March 23 2010 by Jason Fogelson
I love reading motorcycle magazines almost as much as I love riding a motorcycle. Some years, I discover that I've subscribed to a dozen or more bike magazines at the same time. Then, I cut back, let some expire, and vow to keep my subscriptions more manageable. Lo and behold, a few years later, I'm back up to a dozen again, and I have to do the hard cull. That's where I'm at right now -- evaluating the motorcycle magazines, and trying to decide where to put my money and time.
Three subscriptions will definitely get renewed: Motorcyclist, Cycle World and Rider. They are the biggest, broadest titles, with coverage of everything from cruisers to sportbikes, dirt bikes to sidecar hacks. If you're looking for a good, general interest motorcycling magazine, any one of the three would serve you well. Motorcyclist tends to lean more toward sportbike coverage; Cycle World emphasizes standards and cruisers; and Rider is where you're more likely to find touring and travel coverage. But each of the three covers the whole spectrum. I love reading Jack Lewis' stream of consciousness stories in Motorcyclist; Peter Egan's erudite column, and John Burns' acerbic reviews in Cycle World; and Clement Salvadori's Road Tales in Rider. I couldn't do without any one of the three rags.
As a Harley-Davidson owner and Harley Owners Group (HOG) member, I automatically receive a copy of the magazine HOG. A few years ago, Harley merged their corporate mouthpiece, The Enthusiast, with the HOG newsletter, HOG Tales. The new publication is great, with all the club news you could want, along with new product previews and historical information from the company archives.
I also receive a copy of American Motorcyclist , the monthly magazine from the American Motorcyclist Association, because I am a member. This magazine has come a long way over the past few years, from a thin newsletter to a full-fledged magazine with great photos and feature articles. The fact that it arrives as a benefit of membership in an important organization means that it will always have a place in my mailbox.
I've let my subscription to Motorcycle Consumer News lapse, but I think I'll renew. MCN is the Consumer Reports of the biking world -- a serious, unbiased source of empirical information about motorcycling. MCN accepts no advertising, and is much less flashy than the other publications I'm used to. If you're serious about motorcycles and riding, you should check this one out.
I'm not into the "lifestyle" magazines like Easyriders, In the Wind, Biker and Outlaw Biker , though I appreciate them for what they are. (Please be aware that these titles are not family-friendly, and neither are their websites.) I sometimes pick up V-Twin , which is a milder version of the Easyriders formula from the same publisher. I don't think any of these mags will make my coffee table this year.
A few titles that are on the bubble for me right now include American Rider , American Iron and Iron Horse , magazines with smaller subscription bases, but still with really interesting content. Each of these magazines has a real point of view, and passionate writers who love bikes. I may have to flip a coin or two to decide which one makes the cut.
Then, there are the niche magazines, which concentrate on a particular aspect of the sport, like Dirt Rider , Motocross Action Sport Rider , Hot Bike , Hot Bike Baggers , Motorcycle Cruiser and Road Runner . None of those are in contention this year. Well, maybe they are.
Motorcycle magazines make great airplane reading for business travelers, and can often be conversation starters. You'll never suspect that a business suit-clad passenger sharing your row is a weekend biker, but when they see you reading a motorcycle rag, it's a sure bet that you'll be trading road tales before the landing gear have retracted. Give it a try. You might just find your next riding buddy.