Though bicycling has been around for well over a century, bike makers and cycling advocates realize the importance of coming up with fresh angles to maintain media interest. Often, they do so by piggybacking on larger societal trends.
Today, that includes touting biking as a commuting alternative, leveraging the return of Lance Armstrong to the Tour de France, and encouraging riding as a solution to the obesity crisis.
“This is a story with a lot of different angles, including air quality and traffic issues, as well as preventative care and fitness, so there's [always] something we can pitch,” notes Andy Clarke, executive director of the 129-year-old League of American Bicyclists.
But the media that covers bicycling on a full-time basis is aimed primarily at the sport's enthusiasts. Loren Mooney, editor-in-chief of Bicycling, notes how her magazine puts all equipment through its paces before writing reviews.
“Every single piece of gear we review, we ride or use,” she explains. “For a road bike, we put hundreds of miles on it before we write a review. We also do training and nutrition, general skills tips, and experience and travel stories that inspire you to go and get on your bike.”
Mooney adds that the magazine is trying to expand its scope.
“Beach cruisers are really fun to ride, so we include those as well,” she says. “We also recently hired a ‘road rights' columnist, who is a lawyer, to help people understand their legal rights and responsibilities when they ride.”
Chip Smith, president of Draper, UT-based Soar Communications, whose clients include Schwinn and high-end road and mountain bike maker Ritchey Design, adds that general-interest and fitness outlets may not have dedicated bicycling writers, but they do try to cover the latest bikes and trends.
“We've had stories in Men's Health, Men's Journal, and Shape, as well as newspapers,” he says. “With stories in the commuter category or relating to obesity, it helps to have a third party, such as a health expert, who can talk about the importance of the daily lower-impact exercise that bicycling provides.”
Clarke adds that bicycling is also a seasonal story.
“Most of the coverage is from April though August and September,” he says. “May is Bike Month and the third Friday in May is Bike to Work Day. We see our biggest spikes in Web site traffic around [those events].”
Much coverage tends to concentrate on tips and advice, safe riding, or the latest biking technology. Mooney adds that cycling also has its own fashion sense, an angle that regularly captures mainstream media attention.
“There have been several recent pieces in The New York Times on the styles of cycling,” she adds. “There's a diverse group of people who ride bicycles, and a lot of these sub-cultures end up getting coverage, especially the urban bicycling style.”
Cycling stories often piggyback on trends, such as exercise or biking to work as a way to avoid commuting costs
Fitness is a consistent hook for cycling pieces, so have exercise experts on hand to talk to reporters
The cycling fashion angle gets a lot of mainstream media traction, even netting several stories in The New York Times