100 Issues Young? Yikes!

What Mountain Bike's ed, Matt Skinner, can't quite get over it

I need a coffee. A very, very strong coffee. Possibly with a shot of Jura in there too. So that would make it a Scottish coffee I guess. But whatever, I need it. Half in terms of celebration, and half because I just can't quite believe the shock that somehow What Mountain Bike is nine years and 100 issues young. I need to calm my nerves as I count how quickly the years have gone by. Too quickly it would seem.

Between discussing gearing ratios and the beauty of bike minimalism, we put the celebration issue to bed a few weeks ago; the issue itself is hot on the shelves now but I won't garble through what's in it – you can find that on the magazine page here  and by watching the trailer for it (see below) that we filmed which showcases my best impression of a rigid fence post. Suffice to say it's something very special. Genuinely. And we hope you like it.

But how best can we cover the scope of 100 issues of our fair tome here? It's only right to recognise that What Mountain Bike has been built, crafted and cared for by many folks through the years. So in between swigging strong coffee and swinging leg over saddle, here are the highs and lows of nine years of the magazine straight from those who've helped make WMB what it is. Of course, there's more in the 100th issue celebration issue but, as the Oracle says in The Matrix, "You knew that already…"

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Steve Worland, Launch Editor, Issue 1-57; Technical Director, Issue 58-100

"In terms of product testing, I'm not doing as much these days as I was a decade ago, but that's mainly because there's a whole lot of extra planning, coordination and admin' involved in creating a mag every four weeks. I have fond memories of creating what seemed more like a book every three months in those early days.

"As a fan of getting new riders on bikes I'm particularly fond of the more educational and aspirational features rather than the straight tests. Our ‘Bike Anatomy' series was one of my favourites, and I'm sure we'll do something similar again.

"Visits out to the industry always remind me how much R & D goes into every little part on the bikes you're riding, even at the budget end of the market. The detail experts who work at the leading edge for companies like Trek, Specialized, Giant or Shimano will spend whole years working on perfecting frame or component parts, and a couple of years later you'll see the same technology dribbling down to products at half the price.

"It's interesting looking at ‘then and now' prices too. We tested the new £200 Shimano XTR crankset ... it's £440 now. But Chris King headsets are, at £108.99, exactly the same now as they were back then, while a Santa Cruz Superlight frame is still £1199 compared to £1175 back then. Prices don't seem to have risen on hydration packs either but, like most other products, quality and comfort has.

"Try to get hold of an old issue and look at the products. As a rule, MTB stuff has improved massively in the last ten years, and for not much more money, in some cases far less money as economies of scale have kicked in."

Matt Skinner, Staff Writer, Issue 17-60; Editor, Issue 77-100

"In between I found myself on Mountain Biking UK as Reviews Editor, but I still stuck my freelance oar in on WMB from time to time. I jumped back home to WMB on the tail end of Issue 77 as editor after Jane left the mag and have been discovering the benefits of ever increasing quantities of caffeine ever since.

Favourite cover and why

"WMB98's adventure 'Go Wild!' cover really works as an overall package I think (just as well as it's mine and Robin's fault if it doesn't!) but I really like WMB97's Awards Issue shot. Snapper Seb, Art Ed Robin and myself scoured high and low for a stretch of trail in the Lakes that would let us get two to three riders in on a great bit of singletrack but that would also showcase the great scenery. We stumbled on it almost by accident and couldn't believe our luck. It topped off an incredible sun-blessed week in late March that was sandwiched between heavy rains. I think the shot's got everything, and the fact I like it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I appear on it twice..."

Favourite bike(s) during that time and why

"Trek's singlespeed 69er - stupidly stiff but just great fun. I liked it so much I bought one."

Happiest moment during all this

"When there's no extraneous white noise laying claim for my attention in my head, and I simply float along the trail and lose myself."

Greatest innovation in mountain biking during this time

"Waterproof 3/4 shorts like Endura's eVent Venturis. Sounds simple but they make an incredible difference to your riding comfort but without making you boil in the bag."

Guy Kesteven, WMB Lifer (Bike Test Editor) Issue 1 to Issue 100

Favourite cover and why

"My first one after I broke my knee. Took it into the surgeon who pieced and pinned my split leg back together as a thank you."

Favourite bikes during that time and why

"Long term lovers: Lynskey Pro 29, original Santa Cruz Blur and my current Blur Long Travel, Trek Fossil Fuel and Trek STP Pro, Scott Spark, Giant Anthem, Orange Patriot, Marin Mount Vision, Pace RC303

"One test stands: Cannondale Taurine Team (08), Lapierre Zesty 316 (09), Rock Lobster 853 (01), Dawes Edge FS (02), Specialized Hardrock (05)"

Happiest moment during all this

"My two little girls laughing along my local singletrack on their Islabikes this weekend."

Greatest innovation in mountain biking during this time

"The internet. Has made getting information and bike bargains far far easier for everyone. Apart from that Fox forks, Maxle, dual compound tyres, wider flat riser bars."

Seb Rogers, WMB Lifer (bike tester and photographer) Issue 1 to Issue 100

Favourite cover line

"I'm going to vote for a spineline. Summer 2000: 'Britain's Widest Bike Mag'. Unintentionally hilarious, in all the wrong ways."

Favourite bike(s) during that time and why

"Giant VT1 - it launched the current generation of 6 inch travel trail all-rounders on a disbelieving world (and suffered for being ahead of its time). It was the first design that proved it was possible to design pedalling efficiency and long travel suspension suppleness into one bike."

Happiest moment during all this

"The birth of my daughter Tashi in 2005. Obvious and cheesy, perhaps, but true."

Greatest innovation in mountain biking during this time

"Platform valved shocks. They've literally transformed mountain biking, to the point where many people consider a bike with less than 5 inches of suspension to be short travel. We can ride further, faster and on tougher trails with more ease and comfort than ever before, and it's all down to a few washers and grommets in the right places. Amazing."

Jane Bentley, Operations Editor, Issue 11-57; Editor Issue 58-75

"Recalling all the good times is no easy job, it was largely a high-speed blur of laughing, driving, crying and bleeding, with a few medicinal ciders to ease the pain.

"Some bits stand out though. The marathon series in Wales (formerly Kona sponsored now Merida) pulled consistently bigger numbers year after year as thousands of riders put off by traditional XC jockeying loved the longer distances and personal battles involved riding either 25, 50, 75 or 100km off-road. We were there as sponsors, making as many fresh fruit smoothies as new friends at these knackering but enduring weekends.

"I also got to experience the full pro treatment when I joined Specialized's women's ‘Starlets' team as a guest rider for Sleepless in the Saddle 2004. Setting out on lap 1 the realisation of just how under-prepared I was for the 24-hour muddy onslaught ahead of me nearly had me retching in the bushes. But with the likes of Jenn O'Connor waiting for me at the changeover I knew I had to dig in, and it's all thanks to the team support back at camp that my bike was cleaned and lubed, my body fed and watered and my backside pushed out into the small hours for back-to-back-lap tactics that our team of four ended up on the podium lifting medals for second place. Priceless.

"Inspired by that experience we launched the WMB Reader Team in 2006, inviting you lot to ride for WMB at key events in the calendar. Providing kit, bikes and training for these riders was an organisational nightmare, but the fun had and the commitment shown by the reader teams was phenomenal and translated into some great features for the mag and helped launched some brand new biking careers too!

"Other shout-outs have to go to waterproof socks, quality bike lights, the rise and rise of trail centres and Gore bikewear. How did we ever manage without you?

"Since leaving WMB I've been teaching the next generation of wannabe writers just what a fantastic job it is creating magazines. And the holidays are a bonus… this summer I'm packing my bags for Moab, Utah, for a date with the legendary Porcupine Rim. 

"Oh, did I ever tell you about the time I caught long-time bike mechanic Jez Loftus wearing my bikini while he wrenched in the workshop one particularly sizzling summer day? Thought not…"

Mat Brett, Operations Editor, Issues 1-5

"Hmmm! To be honest, it seems like a lifetime ago, although it would have been about 2000-2001 that I was on the magazine. Can't remember how many issues I worked on. It was a quarterly at that stage, so probably not all that many - 3 or 4? Something like that.

"What do I remember? I remember the launch was a lot of fun. We drafted in Guy from somewhere or other - was it Maximum MTB? - and got him compiling the listings/buyer's directory at the back of the mag. Doing the whole thing from scratch was a monumental amount of work. It was one of those things that we never thought would get done.

"I also remember that for the final couple of weeks I was working until about 11pm, riding back to Bristol, going to sleep, getting up at 7 and riding back in ... and paying the mill owner for permission to come to work etc. Nearly got locked in one night when I went to get my bike kit on in the shower room, came out and the whole place was pitch black because the security guard was locking up.

"We also did something like the '100 best mountain bikes' in one issue. And we ended up with 99 or 101 or something like that... And because deadlines only came around once every three months, there was a lot of elastic band flicking in the fortnight after each issue went to press... which is exactly how it should be."

Mike Davis, Operations Editor, Issues 5-10; Managing Group Editor, Issue 11-13

"I was working for sister mag MBUK when What Mountain Bike was launched in its original doorstopping quarterly buyer's guide format.

"The quarterly schedule sounds quite leisurely, but there was so much in the mag that it was still a fight to get it together in time. Particularly in 2001, when Foot and Mouth disease spread through the UK's cattle and nearly every trail in the country was closed. Which is how Steve, Guy, Jez, Seb and I ended up crammed into a 4x4 pulling a box trailer with 22 test bikes inside it across France with a view to riding and shooting the lot in a week. Despite snow and rain, we pulled it off, with Pyractif's Pyrenean farmhouse mutating into an al fresco magazine office, laptops all over the place, each evening.

"As for me, I came and went a bit, flitting back and forth between WMB and MBUK. Eventually I ended up with some sort of all-encompassing job across both magazines, which proved to be just a little too far from the coalface for me.

"The job of "sister mag to MBUK" has proved to be a tricky one, with several titles having filled that role no longer with us. Some (MTB Pro/World) are fondly remembered by some, others largely forgotten (Total Bike, anyone?). WMB has stayed the course, though. Here's to the next 100!"

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