A year in review and looking forward to 2014
It’s been almost one year since I decided to take the plunge and run CyclingTips as a business and I thought I’d take a moment to tell you how it’s going, and reflect on what a year it’s been.
For those of you who are just joining us, CyclingTips began as a blog on September 8, 2008. This was my first blog post and my goal was simply to post one “cycling tip” per day. I was bored at work while in a company in bankruptcy protection and was trapped because of visa commitments. I had nothing to do except ride my bike, write my blog, and spend a few hours at work just showing my face.
Since that time I had the good fortune of working with Rapha as the general manager of Australia/New Zealand. That was an invaluable experience as I got to collaborate with some of the smartest and most creative people in the cycling industry. Simon Mottram is still an inspiration to me and I can’t express how much I learned from him and the rest of the company.
While working at Rapha I still maintained the blog but it wasn’t my first priority. Rapha was paying the bills and it was an exciting role to be in. However, both Rapha and CyclingTips were getting too much to juggle and I had to make a decision. In October 2012 I told Simon that we needed to make a transition plan as I was going to attempt to run CyclingTips as a business and it was only fair that I go one way or the other. I was working 16hrs a day, too busy to ride, and my work was getting sloppy. My gut told me to stay with Rapha, but my heart told me to keep plugging away at CyclingTips. There was no way I was going to die wondering.
I sought the help of a business mentor of mine who guided me into making some significant decisions about structuring CyclingTips as a business. He knows the problems I’ll be facing even before I encounter them. I have many more of these advisors who help me through the good times and the bad and I can’t thank them enough.
On January 1, 2013 I was officially off the Rapha payroll and needed to pay for the site costs as well as my living expenses. It was tight, but I had saved some money anticipating this day. With this uncertainty, I knew I needed to hire an editor to oversee and coordinate the content of the site if I wanted to take this to the next level.
I sought out Matt de Neef who worked as the science & technology deputy editor at The Conversation (which I regard as the highest standard of journalism on the web). Matt also ran theclimbingcyclist.com which made him an ideal candidate. I sounded Matt out and by mid February he had left The Conversation and was working for me.
In that time Matt has delivered far more than I every could have expected. He’s freed me up to do things which help grow CyclingTips into new areas and create stronger, more unique content — The Bike Lane, Roadtripping features, The Secret Pro, Strava competitions, etc (Note: none of those were done by me alone – many other people help with these!). The first thing that Matt brought to the site was the Rocacorba Daily news round-up which has gained significant traction and is one of the most well read features on the site.
This was all good, but costs were mounting and there were some nights that I didn’t sleep because I only had a few dollars in my bank account. I was also finding that I couldn’t give advertisers the support they needed. There’s far more to advertising than slapping up a page banner and forgetting about it. Everyone has different goals and it takes a lot of brainstorming and planning to make sure those are fulfilled.
Fortunately, a fellow rider by the name of Andy van Bergen (who also runs Hells500.com) had been made redundant from his marketing job at the exact same time as I was thinking about how I could afford to hire someone. This was right before the Tour de France where we had a fairly big campaign (the Eurosport “Vuelta Skelta” Strava challenge) which needed many hours of attention and planning. The timing couldn’t have been better. This allowed me to hire Andy as our new full-time business development manager and he’s kicking goals every day.
But it’s not just the three of us here at CyclingTips. There’s also Ben Dunn who is our web developer, and our tech editor Matt Wikstrom. In terms of regular contributors, Craig Fry has come on board and writes excellent history pieces, Jono Lovelock is back and will be writing feature interviews and stories, Ankush Agarwal who tirelessly writes race previews and uploads results for us late at night, Jamie Jowett does his sensational “Where are they now” pieces, Alan McCubbin writes his nutrition pieces, Helen Kelly writes training tips, we’ve got “Shoddy” Dave Everett’s interviews, and of course the Secret Pro (who I’m trying to track down for one more post this year!). Our valued photographers include Veeral Patel, Kristof Ramon, Jered Gruber, Wil Matthews, Angelica Dixon, and many more.
One of the biggest things to happen for CyclingTips was the introduction of The Bike Lane. To have a professionally produced web-based show on the site has been absolutely incredible and to work alongside Matt Keenan and Scott McGrory has been a true honour that I would have never dreamed of. We will be wrapping up our third season this Thursday and searching for sponsors to help keep it running for another season. I truly hope it continues.
What’s coming up?
Things don’t happen overnight but there’s lots in the pipeline for 2014. In January we’re launching CyclingTips Japan where the whole site will be translated and will also feature local Japanese daily news. Check it out at www.cyclingtips.jp.
We also have a classifieds section coming up, as well as a wide range of merchandise available to purchase. Our classifieds section will be free and the merchandise will help us make money to put back into better content and site growth. Plus, I always get a buzz out of seeing some CT kit out on the road.
We also have a Europe-based tech correspondent (who will be introduced later) who will be writing about all the new stuff coming out and the equipment the pros are using at the big races.
And with the success of our Roadtripping Norway piece we have a number of “Roatripping” destination pieces planned in the near future, from all over the world. I can’t wait to share those with you.
There’s lots more to come, but when I look back at how far we’ve come in 2013 I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved. I’m often awarded all the credit, but as you can see there are a lot of people who I have to thank for making this all happen. I’d also like to thank all of our valued advertisers who fund this to make this all happen, and of course, thank you for reading.