Making the Case for The Bikepacking Journal
Our decision to create a printed publication devoted to bikepacking has raised some eyebrows, but we think the future of print is bright if enough people are willing to support us. Here’s some insight into our goals for The Bikepacking Journal, why we need your backing now more than ever, and where your money goes when you support us…
Note: This post was originally published in 2019 and updated in April 2022.
To many people, publishing a printed journal in this day and age might seem like an absurd idea. Or perhaps a risky one at best. After all, I’ve watched most of my favorite magazines go out of print during the past handful of years, one after another. Truth be told, three years in, we’re still figuring out how to navigate the world of printing and shipping something around the world while transit times and shipping rates have been skyrocketing in tandem amid the pandemic. Despite the amount of uncertainty through which we’re optimistically charging ahead, one thing is sure: 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—along with several other benefits.
Our simplest reason for wanting to produce a printed journal in 2022 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 these days.
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 daydreamers. Every member is a part of our small community of folks with a common passion—all of whom take part in the shared experience of receiving their copy in the mail, unwrapping it, brewing up a cup of coffee or cracking open a cold beverage, and sitting down to read stories that can’t be found anywhere else.
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 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 around a dozen original essays and stories that span 160 full-color pages. There’s no branded content, no advertorials, nothing sneakily created by marketers to sell you something, 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 a 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 of the dozen or so locations in each issue.
Issue 02 took us to exciting new locations, including Ethiopia, Tasmania, and India. And we gave readers a glimpse of East Timor, Minnesota, and Transylvania in Issue 03. Next, Issue 04 whisked readers away to Bolivia, New Zealand, and the West Bank. In Issue 05, we shared a glimpse of the stunning scenery found in Colorado, Iceland, and Peru. Issue 06 showcased the Republic of Georgia, Italy, and a trip all the way down the spine of the Americas. We saw the Scottish Highlands, South Africa, and Central Asia in Issue 07. We’re working on Issue 08 now, and we think it will be our best one yet—don’t miss your chance to receive it!
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, and routes our team works to create and publish on the site every day. And to be clear, a Bikepacking Collective membership is not simply a magazine subscription. Rather, it’s a way of powering the website, the YouTube channel, and all the other work we do, and we hope receiving two expansive publications in the mail each year is enough to sweeten the deal and make you consider supporting our work. Plus, we also regularly put together gear giveaways from many of our favorite brands (see Collective Rewards—we’ve done 115 to date!), line up exclusive industry discounts, and from time to time we offer members-only merchandise such as T-shirts, hats, and patches. 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 yearly contributions go toward:
- Printing The Bikepacking Journal on an offset press using an experienced, world-class printer in Germany, 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 highly competitive rates to 30-40 freelance writers and photographers.
- Offsetting operating costs of the site, including the incredible amount of bandwidth we go through and paying a developer to help ensure things run smoothly on the back end.
- Compensating around 50+ members of the community whose work we feature on the site each year.
- Regularly creating original videos over on our YouTube channel.
- Paying the salaries of the growing BIKEPACKING.com team.
- Empowering a bicycle-related non-profit group or other worthy cause.
The bottom line is that our existing advertising revenue alone is no longer sustainable, and we don’t want to plaster the entire site with ads or hide content behind a paywall 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 when considering all the benefits.
Join and 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 online and in print 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 to help us grow.
We want to build a better BIKEPACKING.com by adding new features and functions, creating in-depth and meaningful content every day, offering 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 08 of The Bikepacking Journal is hitting mailboxes later this spring, and there’s still time for you to get signed up for our Bikepacking Collective to secure your copy of issues 08 and 09 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
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.