Since 2015 we’ve published a lot of features (around 240, in fact). These, in no particular order, are some of the ones that we particularly like. Do feel free to tell us we got it horribly wrong, and let us know your favourites…
This was a surreal and slightly scary experience (although less scary for us than for our Kyiv-based writer). In early 2022 we were put in touch with a Ukrainian rider, and it made us realise that we knew nothing, absolutely zilch, about mountain bikers in that part of the world. So we asked him to interview some of the riders in the local scene, and write about mountain biking in Ukraine. The news was full of Russia’s sabre-rattling and troop buildups, but we just assumed nothing would happen. Until it did. Luckily, our correspondent had managed to send us copy and pictures – and escape Kyiv – just a handful of days before the invasion. By the time Cranked #28 was published, Russian troops were bogged down in a miles-long traffic jam north of Kyiv and, well, you know the rest. We designed some Ukraine-inspired merch, put it on sale for a limited time and donated 100% of the profits – over £1000 – to a Ukrainian charitable appeal. Oh, it’s a good story, too…
The Covid years have been odd in many ways. When globetrotting bike photographer Sven Martin found himself quarantined for 14 days in a hotel, he put the time to good use by accessing his archive and writing a new Instagram post every day. It was a retrospective of his work documenting racing all over the world, and it was far too good to leave in the digital ether. So when he was released from his room-service-only prison, we asked him to put together an extended version for Cranked. And, in Cranked #24, you can see the results…
In Cranked #26 we spoke to two transgender riders about their experiences riding and racing bikes in the dirt. The response from our readers was overwhelmingly positive, on the whole, which is good because we have a policy of inclusivity at Cranked. We did come in for some criticism from one subscriber, and a random woman on Twitter who got quite cross, but it turned out neither of these people had actually read the feature. We’ll continue to cover just about any subject related to riding bikes off-road – and give people space to tell their own stories – because it’s what we do. If we ever upset a few folk, well, that’s a shame. But we’ll carry on anyway.
Huw Oliver’s tale of riding and paddling long-forgotten routes in the Scottish Highlands in Cranked #20 is a corker for all sorts of reasons, but it was this stunning image that sold it to us. You can practically hear the rain drops pattering on the surface of the loch and feel their sting on your bare skin… it’s as close to being there as it’s possible to get on 150gsm paper. Just gorgeous.
Cranked editor Seb knows from long experience that his own struggles with mental health are usually improved with time on the bike and a helping of sweat, dirt and singletrack. He had a hunch that he might not be the only one who’d discovered this liberating fact. The result was ‘Down’ in Cranked #6 (sorry – no longer available), a collection of first person tales from the front lines of depression and anxiety, illustrated by Jo Burt. The reception was both substantial and overwhelmingly positive. It almost felt as though a taboo had been broken; behind the stoke and the high fives and the smiles, there’s sometimes a hidden world of anguish. But it’s OK to admit that.
We’ve run our fair share of interviews with various bike superstars, but it’s rare that our little world intersects with the wider world out there, and some of the bigger personalities who inhabit it. So, when the opportunity to meet Formula One star Mark Webber – who also happens to be a bit of a mountain bike endurance rider on the side – arose in Cranked #14, we jumped at it. It was, admits Seb, one of the interviews about which he was most nervous, so he put hours into researching the Aussie driver’s life and interests, as well as the finer points of F1 racing. He needn’t have worried. Mark was relaxed, enthusiastic and only too happy to discuss the parallels between hurtling around a tarmac track and racing mountain bikes at altitude.
When you’ve just ridden a tough, hilly, wet route across the Lake District the last thing you’re likely to want to do is pose for a photography. So, for Cranked #10, that’s exactly what Joolze Dymond asked several dozen riders to do, complete with white backdrop and proper lighting. And then she asked them questions… about their motivation, their kit, their bike and just about anything else she could think of. The result is a fascinating cross-section of riders, bikes and gear. There is no ‘type’ for bikepacking, it turns out…
Hack Bike Derby
What happens if you challenge a bunch of experienced frame builders to make a clunker from scratch, in a limited time, and then gather for a weekend of wet and muddy racing in the woods? The Hack Bike Derby, that’s what. Part Whacky Races, part Scrapheap Challenge and part Repack Revisited, we were there to witness the carnage and record it for posterity in Cranked #5 (sorry – no longer available). There’s never been an event quite like it and, quite probably, there will never be another.
The late, great endurance racer Mike Hall was an inspiration for many. The day that editor Seb was due to meet him for a feature in Cranked #7 (sorry – no longer available), nothing much went right. A breakdown in communication resulted in Seb driving to entirely the wrong location in mid Wales, and a lack of phone signal meant that took a while to sort out. When he finally arrived in the right place, Mike was limited for time and it was drizzling, so Seb had less than 30 minutes and no choices of location to get some portraits shot. But the talking bit – the interview – went very well. So well, that Seb ditched all his pre-prepared questions and just went with Mike’s flow. An astonishing individual…
If you’re a UK rider and you were into bikes in the ’90s, Jason McRoy needs no introduction. On the 25th anniversary of his untimely death we asked ex MBUK editor Tym Manley, Jason’s dad Jim, and long-time bike photographer Steve Behr to put together a retrospective on Jason’s short but incredible life on two wheels. It’s all in Cranked #22.