and just to be clear, both of my parents are still with us). While there are plenty of people who still enjoy jobs that will pay pensions in their leisure years, I’ve occasionally had to engage each of my parents in conversations about how radically my life doesn’t resemble theirs. This is usually in response to me sharing some sort of garden-variety challenge of daily life. People who care about you never let these moments slide without a, “Well did you consider…?”
And that’s when I mention just how different my life is from what theirs was when they were my age.
I attempted to follow a career track similar to that of my father. I moved to California to go to work for a big publishing company, a place where a great many people spent entire careers writing for the same magazine. Within 90 days of my arrival—I’m not kidding—the publishing world began to implode. All the old rules about magazine publishing were incinerated along with a great many magazines. For the record, the magazine industry dove over the event horizon of former business models years before the music industry got sucker-punched by Sean Parker.
The one important lesson that stayed with me from that time was that your average enthusiast magazine was disinclined to celebrate the truly inventive, what management types love to call “out of the box thinking.” I don’t mind reporting that my most creative ideas were all shot down because I couldn’t justify the “user service.”
It’s easy to rail about the evils in today’s world—Monsanto, Wall Street, the U.S. health care system and … well, there’s plenty we can complain about without ever bringing up the UCI. If you’re a cynical type, the inevitable conclusion is that the world (or at least the U.S.) is going to a land of eternal fire by shopping cart. The reality is more complex. The world is just different.
To wit, I submit Facebook. Forgetting their nearly disastrous IPO, Facebook has had a profound effect on society. It has allowed us to connect more broadly than at any point in history. Sure, much of that connection lacks the depth of a one-on-one conversation with a trusted friend, but the benefit I derived from Facebook during the Deuce’s NICU stay was sustaining. Actually spending time in-person with friends was nearly impossible. Our schedule was too hectic, and the NICU rules regarding visitors ruled out everyone except us and grandparents. Facebook kept us in touch with people we simply couldn’t catch up with otherwise. Facebook takes a lot of knocks. In my view, it’s just a hammer. What you do with it is up to you. You can be a pinhead and break a bunch of windows with a hammer, or you can build a house with one. It’s up to you. Thanks to Facebook, metaphorically speaking, I’ve added an addition to my home.
Which brings me to Kickstarter. When I first heard about it last year, I must admit I didn’t really understand it. The concept seemed only slightly removed from gambling, and as I’ve got as much interest in gambling as I do intravenous drug use, I tuned out more or less instantly. Then I started reading about it. Here’s where I have to admit my initial reaction was as ill-considered as Kin Jung Un’s latest rhetoric.
Kickstarter, if I may say, is genius. If this had existed when I was trying to launch Asphalt I might have managed to publish a dozen or more issues before it got swallowed by its own gravity.
Over the last month or so I’ve become something of a student of Kickstarter. While it is the obvious repository for nearly every ill-conceived get-rich-quick scheme by a dilettante with no experise, it is more properly known as the ultimate expression of the crowd-sourced effort.
Kickstarter is the ultimate elevator pitch. It’s up to you to convince people you’ve got the goods to make cool things happen. It’s not a place that will reward the mundane. You’ve designed the next $39 toaster that might outsell the Sunbeam unit at Walmart? No one cares. Commodities are destined for grave stones in Kickstarter.
How cool is that?
I offer this as a prelude to a coming Kickstarter project of my own. I don’t mind saying it’s one of the more audacious efforts I’ve undertaken, just the sort of thing that would have been shot down—with prejudice—at my former employer.
If there’s one thing we can say about this new world that we live in is that it tends to reward more creative, more inventive ideas. Hey, I gotta celebrate what I can, when I can.