Article By: Jack Shit
Photos By: The Whole Staff
Originally Published In The April 2012 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
You’ve all heard the story about the kid who goes down to see the carnival and ends up leaving town with them, right? This kid and his friends are just walking around, cotton candy in one hand, corn dog in the other, and something happens. The kid just stops walking, his friends continue on not noticing yet that the barker on the midway yelling at him has grabbed his attention like a little kid with a double scoop ice cream cone on a 100 degree day; nothing is going to break that grip! The tattooed freaks, the bearded lady, the two headed cow and the beautiful dancing girls were enough to get this kid’s heart racing, and then the magic words came out of the PA system that stole the boy’s very soul: See fearless men risk life and limb and watch them ride the Wall of Death! That kid is mesmerized and captivated by the utter lunacy that is the carnival. He runs home, sneaks through his window, grabs some clean underwear, a few t-shirts and dumps his change jar into a sock and climbs right back out that very same window. That night, he leaves town and never looks back. Never again will this kid live a “normal life;” the lure of adventure on the open road has captured him. He got a taste of freedom and now his hunger is unquenchable. For me, Cycle Source magazine is that proverbial carnival and I am that kid who is running away with them and never looking back. When first asked to tell the tale of Cycle Source from its humble beginnings of being handed out for free and delivered for days on end in a ‘72 Volkswagen Bug with no heat, packed so tight you could not see through anything other than the windshield, to this very issue you are of historical value. Of course the obvious reason is the fact that these lunatics actually pulled this out of their asses, albeit after a month’s delay for more tutoring from their publishing pals over at Mammary Monthly, but more so for the fact that this was the one and only time ever that Chris featured his own bike or his own chick on the cover either separate or apart! Not to say that, “How’d ya like to be on the cover of a magazine” didn’t come in handy later in life, but I digress. Of course content was key to capturing the audience’s attention but what do you cover when you start a motorcycle mag in the dead of winter? A Polar Bear Ride of course! The first hurdles were jumped & Cycle Source was in business. They managed to print a 24 page mag and deliver 5,000 copies to 21 advertisers all out of a Bug! This was the formula and with the exceptions of doubling the pages and paying a bit more attention to the grammar, they stuck with it, month after month, for the first few years!
From here on, every moment of their time is devoted to raising this child that whether they liked it or not, they had it. If you breed it, you better damn well be able to feed it and that is what Chris did. With the completion of every issue, one realization came to be. The magazine got tighter, with better presentation, more color, stronger features, additional contributors to the team, better photography and slowly but surely, this was becoming the real deal! So now they’ve got a few years of nonstop hustling and ball busting to sell ads and then get paid for them just to keep the damn thing afloat. Now remember, at this point, Cycle Source is still free. Then Chris gets the ultimate reward for his sacrifice, his girl of 8 years decides that she is done with the magazine and Chris at the same time! With all the glamour, the glory and stress that comes from running a magazine, there were times when one had to ask: Is all this shit really worth it? Well don’t get all teary-eyed for our friend Chris just yet. If you were paying attention earlier, you will remember when I used the phrase “How’d ya like to be on the cover of a magazine?” Well how’d ya like to be the poor guy who has two-hundred dollars out of his freshly cashed weekly pay check and is thinking, Oh yeah, I’m sure glad I stopped at TittyRama on my way home from work; this chick is mine, she really likes me. Then in walks this long-haired, Harley riding, dirty ass biker with a camera hanging around his neck with the, “Wanna be a magazine cover girl” line? The madness didn’t last all too long and Chris had to retire his tried and true pickup line when he met Jean.
Unless you are part of a “membership based organization,” there really are no “written rules” for how to live our lifestyle. The rules, although implied, better damn well be understood and adhered to if you want to ride across the finish line intact. One of these “unwritten rules,” and it should go without saying, but in case you haven’t been around long enough to know, it’s simple: you put a chick on the back of your bike and something terrible happens, no matter who is at fault, you’ve got to take care of that girl. Whether she be your ol’ lady, girlfriend, mama or just some random piece of strange you picked up, you put her on the back of that bike! The bond between Chris and Jean was forever sealed when some punk ass trying to show off far beyond his ability, lost control of his bike while doing a burnout. The bike traveled on one wheel through the entire crowd, weaving through people as if by remote control for nearly 80 feet until it became one with Chris, Jean and the bike they were on. In that split second, their lives were forever changed. On a day that no American will ever forget, Chris sat in a hospital waiting to learn Jean’s condition as he watched the Twin Towers attacked live on the news! The true measure of a person is how they adapt to the bad, not the good. With a near endless road to recovery ahead, Jean set out to get well and at the same time, set Chris straight! Anyone who has ever been laid up knows how torturous the endless hours of laying around can be. A few hours on the phone here and a few hours at the computer there and all of a sudden, there was a new general in charge.
In Chris’s own words, “We would never be here, where we are now, had she not made the decisions she made that day.” Things were about to change. By now it had grown from a local give-a-way mag that you grabbed off a parts’ counter to a multi state, 80 page professional product, but one had to ask, where do we go from here? Like so many of us men, we never do our best until we are backed into the corner or given an ultimatum. In this instance it was, “You have one year to make something great from this or I’m done!” Talk about a fire getting lit under your ass! “And one more thing, too, we’ve come too far and this costs way too much to be a free magazine any longer. There is just too much blood, sweat and tears in this to give it away!” When the one you love gives you an ultimatum like that, about the one thing you’ve devoted years of your life to, you do whatever you must. From soul searching to motivational speakers, you look for an answer. A wise man once said: “Take what you have that is your very best and exploit it.” Those very words saved this magazine! When you take s o m e t h i n g that’s free and ask to be paid for it, it better be damn well worth the money! July 2005, Cycle Source hit the shelves in retail locations across 9 states at a cover price of $1.25! If you can’t run with the big dogs then you had best stay on the porch! The leash had been removed, but the question remained: How do we get out and run with the big dogs? How does the magazine reach the masses?
Chris aggressively went after all the big distributors. He sat down and composed a heartfelt, fact filled letter explaining what the mag was about, where it was going and why he believed that it deserved national distribution. One after another, the letters came back with denials, including the reasons why the mag was not worthy of their services. For many, this would be crushing, but persistence overcomes resistance. Then one of those letters came back and didn’t say to drop dead! Two big glasses of Jack Daniels were poured, ZZ Top’s Nationwide thundered out of the speakers and as the letter from Coast to Coast was read and re-read, the celebration broke out. In August 2006, the first issue of Cycle Source, at a cover price of $3.99, hit the newsstands from sea to shining sea! Coast to Coast could see that what others considered a piece of coal was now in their hands and would soon be a diamond with just the right pressure applied to it, and they were absolutely correct. Now that the magazine had gone nationwide, grown by an additional 20 pages and the c e l e b r a t i o n was calming down, the reality of what had just been achieved hit like a kicker pedal snapping back and breaking its owner’s leg!
From the outside looking in, it would seem that everyone’s greatest fantasy had been achieved but in harsh reality, it was the exact opposite. You can’t run with the big dogs without stepping in some shit. Here is a little detail about publishing that most all of us have no idea about: what it cost and where the money goes. The truly horrifying question is: where do you come up with the money to survive? With my recent education in this process, I could go on and on in detail but I will only give you the “holy hell, I didn’t know that” version of it all! Let’s go beyond having all the work done, the advertisers in place and the ads paid for and go to the cost of printing. Then to how many do you print? The orders come in and the mags go out, so you have to pay to ship all of them over and over again. Each time somebody puts their hands on that stack of mags and breaks it into smaller stacks, it costs money. They finally reach the newsstand where they sit for their 30 day run. When that time is done, they get shipped back to the distributor, they count what has been sold, and destroy what has not. So do the math and that is what you get paid on. Sounds good, right? Here is the part where that kicker pedal breaks your leg. From the moment those numbers are tallied up to the day that you receive your payment for them is 6 months. Yes, you just read that right. This is where the dream becomes a nightmare and drops dead bull’s-eye into the “be careful what you wish for” category.
In order to be a success, you must make the next issue better than the last. Now comes the time where faith and love get in the game. Each month there is a cost above and beyond all incoming monies of 10 grand or more. This is when the people who love you step up and help you out. Had it not been for those amazing people who had the faith and respect for what Cycle Source is, the magazine should have, would have and could have died right there! These people knew that this was an amazing product that offered something different from everything else out there and they took a leap of faith and emptied their bank accounts to help keep the dream or nightmare, which ever it can be called at this point, alive! To get a bit ahead in the story but so you understand where it is at now, the cost to get this magazine to the shelf that you picked it up off of is now equal to or greater than the value of Chris’s home each month! On more than several occasions, there was no light at the end of the tunnel and the entire operation nearly came to a crashing halt because there was just not enough money to actually get Cycle Source to the newsstands. That’s when you sell off your bikes to keep it going. The price then had to go up to $4.99. With that price increase, the pressure to “give them what they paid for” became near overwhelming. The entire culture, for nearly all of its history is that of the working man! Riding motorcycles was not the sport of kings but the passion of a few; the people who rode and wrenched not as a hobby but because they had no other choice. Cycle Source has always been by the working man, for the working man and it will always be. There were times in my own life, and I’m sure you can relate, that pulling out and dropping that $5 bill was huge and at times not even possible. If this was now the asking price, that money was going to have to be earned!
Along came 2007 and with it, Cycle Source planted its flag with the “Next Generation” issue, the first “Year in Review” and the very first “Best of” awards. Not long after, in ’08, the Black List Tour hit the ground rolling and one night another “flash of genius” hit. The Cincy V-Twin Expo was a place where nearly the entire industry made a presence but it was insane expensive! There was no way that each of these builders and parts’ makers could ever afford space on that convention center floor, or could they? What if they all joined together, all under one single banner, as one entity? With that, the Limpnickie Lot was born and for the next two years, they left the attendees at the Expo with their mouths open wide with shock and fear of what their beloved lifestyle would become with these maniacs and “kids” now part of it. In this same window of time, the longing for bike runs of yesteryear became stronger and the Big Mountain Run came to life. This was an idea that was based solely in the celebration of our lifestyle, not the pre-packaged, homogenized, sanitized version of what the rally has become. To quote Chris again: “A little danger, a touch of chaos and a bit of making it on your own is what this is about.” No matter how you slice or dice it, we live our life for the love of the motorcycle and riding. When you can ride the tail of the Dragon, Route 28 or the other jaw dropping, white knuckle roads of the Smoky Mountains during the day and then party with your boys, live band jamming fireside at night and then do it again the following day, it is surely hard to top! To sum it up, the BMR is a departure from civilized society for a few days a year.
There is a virtual open door policy with this magazine that I’ve never witnessed in any other. Everyone has a shot! If you have natural ability and just need some guidance to sharpen those skills, you will get that too. In as much as Chris has given opportunity to so many, he has never stopped listening either. No matter if the person speaking is a reader commenting on an editorial or an industry giant like Keith Ball, who once took the time to offer advice that forever changed both man and magazine. For the record Keith, I’ve now heard that advice and damn it was good! Although Cycle Source is not really a news magazine, it does pay particular attention to the pulse of the entire industry and lifestyle. It has never just been about the bike itself but rather all things bike! With distribution as far now as Australia and subscribers across the world, the future is as we ride, wide open! An early advertiser with the mag was New Castle Harley Davidson and the owner one day explained that he loved advertising in Cycle Source because “it’s slightly trashy!” Luckily it is going to stay that way! When asked what he feels is his greatest accomplishment now, other than being able to write complete sentences without error and staying STD free, Wildman’s humble and honest reply was inspiring. “To be a kid who grew up around junkies, never knowing what tomorrow would bring, dropping out of school in the tenth grade, living a life that could make a Billy goat puke and being told that your writing and your life’s work has touched another’s life is by far, the single greatest reward that I have ever earned.” In one way or another, all of us here at Cycle Source have run away with the carnival and if you ever get the chance you should as well! To borrow a few words from our mutual hero, Hunter S. Thompson, and I truly don’t believe they could ever be more apropos: “BUY THE TICKET, TAKE THE RIDE!”