Motorcycle Magazines Past and Present

Posted On 07 Mar 2000
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Motorcycle Magazines Past and Present

Dain Gingerelli remembers motorcycle magazines past and present.

By Dain Gingerelli

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by Dain Gingerelli

The first (April 1950) and last (October 1991) print issues of Cycle magazine.

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” — Albert Einstein

Fifty years ago newsstands in grocery and liquor stores were crammed with motorcycle magazines boasting energetic names like Popular Cycling, Motorcycle World, Modern Cycle, Cycle Illustrated, Hot Bike and Big Bike. Leading the pack, though, were the four major stalwarts, CycleCycle WorldCycle Guide and Motorcyclist, which, first published in 1912, could be construed as the granddaddy of American motorcycle magazine titles.

Today practically all of those and other titles are absent on what few newsstands remain in America’s retail outlets. Print media today has changed, catering now to a specialized market composed of people like you who enthusiastically subscribe to genre-specific publications such as Motorcycle Classics (which will continue, in print).

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It could be said that the motorcycle print magazine industry began its transition with the August 1987 issue of Cycle Guide, that publication’s final edition (first published March 1967). Four years later with its October 1991 issue Cycle (first published April 1950) folded its tent, leaving only Cycle World (January 1962) and Motorcyclist (June 1912) as the industry’s heavyweight titles to journey into the next millennium. By 2018 Motorcyclist became a bimonthly until, in 2019, it went fully online.

Meanwhile, Cycle World forged onward until it, too, reduced publication frequency to a quarterly on-sale schedule. But even that changed with 2020’s issue Number 4 as Editor-in-Chief Mark Hoyer announced in his editorial, “A big part of me is sorry to report we are ceasing Cycle World‘s print magazine.” Mercifully, the issue included reader favorite Leanings and TDC columns by Peter Egan and Kevin Cameron, respectively.

Image by Dain Gingerelli

Cycle World’s first (left) and last print issues.

Looking back, Cycle, originally published by Robert E. Petersen and Robert R. Lindsay of Motor Trends Publications (later to become Petersen Publishing), listed six editorial objectives in its first issue for readers to cling to. Foremost, Editor Harry Steele stated that the new publication wanted “to widen public acceptance of all things pertaining to motorcycles.”

Twelve years later, Joe Parkhurst launched Cycle World with the intent of creating an objective and authoritative magazine about motorcycles. Years later in one of his final columns for Motorcyclist, the late Gordon Jennings, who previously served as Cycle World‘s first, and arguably best, technical editor, wrote: “Joe Parkhurst founded Cycle World on the then-radical notion that a motorcycle magazine should do road-test reports that provided consumers honest, objective acceleration numbers and equally honest, if necessarily subjective, comments about handling, braking and rider comfort.”

Steve Anderson, who followed an illustrious line of Cycle editors that included Jennings, Cook Neilson and Phil Schilling among others, had the dubious task of penning the magazine’s final editorial, in which he opened (and essentially closed) with: “You hold in your hands the last issue of Cycle magazine.” The issue also included tongue-in-cheek job descriptions of outgoing staffers, such as: Jim Miller — Sub-merged, Tyrone van Hooydonk — Ob-la-di ob-la-da, John Patrick Burns — Available, and Ken Vreeke — Terminated 2.

No doubt, the world’s changing, and we’ll continue changing with it. But one thing remains constant — we’ll continue to ride our aging motorcycles. After all, we don’t hide ’em, we ride ’em. (Full disclosure: I stubbornly cling to the first motorcycle magazine I ever bought, my August 1965 issue of Cycle World.) — Dain Gingerelli


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