Motorcycle Classics Blogs > Black Side Down

Ten Years Later

Has it really been 10 years? It hardly seems possible, but this issue, September/October 2015, Vol. 11, No. 1, marks our 10th year of publishing Motorcycle Classics.

In July 2005, after the better part of a year identifying and defining the pieces that had to fit together to make the magazine work, we sent the first issue to the printer. I was literally holding my breath as we packaged up the digital files and hard copy proofs and sent them out the door on the FedEx truck. The buildup to that first issue was without question one of the most exciting times of my life.

Creating this magazine was something I’d dreamed about for years, but I knew the chances of successfully launching a new magazine, no less a niche magazine for classic motorcycle fans, were slim — especially when all the pundits said that A) it couldn’t be done and B) print’s dead, so why bother? Guided by blind enthusiasm and a capable publisher — and more than a little good luck — we ignored conventional wisdom, put together a plan, designed the magazine and launched into the great unknown. And 10 years later, we’re still here.

The motivation behind Motorcycle Classics came from a number of directions. As a dyed-in-the-wool vintage bike fan, I just couldn't understand why all of the good vintage bike magazines on the newsstand — hell, the only vintage bike magazines on the newsstand — were British. How was it possible there wasn’t a magazine for U.S. vintage bike fans produced right here in the good old U.S. of A? Please understand that I have great respect for the British magazines. They’re excellent and in many ways they've set the bar for quality, but they’re limited because, well, they’re British. The British look at things differently than we do. Their social and cultural evolution drive their history and engagement with motorcycles. It’s a history uniquely different than ours, driving a different perspective and a different set of interests. The British vintage bike scene is extremely dynamic, but the U.K.-to-U.S. classic bike scene isn’t a hand-in-glove fit because the U.K. versus U.S. social and cultural mindset is different. The U.K. spawned the Isle of Man TT, the U.S. Daytona Beach and the Bonneville Salt Flats: They may share similarities, but they’re not interchangeable.

Long before Motorcycle Classics, I worked for a number of years at a brew pub, first as a bartender and eventually in the brew house, learning how to turn grain, hops, water and yeast into beer. That was a pretty cool job, but being a good brewer requires passion and dedication, and I realized my real passions were motorcycles and magazines. That stint in brewing pushed my return to college and a master’s degree in journalism. And that’s where Motorcycle Classics began.

I doubt you could do this today — I don’t even know if they teach magazine journalism anymore — but Motorcycle Classics was essentially my master’s thesis. In grad school, the idea of this magazine got its first form. As part of my studies I researched, designed, and created a prototype of the magazine you’re holding in your hands now. It’s funny, because looking back, although I dreamed of making it a reality, I’m not sure I ever imagined it would really happen.

And yet it did. Guided and aided by the people in our company who share an enthusiasm for making great magazines, we made the dream a reality. Yet it wouldn’t have stuck without the support and enthusiasm of the people who really make it happen: you. That we’ve survived and thrived this long is because you’ve supported us. That support is no small thing. It’s a trust, and one that we hope to continue to inspire and be worthy of for years to come. Thanks for helping make the dream come true.

Richard Backus