Last time I wrote an Uneasy Rider for an issue, it was for the last print issue of CityBike.
In the six months since, print has continued its long decline. We bid adieu to another of Boner Motorcycle Group’s titles, Hot Bike, in early January, although to paraphrase Peter Gibbons, hero of captive cubicle laborers everywhere, “I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob.” Our editorial review board voiced concern that further sarcasm might read as genuine praise for the boobs-n-Big Twins jizz-rag, so I’ll be frank: good riddance. Publications that insist on perpetuating the anti-intellectual, tits-n-ass-backwards stereotypes that continue to plague much of moto-“journalism” and motorcycling at large deserve to be a hard lesson, not mourned. More on similar hard lessons on page 27 of our new special issue, The Last Four Years.
Closer to home, Maximum Rocknroll announced in January that 2019 will see the final three print issues of the long-running fanzine. As you may or may not recall, I wisecracked in “You’re Holding the Last Print Issue of CityBike” that “As CityBike goes, so goes the nation. We fully expect the New Yorker and other die-hard standard-bearers, devotees to the printed page and long-form thought, to follow suit by the end of 2018. The writing is on the wall now. Or rather, the web.”
But I never expected MRR to give up the ghost of true grit rock and roll. Goddamn.
I doubt anyone at MRR noticed when we stopped printing, although I do recall being pretty stoked, nay, honored, upon receiving a bit of fan mail from someone who’d written for the real-deal underground culture mag. I don’t know if the people at MRR will appreciate or agree with this comparison, but there are more parallels between CityBike and Maximum Rocknroll than between us and other moto-mags that have ceased the ink-and-paper thing.
We began in the Bay Area around the same time: MRR’s first print thing, a newsprint booklet in “Not So Quiet on the Western Front,” a double-LP compilation on Alternative Tentacles, was released in 1982. Like CityBike, the end of MRR in print is not the end of MRR, and just as CityBike never intended to replace the big-buck glossies, Maximum Rocknroll stayed hardcore-true to its roots across decades, influencing countless punks and DIY-ers, whose creations inspired the ethos of CityBike for the last few years.
But this isn’t about bemoaning the loss of print, really; it’s about those last few years.
Like many of our good (and other) ideas, this special issue was the result of miscellaneous mumblings abruptly coalescing into something brilliant. Or maybe just something.
I’d been pondering what we accomplished from 2014 to 2018. What most people don’t know is that CityBike was literally days from simply dying and disappearing when I took over—and I mean literally in the literal way, not in the way it’s used as a meaningless modifier by morons in hopes of making their words carry more weight. We started to really hit our stride a few months in, and it wasn’t long before I started hearing from readers that the mag was back. Some who’d been reading since the very beginning said it was the best it’d ever been. Whatever it was, it was ours at that point—the crew had reestablished the original Bay Area moto-monthly and its voice with a new funk and fury, and the arc of those four years still feels special to me, from the content we created to the money our Fuck Black Friday ride raised for CASA to the relaunch of CityBike.com (coincidentally just before the relaunch of MaximumRocknroll.com).
The crash at the end—the end of print, rather—was a fittingly painful end to that timeline, punctuated by the substantial physical pain of being struck by an errant Civic just after we printed our last issue. It felt like some kind of cosmic comeuppance, a conviction of printicide in the first degree—except I don’t believe in that shit. What I do believe is that The Man, concerned about the evil powers of independent moto-journalism upsetting the delicate balance between consumption and illusions of free thinking, sent an econobox assassin to take me out. Because, as the Capital B Bikers love to say, “It’s all about control.”
That Civic failed its mission, but did slow us down—we’re not as far down the difficult road to glorious digital redemption, and it’ll be a long time before we get our entire back catalog online (if we ever do). But focusing our efforts on the goddamned internet has allowed us to report on things like California AB 1824 and the MIC’s smoke-and-mirrors tactics in a way that print simply didn’t. And look—links!
Think of this issue as a comp, like the good ole days punk records with twenty-plus bands on ‘em. It’s a look back at our last four years of print, a period that conveniently let us pay theft-as-flattery homage to Black Flag’s “The First Four Years,” an album released the year before our first issue. But it’s also a look forward, a reaffirmation of the promise I made in my last printed column. I acknowledge that there’s something special—or maybe just something—about reading a physical publication, but it’s the content, the words, photos and attitude, that matters. We aren’t gonna start doing branded lifestyle pieces, we’ll never publish inconsequential, inane, irrelevant nonsense just to pump up pageviews, and we’re damn sure not gonna trade forced promotion for press access.
The difference, in simple terms: we now publish stuff when we think we have something worth saying instead of just once a month.
CityBike remains free, in that you can go to our virtual newsstand for a hit, and in that we refuse to be shackled by increasingly problematic publishing norms, like the aforementioned assholishness of free ads for access. But a lot of people have asked how to support CityBike now that there’s no more paid subscription option. If you’re one of the obviously extremely intelligent, good-looking people who believe what we do is worth supporting, we have ways to take your money.
If you’re not quite ready to help pompous, privileged moto-journo jerks put gas in press bikes, at least sign up for our Dispatch email newsletter or just check in at our website a couple times a week. Share our stuff; tell your friends.
I sincerely hope you enjoy this special issue. Maybe we’ll do similar sorta-magazine type things in the future, maybe we won’t. We struggled with what to include in this one—I wanted 48 pages for 48 months because it sounds cool, but I also wanted to put in damn near everything from those four years, to essentially create a thousand-page-plus MobyBike.
If we missed your favorite story, or you just want to say hey, you can contact us here.