Welcome to the first of Bikerumor’s new “How I Roll…” series, what will be a weekly feature interviewing people in the cycling industry from media (like this one) to manufacturers to retailers to racers, we’ll seek out interesting stories about the people that make up the world of bikes.
For our first “How I Roll…”, we interviewed Jeff Guerrero, publisher of Urban Velo Magazine. Based in Pittsburgh, Jeff, 33, and business partner Brad Quartuccio publish a print version bi-monthly and keep their website updated with general cycling info and stories about urban riding. Here’s how he rolls…
What month/year did you start Urban Velo?
We started Urban Velo in the spring of 2007, the first issue came out on May 1st.
Where did the concept for Urban Velo come from? What was the impetus to start your own magazine in an age of electronic media?
The idea to start Urban Velo mostly came from our admiration for Cars R Coffins. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve also been big fans of The Outcast and many of the lesser-known bike zines. We decided wanted to do something similar that came out more regularly and that catered to our friends. Plus we saw the potential in online distributionÃ¢â‚¬â€why print 50,000 copies and reach 20,000 readers when you can give it away online and reach the same amount or more?
Is it a fulltime gig, or something you do after hours? How many people does it employ?
Urban Velo is just me and Brad. We both work full-time jobs and then go home to work on Urban Velo. I would say we each put at least put 20 hours a week into it, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably a conservative estimate. When deadline approaches we put in a lot of late nights.
Describe “Urban” riding:
To me urban riding is just defined by the environment, not the bike or the riding style. Some people like to race around the city on a fixed gear, some like to carry groceries on a cargo bike. Some like to do tricks in a parking lot, others like to go fast and turn left on banked turns. I have friends who only ride as a means of transportation, and others who only ride after work and on weekends.
What’s your personal riding preference…road, mountain, track, urban, etc?
At first I was crazy about jumping off loading docks on my BMX bike, and riding to the river to smoke cigarettes. Then I got hooked on mountain bikes and spent as much time in the woods as possible. Next I got hooked on riding for transportation, which led to a lot of urban exploration rides. I would say thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably where IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m at now. And IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been getting into bike polo, too.
Do you actually have much time to ride?
Surprisingly, I do. Because commuting is riding, I have at least two opportunities a day. Then on the weekend I ride over to BradÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s to work on the magazine. Or to the store, or the coffee shop, or the barÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ I will say, this Winter the weatherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been getting me down more than last, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not riding quite as much as I should be. But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a conscientious choice, and a little time out of the saddle makes me more excited about riding.
Do you race?
EhhÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Not seriously. I like bike events, and I like being a part of things, so IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve done my share of alleycats and mountain bike races. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fun, but I suck. Lately IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been more into facilitating races, like working checkpoints at alleycats and helping Brad put on PittsburghÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first indoor roller race (Black & Gold Sprints).
How many bikes do you own and what’s your current favorite bike?
I have eight or nine functioning bikesÃ¢â‚¬â€road, mountain, BMX, fixed, singlespeed, three-speed, etc. My current favorite bike isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really mine. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a La Cruz that Salsa loaned me (pictured at top of story). Basically, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a cross bike with disc brakes and 29Ã¢â‚¬Â mountain bike wheels. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty fast on the road, goes almost anywhere, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got a sloping top tube, which is good for short shits like myself.
What upcoming bike technology are you most excited about?
Cheap bikes for the masses. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been to Interbike seven times, and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get excited about carbon wheels or tubeless tires. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m excited to see Schwinn producing a $299 bike that young people are clamoring for.
What’s the coolest urban bike you’ve seen or covered?
As much as IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a fan of cheap bikes, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m also a fan of artistry (I own an IF and a Ground Up). Ant Bike Mike and Lex from Villin make some outrageously beautiful bikes. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m really looking forward to my first time attending the Handmade Bicycle Show this year.
What’s your favorite time of day to ride and why?
As much as itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exhilarating to ride in rush hour traffic, I happiest riding when thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the least amount of cars on the road. Late night rides are pretty awesome, and thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s something special about riding really early in the morning. Then thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Sunday afternoon solo rides into the suburbs to clear my head, or midday trips into the city on my day offÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Where is your favorite place to ride and why?
I love visiting other cities and riding around seeing what theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re all aboutÃ¢â‚¬â€New York, London, Chicago, D.C., Philadelphia, Tucson, Baltimore, BostonÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ The only city I really didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like riding in was Las Vegas, and that might have just been because I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t riding with locals.
OK, you knew this was coming…you used to work for another cycling publication that you don’t like to mention. What happened with that?
I got fired for starting Urban Velo. What can you do, eh?
That particular publication recently launched a commuter-style magazine that could arguably be called a knock off of Urban Velo…are you flattered or pissed?
Yeah, yeah, everyone likes riding in the city. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m indifferent, to be honest. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a publisher and see the success that Urban Velo, COG and Momentum are having, you would be stupid not to want a piece of the action. On the other hand, the market is getting saturated and the economy is in the toilet.
Why Urbanvelo dot ORG rather than dot COM? I would think you guys could argue that you own the Trademark and have rights to that domain…have you looked into that?
SomeoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s squatting on the dot com, and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just two dudes with day jobs. We had a little trouble with trademark and copyright laws when we first started (the original title was Urban Cyclist) and we learned a couple important lessons. First, that lawyers are expensive, especially ones that deal with intellectual property. And that the way the law works, for the most part, is the party with the better lawyer(s) wins. But trademarks and copyrights arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t as important as branding. Even with a dot org instead of a dot com, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re serving up 40,000+ downloads of each issue. Our blog gets more than 60,000 absolute unique visitors every two months. And 2,000 to 3,000 people read our blog every day. We just doubled the magazineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s print run from 2,500 to 5,000 and I hope that means weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll see even more web traffic. Eventually weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be looking to double the print run again.
What’s next for Urban Velo?
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to say more of the same, but more of the same. The urban cycling culture is still evolving, and so are we. As the magazine grows and reaches more people, so does our contributor base. In the immediate future, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to the Handmade Bicycle Show next month and we hope to have some amazing coverage on our site.
Jeff, thanks, and have fun at the Handmade Bicycle Show!