From the magazine’s three-part, nearly 80-page story about the Tour of Rwanda.
Photo: Ben Ingham
Rouleur is to bike magazines what National Geographic is to nature photography. Instead of glossy, well-lit portraits and fancy racing shots, its pages are filled with long, thoughtful photo spreads that drive deep narratives.
“We want to tell stories, we don’t do just want to do winners and podiums,” says Guy Andrews, the magazine’s editor and founder.
This makes the London mag an anomaly among the typical bike magazines, or most any sport magazine these days. They don’t exist to pimp the newest product or tout the coolest new protégé, but to capture all the moments that happen around the sport. Like the old photojournalism adage: The photos don’t happen at the event, they happen in the parking lot.
“We don’t have pictures of riders crossing finish lines,” he says. “We tend to concentrate on what happens to support that.”
One example of the magazine’s storytelling is the enormous and beautiful three-part, nearly 80-page story the magazine ran about the Tour of Rwanda. The piece, loosely based around the race, also delved into the history and politics of this once-war-torn country, providing a dynamic and in-depth look at a place that many Western readers know nothing about.
The production quality is another aspect that sets Rouleur apart. Printed on thick, rich paper, it feels more like a book than a magazine. It only comes out eight times a year and each of the recent issues has been 162 pages and cost $20.
“Some magazines will give three pages to a story and we’ll give 20,” Andrews says.
The secret to keeping the quality up, says Andrews, has been building a healthy pool of freelancers who are constantly pitching ideas. Andrews say he would much rather send photographers to produce work they came up with and care about than make assignments.
Rouleur‘s success has also about giving the photographers as much time as they need to tell the story right.
“There has been a death in [the U.K.] of good photojournalism, but not just photojournalism, there’s been a death of any kind of story that takes more than five minutes,” he says. “To get quality you need to give photographers time to explore their craft.”
The magazine’s audience has responded in kind by growing every year. A majority of its 10,000 readers are located in the U.K., but Rouleur also has a healthy audience in the rest of Europe and the United States. It’s a modest readership for a cycling magazine, but it has become a must-read for both fans of the sport and fans of photography.
The magazine has benefited lately from an upswing in the popularity of road bikes among the kind of middle-class professionals who might otherwise play golf. In addition to the racing aficionados, it’s the dentists, lawyers and doctors who are now subscribing, says Andrews.
For Rouleur, there’s no race to push for online content until things settle down in the digital world. The plan for now is to keep producing quality magazines that tell interesting stories and highlight good photography.
“It’s like the wild wild West out there,” says Andrews. “I think we just need to stay creative.”