Making the Case for The Bikepacking Journal
Our decision to launch a printed publication devoted solely to bikepacking raised some eyebrows, but we think the future of print is bright, assuming enough people are willing to support us. Here’s some insight into our goals for The Bikepacking Journal, reasons on why we need your backing now more than ever, and a look at where your money goes when you choose to support us…
To many people, launching a printed journal in this day and age might seem like a crazy idea. Or perhaps a risky one at best. After all, I’ve watched most of my favorite magazines go out of print over the past several years, one after another. Truth be told, we haven’t exactly figured everything out just yet, but we’re optimistic. One thing is certain, though: We can’t make our biannually printed publication, The Bikepacking Journal, work without the support of our reader community. And its future is directly tied to the future of this site. If you enjoy reading BIKEPACKING.com and think it’s a valuable resource, the single best thing you can to do support us is join our Bikepacking Collective. By doing so, you’ll also receive two issues of The Bikepacking Journal delivered to your door each year—anywhere in the world—among several other benefits.
Our simplest reason for wanting to produce a printed journal in 2020 is that we sincerely believe some stories are just too good to be confined to a screen. Cracking open a beautifully bound publication and holding it in your hands makes the stories come to life in a way that won’t ever be matched by a monitor (and the smell!). Turning real pages also makes for a different pace of reading. It slows down your interactions with the words and photos before you and encourages you to properly soak them in, rather than endlessly scrolling as we so often do.
Without trying to sound overly romantic, we like knowing that the stories we share in The Bikepacking Journal are only read by an intimate audience of fellow bikepackers and dreamers. Every subscriber is a part of our small community of folks with a common passion, who all take part in the shared experience of waiting to receive their copy in the mail, unwrapping it, brewing up a cup of coffee or popping open a cold beverage, and sitting down to read stories that can’t be found anywhere else beyond those few thousand other coffee tables around the globe.
We also feel strongly about creating something that stands the test of time, and one that you can pull from your bookshelf and revisit whenever you need a bit of inspiration. Sure, you can always bookmark stories on the web to read again, but–at least in my experience–bookmarks get buried or forgotten, links break, and there are always endless other distractions to click on. A printed tome on your coffee table offers something to grab and flip through while you dream up future adventures. It can be a great conversation starter, too. And we love the idea of a printed publication breaking in with time as it makes moves with you and gradually acquires coffee stains, dog-eared pages, and scribbles.
Within the pages of The Bikepacking Journal, you’ll discover what we consider to be the most compelling writing and most stunning photography from the world of two-wheeled travel. Each issue is the product of six months of obsessive work and features about a dozen original essays and stories that span 160 full-color pages. There’s no branded content, no advertorials, none of that. No bullshit, just good old fashioned storytelling from a talented group of thoughtful and passionate individuals who are eager to share their most meaningful stories with the world. There are a handful of ads from the companies that support us, but we promise they’ll always be between features and will be clearly distinguished from editorial content. What’s more, we’ve asked our advertisers to create ads that mesh well with our design aesthetic, and we think they’ve honored that.
It’s our hope that you’ll feel informed and inspired as a reader. Even better if you feel transported to some place you’ve always wanted to visit or one you’d never realized you did. In the first issue alone, our contributors pedaled dusty roads through the American Southwest, paddled along remote rivers in Tajikistan and across fjords in Greenland, pushed up steep trails in the Caucasus Mountains, and bounded down singletrack in the Alps, just to name a few locations. Issue 02 took us to exciting new locations, including Ethiopia, Tasmania, and India. And we dove a bit deeper to provide opportunities for learning and reflecting in Issue 03. Issue 04 is in the works now, and we think it’s going to be our best issue yet.
Where Your Money Goes
At $68/year, we know a Bikepacking Collective membership is an investment that requires some thought for many of our readers. But hear us out. We think around $5.50/month is a fair amount to ask for the original stories, reviews, routes we publish on the site every day, and we hope having two expansive publications mailed to you each year is enough to sweeten the deal and make you consider supporting our work. We also put together frequent gear giveaways from many of our favorite brands (see Collective Rewards—we’ve done 50 to date!), line up exclusive industry discounts, and from time to time we offer members-only merchandise like t-shirts, hats, and water bottles. Plus, 1% of all Bikepacking Collective membership dues go toward a great non-profit program each year. You can see a complete list of benefits here.
Specifically, your contributions go toward:
- Printing The Bikepacking Journal on an offset press using an experienced, world-class printer in Berlin, with the highest quality and most environmentally friendly materials we can afford. Really, no expense is spared in the printing process.
- Shipping two issues to you, no matter where you live–yes, for the same price, whether you’re in New York or Nairobi.
- Paying 30-40 freelance writers and photographers (with the goal of being able to pay the highly competitive rates they deserve) for their contributions to The Bikepacking Journal.
- Offsetting operating costs of the site, including the crazy amount of bandwidth we go through and paying a developer to help on the back end.
- Compensating around 50 members of the community whose work we feature on the site each year.
- Paying the BIKEPACKING.com staff a modest wage.
- Empowering a bicycle-related non-profit group. For our first year, we chose Tuscon-based El Grupo Cycling and their endeavors to get young people out bikepacking.
Selected retailers in a handful of cities in the US and Europe stock some copies of The Bikepacking Journal, but our hope in offering them in those outlets is that new readers will discover our work and will go on to support our efforts by subscribing. The cover price for a single copy is $20 USD at those retailers, which means for an extra $28/year, you can get your two issues delivered right to your doorstep and make a meaningful contribution to ensure the future of the site and the publication.
The bottom line is our existing advertising revenue alone is no longer sustainable, and we don’t want to plaster the entire site with ads to keep it going. You’ll notice that we have minimal advertising compared to similar sites, and we’re aiming to make the membership the driving support behind the site. Directly selling copies of The Bikepacking Journal isn’t a viable option, either, as many of you have asked about. Given the high cost of materials and shipping, coupled with our small print runs, we wouldn’t make more than a few bucks per issue if we sold individual copies. We spent months considering every possible avenue forward before announcing our Bikepacking Collective membership model, and we think it represents a good value.
Subscribe to Support BIKEPACKING.com
In short, we need your backing, now more than ever. The future of BIKEPACKING.com is uncertain, but we’re hugely excited about where we can take things in print and online if enough people believe in us. If you get value out of this website and like the idea of reading some of the world’s best pedal-powered travel stories in a meticulously crafted publication twice a year, please consider joining our Bikepacking Collective. Again, it’s the single best thing you can do help us grow.
We want to build a better BIKEPACKING.com by adding new features and functions, create in-depth and meaningful content every day, offer a larger and more diverse group of guest contributors higher rates for their work, and continue inspiring and connecting readers from all walks of life and all levels of experience.
Issue 04 of The Bikepacking Journal hits mailboxes in May, and there’s still time for you to get signed up for our Bikepacking Collective to secure your copy of issues 04 and 05 this year. Every single subscriber makes a difference. To the folks who have taken the leap, on behalf of our entire editorial team, thanks so much for your support. And to those of you who are ready to join, welcome!
Editor-in-Chief of The Bikepacking Journal