It was more than a coincidence that two lifestyle cycling magazines were launched in Thailand last month. Their arrival is a clear sign that cycling has now become a lifestyle for many here.
After a series of cycling-related events over the past year, it was high time for two lifestyle cycling magazines, Crank and Bicycles United Magazine, to hit the streets. It's even better that the latter is a free title. The word on the grapevine is that more cycling magazines will soon hit the bookstores.
Cycling has always been considered a niche activity, and a market Thai publishers did not entertain until recently.
"In reality, there are people who want to share their cycling experiences and learn about others' experiences. But there wasn't much space in the offline world," said Bicycles United Magazine publisher Kris Gomeze, who first recognised the cycling community two years ago.
Up until now, cyclists have tended to rely on racing bike magazines, she said. But cyclists were looking for more than just cycling trips, routes and techniques; they wanted something that covered their lifestyle.
The same trend was spotted by the Crank team. Its editor Pirak Anurakyawachon is an avid fan of Australia's Treadlie and the UK's Rouleur. He thought chic lifestyle and fashion were elements missing from the local cycling scene.
"Cycling used to be a hobby for some, but it's now a lifestyle and a mode of city transport for many," said Pirak. He started cycling a few years back, and gave up his car two months ago for his vintage bike while travelling around Bangkok.
To make bicycles a widespread mode of transport for all, his magazine combines a chic cycling lifestyle with fashion which can be seen in everyday life. Its "Crank Street" column, featuring people on the streets posing with their two-wheelers, represents the vehicle as an alternative transport for the common people.
Bicycles United Magazine now has 8,000 subscribers, including individual cyclists and bicycle shops, and will soon be distributed in bicycle shops in Hong Kong. Crank has attracted more than 250 subscribers and has ensured its survival for the next five issues, said Pirak. Its Facebook page has attracted more than 3,500 likes.
The circulation of the first issues of the newly-launched magazines, which are both bilingual, also proved the demand. Pirak claimed a circulation of 30,000 copies for issue one of Crank. Gomeze boasted that the first 10,000 copies of her free magazine placed at bicycle shops around the country were snatched up in less than two weeks, and circulation of the next issue will be doubled.
Meanwhile, both editorial teams are wrapping up their second issues.
Cyclists have never had their own space or stories properly shared, said Gomeze. During the two years of research, she met countless international cyclists who have found Thailand the best cycling hub in Asia, but they complained about a lack of information and routes. Thailand is linked to neighbouring countries by land; cyclists don't have to fly in order to cross the border.
For years, cycling trips and techniques had widely been shared only on the Thai-language website pantip.com, while bicyclethailand.com is the only source in English to keep cyclists updated about events and trips around Thailand.
Before this, cyclists had relied on two long-running magazines, Sports Street and Race Bicycle Magazine. Both focus on cycling competitions, road bikes and mountain bikes, which are the largest segments in the cycling industry. Over the years, other titles had hit the bookshelves and then disappeared.
Sarn Song Lor (Two-wheeler Newsletter), issued by the Thai Cycling for Health Association, has always been another reliable source for cyclists. It used to be the channel for the association to promote its activities and was upgraded to a compact magazine three years ago, featuring updates about the general cycling industry.
"Cycling will be more about a mode of urban transport, female cyclists and family trips," said Gomeze.
Once linked to road bikes and mountain bikes for serious cyclists and racers, the cycling scene is going to change. Bicycle importers and distributors will have to reconsider the urban cyclist as a prospective target.
Bicycles United Magazine's slogan is: "It doesn't matter who you are, what kind of bicycle you ride. What matters is, you ride a bicycle." This represents cycling as a lifestyle and a mode of transport in the city.
Crank also aims to encourage a larger cyclist community. Pirak hopes to see bicycles replacing motorised vehicles some day, when traffic congestion becomes unbearable and fuel becomes unaffordable.
"Cycling will then become a universal language for all," Pirak said.
About the author
- Writer: Sirinya Wattanasukchai