Celebrating one year of all of us

Will you look at us, still employed!

Here we are. We did it. Happy birthday to us, happy birthday to you!

We launched this website one year ago today. It was the final plunge, no turning back. Unless we ran out of money (which we haven’t).

There’s a lot to be proud of from the last year. The things we wrote and recorded are near the top of the list, of course. But behind all that work is a group of people who, a year and a half ago, were inches away from never working together again, and possibly leaving cycling media altogether. That would have been a damn shame – they are gems, all of them – and building something that kept so many good people in this industry, making the stuff that you love to read and listen to, is perhaps our greatest and most human achievement. Content is just content, at the end of the day; fifteen people making a living doing what they love is something to be truly proud of.

This is a birthday for you all, too. There have been 37,891 comments on Escape Collective in the last 12 months. That’s over 100 per day. The numbers are even higher on Discord. You’re all doing your part in making this a fun place to hang out, too.

We had a short all-staff meeting on Thursday, the day before this post is going up. Jonny Long proposed an idea for this one-year anniversary piece: We should focus it on the people behind the stories, he said. So all the staff were asked to jot down what they would be doing right now if not for Escape. The reality of cycling media today is that most of us probably would have had to do other things. Where would we go?

Everyone had the same prompt, but the answers are all over the place. I like that you can pick out people’s approach both to their jobs and the world in general in these little blurbs. Some more serious, some lighthearted, all with a unique voice. Ah, the tapestry of life, and of Escape Collective. The whole thing is quite self-indulgent, but if we can’t be self-indulgent on our birthday, when can we be?

Me? I joked with my wife last winter that I’d be a mailman. I think I’d enjoy it, walking around outside and all. Chatting with folks. The pension is good too. And after the last few months at The Old Place, I needed a really long walk.

Without further ado, a few of us offered thoughts on our professions in an EC-free world:

Iain Treloar

The scene slowly fades in from black on a crowded, cluttered home office. Piles of manila folders teeter on the desk. A fedora with a ‘PRESS’ card tucked into the brim balances on the edge of a dusty computer monitor. A cork pinboard on the wall has pictures of dictators, oligarchs, Babymakers and scam artists, a clumsy lattice of red thread connecting them.

A grizzled man of indeterminate age sits slumped on the floor, his moustache drooping sadly. He looks up as a child enters the room. “What are all these about?,” the child asks, hesitatingly, gesturing at the walls. “Did you used to write about these things?” The man stares wistfully into the middle distance. “There hasn’t been a writer in these parts for nigh on a year,” he mumbles.

With a groan he rises, pulls a marinara-spattered Subway polo shirt over his head, wraps an apron around his waist, kisses the child on its confused head and sweeps enigmatically out of the room; the only trace that he was ever there is the pungent aroma of ranch dressing and heavily-processed dough. For the next eight hours he dreams of bikes and outlines of stories he’ll never write. His hands absently serve mediocre meals, six inches at a time, the joyless constructions of a dejected drone of the fast food industry.

Joe Lindsey

With the impending wholesale implosion of media as we know it, I purchase licenses for ChatGPT, Sora, and a Discovery+ account. I download my conscious into the Metaverse (Snow Crash version) and fuse it with a decommissioned Cray XK6 purchased with the last of my dwindling savings. The result is a cycling-content singularity so awe-inspiring that Elon Musk and Sam Altman instantly atomize in envy, but not before signing over their fortunes and companies to me. SpaceX is handed wholesale to NASA. Tesla’s FSD and Autopilot divisions are fired into the sun and the rest pivoted to energy storage, and the Boring Company is repurposed to build actual transit, not cars-in-tunnels. OpenAI is turned back into a non-profit. With the meager leftovers after disbursing Musk and Altman’s treasure chests, I purchase a hardtail with cable-actuated shifting and disappear into the woods. In later years visitors to these same trails say they sometimes hear a whisper on the wind, the sound of someone saying, “escape.”

Or I’d probably still be freelancing. But given the struggles in media, that would likely have become an increasingly perilous prospect. So I might’ve looked for full-time work, outside of journalism: a marketing or communications job where my skills transfer well, and likely outside of cycling as well. Would that be terrible? No. But I am glad I am where I am.

Matt de Neef

When Escape began, I was lucky enough to be involved from the outset, but it’s easy to imagine a world where that wasn’t the case. Or a world where Escape never existed. After being made redundant at CyclingTips in November 2022, I spent a few months working on my own projects – mainly music, with a bit of fiction writing on the side. Had Escape not sprung up from the ashes of a by-then-doomed CT, I probably would have spent a few more months on my own projects as a sense of dread and unease started to build within me. My days of funemployment would have come to an end – I would have needed to actually get a job. Perhaps the freelancer route would have been an option – I had a few opportunities I could have pursued had Escape not come along. More likely though, I think I might have taken the chance to leave cycling all together. Not that I’ve fallen out of love with the sport, but full-time jobs are hard to find and doing a bunch of little bits and pieces has limited appeal. Perhaps I would have gone back to the academic sector, helping to teach emerging journalists, or working in university PR – both of which I’ve done in the past. Perhaps that’s a world I’ll get involved in again someday. For now though, I couldn’t be happier that there’s a place for me here at Escape and that I get to keep creating (and helping others to create) great content for what is an amazing community of members.

Andy van Bergen

Until recently, my weekdays started with me farewelling my kids as I swung a leg over my bike and started my commute, arriving back well after they were home from school the same way. Asked what I do for work, my kids have previously answered “Dad rides a bike.” In the scenario that we didn’t make it to EC’s first birthday, initially, I’d probably want to spend a bit more time on the bike (you know, between looking for more work..!), so in my kids’ eyes even though I’d be a temporarily-out-of-work-cycling-drifter nothing would have changed.

Abby Skujina Mickey

I’m not going to lie, if Escape Collective wasn’t around I would still be making Wheel Talk with the voices of Gracie Elvin and Loren Rowney. The three of us are friends first, as anyone who listens to the podcast can probably hear, and there’s no way we could quit talking about women’s cycling. We might not be able to get Matt de Neef on the podcast, he would be too busy molding the minds of the next generation. A hobby is also a lot harder to keep on track than a job, so the podcast frequency would be comparable to the Album Files. My TBR (to be read) pile would be a lot smaller, and I probably would have caved and taken up sewing to pass the time or joined a local ceramics studio, but it wouldn’t all be fun and games. I would be missing the rest of the Escape Collective team as well as all the lovely people I get to chat with daily on the Wheel Talk Discord channel. And I would be down a heck of a lot of movie/TV/book/music recommendations! The real bummer is I would have missed covering my first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, a lifetime highlight.

Ronan Mc Laughlin

Washing ducks. Good money in washing the ducks. :duck:

Wade Wallace

When I was set into motion to destroy everything we had built at CyclingTips, I resigned and vowed never to do this again. It was a dark period for me. But as I watched CT collapse person by person, the irrational idea of Escape Collective was born.

If we didn’t achieve the support we needed to launch Escape Collective, I’m quite certain I would have had no other option but to go back into the Tech industry. But after seeing how fulfilling a career could be, it makes my guts churn to think about returning to a corporate job where all I would think about is riding my bike and retirement.

If I’m honest, it didn’t enter my mind that it wouldn’t succeed. I had no safety net. There was no option to fail. Nor was it a leap of faith. I would have shut down the idea long ago if the numbers didn’t stack up. I was confident in the team who were a part of Escape Collective, and the members who would eventually support the project.

Thank you for not sending me back into the Tech industry.

Jase de Puit

If I wasn’t working for Escape I imagine I’d be spending my time as a bored barista, pulling endless coffee shots and frothing fronds to oblivion on the daily.

Occasionally my thoughts would turn to my “other life” – years of working in service and project roles in the IT industry. Now ostracized and evicted from the tech-scene in Melbourne after corporate life became all too much and I finally told everyone I worked with exactly how it made me feel.

Desperate to find more time to ride my bike in daylight hours I took the most cycling-adjacent job I could find. Latte anyone?

Kit Nicholson

Presumably particularly jaded by the digital workspace having waved goodbye to online media, I imagine I’d be making pour-overs and flat whites in one of north Edinburgh’s Scandi-Scot cafés and writing a novel (by hand) in work breaks and whisky bars. Then on my newly regained weekends I’d be riding the many tracks of Gravelfoyle, and bagging Munros with my dog and a select group of woolly jumper-wearing pals. Or maybe I’d be working on another degree.

Dane Cash

If Escape had fizzled into oblivion, that might have been it for my cycling journalism career. I think I would have had to take my talents to another industry entirely, and as some readers might know, history is a true passion of mine. Unfortunately, it might be a bit late in the game for me to go back to school for any formal graduate education, so I might have to find something in the field with lower barriers to entry than academia. I’ve never used a metal detector, let alone owned one, but surely I could make a career out of scouring fields for ancient coins and artifacts? With the right mounts I could probably outfit a gravel bike to carry my tools from one buried treasure hoard to another, which doesn’t sound half bad now that I think about it.

Jonny Long

In contrast to the above intro, claiming I had eloquently suggested focusing on the editorial staff behind the stories, I believe what I actually said was: “Why don’t we write about what we all would have done if this whole thing had gone to shit?”

It would have been immensely sad, obviously. Would I have managed to assimilate into soul-crushing shift work at odd hours for a big newspaper or mainstream media company? Probably. Maybe some iteration of Spin Cycle would have been created on the side as I refuse to give up on the dream, waking up early to fill out the TV Guide twice-weekly. I would load up the Discovery+ schedule and try and engage my brain to convert the timings through the various time zones. A single tear rolls down my cheek. I miss my bicycle friends.

This would have been the cowards way out. If I’d managed to avoid selling my big boy pants at a car boot sale in order to buy food, I like to think I would have done a complete 180 and got a real job, learned a proper trade. Is being a carpenter or handyman fun? Is it easy to learn? What about becoming a locksmith but charging half the exorbitant fees that the others do when you’ve lost your keys and it’s 11pm. Maybe I’d move to the woods, get well into chakras and mushrooms, only returning to the city once the UK is so bankrupt it legalises marijuana and I position myself as the acceptable, still-youthful face of drug dealing to suburban middle-class mums … ? I don’t know. Thank the sweet lord baby Jesus that this Escape Collective plan is working out so far …

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