"Hi, I'm Radek Burkat from Pinkbike. I don't believe we've officially met." The man was a giant (six-foot, six inches tall and 300 pounds, I would later discover), and judging by the dust on his kit, he'd already got a few laps in at the bike park. Radek was finishing breakfast at a window table in a Whistler Village restaurant. I had just ordered, so I happily accepted his invitation to join him.
"Tell me something," said Radek. "Why aren't you guys online? Print magazines are dead."
Turns out, Pinkbike's founder is not one for small talk. I was attending a product launch, working for Mountain Bike Action Magazine
at the time and I'll admit that I was miffed by his blunt opener. I gave him a half smile. In Whistler, Pinkbike members outnumber MBA readers by a thousand to one - so, not a good place to start a war. Besides, he had a good point.
We were on different orbits when our paths crossed. Radek, an IT wizard, was in his early thirties and Pinkbike had just turned seven. I was fifty something, a mountain bike pioneer and a veteran magazine editor. Pinkbike was on an upward trajectory, but profitability was still on the far horizon. MBA was making bank, but we were well past our apogee and on a declining arc. Our magazine's readership was educated, greying, and sprang forth from the era of cross-country hardtails and purple parts. By contrast, the average Pinkbike member at that time was unemployed, 22 years old, came from downhill or freeriding and, by my observation, could not assemble more than five words without using "rad" and an exclamation point.
Our conversation bounced between internet servers, gearboxes, trails, pitfalls of advertising, better bikes, how Pinkbike was named, motos, North Vancouver skinnies and everything in between - but I only remember two sentences. I asked Radek what motivated him to start Pinkbike? He replied:
|I realized that somewhere, all these people were riding trails, building features, and doing crazy things to their bikes. I wanted to create a place where we could get together and show each other what we were doing out there.|
I knew what that meant. What it felt like to be part of a closely knit band of like-minded riders who were stoked on everything about mountain biking. That's how the sport was - until it wasn't.
Radek's virtual community grew from a photo-sharing service and soon connected thousands of riders together who were the vanguard of the sport, but marginalized and scattered throughout the world's forests. It could not have been timed better. The iPhone was right round the corner and Pinkbike was poised to blow up the mountain bike internet. When it did, millions of images posted by members bore witness that we have more in common than we have differences.
Fast forward to 2011. I was surprised to read an announcement that Pinkbike had hired on some of the sport's leading photographers. I called immediately. How could Pinkbike possibly afford that luxury? What were you thinking? The answer was, "We decided it was time to formalize our editorial content and take on the magazines." And, "Is this something you'd be interested in?" My corporate interview was a day of shuttling trails in North Vancouver with Brett Tippie and company. It's hard for me to believe that I've been a technical editor at Pinkbike for almost nine years.
Last November, I told Pinkbike that this would be my final year as an editor. I've been extremely fortunate to be healthy enough to keep this dream job for so long, but now it's time to make the call.
I consider it an honor to have been able to finish a 25 year career as a journalist with the Pinkbike crew. The learning experience, riding and writing, has been almost as great as the strides the mountain bike has taken over the same decade.
My job interview began with this guy. There may have been snow, but at least the roots were wet.
Pinkbike evolved considerably as well. When I joined Tyler Maine and Mike Levy, you could count the staff on one hand. We now number over 50 people spread across five countries. What does that feel like?
While filming the Affordable Trail Bike segment for this season's Field Tests, videographer Chris Ricci asked me, "Would you choose to be young now and start riding on the good bikes we have today, or would you choose to learn on crappy bikes and be there when the sport began?"
I said I'd go back and do it again. It was a rare opportunity to participate in the inception of something this big. It was like being on a pirate ship. We were full speed ahead, making up the rules as we went along. Everything was important. Everyone who had a mountain bike was included. Nobody knew where the boundaries were. Pinkbike gave me a chance to experience that twice in one lifetime. I doubt I'll realize the magnitude of that gift until I settle into a more quiet role in the sport.
These goofballs: Pinkbike editors 2018.
For now, thanks to Julian for inviting me on board, Tippie for thumbs up on the interview, and Karl for his unwavering support. Thanks to Levy and Kaz for keeping me honest on both the computer and the bike, and to my Pinkbike family for sharing the load. I'm sorry for the photographers who had to follow me around events, and grateful to magicians like Colin, Margus, Eric, Trevor, Ian, Greg, Aaron and Chris for making me look good on the bike.
There are many more to thank - a few hundred thousand more - the riders who invited me into their fold (reluctance noted). It means a lot be counted among the Pinkbike community. It's a tough crowd. I bear the scars to prove it, but it's my crowd now, so I'll wear them as a reminder that the largest room in my house is the one for improvement.
Twenty five years of writing about mountain bikes and now, all I see in the rear view mirror are are familiar faces. Thanks Radek.
Maybe Rockshox will release the Pike RC4...
Levy: You have big shoes to fill, If you feel up to it.
This crazy mofo builds airplanes in his kitchen. Or maybe his family room. I can't remember which, but it's true. He builds his own damn airplanes and flies them. That right there makes him a superhero in my book.
But wait, there's more....
Nobody, I mean nobody, knows how to wrangle wildlife--be it tigers or blue jays---like RC. And, again, I'm not making this shit up. Tigers, donkeys, birds of prey....I can't tell you how many Skype meetings were interrupted by the braying/screetching/howling coming from some wild animal that was occupying RC's "home office". He's like a conservative hippy Dr. Doolittle. Which is to say, yet again, that RC is his own freakily unique animal.
And, sure, RC has written a ton of great stories. And, yes, he was one of the few people who inspired me to think that I could get a job that didn't involve wearing a shitty suit and selling crappy health insurance to people who didn't want it, so on a personal level, I owe him a lot.
But mainly, RC is the smartest, kindest, and raddest person you could ever hope to meet.
I miss working with you, buddy, but look forward to seeing you again, talking shit about rocket ships (of which I know nothing, but of which you are an expert) and chimpanzee sexuality (of which we are both disturbingly well-acquainted with). We'll probably talk about bikes too, but it was always the weird and unexpected corners of your conversations that I loved best.
RC, you're a friggin' legend. I'm glad your words will continue to grace PB's digital pages and I look forward to staying up late into the night, talking shit and avoiding deadlines with you again.
The beers are on me.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought some 10-15 years later we would collaborate and work together.
I have a deep respect for all you have done to educate riders and expose others to this awesome sport. You have always been receptive to the "new guy in town" and listened to their ideas with an open mind. I will always be grateful to the fairshake you gave Niner when we first started.
RC you will be missed by all and it has been my honor to call you a friend.
I wish you the best on your next singletrack journey!
Now, @RichardCunningham, talking about the ethos of PB, you said "and, by my observation, could not assemble more than five words without using "rad" and an exclamation point": Could you guys please stop adding "schralp" "shred" and such other meaningless terms to your entries? They add no value at all, and certainly only work towards perpetuating that very annoying stereotype and consolidating it into the newer generations.
It was so cool to see you make the transition over to PB, and do so in a meaningful way. I guess not many people have the capacity of reshaping their ways like you did. To date I enjoy reading your content, which oozes deep understanding of the subject everywhere in-between the lines. And when sth is new to you, you're not ashamed to admit it. I tip my hat to you, sir.
Hold on - maybe that was Charlie Cunningham. Well, still...I read enough MBA mags.
a whole career out of silly bikes. Good on you dude.
Congrats on a great career RC.
Thanks and wish you all the best!
Thank you. Enjoy your next adventure.
"I said I'd go back and do it again. It was a rare opportunity to participate in the inception of something this big. It was like being on a pirate ship. We were full speed ahead, making up the rules as we went along. Everything was important. Everyone who had a mountain bike was included. Nobody knew where the boundaries were. Pinkbike gave me a chance to experience that twice in one lifetime. I doubt I'll realize the magnitude of that gift until I settle into a more quiet role in the sport."
If @pinkbike needs a token old guy on staff I'm available...
I too have been around bikes forever.. started MTB's in 1987ish... been in the bike biz since 1991.. been an avid rider since around the age of 5 or 6 (got my first bike in 1972). A faded memory was struck reading this article; several years ago, maybe 15, 16, 17 years or more. This guy, sorry, I don't remember his name, asked me to build a bike for him so he could write review on it with some bicycle magazine he worked for. I want to say it was Bicycling Magazine. He claimed he had a $100 budget for the build so, that was a bit under the shop charge but, I took the bait and rolled with it, The bike was a carbon Scott frame, hard tail, 26"... ehhh, Vbrake or disc, don't remember. All I can remember, it was an all XTR kit with some nice bits, blingy fork and wheels. He said it was worth about $5k. I went along with it, thinking I'd get props in the write up. Just to confirm, I looked up his name in some older issues and sure enough, he was a writer for the mag. He wrote pretty well too (unlike me).
I built the bike and we agreed to ride a local trail I groomed since he wasn't from this area and didn't know the good places to ride. Here's where it gets good --- as a writer, yeah, he was good but, as a rider.. he sucked. He couldn't keep up with my 10 years older than him pace, he biffed a few times crossing very shallow streams and simple rocky sections and damn, he couldn't climb a hill to save his life. WAIT!!! And this guy reviews bikes? WTF? not to mention, he was an arrogant SOB complained about the conditions and weather. He suckered me for a $100 build and didn't give me a print date on the article so, I have no idea if he even mentioned my shop in the article. He came by the shop for a few light repairs before getting relocated to AZ with the full time job he had, each time, he acted as if he was getting a freebee for the repairs. He came by the shop needing to ship that Scott back to the factory and had the nerve to expect I'd do it for free. He took a real "why do you need to charge" attitude when I told him the cost.
That was my only up front and personal encounter with someone who wrote reviews --- I just wish I could remember his name.
Old Balls! Congrats on a storybook ending to an amazing career. You were my first official hire and I'm proud to have been there with you as you helped evolve PB into the powerhouse it is today. Thank you!
Bought my first issue of MBA in the late 80s.. was such an eye opener into the world where our sport was bursting at the seams from..
Thanks for everything !
May be back to welding?;-)
all the best & happy trails
Thank you for all the great reads!
How did somebody from a motocross background get something like this so wrong for so long? You were testing and riding all the bikes by all the manufacturers, and you never realized jack squat before others finally did.
You were also the one who used your position as editor of man to try to ridiculously blackball companies and deny them advertising because you thought the names sounded satanic and offended your weak judgemental Christian religulous beliefs.
You also were the most prolific troll poller on pinkbike, generating click bait titles that dropped extra pennies in your pocket but contributed little intellectual value to the sport.
The one thing I appreciated was your retro bike articles, thank you for those and good luck with your next step in life.