Dirt Rag was the first magazine that I subscribed to after I started mountain biking many years back. Even though I enjoy reading other publications, The Rag continues to be my favorite. They come at you from a different angle than the other trail mags out there. There are stories of travel and adventure. They continually advocate for trail builders and give a voice to the entire community of enthusiasts, not just the racers or professionals. The pages explore stories that the weekend warrior can relate to. Each issue takes you on an adventure and helps you dream up your next escape.
When I heard that the magazine had a new editor, Mike Cushionbury, I was a little nervous. Change can lead to great things, but it also has the potential to work the other way (See Newsweek circa 2008). I got in touch with Mike and gave him a light grilling to see what he had in mind for the future of my beloved magazine. He also gives some valuable input about which races he thinks are must-do events and what kind of bikes he likes to ride.
James Knott: Do you feel like Dirt Rag has a different vibe than other mountain bike magazines? If so, how would you describe it? What type of rider are you trying to appeal to?
Mike Cushionbury: We try to appeal to the everyday rider through engaging stories and real life product testing. Magazine’s are entertainment and hopefully when you read The Rag you go to a new place and can disengage from the day and dream a little, yearn to get out for a ride.
I know that as we grow bigger it’s harder to be the mountain biker’s forum we once were but nonetheless, every reader has a voice with Dirt Rag, through readings and especially the Lit Contest. Or even a compelling feature. I’m easy to get a hold of for any story ideas. We’re the scrappy little fighter that keeps going against the big budget competitors.
You’ve been the editor of Dirt Rag for just over a year, is there anything about the experience that has surprised you? What decision of yours, good or bad, has impacted the magazine the most?
When I started the first thing I did was a redesign, moving things around to make the pages flow better and looking for new dimensions with images and storytelling. I also worked on changing our direction a bit. I want to appeal to new readers and the next generation without offending the old guard who loyally follow Dirt Rag. Not an easy tightrope to walk. The acceptance all around has been great and of course without a very progressive staff this never could have happened. I wasn’t planning on changing things again for 2014 but since magazines are always evolving you’ll indeed see some more fun changes.
Most successful enterprises are good at adapting over time, how will Dirt Rag evolve for the new media landscape? Will there be any big changes to the magazine in 2014?
Like I said, we have some new things coming in 2014 print wise, mostly column related, just fun stuff to read. You may not know it but Dirt Rag was one of the first in our industry to go digital with content and subscriptions. We have a great staff who is focusing on that medium and we also just relaunched the website (dirtragmag.com) with more content then ever. Because the magazine is doing so well you’ll see a lot of new, fresh things online, from bike and product tests to expanded features blogs and photo galleries.
I’m hoping to attend Dirt Rag Dirt Fest next year. What other big events would you recommend?
Dirt Fest is amazing, it’s a festival you do not want to miss—it’s a true vacation event and 2014 is going to be massive since it’s our magazine’s 25th Anniversary. Otherwise I’d say race (or just ride) Shenandoah 100, Dirty Kanza 200, BC Bike Race and the Trans-Sylvania Epic just once in your riding career. You will not be disappointed.
You probably get a chance to hop on a lot of bikes. What’s your go-to bike these days and why?
That’s tough because there are so many great bikes at so many price ranges. I just rode a Santa Cruz Heckler 27.5 and it was awesome, for less than three grand! I guess to answer the question; I might be migrating towards 27.5”. I love my Cannondale Scalpel and Trigger 29er but I’m mostly riding a Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5 0 Team right now. For more on that, check out the February issue of Dirt Rag.
Thanks Mike, I’ll certainly be checking out the February issue. I have some friends at roll: Polaris who love the Giant Anthem. Between the two recommendations, I’m really eager to take a spin on that bike. Please subscribe to Quickdirt if you like this article. Also, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter to find other sources of mountain bike inspiration.
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