It was the 8th* of September a day I’ll always remember, yes I will cos that was the day we started road.cc… okay, I’ll stop my mangled paraphrasing of the Temptations classic – at this point, it’s work is done - unlike Papa who never did any work, but I digress…
What follows is an extended thank you - to you for coming along for the ride; to the people who work on road.cc for making it what it’s become. (Don’t worry it’s not going to be like some awards acceptance speech I’m not going to thank my mum**). Along the way I’ll tell you some road.cc history, what we’re about (or trying to be), and how things have changed along the way
10 years ago today*** two sleep deprived men launched road.cc from a mobile home in a car park in Germany, or it could have been the press room at Eurobike straight after a row with a US bike journo over laptop plug sockets (we won). The rest is history.
road.cc has never stopped rolling since that day. Except for the occasional server outage. Or the time Dave deleted the whole site by mistake (luckily we had a back up). But those times were long ago now and to be honest we were doing 16 hours and more a day and it was a relief just to be able to stop for a while, even if it was because the site had fallen over. It wasn’t such a relief for Dave obviously as he had to get it back up.
Back in 2008 fixies were cool, 25mm was a fat tyre, Shimano Di2 was nearly a year away from your local bike shop (though it’s debut at Eurobike 2008 was one of our very first stories), gravel/adventure/do-it-all bikes didn’t exist… well, they did they did they just weren’t called that, disc brakes were only for mountain bikes, and the idea of a Brit winning the Tour de France was fanciful to say the least.
A big new english language cycling website had just launched, based in Bath but with it’s eyes set firmly on the US market which left a road.cc shaped gap on the web for a cycling site that reflected the cycling experience from a British perspective. As editor of that big new website I pointed the space we were potentially creating for someone else to fill to my employers, but they wanted the world. If they didn’t want to fill that gap… well.
There’d long been talk amongst a loose grouping of bike journos about sticking it to the man and striking out on our own to produce our own magazine. If Mark and Chipps could do it with Singletrack then why not us? It’d almost happened too, but part of the reason it didn’t was there were already too many British bike mags cutting each other’s throats plus you needed upfront cash for stuff like printing and distribution and you needed ads from day one.
The web changed all that. it turned out all you needed was the bumper book of Drupal (and you didn’t even need to read all of it).
So Dave and I went for it.
road.cc was born, a news, reviews (and anything else interesting we could find to bung on it), cycling website with a British accent. Despite the name it was never intended to be a ‘roadie’ site as such but one that talks to anyone that rides a bike on the road and which represents the wide variety of bikes they do it on and the reasons for doing it. From day one commuting has been a mainstay of the site - we don’t actually do enough on it in my opinion, (we don’t do enough touring bikes either).
road.cc was also intended to be was a club for people who don’t belong to a club - or indeed another club for those that do. We made a conscious effort to make it a conversation with you, the user, we still do though it’s trickier as the site’s got bigger but we still try, and we’re still committed to Team road.cc too - the actual club bit of the site.
In fact we’re still committed to all the stuff we set out to do - cycling is constantly changing and so is the mix of stuff that we write about, but the aim of reflecting the British cycling experience - warts and all - remains.
And then there were…
Almost as soon as the camper van made it back to Bath the original trio of me, Dave, and Oli, was joined by Vecchiojo, and a slightly deranged looking bloke called TR - who gave us loads of good advice - particularly about social media, that we (well, okay me) generally had to be forced to take. Soon after Shaun Audiane – our first regular freelance reviewer signed up; and then Elaine Curtin - our commercial director joined.
Elaine came aboard a couple of months after we launched - some of you may wonder at the wisdom of launching a website that needs to pay your mortgage without someone to help it make money. What can I say? despite what you may think making a shedload of cash has never been our primary objective. Being able to pay the bills and invest in the business is good though and it’s a pretty sound bet that without Elaine the nascent road.cc wouldn’t have survived more than a few months. Thanks Elaine.
The next year our news editor Simon MacMichael joined the team - and seriously helped lift the writing burden - followed not long after by our tech ed, Mat Brett, and a couple of years later our other tech ed, David Arthur.
Up until fairly recently those guys plus key regular reviewers most notably, Stu Kerton basically were road.cc. There’s a few more of us now, but not that many more; John on buyers guides, Jack on the tech team, Matt our video guy, and Liam on deals and Instagram and last but very much not least Tass who we poached from Cycling Plus to get picky with our reviews (and our reviewers).
We ended up with a team that includes many of the best and most experienced bike journos in the country - people like Mat, David, Jo, and John Stevenson were already highly respected before joining us. The same applies to our commercial team Elaine, Simon and Pat. Quite a surprise really cos I’m a massive pain in the arse to work with as anyone will tell you.
People often assume that loads of people work on road.cc when actually it’s a relatively small number of people doing the work of a much larger number of people.
Why do we do it? I can’t speak for the others but I know that for me this isn’t ‘work’, it can be hard, it’s certainly relentless but it’s more of an obsession or addiction – which also happens to be bloody good fun. Most of the time.
There's been the occasional row, but surprisingly few considering I'm the editor. I can never decide whether we're like a family, or some sort of outlaw gang - like The hole in the wall gang**** - the truth is probably somewhere in between. Corporate we're not. There's a few people you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of though.
Since it’s launch the site has grown every year, in fact it’s often hard for us to comprehend quite how big it’s become - obviously we look at the stats but grasping the effects those numbers have is more difficult.
Size though doesn’t insulate you from changing times on the internet - we dodged a bullet by by not becoming too entangled with Facebook, but there’s plenty more threats out there for independent websites like ours these days: Declining bike industry ad revenues, GDPR pop-ups, pop ups generally.
I’ve written in the past about how road.cc makes money (in fact need to update that update) but the pace of change is accelerating. Bike industry ad revenues aren’t as important to us as they once were - there’s all sorts of reasons for that most of them, like the Brexit effect, are out of our control. Luckily for us while some bike brands may have decided that ads don’t work any more lots of non-bike brands seem to have decided the opposite. That’s why there are now more ads on road.cc - if you’re using the mobile version, getting the balance right there is one of our current challenges.
What do the next 10 years hold for road.cc?
Pfft! If I knew that I probably wouldn’t be writing this. What would you like it to hold is there anything you’d like is to do more of, or indeed less of?
Some thank yous and apologies
Oli – our designer, but very much more than that. The voice of reason in the road.cc madhouse, helping keep the show on the road since before we had a show.
Dave – couldn’t have done it without you.
Our families – they’ve put up with a lot over the last 10 years. My very understanding wife who basically raised three now grown up daughters virtually on her own while daddy spent his days and nights hunched over a laptop and occasionally riding a bike (even on holiday, like now). Sorry girls.
**My mum. I lied. For encouraging me to go for it and in those very early days helping me keep a roof over our heads while I did.
Singletrack Mark - for inspiration, advice, and a really useful plug on the day we launched.
Some of you who’ve been with us since the very earliest days and still are. Epic endurance.
Top road.cc moments…
The time TR attempted to gain entry back to the UK using his expired Blockbuster video card. Not sure why I mention the expired bit considering it was a good couple of years after Blockbuster had gone bust.
Winning some awards - I was never one for awards, until we won some. road.cc is currently The Bikebiz Consumer website of the year. The ones I'm most proud of though are those won by our writers, particularly Vecchiojo's.
The tech team regularly being first with launch stories to the point that brands started sticking embargos on launches - which rather defeated the point for them, us, and even the websites we beat.
So many others that they're all a blur.
Worst road.cc moments
Death stories, but they've got to be done.
Watching Mat have a painkilling injection in his face after the crank on a test bike fell off right at the end of a photoshoot.
Not being able to answer all the emails we get, especially from young prospective writers.
Waiting for TR to make it through border control so we could continue our drive home from Eurobike.
*Turns out it was actually the 2nd of September. It was a long time ago… memory’s a funny thing.
***10 years ago last Sunday
**** Which makes me Butch Cassidy - which is why I quite like that analogy. It also makes Dave the Sundance Kid, which is perhaps where it breaks down a bit - though probably not for Dave.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.