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If you love bikes (like myself and my fellow MCN reviewer yackers1) you'll no doubt buy bike magazines regularly. However, at an average of around £4.00 a pop this can become quite costly!
One way around this would be to buy Motorcycle News (also known as MCN) for around a third of the price of the average magazine. Clearly if you buy this every week the costs would be comparable but the difference between the magazines and MCN are quite prominent. I've listed a few major differences below:
> Current - MCN can report on very recent topics - for example, during TT week 2009 they wrote about events at the start of the week in their mid-week edition. This means bang up-to-date news on events, racing, developments etc;
> Sports - MCN has a broad and thorough focus on UK motorcycle sport and international events (motogp, WSB etc.). You will get coverage of world-stage and british motorcycle events in magazines but they won't be as comprehensive as MCN;
> Classifieds: MCN has a large pull-out classifiieds section each week with dozens of bikes for sale;
> Contributors: The writers for the main-stream magazines are very readable (especially Bike and TWO), but the sheer range of journalists and celebrities who write for MCN is staggering - everyone from Richard Hammond to Charley Boorman.
> MCN caters for a broad range of bikes and bikers and doesn't focus on sportsbikes too much.
To be honest I tend to mix an match because I like the classifieds and features in MCN but I also really like the stories and detailed buyers guides in the mainstream magazines.
As many of you are aware I am mad on bikes and biking. Whilst I would like to say I am a die hard enthusiast that lives and breathes bikes of all shapes, sizes and from all genres I admit that I am a bit more narrow minded than that. I vow by the "live and let live" and "each to their own", and appreciate that everyone is different, which is a good thing but my actual taste in bikes and "what makes me tick" is very narrow. I love sports bikes and naked street fighter style bikes, but dislike commuters, tourers and easy rider styles. I just find them dull.
There are loads of motorcycle publications on the market, aimed at all sorts of bikers, but these are printed on a monthly basis, which isn't frequent enough to cover news articles since the articles will be out of date before the publication is released.
The only frequent publication that is truly dedicated to the world of motorcycling is the Motor Cycle News ("MCN").
The MCN was founded by Cyril Quantrill and the first ever issue was printed in a one room office in Fleet Street London. The top story at that time was the exclusive story of Geoff Duke's ban from the world of motorcycle racing for supporting a rider's strike. 50 years later and the MCN is still going strong and is, arguably the most popular (and some may say best) motorcycle avialable.
The MCN website claims that "....half a billion papers have been sold and more than 1.5 billion readers entertained and informed over its 50-year history, MCN can lay claim to being the world's leading source of biking news...."
The MCN team have developed a formula that has worked for many years and it looks set to carry on for the next 50 years or more. In every single issue the content will include:
i) Road tests of new models
As previously mentioned the MCN covers all aspects of biking and there is no particular bias toward any type of bike. Consequently the bikes that are road tested is varied. One week there will be a thoroughbred sports bike and the next there will be a commuter. Regardless of what bike is tested the same "tests of competency" are applied to the model and every single bike road tested will receive the same amount of paper space, same amount of photographs and be written to the same high standars.
ii) General news about biking issues
The news will be diverse and include current affairs and advancements. Such things may include changes in legislation, changes in the bike test, stories about riders etc. As expected some things will be interesting and others will not and be given a quick glance over.
iii) Technical watch
These articles focus on specific areas of a bike, such as the brakes, the suspension etc. These articles are written by experts in the field and as such are quite hard reading. If oyu have a particualr interest in the topic (and can actually understand it) then great. If you are like me and not techincally competent enough then these articles are likely to be of little interest.
iv) New products section
As its name suggests this focuses on new products, such as gloves, helmets, boots etc. Personally I don't find it that useful since there aren't usually that many products I am interested in buying, and even if there is something the information is limited to the technical specifications (information that can be obtained from the manufacturers website) with no opinion whatsoever.
v) Articles by guest writers
As well as articles from the MCN employees on the company payroll the MCN will also consist of articles from freelance and guest writers. Some of the guest writers include professional freelance journalists, although most are from motorcylce racers, technical experts etc. I often wonder whether these individuals actually write the article or whether they just have an input with a 'proper' journalist actually putting the narrative toegther.
vi) Your letters
This is a double page spread dedicated to readers of the magazine. This section gives the readers an opportunity to air their views and tell their stories. This is a favourite part of mine since some of the stories are very funny (although unbelievable) and I love reading about people's opinions.
This section deals with all the sporting news. Many publications will focus on one particular aspect, such as superbikes. The MCN is more diverse than that and includes MotoGp, British Superbike, World Superbike, Moto corss, grass tracking, drag racing. Name a type of bike racing (in the UK) and it will be ocvered in this section.
viii) Bikes on the box
This section gives a round up of all biking programes that are to be aired from Thursday to the following Wednesday. I think this is an excellent section and very useful as well as making sure you never miss a race. Once again, the MCN will detail all types of bike racing and not focus on one or two particular aspects.
ix) Bike Mart
This is an insert (which is usually very thick) of bikes for sale. This insert includes both new and second hand bikes, as well as bikes from traders and bikes from private individuals. The best thing about the Bike Mart is the bikes are arranged in alphabetical order making it an absolute doddle for finding the bike you're after, for example there is nothing worse than wanting a Suzuki and having to trawl through adverts for Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Ducati, Moto Guzzi and hundreds of other makes looking for relevant bikes.
At the end of the day the MCN is nothing more than a weekly newspaper about motorcycles and all motorcycling related topics written by bikers for bikers. Whilst it is a good publication that covers new bikes, technical content, reviews of products, readers letters and opinions etc. the question of whether it is worth the £1.90 charged for it, and whether it represents good value for money has to be asked. So does it? This is a difficult question and whilst die hard MCN fans will undoubtedly say "yes" everytime I do not agree.
Since the MCN covers all aspects of biking, from sports bikes to tourers to street fighters to commuters it attempts to cater for all. With such a diversity it is not going ot be possible to keep all sorts of bikers happy all of the time, therefore some weeks will be more relevant to sports riders and other weeks will be more relevant for tourers. Because of this the actual content can vary so much from week to week that sometimes I will read it from cover to cover and sometimes I will only read the readers letters and the sports section (providing it is actually race season) and that is it. Some weeks the MCN definitely is worth the money and other weeks it is not.
Like most publications the MCN offer a discount if you prepay. Currently it is possible to have a year's subscription (that is delivered direct to your door) for a one off payment of £60, which means the cost of each edition is reduced to £1.15. A bargain maybe, but just remember some editions will be of more interest than others. In addition I find that when the racing season is over the MCN is considerably thinner, although winter testing and the like is often covered, but I don't really want to read about that.
Whilst I regularly buy the MCN I will spend a few minutes looking at the front page and contents to see if there is anything of interest. As motorcycle races aren't as regular as other sporting events, such as football matches, I will scour the sport pages to see if there is anything of interest in there. Only then will I decide to buy the issue. I would say that during race season I buy around 75% of issues although in the winter this decreases considerably and I will buy no more than 25% of issues. Because of my buying habits subscribing for a whole year would be of no benefit to me although it would be nice to have the editions I buy delivered through my door.
The MCN is neat, attractive and looks professional. There editors use a combination of photos and narrative, along with some catchy headlines, to get the messages across. There are many publications that contain too many pictures or too much narrative but the MCN doesn't do this. The mix of narrative and photos is just right and the editors do a great job.
I also find the MCN very easy to read. The text is in a columnar format, as you'd expect of any publication (other than books) and it is nicely spaced out. Whilst headlines and text accompanying the photos are in a different font and style the main stories are in a consistent and easy to read font and style of a nice size. Personally, I find publications where fonts, styles and text sizes change every other page a nightmare to read as there is just too much confusion. This is not a problem with the MCN.
Despite being a 'grown up and responsible' publication, by this I mean that there are no heroic stories of travelling at 3 figure speeds, no pictures of wheelies and burnouts or other dangerous stunts, no half naked women etc. (content you get in some bike ;glamour; magazines) the MCN has an inherent dislike for speed cameras and a certain Chief of Police Officer in Wales. I agree that speed cameras are not necessary in many places and that the government use them as a revenue making technique to top up the coffers but there are some places where speed cameras are definitely needed and traffic should be slowed down. I think the constant lobbying to get rid of all speed cameras is uneccessary and I, for one hope that nothing will come of MCN's campaign.
My major gripe about the MCN is the amount of advertisements contained within it. I appreciate that advertising is a fact of life and you will get it in every publication but there is just too much in the MCN. All of it is bike related, such as bikes, clothing, tools, insurance etc. but there is still too much. In addiiton there is advertising all through the publication and there is some kind of advert on almost every single page with some adverts taking up a whole page. I would much prefer it if all the advertising to be right at the back of the editions but this will never happen. If you remove the advertising, as well as the Bike Mart section, the thickness of the MCN would significantly decrease as the sheer volume of adverts pads the editions out and the editors would really struggle to get the £1.90 for each issue sold.
If the content is of interest then the MCN is a great publication and worth a purchase but I don't think it is worth £1.90 ever. If you remove the advertisements and Bike Mart section then there's not that much less, regardless of whether it is of interest or not.
Before subscribing I would highly recommend you look at how many issues you buy over the course of a year. If you have an overall interest at all aspects of biking then I would say "go for it and subscribe". After all there is a large saving to be made and it is delivered, meaning you will never miss an issue, even when on holiday etc.