Melbourne-based but aimed at a national audience, Treadlie is a stylish piece of work that looks somewhat incongruous in the news stand beside all those hardcore sport-oriented cycling mags. It would fit in just as nicely among the lifestyle and fashion mags. If not entirely non-sport, the sporting aspects of cycling seem to be the least of Treadlie's concerns. I checked every page in the first edition and there was not a thread of lycra to be seen—and that includes the advertising.
Editor Faith Hunter explained the motivation in her first editorial:
The recent Melbourne Bikefest and Sydney Bicycle Film Festival are wonderful celebrations of these passions. Whether it involves art, grease, film, sweat, music, design, knitting, talking, fashion, dance or the opportunity to ride, these festivals celebrate all bike riders' enthusiasms however they are expressed. And I guess this is what we are hoping to achieve with Treadlie. It's not only the diversity of bike riders that fascinates us, but the myriad ways they find to express their passions.
That's got to be a magazine with broader appeal than most in the cycling section.
The design of Treadlie is gorgeous, the photos are lush, it looks great and feels substantial in your hand. With its wider than normal page size, you could just about pass it off as a coffee table book (if it weren't for the egregious spelling error in its title!)
The variety of stories is interesting, including profiles of celebrity and quirky urban cyclists, and quite an emphasis on design and clever bike gadgets.
A highlight of the first issue was an article by Tim Rodgers, in which he demolished the empty criticism of cyclists who wear racing team jerseys (although not a lycra lad himself):
Just as I festoon myself in full North Melbourne kit circa 1975 to challenge both my hamstrings and mid-life plight at footy training of a Wednesday and Sunday, so shall my treadling brethren furnish themselves for celerity.
I have long noticed this similarity between football strip and cycling kit, but Rodgers puts it so much better than I could.
Stand-outs in the latest issue included a profile of Catherine Baba, a report on bikes-for-transport projects in Africa, and an article on the nearly lost art of pinstriping.
Of course, these days any magazine with aspirations to style must include a section of 'fashion seen on the street', and the Treadlie Street column delivers this with a line up of fashionably turned out inner-city creatives and their equally stunning bikes. (As soon as they want a shot of someone in khaki shorts and a baggy T-shirt, they're welcome to give me a call.)
Distributed through Gordon & Gotch, Treadlie is available in 'all good newsagents' for a cover price of .95.
The Wheeler manages to feels a bit more grungy and grassroots, while still being every bit as slick a production as Treadlie. Melbourne-based and unashamedly Melbourne-centric (at least in its first few issues), The Wheeler is a bit more accepting of spandex than Treadlie. In his opening editorial, Brad Collis said:
This is what The Wheeler celebrates—the spirit of cycling in all its guises, from gritty competition, to bunch rides, café mateship, the lycra regalia of the corporates, and the never-to-be-forgotten hardy, passionate, two-wheel commuter.
The format of The Wheeler is fairly similar to Treadlie, only with a bit more sport and a bit more coffee. Profiled riders are not usually celebrities (although the overexposed Charlie Pickering and the lovely Emma Ayres were in the first issue), perhaps not quite as much emphasis on gadgets and gear, and a bit more coverage of 'events'. And The Wheeler shows beautiful people and their beautiful bikes in the street in its Vox Pop section.
In keeping with its street-level style, The Wheeler is distributed independently through bike shops, cafes and other non-traditional outlets like the French Shop at the Vic Market. Sure that's a pretty cool idea, but it can lead to a bit of inconsistency in availability. I initially sought the current issue at bsc in Elizabeth St but they hadn't seen The Wheeler in months; enquiry at bsc in the QVB found a huge pile of issues (and they seemed to quite happy that I took one).
As of issue 4, The Wheeler went into national distribution and (having dropped the cover price) is now available for free.
Sporting ability and a sense of cool share a common trait: while they can be developed, they both largely rely on the individual's innate capacity. You're either sporty or you're not. You're either cool or you're not. Some lucky people are both. I suspect that the majority of people are, like me, neither.
The difference is that if you lack athletic ability, you generally have this confirmed well before you leave primary school. But if you lack coolness, you'll still be working this out until much later in life, and even into adulthood you may cling to the forlorn hope that one day you'll "get it".
I've had years (i.e. decades) to get used to the idea that sports media is about other people, and I'm comfortable with that. But a cycling mag that is just so stylish as Treadlie is a small, unhappy reminder that I am not (and never will be) cool.
For me, this gives The Wheeler an ever-so-slight advantage. With its broad appeal to all riders, The Wheeler is the magazine that Bicycle Victoria's dull and patronising Ride On, could have been, isn't, and probably never will be.
But it's splitting hairs really—Treadlie and The Wheeler are both great mags, both of which I devour cover-to-cover. The time is clearly ripe for a quality cycling/lifestyle magazine, but I do worry if there's room enough in the Australian marketplace for two such titles to flourish. I think there are enough points of difference for them to find their own niches and thrive. I do hope so.
Over to you
So, what do you think? Have you read either or both? Do you have a favourite?