Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

IMB – free online MTB ‘zine?

Posted by Tony | September 23, 2009 | 7 comments so far

IMB - International Mountain Bike Magazine - Issue 1
I stumbled across the IMB (International Mountain Bike) magazine site the other day.

In what I must say has to be a brave move, this is a free to subscribe online MTB ‘zine. There seems to have been plenty of effort gone into this site and it’s content. It’s has the “glossy” feel of our favourite paper mags. Is it the future of publishing or a bit of a gimmick? I’m not sure.

The link to this ‘zine came up on the Singletrack forum and I noticed it since they had a review of some of our favourite Surrey trails. The trails article is probably my favourite article from this first issue. It highlights what is probably the best format for a mag like this, with a combination of text, photos, decent video and gpx of the routes. This is a great combination of technologies certainly beats what you can do with a standard mag. Plus the guys can certainly ride, judging how many times they cleared the judges seat on Pitch Hill.

Although it was a great find the mag it left me feeling a little underwhelmed (sorry guys!). Bascially it seemed a bit errrr…”thin” to me. It’s a bit hard to describe this feeling without visiting the site, but maybe I could best express by comparing to how I feel when my favourite mag drops through your door every month. Singletrack in my case. The impatient waiting for the (usually late) publication date. Once it’s in my mitts I can first spend a good 10-15mins just browsing through before cherry picking the best articles to start with (yep what a saddo!), then working through the rest of the magazine over the next week or so. I feel informed and inspired. Now compare to IMBikeM.

IMBike is basically 6 articles, some of which are no more than 15seconds of on-line viewing (Gallery). I spent no-more than 30mins going through this whole first issue, videos and all. Would be I looking for the date of the next IMBike with the same anticipation as Singletrack – no. Although only one is free!

However it did leave me thinking about on-line zines. I think the IMBike guys are certainly onto something, but with a few changes it could be so much more interesting. The Used and Abused is the prime example. Fairly standard text bike reviews, with a video that was just a walk around the bike with some sound. Where was the enthusiastic voice over to go with the review? Where were the videos of the bikes all being ridden down the same lines to see how they compared? Helmet cams to show how smooth each bike was…

I think that this is a great opportunity of doing something different. However I think that it needs more video, less text (too easy to skip and miss the scrolled articles) and more innovation amongst the articles.

Having said all of this I’ll be looking out for issue 2 (don’t unsubscribe me guys!) and I hope that it goes from strength to strength. Is this sort of content the future of MTB publishing? Definitely maybe.


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  1. Jenks says:

    Personally I think it is a top effort – can you remember when Singletrack first came out? I’m addicted to it now, but way back then it was a bit different and took some getting used to. Indeed for the first ten or so issues thought it a waste of time. One suspects there will be a lot of additional marketing attached to this one though via e-mails and web based attachments – their product reveiws may be interesting as a result!

  2. Matt says:

    Well Tony, I’ve a few thoughts on this.

    First, the positive. Any well written information covering mountain biking on the internet is great to see and this is as good as any. Plus it does have some great photos and the video stuff is clearly only going to get more and more popular. So as far as I’m concerned the more the better.

    On the downside, despite initially looking very appealing, this is the wrong medium to be distributing this kind of material.

    There’s practical issues – the Flash design means it’s not exactly index-able by search engines, the page turns are fiddly and the prompts to get you to view more just plain annoying. And what’s with the pages and pages of traditional print style adverts from the big manufacturers – it’s just online page padding!

    Far better to stick with a well-executed ‘traditional’ website from that point of view.

    If you’re viewing on mobile it’s a hopeless case without the use of a mouse and believe me, mobile is where we’re all headed.

    Beyond that, the magazine is just that. A magazine, except it’s trying to do it on the cheap without worrying about printing and distribution costs.

    But the thing is, the whole layout is treated as a print magazine so to get the most from it users have to print it out to make it readable. So that blows the low carbon footprint argument and also the embedded content argument, it just pushes the cost of printing onto the user.

    Online readers assimilate information differently to print readers. They skim a lot more, look more for eye-catching headings and concise writing with punchier paragraphs. That’s just how it is.

    Finally, this format doesn’t really allow IMB to build a community of followers; it’s one-way traffic from them to us. It misses the whole social media aspects that the web provides.

    So the sum up, great writing, love the ideas in there with video, love the photography but a missed opportunity. Better to have improved on the Singletrack model than this. But I’ll be watching with interest to see how it pans out and wish them all the best. As a team they deserve to succeed somehow. I really don’t want to be negative, I just want to see this material better optimised for online.

    As it is currently, you can’t discretely read it at work and you can’t take it into the loo with you!

  3. Rou Chater says:

    Hi Guys,

    First up thanks for posting the mag, thanks for the feedback, both constructive and positive. We will always listen to our readers as you are the people we make the magazine for! After all if the content isn’t great you won’t come back!

    Issue 1 is just that, Issue 1, we put the first issue together in a very short time frame with a skeleton crew. Don’t worry we have been working on the content for Issue 2 since we finished and it will be bigger and better. We already have Richard Kelly on board to help out with the technique, some top interviews and articles planned as well. We will be bringing more video content too. On the video front, you should have watched more of the video tests, as they have full riding footage in them, not just a walk around. So in short bear with us, we will get better and the only way is up as they say!

    The format… We have been producing magazines like this for three years, we have a very solid platform and it does work well, it just maybe takes a little getting used to for some people. Here are the reasons why we use it:

    1: Familiarity, we all read magazines everyday, we are used to the front cover, middle and end, we are used to turning pages. Presenting the information in this format allows us to put some great design work into it, and do everything you can with a magazine, yet so much more with the audio and video content.

    All too often information gets lost in websites that have the same text and picture layout, when was the last time you looked at over 100 pages of a MTB website (forums aside) Yet with IMB readers scroll through the hundred pages often without realising it. Of course you can navigate if you wish using the thumbnails or the contents page.

    2: Green, over 10,000 readers in over 100 hundred countries so far and we haven’t chopped down one tree, used any fossil fuels to print, distribute or ship that magazine. You can’t say that for any paper magazine.

    3: It’s free, we couldn’t produce a magazine of this quality and give it away if we had to print and distribute it.

    Personally whilst I love magazines and think they will always have a place, I am a firm believer in the environment and using technology to overcome problems associated with it. By producing online magazines we make hardly any impact on the environment and offer a magazine that can be read by anyone, anytime, anywhere they have a net connection.

    Whilst we are new to the MTB industry we have been at the forefront of online publishing for 3 years and hope to continue to develop the format even more in the future. Mobile phones will catch up eventually in terms of technology and you can bet we will be there first with a magazine format that works.

    Lastly, whilst you can’t read IMB on the loo, ask yourself this, when was the last time you bought something on the toilet? And when was the last time you bought something online?

    IMB offers an exciting opportunity for advertisers, which in turn means it will remain free for you to read.

    In terms of interacting with us, visit you can use facebook connect to comment directly on the magazine, we have a facebook page and an application that allows you to put pictures from IMB on your profile. We are also on Twitter, You Tube and Vimeo. We thought about the forum aspect, but with so many bike forums around do we really need another one?

    I hope that answers some of your questions, if you have anymore i will be only too pleased to answer them!


    Rou Chater

    Publishing Editor


  4. Jenks says:

    ….I agree pretty much with most of the above, but I’d challenge the green aspect of it all. True a physical magazine has to be printed [run off into rivers] on paper [could be from sustainable forests though] and then transported by road in huge lorries to multiple destinations. But didn’t somebody work out that just two searches on Google is the equivalent of boiling a cup of water? There are huge servers around the world pumping out similar levels of emissions to the shipping industry. I don’t buy into the internet being green at all – it’s just another commercial enterprise. Just because the servers and power stations are hidden away, doesn’t mean it is all eco friendly at all. But top marks for the magazine, especially the video content, even though I prefer to pop into WHSmiths, buy MBR or whatever, then munch on a cake in the local cafe.

  5. Colin says:

    Its a very personal thing, but I really enjoyed it and found it a good read/view. A big improvement on MBUK which I still subscribe to for some reason.

    Relevant and interesting articles, good images and video. I agree that the presentation is a little clunky and resembles an online brochure, which never work in my view.

    The world is only big enough for one STW in my opinion so please don’t copy them and steer your own path.

    I’ve subscribed to the next issue and that say something I suppose.

  6. Matt says:

    Hi Rou, thanks for taking the trouble to respond.

    I didn’t mean to sound so negative, really I think the arrival of a new source of quality MTB writing is great.

    My reservations are only over the format itself. It’s visually attractive and I appreciate you’re replicating a magazine format online which allows more freedom with page layout, typesetting and design. But that’s just it, we’re online. As a web developer I know people read stuff differently, preferring to ‘graze’ for info rather than settling down to the luxury of a good read as you can with a print publication.

    But, it’s an opinion and you clearly have some experience at this kind of approach. The beauty of the web is you can try these things out more easily.

    Good luck with the mag and I’ll certainly be looking forward to the next issue.

  7. Rou Chater says:

    Hi everyone, just to let you know issue 2 is out…

    Much bigger and better than issue 1 we like to think, would love to hear your feedback!



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