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Some days, it’s a tedious task – especially this time of year.

Each and every day, it seems as though I need to go to battle and convince an ever expanding army of marketing folks and “industry experts” as to the need for “print” and essentially the riding community itself in my mind for those looking to sell motorcycles.  And this time of year it’s even worse as annual budgets are finalized and a new crop of marketing folks enter the fray with their “cure” for what ails the industry and those marketing to it.

It’s a battle that we are losing on many fronts as we remain standing as the LAST year-round monthly motorcycle mag in Ohio.  

Over the last 10 years there were as many as 6-7 different free regional motorcycle magazines distributed across Ohio, maybe more when you consider the various dirt track, vintage, and other specialty newsletters and mags published.  Over time, though, these fell as more and more dealerships focused their marketing efforts on increasingly sophisticated direct mail pieces (the clutter that fills the box at the end of the driveway) or simply a belief in free social media.

The problem with those approaches are that they do nothing to support the riding community and fail to consider the primary appeal of motorcycles and riding in general – the chance to get out and discover new roads, ride with brothers and sisters, meet new people, and celebrate the lifestyle itself.   That’s the business we are all in – it’s the lifestyle! And “free motorcycle mags” play an important role in that.

When you pick up a local motorcycle magazine, you are able to turn the pages and see what’s going on.  Where are the local bike nights? What charity rides are coming up? What are the really big rallies and events that I should plan on this summer?  Sure, you can find a lot of that information online, but in most cases you need to type in the name or search directly for it. When turning the pages of a “biker mag” you’ll discover new events and destinations that you might have never considered otherwise.  It’s like traveling down a road you’ve never been. You recognize it as an area you might like, with bikes in front of familiar looking spots that you might never have stopped into before. And there’s a sense of anticipation as you realize you might want to stop as well.

Turning the pages of a local motorcycle magazine is like that ride.  Featured writers and columns are like old friends you recognize at bike night – “What’s coming up?”, “where ya been riding?”  You turn the pages and see the upcoming rides and announcements – events that you might want to support or that you’ve attended before and don’t want to miss.  And many of these events are put on volunteers or passionate folks that simply want to make a difference and support their cause – and they are turning to the motorcycle community for help.  And that’s what we do.

We connect the dots.  We introduce “Amy”, from Bikers for Boobs, to hundreds and thousands of riders every time we print the flyer for her event or print picture from her past rides.  We spread the word about the local veterans ride, promote the local swap meets, and cover the bike nights you should get out and ride to during the week. That’s what we do.

And we can only do it with the support of the local dealerships and businesses that are looking for your business.  The thought being that the more events, rides, and destinations you find – the more active of a rider you’ll be. And the more committed you are to the lifestyle – the more likely you are to invest in a fancy new bike with all the bells and whistles.  It comes full circle – which is just fine. That’s how it works.

If you agree with me, I’d encourage you to make the effort to go out and pick up a copy of our magazine each and every month at your favorite ride stop.  Stop into your local dealership and ask for your Thunder Roads – and if they don’t have it, ask why. Call around and ask the shops if they have it. Let them know that their customers appreciate being able to pick up magazine that features all the local riding events, places to go and things to see on two wheels.  Let them know it’s worth their investment in the riding community and our work as its voice.

If I’m wrong, don’t hesitate to tell me.  Let me know that you really don’t care to pick up a hard copy of a local motorcycle mag – and would prefer just reading Facebook posts or viewing a digital PDF.  Convince me that I’m mistaken, and that “Print” is really dead – and I’ll gladly stop sending our mags to print. And, I’ll save the thousands of dollars that we spend every month on our hard copies.  

Until then, though, I’ll just continue printing and believe that we have a solid role to serve in the local riding community.

Ride Strong and I’ll see ya out there!

D. A. Smith


Thunder Roads Ohio

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