So this is it, the last ever issue of Dirt magazine. After 18 years and 159 issues the modern world has caught up with us and the internet has taken over. I’m not going to go through all the whys and wherefores, but the basics are that people don’t buy magazines like they used to and that advertisers are looking at different ways to spend their money.
Dirt was the brainchild of a guy with peroxide hair called Jerry Dyer. Back in 1996 he took his idea to a small family company called 4130 Publishing and they had the guts to throw caution to the wind and went for it. Dirt had the feeling of a glossy fanzine. It was raw, interesting and funny, but most of all it was cool and exciting. You wanted to be in their gang. It had influence. The design style was unheard of at the time in the MTB world. Its mix of BMX and skate inspired photography blew me away. In fact it is mainly down to those early photos of Paul Bliss and Malcolm Fearon’s that I decided to pursue a career as a photographer. It was the writing too; informative but with the voice of the ‘everyman’, with manic enthusiasm, passion and wit. Most importantly it gave a voice to the fledgling downhill scene. It was Bliss and Dyer that set the early tone, they were the originals, they laid the foundations for everything else.
All good things must come to an end and the “dynamic duo” left Dirt to set up Grip magazine. Dirt ticked along for a few years as I started to supply more and more photos and stories. In the end I was basically costing 4130 too much as a freelancer so it was cheaper for them just to employ me! Thanks also to the pressure of Tim March I landed the full time job as editor in 2001, issue #28.
Working for 4130 was great. We all had the same cultural references; BMX Action, Freestylin’, Club Homeboy, the ‘Master Cluster’, RAD magazine, Tim Leighton Boyce, Windy and Bob Osborn. There were trails in the back garden and later a mini ramp in the warehouse… it was pretty perfect.
Dirt’s editorial style developed and because the magazine was made with little real planning we could be flexible to ideas and react to things quickly, we didn’t really have to fit into any rigid structures or templates. It was great. We could be fluid, we could do what we wanted.
Of course it wasn’t perfect then (and it isn’t perfect now), but for me those imperfections are what made it interesting and exciting. We tried to speak the truth, we spoke from the heart. We wanted to make our readers not just people who bought the mag, we wanted to make them part of the mag. We’ve always been prepared to take risks… I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Things change, Dirt grew up and the focus shifted slightly. Mountainbiking itself changed too, but if there has been one constant it has been that we have unflinchingly supported World Cup downhill racing since issue 1… we haven’t missed a race over all the years.
On a personal level there are people that have helped me to get where I am today, people I must thank. Some have influenced me and some have just let me sleep on their floor at key moments: BMXer Dave Slade set me on the path with his PPLA fanzine, Andy Jenkins too, ‘Mad’ Jon Taylor and all the guys I rode with as a teenager, of course my mum and dad for always supporting and never judging, Meg and Ben, Will at Dig, Matt Farmer, Stu and Jim, the Hope crew who let me travel with them on some of those epic early Euro roadtrips, Tim March for never letting me drop my guard with his honest and brutal critiques, Alex Rankin for the good times, the Nobles, Steve Blick, Dave Merten and family too, Michael Bonney, Kathy Sessler and her family, Factory Media for letting us do our thing, all the designers: Chris Noble, Justin Day, James Bettinson, Jon Gregory and Chris Jones. All the amazing riders that we have been able to feature over the years (way too many to mention here). Our crews in France and Germany. Our team of contributing freelancers – such talent and dedication. And of course the team here at the magazine itself, Jones (oh Jones!), McKnight, Jones (the other one) and Jaquin… all the staff (past and present)… I’ll leave it there!
A ‘last issue’ was never going to be easy. Eventually we decided to just give voice for one last time to many of the writers, photographers and designers that we have worked with over the years. A little self indulgent? Yes. Maybe even a bit sycophantic? Well why not. They have played such a major part in everything that we have done. Along with the staff at the mag they have been the ones sat out on the side of a mountain in the pouring rain waiting to get ‘the shot’ or sitting up working into the early hours carefully crafting and honing words or designs for us.
There is a future for Dirt, and that lies online, a new dawn. Thanks to you all, our readers, for being with us on this journey.
Mike Rose, Dirt Mountainbike Magazine Editor 2001-2015