Phew. After 12 months of drumming my fingers and re-reading back issues finally another issue of The Ride Journal is here.
For those of you who have yet to discover The Ride Journal it's 200 pages of short cycling stories and cartoons and photo stories from all sorts of cyclists living all around the world. Er, that's it. Instead of a cover featuring an aerial of two blokes on a dusty mountain climb – or a gurning pro rider, every edition of the Ride Journal has a beautiful and sometimes disturbing cover by surrealist Shan Jiang who obviously spent far too much time watching Spirited Away as a child. Issue 9 features bikes discarded in autumn woods with snakes, owls and little tic tac shaped men in hats.
If all this sounds a bit weird and precious then yes it is and all the better for it. There are ads but they are at the front and back and so tasteful they look like features themselves. There's no new diet burble or bike comparisons – just very good photo stories and single page pedalling tales each accompanied by a superb illustration. The Ride Journal is not a pro cycling magazine and it isn't trying to intellectualise cycling for the sake of it. It's clever without being elitist and presents the obscure while remaining accessible.
If you are familiar with The Ride Journal Issue 9 presents the usual cornucopia of tales from pros and amateurs. Where to start? The pros this issue are Marianne Vos on life in the pro lane and Nicholas Roche on The Giro. Team Sky's mechanic Andy Williams describes what it's like fixing Brad's flat on the Roubaix and then finding the car has a puncture too. No stress there. In 'Mountains' Susannah Osbourne and the pro cycling photographer Jered Gruber describe what it is to find time to climb some of the continental biggies, illustrated by quietly beautiful photography by Michael Blann.
As usual there's a hefty dose of British writing with a fascinating piece by the man with the melting pot name Clarence Takunda Chodokufa and a photo spread that proves that London bike couriers have more tatts and piercings than a travelling freak show. There's also a great photo story on off-roading in The Lakes by Andy Waterman that makes tracks never more than 2 miles from the nearest Youth Hostel look as wild as the Yukon.
With 54 different stories and features covering so many different aspects of cycling it's impossible to describe them all but as an example of diversity how about this: commuting in Stockholm; riding trails in South Wales; getting rescued from a blizzard in North Dakota on your trip across the USA and spending four days snowed in on a farm; what it was like to work at Raleigh; Tim March on 1980's bmx riding; and Peter Thompson finding himself riding with sadly missed Robin Williams on a sportive in California.
I've often wondered what the route might be heading out of town on a Sunday ride if you live in Manhattan – the equivalent of North Londoners weekly slog up the A1000 through Barnet to Potters Bar. Question answered: Chris Henry's describes gliding through the canyons of NYC and riding over the George Washington Bridge first thing of a Sunday morning.
I tend to flick through the magazine to enjoy the illustrations first. Oils, wood cut, water colour, collage. All styles are employed to wonderful affect. Mark Aspinall's illustration for a piece on cyclocross by Jeremy Powers is sublime and I would imagine anyone who mountain bikes will love a copy of Guy Shield's illustration on page 177. A gap in the woods opens onto a downhill vista with a mountain biker flying through the frame in mid air. It's possibly the most exhilarating illustration of bike riding I've ever seen.
As always the inventiveness and quality makes The Ride Journal a great read and a future collector's item. If you like collectables a wise investment for your eBay retirement top up might well be The Ride Journal. If you've yet to buy a copy I'd get in there quick. It's as hot as your brakes at the bottom of Hard Knott on the only warm day of the summer.
Carefully edited, intelligent collection of approachable writing on all aspects of cycling with superb illustrations
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Make and model: The Ride Journal Issue IX The Ride Journal Issue IX
Size tested: 195 pages
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,