"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 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.