Road Racer X to close December 31

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Road Racer X will cease publishing on December 31, 2010. “The publishing environment is pretty tough right now, but we’re proud of what we’ve done with the RRX brand over the past eight years,” the president of the magazine’s publisher, Bryan Stealey, exclusively confirmed for us. The magazine’s motocross-oriented sister title, Racer X Illustrated, will continue publishing. This is the third American motorcycle magazine to go out of business this year, in September, both Cycle News and 2Wheel Tuner suffered similar fates.

Update: it’s official.

When Cycle News went under, I wrote a fairly scathing editorial, criticizing the lack of perspective that caused what was once one of motorcycling’s most popular titles to lose relevance as the 1970s suddenly (according to some, it was virtually overnight) became 2010. That title continued to attempt to push regional race results as its major USP, filling the rest of its pages with identikit motorcycle magazine content, even while the Internet made those race results universal and immediate in their availability and generic magazine content lost its appeal. People involved with unsuccessful publications like to blame some mysterious, immovable force called “The Internet” for all their woes, but in reality it’s their own inability to adapt to a changing publishing environment that is their downfall. The thing is, none of those criticisms apply to Road Racer X, it was a wonderful, relevant magazine.

As a professional magazine writer, editor and fan, I’m constantly dismayed by the abysmal quality of motorcycle magazines in America. The genericness of the layouts, typography and photography are only exceeded by the lack of ambition of their content. The other day, I picked up January, 2011 copies of both Cycle World and Sport Rider to read on the train. Both featured press shots on their cluttered covers in the exact same orientation and it seemed as if all of their content was assembled some time in early October; these are January issues yet not a single bike released at EICMA in early November was featured. As they lose their readership and advertisers, their budgets for creating editorial content are slashed. Both featured multi-page articles on a freebie press launch at Continental’s banked track in Germany using identical photos and Cycle World’s main feature was a technical analysis of the BMW K1600GT press material. I wrote a similar article for HFL, just with more material, all the way back in early July!

David Edwards, the former editor of Cycle World, wrote a column on this topic for us last month, he analyzes all this much better than I can.

Road Racer X was different, it featured stunning photography and content which provided a unique insight in the world of American road racing, all wrapped up in a well-designed package that perfectly complemented the exciting nature of its subject. In addition to the print product, Road Racer X organized successful events and had a strong online presence that pushed breaking road racing news. Sounds like a successful formula, right?

So what went wrong? It seems that Road Racer X was more a victim of the general malaise affecting the motorcycle industry than it was its ability to create a compelling product. Other sources affiliated with the magazine suggest that while it remained profitable until the end, diminishing ad revenue was increasingly failing to justify the hard work its staff was putting in. With motorcycle sales in America down 40.8 percent year-on-year in 2009 and a further 18.3 percent on top of that through Q3, 2010, advertising budgets have been slashed across the board. There’s simply not enough money currently being spent by advertisers to maintain, much less grow, the number of publications currently serving motorcycle enthusiasts. Unfortunately, this impacts the motorcycle publications we want to keep reading as much as it does those that have failed to make such a strong case for their survival.

Who loses now that we no longer have Road Racer X? It sounds like all the magazine’s staff are landing strongly, so its really us, the readers, that suffer, as well as the world of road racing. Publications like Road Racer X play a key role in niches like racing, driving the enthusiasm that makes things like racing popular and spreading it to the outside world, hopefully bringing in new fans. Without Road Racer X, AMA Pro Racing will be less healthy and its fans less able to enjoy the sport they love.

As one of the magazine’s contributors told us, “Road Racer X had its flaws, but it always made racing look good.” It’s not looking quite as good anymore.

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    Any chance that RRX’s Mark Gardiner (Backmarker) will write more articles for you in the future, like he did earlier this month?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yep :)

      • Zane H

        That’s great to hear as I’m really going to miss Backmarker

  • Kyle

    Having just got an iPad I still do like my paper publications but things can be nicely done in here too.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Ooh, fun. Bookmark HFL on your home screen and a nice custom button will appear.

  • Zane H

    This is really crappy news… I’ve been a subscriber since I first got my hands on an issue years ago, but it’s good to hear the staff is finding a good landing somewhere

  • Richard

    Great, the only US motomag actually worth buying/subscribing to is now gone. Well I guess as long as I have HFL i’ll be okay. Better start putting in some over-overtime guys, I need my fix multiple times throughout the day!

  • seanslides

    If you could coerce Kevin Cameron to write for HFL from time to time, I’d no longer have any reason to pick up a Cycle World/Sport Rider/Motorcyclist.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I’m a hard meh on cameron’s work. I was always a big John Robinson fan.

    • Ian

      Agree.

      • Ian

        Agree with seanslides. Cameron is brilliant and is actually getting better at his job. He makes the rest of CW look bad.

        • Pat

          Another +1 for John Robinson

  • RT Moto

    Terrible news. Their content is on point every issue and it is unrivaled by any other mag. A sad day indeed.

  • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

    The only publication I still subscribe to is Motorcycle Classics because it’s indeed irrelevant. There’s no need to focus on what’s new since they write about bikes from the past. The only criticism I have is some of their features are rather dull-touring through the midwest on a ___ motorcycle seems like filler to what’s a quality writeup of vintage motorcycles. That’s why I keep every issue!

    Oh, and their webpage is a PITA to navigate, but who expects old guys to be good at web design?

  • Dave H

    This is a horrible shame, as RRX has been the only print motorcycle magazine that I bother to pick up and buy over this past year.

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    This is pretty weird – I just went to their website — no mention of closing shop. In fact, the “Subscribe or Renew Now” links are live. But I read it on HellForLeather so I know it to be true.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I guess we’re just a little quicker off the mark. As usual…

  • Thomas

    So what happens to our remaining subscriptions? Are we just SOL on that money?

  • Christopher

    Guys, I understand everyone wants details about RRX, but please just hang tight until Friday. I appreciate the nice things that have been said about the mag in this article and in the comments.

    Chris Jonnum
    Editor, RRX

  • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

    I refuse to accept this hoax. This is like the fucking Adam Sandler died snowboarding tweet hoax. FUCK NO.

    RoadRacer X is the ABSOLUTE BEST motorcycle magazine. Period. OK, HfL rocks, but do you have monthly columns by Randy Mamola? NO. Advice Column by Nicky Hayden? NO. Motorcycle reviews by a FEMALE? (who also happens to be a great rider & writer) NO.

    No other motorcycle magazine gets us inside the minds of RACERS the way RRX does. It’s sad enough to see my December issue morphed into a Dec-Jan-Feb issue, but now this? It’s too much. This has to change. I’m sure the ONLY reason Sport Rider has more readers than RRX is that it’s been around longer. RRX is so much better.

    It’s understandable RRX may have to go strictly digital, but I really hope they’re able to continue to support the exceptional talent they currently have. But it better not die completely and send all these great contributors to the 4 corners of the globe. I’m not going to subscribe to some paper magazine just for Laurel C Allen or just for Mamola, as much as I want to see what they have to say. I want it all in one, like RRX gives it to me.

    In fact, I’m sending this to Yamaha as well.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      No insult taken. We’re two guys with no budget and no access punching above our weight, not a fully-funded magazine.

      Take this as a reflection of the state both publishing and motorcycles are in. RRX won’t be the last magazine to go under.

  • andrew

    Oh look..I just bought a subscription to HFL….

    Yes, I’m pretty bummed too.

    In a business sense, plus on a personal level and for the ever dwindling coverage (in a more glossy way) of the sport itself in the US.

    Andrew

  • http://www.automotophoto.com automotophoto

    Oh look..I just bought a subscription to HFL….

    Yes, I’m pretty bummed too.

    In a business sense, plus on a personal level and for the ever dwindling coverage (in a more glossy way) of the sport itself in the US.

    Andrew

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    Oh damn!!

    I had only recently been hearing more and more about Road Racer X – maybe it’s just that I’ve started following racing news alot more on Twitter, etc. And I was even *this* close to trying to track down a copy (you may not think that’s strange, but I live in Australia…)

    Like pinkyracer said, I’d heard about all those features of Road Racer X and was looking forward to getting myself a copy one day. Not anymore. :(((