thewashingmachinepost




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just ride bikes

dave arthur - just ride bikes

the 1990s gave rise to the term 'information superhighway', a phrase allegedly first used by vice-president al gore to describe a national communications network that would cross the united states allowing americans to quickly access and exchange information via voice, data, video and other services. nowadays, it's pretty much the whole world that benefits from this highway, only we now refer to it as the internet. or more archaically, the world wide web.

it's doubtful that anyone foresaw the revolution this would impose upon everyday living. so many services we once conducted face to face, are now carried out online, often whether we actually want to or not. and this connectivity, aside from the notable benefits it has engendered, has also fostered a new meaning for the word 'virus', and allowed the dregs of humanity to attempt to separate hard-working people from their savings.

the washingmachinepost, conceived in the early days of access to the web by the rest of us, existed before the word weblog was coined, and even before it was subsequently contracted to the shorter 'blog'. at the time, i thought of the latter as something of a put down, maintaining that the post was a bona-fide website. however, since blogs and bloggers are part of the mainstream these days, i have accepted my fate.

but, with the advent of better and better strains of video codecs and the ride and rise of youtube, it perhaps makes perfect sense that, rather than simply reading reviews about bicycles, modernity has offered us moving pictures to augment or supplant plain text. writing is something that suits my persona far better than attempting to portray everything in video; i prefer to play to my strengths. however, there are those far better versed in such technology and with the ideal personality to provide addictive, watchable cycle reviews online, one of whom is the inimitable dave arthur.

readers may have been introduced to dave's writing and reviewing via the sadly demised roadcyclinguk and bikemagic, though more recently on road.cc. but he has now departed the road.cc fold to ride solo on the youtube channel, 'just ride bikes'. i asked him how long he'd been at road.cc and why he'd left to be all on his own?

"I joined road.cc in 2012 after a long stint at RCUK and Bikemagic. I enjoyed working on the most exciting new road cycling website at a time when websites were still in their infancy and the big publishers were focused on print mags. I've always enjoyed working for online publications because of the immediacy of publishing and engagement with readers. Though I could do without the pedants pointing out my typos! I chose to leave road.cc for a change and new challenges and wanted to pursue new creative opportunities."

dave is a seasoned bike reviewer, easily capable of differentiating such minutiae as the width of a thirteen-speed chain, and the variations of carbon fibre employed in professional level bicycle frames, so it was something of a surprise to learn that his youtube channel features the moniker 'just ride bikes'. surely that would be the sort of heading used to entice the sustrans crowd, or those new to cycling? so what's behind the name?

"I got into the bike industry by accident, as I'm sure many do. I was enjoying mountain biking as a hobby in the South West and regularly racing and competing. As well as riding, I also pursued my other hobby, photography, and would regularly take my camera along to events and rides with friends.
"At the time I was pursuing a graphic design career, but along came the internet and I quickly transitioned into this brave new world, and got my head around HTML and started building websites. Naturally, I produced a website to host my photos, which was great. But I realised it needed some words, so I started writing. Just ride and race reports to begin with. I bought the Just Ride domain name - it just summed up my love for just riding bikes.
"Then, while taking part in the amusingly named Soggy Bottom XC races in Newnham Park, Plymouth  (organised by Martyn Salt who went onto to organise the Olympics) I was able to get my race reports published on the BBC website and this was a pivotal turning point, but I didn't realise it at the time. I continued updating my website for the enjoyment of it, then a friend showed me a job advert for an editorial assistant at Bikemagic (which in the 2000s was one of the biggest cycling websites in the world).
"I sent off my CV, a couple of weeks later I interviewed successfully, and next thing I know I'm moving to London to write about bikes for a living. And I've never looked back, though I've always joked that I'll get a proper job one day. But right now I continue to enjoy writing about my hobby and the changes in the last 15 years have kept it fun and enjoyable. I've met some amazing people and been to some amazing places, and ridden some amazing bikes that I regularly can't afford to buy!
"So when I started my own YouTube channel I decided to use the name 'Just Ride Bikes', as a clear statement of intent for the content and to reflect on where it all started for me."

i regularly receive e-mails from pr agencies and individuals, offering pre-written content for thewashingmachinepost, the caveat usually being that they want me to link to some commercial outlet somewhere or other. occasionally there is the offer of possible financial recompense, but most often, the only proposed benefit is a reputed increase in visitors to the post. however, i actually enjoy writing, and i'm of no mind to give up my daily ramblings, replacing them with often remarkably badly written copy.

dave, however, though perfectly capable of the art of word-wrangling, has chosen to go down the road (if you'll pardon the pun) of video reviews. why?

dave arthur - just ride bikes

"I absolutely love writing bike reviews, it has always been my favourite aspect of being a cycling journalist. But I felt there was an opportunity to bring my years of bike testing experience and expertise to a video channel which I didn't feel really existed in the way I, as a cycling enthusiast, desired. I had no idea what to expect, but I have been blown away. The channel growth since starting in March/April, the engagement from viewers enjoying my reviews, and the support from the bike industry has been incredible. It has gone far better than even my wildest expectations."

with tehwashingmachinepost, i have endless creative freedom, such as it is, predominantly because i have no need or desire for commercial success. however, leaving the fold at road.cc behind, to champion a new venture featuring bicycle reviews on an untested video channel, can't have been an easy choice. the success of such channels is largely dependent on subscriptions, likes and followers. has it started to pay the bills? how many subscribers does dave currently have?

"The YouTube channel isn't full time yet. I still actively pursue freelance writing since leaving road.cc. I started my channel in March/April with 1000 subs and the latest figures are just shy of 17,000 which just seems incredible to me. As well as the skyrocketing subscriptions, the watch time and number of comments on my videos, regularly stuns me as well, showing that my videos are really resonating with my audience."

if you had a blog, or website that explained the intricacies of nuclear physics in great detail, there's little doubt that the content of such would be a great deal more important than a series of black and yellow pixels concerned with bicycle conversations. however, in my defence, i post something new each and every day, whereas your nuclear physics might only be updated once every couple of months. therefore, in google's eyes, my ramblings are more important, and definitely more frequent than your quarks and gluons. sad, but true.

the same principle applies to content on any platform, so how frequently does dave hope to post new content? "I aim for one bike review every Sunday as a minimum, but have regularly been posting as much as three times a week.
"I'm focused on a balance of quality and quantity - I'd rather do one really good video than two average videos. My workflow (planning, shooting and editing) has become much quicker since I started, which helps the output rate. I'm working towards a goal of two bike reviews a week. There's also the time involved in managing social media as well."

and therein lies the reason that 'just ride bikes' offers addictive and immersive quality viewing. i daresay we've all had a go at capturing video, and you may even have had a shot at nle (non-linear editing). but with the level of professionalism currently at an all-time high, there's a lot more to it than simply pointing your iphone in the right directions. the quality of dave's output is exemplary; is he solely responsible for both video and editing, or is george lucas on the other side of the camera?

"At the moment it's 100% me. I have some previous experience video editing and I've always been good at picking up new skills very quickly. The quality of the content has improved since I started, but I'm aiming as high as possible to ensure the production values are as good as they need to be in a competitive space. I must give a shout out to my partner for her help with 'Yeti Cam' filming, for riding segments on the road bikes."

one of the obvious problems, related to production of continuous content, is a potential lack of bicycles. there is no way on this earth i could offer a bike review each week, none of which is related to where i live. nowadays, as ever, it's often a case of who you know rather than what you know, so is dave able to acquire an uninterrupted supply of new machinery to maintain quality content?

"It was slow to begin with but it's picking up pace. I feel lucky that several brands really gave me a chance in the early stages: Giant, SRAM, Canyon, Specialized, Shand, Kinesis, without which I wouldn't have been able to build the channel as I have. I like to think I have a level of respect in the bike industry and some brands have been incredibly supportive of my new venture and ambitions. But it's still an uphill battle, with many brands very much held back by the traditional marketing of working with a small handful of long-established publishers. But I'm slowly changing these attitudes and gaining more support."

if i take a look back at my earlier postings from twenty or so years ago, i regularly cringe at my phraseology (i'm sure many of you still do), but i like to think that my skills as a writer have improved over the years, to the extent that i am now occasionally asked to assist with manuscripts intended for publication. i'd also hope that i have become a better reviewer in the process. does dave think that he's a better reviewer now than when he started (he is, but don't tell him i said so)?

"God that's a tough question! Maybe ask the readers? Ha ha. I'd like to think my experience has improved the quality of my reviews, and I've always listened to the readers to ensure my reviews are as helpful to somebody buying a new bike, as they are to those who know exactly what they want. It's not lost on me that I'm performing a service to people who want help when choosing a new bike or product, so that does hold me to account when it comes to writing reviews."

there's little doubt that, in order to achieve some level of success, it's necessary to know just who you're writing for. for instance, it would make little sense in reviewing a passoni titanium gravel bike, equipped with campagnolo's new ekar groupset, if your reading public thinks anything more than £250 constitutes an expensive bike. who does dave view as his target audience?

"Cyclists who are interested in the latest bikes and products who value my honest, real-world, in-depth and unbiased reviews. They trust my opinion and recommendation when it comes to making an informed buying decision and I'm approachable with an active presence on most social media networks and regularly help people with advice around such topics as what new bike to buy, to which tyre is best for gravel riding, etc."

those of a certain age probably started out on their cycling careers by riding mountain bikes. in the late 1980s and 1990s, the offroad bike reigned supreme, and only the dyed-in-the-wool roadie gave it the cold shoulder and continued riding skinny tyres and bendy bars. thus, more than just a few of us writing about bicycles and bicycle culture cut our teeth (so to speak) on knobbly tyres and flat bars. does dave consider himself a roadie who rides mtb, or vice versa?

"Mountain biking is my first love and always will be, but I consider my ability to ride and write about road and mountain bikes as a valuable skill that sets me apart. I always cycled as a youngster, but it was 90s mountain biking - MBUK, Grundig XC racing, the bike tech - that really captivated my young eyes and kept me hooked. But I get as much a thrill from riding mountain bike singletrack as I do hurtling along on an aero road bike."

time was, in those halcyon days of the mountain bike, that the intrepid cycle scribe was never short of material for his or her wordprocessor. gadgetry and so-called technical development proceeded at a pace that frequently meant that whatever you'd written about last month, was now so passé, replaced by a purple-anodised something completely different. dave's wide experience of all things cycling is bound to have sharpened his extra sensory perception, so what are the emerging trends we'll all be obsessed with in the coming months?

"I think all the emerging trends are currently being fiercely debated on the comment boards around the internet. Disc brakes, 1x gearing, aero road bikes, 12 and 13-speed groupsets, affordable power meters. The tech that really excites me is 3D printing and future materials like Graphene, real tomorrow's world stuff, but I'm also excited by the continued investment in current materials and technologies, especially when it comes to making better bikes at better prices. It's easy to fixate on the uber-expensive flagship bikes with which brands like to lead new bike launches, but the fact is, affordable bikes are so much better than they ever used to be, especially when I think back to my first bike."

dave arthur's 'just ride bikes' can be found on youtube.

wednesday 14 october 2020

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