Remembering what’s important

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Earlier this week we were invited to take part in an interesting art and design project at Middlesex University.

The project, called I Am A Magazine, invited a group of art, design, photography and fashion students to create something interesting on the theme of magazines. One of the ways the organisers came up with to help the students find inspiration was to line up a number of guests – including us – to give talks about various aspects of magazines and publishing.

We gave the students a guided tour of Simpson’s conception in 2012, its birth in 2013 and its steady growth ever since. We talked about how the magazine is an expression of our passion for cycling, design and print journalism. We told them how Simpson has become a platform for emerging photographic and journalistic talent. We explained how our independence has enabled us to steer clear of the product-pushing clichés of some other publications we could mention. We shared our excitement about the opportunities Simpson has given us – to travel to places we’d never otherwise go to and meet people we’d never otherwise meet. 

We also talked about the growth of something bigger than just the printed magazine. We talked about our online presence, the Simpson team, the kit, T-shirts and other merchandise, the club rides and, perhaps most importantly, the sense of community and shared purpose that’s gradually formed around the Simpson name.

Delivering this talk served to remind us how far we’ve come in the last few years. It encouraged us to step back from the day-to-day plate-juggling exercise of work and family and cycling and everything else, just for a few hours, to reflect on how fulfilling it’s been and how lucky we are to be involved in the wonderful world of Simpson.

The Italian Job

We were lucky enough to visit Italy last week, researching an article for the next issue of the magazine. We won't spoil the surprise by telling you exactly where we went or who we met but we will tell you that we were in the north east of the country, in Veneto, a region that's about as steeped in cycling history and culture as it's possible to be. 

Between epic mealtimes, during which we made serious inroads into the Italian calzone mountain, we met sprightly septuagenarians and energetic 20-somethings; we visited small family businesses and huge conglomerates; we watched all sorts of manufacturing processes and wandered around awe-inspiring cycling museums; we discussed the past, present and future of the cycling industry. But one thing remained constant: everyone we met shared such a deep passion for all things cycling that we couldn't help but be inspired and energised. 

Our love for what we do rarely wavers but it doesn't hurt every once in a while to give ourselves a fresh little espresso shot of enthusiasm. Grazie Italia e arrivederci a presto!

Worthwhile moments

 

There's nothing we like more than meeting our readers, whether it's on the road for a ride or at an event like the one we attended last night in Brighton.

The kind folk at Magazine Brighton had invited us to give a talk about what goes on behind the scenes at a magazine like Simpson: how we choose our stories, the thinking behind the design of the magazine, and some of the processes involved in turning raw ideas into the final product.

It was a fun session, capped by some good questions from the audience. We hope those who attended enjoyed it as much as we did - and maybe learned something new in the process. Our thanks to Roxy, Martin and the team at Magazine Brighton for making it all possible.

The best bit of the evening for us was when a young design student approached us after the talk and told us about her dad, who sadly fell ill recently. She bought him a copy of Simpson to cheer him up a bit - he'd once been a keen cyclist so she thought he might find it interesting. She told us that he loved the magazine and that reading it had really perked him up and reignited his interest in cycling. 

Hearing stories like that is what it's all about as far as we're concerned. Thank you so much to those who came to the event and to those who support us in other ways - by buying the magazine, following us on social media or joining our rides. We look forward to seeing you in the future at other events.

A tale of the unexpected

However hard you train for that event you've targeted, on the day there are so many variables that nothing can be certain. You can (and should) prepare as meticulously as possible but you should also prepare for the unexpected.

Having identified last weekend's Suffolk-based Crafted Classique 100-miler as 'something to aim for', we spent several months building training frequency and mileage until we finally felt reasonably confident of achieving a respectable time.

That's the thing with time chip technology - a sportive becomes, on one level, a mission to propel a digital chip across the line in the shortest possible time. With these chips now automatically associated with the rider numbers securely attached to your bike, there's no escaping that all-important finishing time.

Part of the fun of these events is in the planning and anticipation of the build-up. Piece by piece, you put in place all the essentials. How are you going to get to the start? Are you travelling there on your own or with a fellow rider? Have you got a kit checklist ready? On the day you must ensure that you get yourself to the sign on in good time and equip yourself with a route map. And then you must plan where to meet with friends after the ride and get yourselves home again.

During this obsessional planning period, you become an avid devotee of the long term weather forecast. There's nothing you can really do about it, of course, apart from taking along the appropriate kit. For some, these events present an opportunity (or excuse) to refresh their cycling wardrobe - 'go on...treat yourself!'

We rode last year's event as an informal team but this year saw us ride as Simpson CC. We actively encouraged our readers to join us for the ride and ended up with a good mix of natural rouleurs, confident clubmen and racing veterans, all eager to devour 100 miles of beautiful Suffolk countryside. These guys could set a good pace and maintain it for the duration.

In the end, we split into two groups from the very start, mainly due to varying arrival times. The faster guys were already on the start line as the others arrived to sign on. The weather was good - maybe too good, with baking heat becoming a hydration factor. With high average speeds being clocked up everything looked set for a quick finishing time until one of our riders was taken ill.

When this happens, you must prioritise. Targets and training clearly take second place to a fellow rider's wellbeing. The race against the clock ended there and the final 40 miles became more of a survival challenge. We eased back on the pedals and started to chat on subjects far removed from our present situation. Reaching the finish line now had a different meaning.

We're pleased to say that everyone did make it back in one piece and the ride was still an amazing experience. But it means that we now have a 2016 ride target already in place - not that any excuse was really necessary.

A new arrival

Just as a fine wine needs time to allow its flavours to mature into something special, the best print publications also reward patience. We're delighted to be able to reward yours by announcing that yesterday saw the birth, on press, of issue 7.

Cycling is, in large part, about the beauty of objects. We know people who have bought bike parts with no intention of ever using them. All they wanted was to admire them. Perhaps that's why we take such care to make Simpson a thing of beauty. For us, nothing beats the romance of print. From the images we use to the way we present them on the page right down to the quality of the paper stock, everything is carefully considered and, if your comments are anything to go by, it seems you really appreciate that. This sensory appreciation goes even further for some - an Australian reader once told us that, upon releasing his issue of the magazine from its packaging, he was struck by how fine it smelled!

The launch of Simpson CC delayed work on our latest issue but it also gave us the time and distance to stand back and really consider the variety of its content. From Team Sky world exclusives to Big Kev and Denise's eulogy to their tandem, we believe this issue covers the whole spectrum that road cycling has to offer.

While our attention has been intensely focused on issue 7, issue 6 has been earning us some very welcome recognition by being voted 'Magazine of the month' by Brighton based publication Viva Brighton - vivabrighton.com.