Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Two Wheel Trip

Being something of a pack-rat, I've always found it hard to throw some things away. Old bike magazines tend to be one of those things. I started reading Bicycling magazine back in the early 80s when I was in my teens, and I still have a lot of those old issues more than thirty years later. The now-defunct Bicycle Guide was another that I really enjoyed back then. In those days, I also used to spend a lot of time at the library, poring over the old bound editions of Bicycling (or Bicycling! as it was once known) back issues from the 70s and the bike-boom era. I was well on my way to becoming a Retrogrouch even then. Over the years, I've added a lot of those old issues to my collection too, or issues of Bike World, whenever I can find them selling cheap. Working on a blog like The Retrogrouch, that collection often turns out to be a good resource.

The Premier Issue with its very cool cover art.
Now and then I'd hear (or read) some mention of another old bike magazine -- almost like a myth or a legend (did it actually exist? was it real?) -- that came out just at the beginning of the bike boom and only lasted two issues before going under. That magazine was Two Wheel Trip. Not too long ago, I managed to find a pair of the only issues known to be published and added them to my collection. Published by San Francisco-based Ronald Hagen Company in 1972 and '73 respectively, the magazine was supposed to be a monthly publication, but never made it. It would be interesting to find out why.

The first thing to notice about the two issues is the great cover artwork -- totally consistent with the bold graphic style of the early 70s. According to the info on the publisher's page, the plan was to offer full-size posters (25 x 38 in.) of each month's cover art. There may actually be a few of those posters floating around out there somewhere, and let me just say that they would make a great addition to any bicyclists' collection. Maybe somebody should consider reproducing them.

Vol. 1, Number 1 -- Another fantastic cover image.
The magazine's title, Two Wheel Trip, has some obvious counter-culture connotations to it, but the substance of most of the magazine's feature stories reveals an emphasis on bicycle-related travel stories for a more down-to-earth interpretation of "trip." Many of the articles would not seem out of place in any travel/tourism magazine then or now, except that many of the sights and locations described are visited with a bicycle in mind. Not only that, but airlines (PanAm, United Airlines, SwissAir) and hotels (Holiday Inn) are among some of the advertisers that point towards a bicycle tourism theme.

Along with the travel features, there are a number of news stories of interest to bicyclists at the time, headed as "History in the Making," that look at the issues of the day (and today, for that matter): the problems of thwarting bike thieves, dealing with traffic, bicyclists' rights, and the nascent bike advocacy movement that was just in its infancy in the early 70s.

Original bicycle-themed artwork and photography, poetry, and fiction make Two Wheel Trip a different kind of bicycle magazine from other bike magazines then or now. Readers may find Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Wreck of the Hesperus," in the magazine's pages, but no bicycle road tests, "racing tire comparison shootouts" or other mainstays of typical bike magazines. Even many of the ads seem to go out of their way to appeal to an audience that doesn't necessarily identify themselves as "bicyclists" (then again, how many people in 1972 did actually identify themselves as bicyclists?). Among the advertisements for bicycles, components, and accessories that one would expect to find, are many more ads for things like wheat germ, breakfast cereals, and other general-interest products -- though many of those ads still feature people enjoying bicycles, and most have that groovy 70s vibe.

Original bicycle-themed art graces many of the magazine's pages. By the way -- does anyone else see the two faces in the bicycle's front wheel? So 70s.
No bicycle shorts and no helmets. Just lots of those groovy bell bottoms, and "regular people" out enjoying their bikes. 
A clothing ad (Shelby Slacks and Robert Bruce Apparel) selling an unusual vision of "bike wear."
Got to love the 2-page spread for 7up.
The Bell Biker hardshell helmet was still a couple years off. This was one of the few bicycle product reviews included in Two Wheel Trip. There's a little unintended irony in that heading "Safety First."
To be filed under "Awkward Family Photos." I remember a neighbor of mine had a
Huffy Dill Pickle. Not quite as desirable as a Schwinn Pea Picker, though.
I am at a loss to describe this.
I wonder if this ad sold a lot of bikes? Considering I've never actually seen a Magneet anywhere, I'm going to have to guess not. Crescent cycles used the same basic tag line a couple of years later (From Sweden With Love), but with a model that I have no doubt moved more bikes. 
There she is.
From Bicycling magazine a couple years later. Probably much more effective advertising.
So, what happened to Two Wheel Trip? If I had to guess, I'd suggest it was probably the same thing that killed off a lot of magazines then and now: high costs and a lack of advertising revenue (Life magazine went under about the same time, and it was a popular, well-established publication). Yes, at first glance there are nearly as many ads as one would expect to find in other magazines at the time, but a closer look would show that a lot of the ads are "in-house" -- that is, ads for other magazines, books and such from the same publisher. And in the publishing business, that's a lot like kissing your sister. And the format of the magazine, with its heavy stock cover, high-quality glossy paper and lots of color, was such that it was probably a pretty expensive production.

All these years later, the 2-issues of Two Wheel Trip are an interesting trip to the past.

6 comments:

  1. What a fun post! I was in my teens in the 70s, and I remember that time very well. Thanks for the flashback.

    Obviously, Crescent bicycles are better than Magneet bicycles :)

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    1. Thanks, Pondero. And yes -- obviously!

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  2. Oh, man, I would totally buy a poster with the artwork from that premier issue. That's really cool.


    What a laugh with these ads. I remember those outfits. I remember seeing those Huffys all around, too. I sure don't remember seeing any Crescents, though...


    Wolf


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  3. I had the first issue. I purchased it at Cupertino Bike Shop. I believe Playboy Magazine were the publishers. Only reason I purchased it was because I was in the large photo showing Hellyer Park Velodrome racing in San Jose. I was the kid wearing the colors of Irish flag, green, white, and orange. Which was superimposed over a larger photo of me looking like a blur riding by. I was riding a custom made, Reynolds 531 throughout, George Stone track bike from Stones Cycles, Cromac Square, Belfast. My Dad had both a road and track frame built, but he only brought the track frame when we moved to San Jose in early 60's.
    Too cool.....Paul

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  4. I have a copy, which I will sell. Make me an offer.

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    1. I have both issues - and posters of the cover art. Thanks, though.

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