Philip and Andrew Diprose began The Ride Journal 2008 to offer something broader on the joys of cycling beyond race news, continental col pieces and pro interviews. With very high standards, and packing in over 50 stories, photo stories and illustrations per issue, the brothers have just bought out issue 8, and it’s another cracker.
Please don’t be put off by the word ‘journal’. I bought a copy of issue 7 last summer expecting the kind of precious publication fit for only the finest pedal powered intellectuals, up there in the Olympus mists of cycling journalism with a personal locker at Herne Hill.
To be honest with you, it is precious, but in the most positive sense of the word. The Ride Journal is a piece of craft; a beautifully delivered set of first person narrative personal stories which cover every aspect of what it might mean to ride a bike. Don’t worry, there isn’t space for over blown post-Krabbe writing. There are no pompous tales of ‘epic’ derring do’s and don’ts from weekend warriors, no prosaic interviews with pros, no Hemingway arabesques on following a Grand Tour or tedious tales of cat 4 racing triumphs. The editor Philip Diprose dryly sums up his own efforts in an editorial: “I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the mid-pack won’t fill itself and faster riders need others to make them look good.” He sounds like my kind of rider.
The Ride Journal offers first person stories: personal reflections from people whose lives orbit the time spent on the bike and the meaning of that commitment for them. The stories are short, generally one to a page, but the content is edited to a fine richness and each story is accompanied by a beautiful and often wall worthy illustration.
The pieces are from all over the place - Australia, France, Germany but predominately from the USA and UK - and cover all aspects of cycling: road, mountain biking, BMX, track, commuting, and just hanging out on the bike for the thrill of it. As Philip explains the craft is making sure each issue has a diverse collection as possible.
“We find pieces from all manner of sources, people contacting us with tip offs, finished pieces arriving out of the blue, events we hear about that are coming up and could be worth investigating. I’ve long since given up trying to think of all of the strange, emotive, touching, motivating ideas that could be going on. There are millions. Everyone has a story to tell, its just trying to make sure people know we are here and also that we keep our eyes and ears open to ideas.”
It’s difficult to describe the diversity and quality of a typical issue of The Ride Journal. I’ve read three now and each one has taken weeks of dipping in and out of before I’ve done it justice. Many of the stories linger in the mind. I’ve found myself repeating snippets of some of them to people, unable to remember where I’d read them, and realised upon re-reading that I was quoting a Ride Journal piece.
It would take too much space to list all that’s on offer in a typical 200-page issue but here’s just a small taste of the past two issues. Issue 7 had pieces from Mark Webber, the Formula One driver who took up road riding in a big way. In ‘Human’ Bradley Wiggins reflected on what he’s achieved. Dan Craven wrote of riding the London Olympics for Namibia. Jens Voigt, in a fantastic and very honest piece, admitted how he really feels chasing young buckos down descents at 50mph with the end of his career so close and a wife and kids at home.
“Once you reach the bottom of the valley and the speed slows a bit, you can’t help but let out a little sigh of relief. Another descent done, and you’ve survived in one piece," he wrote.
Daisuke Yano described the mountains of roadside debris on a ride around the area of Japan hit by the tsunami. In ‘She’ Dave Olinski of Henley on Thames offered a celebratory ode of love to that that fickle goddess of the British summer - the sun, and In ‘Tom’s Ride’ Paul Sadoff from Santa Cruz commemorated the death of a cycling friend by finally taking up the offer he always missed, a cycle route his friend invited him on many times; a ride that’s now his friend’s memorial.
Issue 8 has some beautiful photography. British Columbia downhill mountain biking, track racing at Crystal Palace, cyclo-cross and a reflection on the seasons of the year by probably the best photographer on the tour circuit Jered Gruber.
On the written side there are tales of stolen bikes from the point of view of both victim and thief: “I’ve seen idiots riding a £3,000 racing bike to the pub. You chain up a bike like that outside a council estate and you’re essentially waving your good fortune in the face of every kid who lives there. Even if they don’t need the money, they’ll take one look at it and think: ‘I’m having that.’ ”
Fabian Cancellara explains why he loves his nickname in ‘I’m Spartacus’. Simon Mottram reveals why the real Team Sky kit isn’t designed to last more than a year, and in ‘Family Values’ Taylor Phinney delivers a beautiful reflection on his parents, what he feels he owes them, and how his father is coping with Parkinson’s disease. The illustration for this story alone is a work of art.
It’ll be no surprise to read that I cannot recommend The Ride Journal highly enough. It’s a wonderful publication for all cyclists but I’d recommend it to non cyclists too for the strength of the writing and images. The Ride Journal isn’t just concerned with cycling in all its forms, but also manages to offer lessons on the events that really matter in life: friendship, family and a sense of perspective. For me it’s been the best cycling publication out there since it started. If you fancy yourself as a writer or illustrator, or a magazine editor or designer, in any field, this should be your benchmark to aim for.
Previous issues are available for free download so you can make up your own mind about Issues 1-7 before forking out the paltry sum of £10.50 for issue 8. I’d hurry as the print version sells out pretty quickly. Oh, and did I mention? All profits from The Ride Journal go to charity. It’s enough to soften the hearts and open the wallets of even the most cynical of road.cc’s learned brethren.
Packed with good stuff and continues to be the benchmark of the best in cycle stories and imagery.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: The Ride Journal VIII
Size tested: Paperback
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 47 Height: Weight:
I usually ride: A 20 year old Condor Italia on the school run. My best bike is: Condor Moda Ti - summer bike
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,