Who are you, where do you live and where are you from? I’m Bill Strickland, the editorial director of the Hearst Enthusiast Group, which includes Bicycling, Runner’s World, Popular Mechanics, and Best Products. I live in Easton, Pennsylvania, a small city about one hour from New York City and Philadelpha.
What place does cycling have in your life and what practice do you do? Cycling is the guiding principle of my life, and the chief way I understand and move through the world. I love all kinds of cycling. I can’t define myself as any one type.
How and when did you start cycling? I began riding in my last year of high school. Forty years ago. It was a way to escape, rebel, and explore, all at once.
What is the profession of editor? These days, I am not actively involved in the day-to-day creation of stories for Bicycling. I act more as a guide, a coach, and someone who can help the staff achieve their ambitions. Previously, I have had jobs with Bicycling where I wrote service (how to) every day, reviewed bikes and gear, wrote feature stories, edited feature stories, and oversaw the website.
How do you practice it and since when? I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember, and I have worked in publishing as a writer or editor since the mid 1980s. I’ve been with or around Bicycling since 1991. I was editor-in-chief three times, the first in 1999.
What is the editorial line of Bicycling magazine? We used to tell people our mission was simple: Yay Bikes! I still like that as the best and easiest to understand description of what we do. To put it in a little more depth: We believe everyone’s life will be better with a bicycle in it in some way. And we believe that the more people who ride, the better the world becomes. So our goal is as simple as to help a single person go on a single ride, yet is as ambitious as changing the entire world. We are snobs. We are not elitists. We get most excited by doing whatever it takes to get more people on bikes, and to get people already on bikes on their bikes more. We are not too cool to answer the most basic questions, to see the joy and usefulness in any kind of ride, of any length, of any speed, of any skill, of any purpose. There are enough people out there gatekeeping cycling. We throw the gates wide open!
How do you design and choose covers? We start by looking at all the images associated with the stories in an issue. From those, we think about clarity, excitement, accessibility, authenticity, inclusivity – and that pure, simple question of: does this make us want to ride? When we have a selection of just few possibilities, we test the choices with our readers to see which they like best. Finally, we take all that input and start trying to design the cover. Often, the best photo doesn’t make the best cover (because of proportions, cover lines, various other considerations) so we look for the photo that best connects with our community in terms of message and aesthetics.
You show a lot of diversity, what message do you want to share, and why? It’s simple: We want everyone to have the same access and the same opportunities to cycling. Unfortunately, that still is not the case here in the US, or around the world.
On social media, sometimes you trigger negative reactions with your articles, how do you deal with controversies? I think the best answer here is my personal answer: I try to ignore noise but engage with people. And to me, engaging doesn’t mean arguing, but really listening to each other and trying to understand each other.
There is a lot of information on your website, how important and what role does it have? The thing I like about being to put some much on our site is that, in a very real way, it knocks down so many barriers to cycling. Like, if you have what feels to you like a really dumb question about cycling, we’ve probably answered it. To some people, answering those most basic questions feels “not cool.” To me, the coolest thing we ever do is help someone.
How do you relate to your readers and the cycling community in general? I am known for riding with anyone, talking with anyone about everything to do with cycling. I’m obsessed and entranced and entertained and educated by everything in the world of cycling.
How would you like the world of cycling to evolve in America? And what will be your role in this evolution? I have more hope for cycling right now than I have in my entire life – that we who love it truly can open up bicycling to anyone and everyone. We are doing what we can to help with this momentum by doing what we do best: giving people the information and advice they need to ride (whoever they are and however they want to ride) and telling great stories about rides.
In America, since the cases of police violence against the black community, in particular the murder of George Floyd, we feel a stand in the cycle industry in America. The brands, the media, the teams are campaigning for more representation. You featured black cyclists, how did your readers react? And what influence has that had on your magazine sales? I am happiest when I hear from someone who has just discovered Bicycling, or someone who says they now feel as if they truly belong in the Bicycling community. As we cover more kinds of stories to make those two things happen more and more, some readers feel as if they are now somehow being overlooked, or being exposed to stories they disagree with or just don't want to see. As someone who (remember) wants EVERYONE to ride, not just the people I agree with, I simply tell the people who disagree with our mission that we’ll be here when they are ready to come along. We’re always here. We won’t turn around but we also will welcome you if you catch up.
In France, racism is a difficult issue. As a black woman, I feel a lack of courage and will among the bike actors. It's hard to advocate and fight when debate is avoided.
I agree: Having the conversations is the start of it all.
What does cover #32 of 200 magazine inspire you? What message do you see there? Can you explain it to us technically? (layout, choice of framing, choice of different elements) and tell us what you think is wrong?
Purely in terms of our own cover requirements, I’d have wanted some element to command more attention. I don’t know the cover mission of 200, so I can’t speak to whether it accomplishes what they want. Beyond that purely technical aspect of publishing, I would not have used this photo. Again – for us, with our mission, we see immediately that it is very much from a dated idea of what travel journalism and travel imagery is, and its tone of “cute kids in a foreign country react with delight to white people” would, to us, feel irrelevant at best.
How do you view what is happening in Europe? In France ? At pro team level, among amateurs, and in the trade press? I’m not familiar enough with the overall state of cycling diversity in Europe to say much. I would say that, ultimately, this cover should be used to spark conversation and thought and new ways of looking at things. I know you, and others, have been critical of that. I hope editors, contributors, readers, riders and everyone can at least listen to that criticism and try to understand it.
What arguments would you like to share with them to encourage them to be more diverse? It’s simple for me: The more diverse cycling becomes, the more fun it is, the more good it does. I can’t imagine anyone who feels harmed by having lots more people ride. I know too well, however, that it harmful to people when they aren’t given the same chances to ride as everyone else.
A final word, a final thought, or just a thought?
This is messy – what we are trying to do. I think we should acknowledge that it is going to be messy and confusing, and get on with it. There is great joy and great freedom and amazing connections waiting out there for all of us.
Merci à Bill pour son temps précieux qu'il m'a accordé, son intérêt, ses conseils et ses encouragements.