Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Just the other day, this blog was approached (along with several others, I suspect) by Chrome, maker of very nice bike related gear, to possibly try and then review their new line of shoes. I was flattered by the offer, as it means that we are enough of a presence as a blog to garner some attention out in the bike world (meaning, people read our blog!!!! Hurraaayyyyy!!!!). My initial response to the offer was "Sure! Why not?"

Before I could hit the respond button, I started to think about it. Chrome is a great company, and I would recommend their products without reservation. If I needed a messenger bag, I would seriously consider purchasing one of theirs. But is that the direction this blog should take? Should we be reviewing products targeted to the cycling community and does this impinge on our ability to get our message out- namely, that all it takes to ride a bike is a bike?

There are a lot of bloggers out there in the cyber world that review goods at the request of companies. We have all read those reviews and used them to make purchasing decisions. Some have reviewed things they have purchased or simply been given, which I think is different than solicited endorsements (which I am not sure I have a problem with, BTW). Thom, of The World Awheel and I have talked about the pros and cons of sponsorship and product endorsement. We both question whether or not one can be objective when money or goods are part of the deal. Then again, is there anything wrong with reaping the benefits of all of the work that goes into creating a blog and its content?

Like all things, it depends on perspective and intent. What is the intent of this endeavour titled "Change Your Life. Ride A Bike!"? When Meli and I first started this project, I was just about to be unemployed and was looking for something new. We talked about the possibility of this being a profitable venture, but how that took shape was something we were not able to describe. We agreed that our greatest desire would be to support local business if we were to delve into sponsorship or advertising, but we both felt that our primary goal was one of advocacy and story telling.

Meli's take on it is this-

Having things sent or offered is nice, however as the blogger or exposed to an audience that follows your thoughts and daily posts, you have the power to accept or decline, as you feel like so, if that is the whole purpose of your writing/posting.

Adrienne and I do this for fun, we are not paid, nor expect any stipends, free stuff or sponsorship at all, anytime. We do it for the bicycle advocacy, the impulse to change your life around and get out there to discover the benefits of riding the bicycle in your city. We are both visionaries and we practice daily what we preach. Over at Bikes and The City I have been sent numerous things and they have always been highly appreciated, primarily because they have been from other fellow bloggers. That aspect of connecting globally by exposing your local efforts to make the world better, in my opinion is powerful and priceless.

Now because I praise coffee and coffee shops all the time does that mean that I would expect getting free schmuck from them? Not at all. I do it because I love my coffee. I post about coffee because it is part of my life and I don't have any expectations from that. Now if I walk into a cafe and the barista recognized me, Adrienne or my peeps, and has nice things to say about bikes, the photos or how they have found inspiration from our daily sharing, then yes - now that to me is awesome & very cherished!

What do you think about sponsorship and advertising? Would it change how you view this blog? Do you think it would compromise our simple message? We would really like to know what you think about this!


  1. It depends on the review. Form, function, design and value.... but how does the product/service fit in with the ethos of your blog? Does it encourage participation or just aid the performance?
    I like what you guys do here. I am also old enough to read your words but still make my own interpretations. Review away!

  2. Kudos to you guys for having standards for your blog. I personally have never thought about situations like this. Honestly, having things sent to you for review would NOT make me think less of you or this blog. I feel you guys would give an honest review and you've obviously earned it.

    Ultimately, you're right. How can folks be objective if you are 'given' a product to review? I feel the same about magazines who do product reviews on items produced by companies that pay for advertising.

    In the end, I would be more willing to accept a review if the reviewer actually bought the product through retail or if the product were loaned to them to try (but not keep).

    I love your blog and please keep up the good work.

  3. Whilst I don't think a bit of sponsorship would overly change the passion behind the blog, I feel it is the personal nature of it that I find so endearing.

  4. i think you (Adrienne) summed up my thoughts on this rather succinctly when you wrote: "that all it takes to ride a bike is a bike."

    i like this blog because it shares something that not to many other bike bloggers talk about, which is what started them on a bike in a first place.

    i like the stories and advocacy voice that is present on this blog. and setting by example, such as meli stated, is the best form of advocacy available.

  5. I think you and Thom had it right from the beginning...

    "We both question whether or not one can be objective when money or goods are part of the deal."

    That being said, I will read your blog regardless.

  6. Funny, I was just thinking about this last night.

    I personally find it easier just to say no reviews or ads period than to try to decide on a case-by-case basis. That being said, I'm recently attracted to the work of independent artists and artisans working on bike things. I'd like to feature their work, but that still technically violates my policy. I'll think about it and let you know what I come up with.

    A related thought: I don't think that bicycling is about gear, despite what some very slick, nice-looking bike blogs would have you believe.

  7. I've been chewing this one over too in the past months. A lot of companies I like (MADSEN, xtracycle) have been getting a bit more into new media marketing strategies, and my unhealthy lust for shiny pretty bike things continues unchecked by our declining family fortune.

    Globe Bikes just put out a call for bloggers to receive one of their bikes in exchange for agreeing to blog generally about bikes in your life for 3 months, and after a lot of hemming and hawing I sheepishly submitted an entry. And was picked!

    I totally respect your decision to not allow sponsorship or product loans/gifts for review. But I've decided that I can live with myself as long as I'm transparent on the blog about the deal, and this "sponsorship". Some blogs would suffer more than mine, though. I've had a tendency to drool over gear a bit more than some, so drooling over free gear vs stuff I paid for when we were more flush seems like less of an contradiction to the spirit of my site.

    Am I still a bit nervous/ambivalent about taking "sponsorship" - yes. But I trust that my readers are media-savvy enough to sort out what online info is more or less tainted by such marketing strategies, especially when there is full disclosure. What bugs me is when it's not clear what the company/blogger relationship is on a site.

  8. Julian- I think you made a good choice. What makes that a great exchange is that there is an emphasis on how the bike fits in your life and how you use it, not just info about component groups and gear ratios. If Globe is savvy enough to realize that the way to market bikes is to show how they fit into regular life, then I am behind them 100%.

    Thom- I say go with the local artists and groups. They are what make a complex, local bike culture possible. That is a super cool thing to be a part of : )

    Everyone else- thanks for the input! We need it to know how best to reach the people out their in the world!

  9. Your blogs are very lovable and I guess that's because you like bicycling and the people you cycle with. So to keep that nice quality, how about this: If you really feel for a product, review it, and be upfront about how you got it.

    If you don't like it, maybe you shouldn't review it. Someone else might have bought the product and really like it, and a bad review might just make them feel dumb.

    From looking at the blogs, I get the impression that you are discerning about your gear, but you don't come across as gearheads. That might make for some interesting reviews =)

  10. We are certainly not gear heads : D Caffeine heads, most definitely! as to reviews... we may never receive a request for one.

  11. Dottie and I have been mulling this over. So far we've not reviewed anything by request, or taken any free samples other than a couple of ActionWipes. But we haven't ruled it out, especially if it's a product we think our readers would have a special interest in that we wouldn't have bought for ourselves. And of course we would disclose how we received anything we review. I have found product reviews on blogs I trust very useful and would definitely appreciate and enjoy yours. Yes, all you need is a bicycle -- but once you get into cycling you're going to be interested in the gear. :)