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Writing The Next Chapter For AMA Communications

American Motorcyclist Returns To Single-Issue Format

Photo by Open Image Studios

I bought a motorcycle this summer. For regular readers of this column, that statement likely will not warrant even a raised eyebrow. For me, however, it was a big deal, a significant moment in my two-wheel life.

See, this is my first brand-new street bike in 33 years.

Full disclosure, for 29 of those 33 years, I was an editor at Cycle World, once the world’s largest-circulation motorcycle magazine, where road tests and multibike shootouts were the backbone of a monthly print package.

As a member of that staff, a sizeable chunk of whose job it was to ride and then rate other people’s motorcycles, I had daily access to dozens of late-model machines. This, at a time when the industry was rocketing from strength to strength, ultimately peaking in 2007 at more than 1 million units sold annually.

Actually, “dozens” doesn’t tell the full story. One day, on a whim, I walked across the parking lot from our Newport Beach, Calif., editorial offices to the corrugated metal building that housed the test bikes. I counted all the gleaming, fully gassed motorcycles. Sixty-seven.

As former CW editor Allan Girdler was fond of saying, “No kidding.”

For 20 years, I was responsible for CW’s long-term test fleet. I rolled up thousands of miles annually on the street and race track and, occasionally, off-road, aboard the latest, and, arguably, the greatest motorcycles available in this country during that remarkable period of two-wheel history.

So, when I phoned a sales representative at the local Columbus Honda dealer to purchase a new-in-crate 2017 VFR1200X—mine is serial number 0080, a daily reminder of the competition number that AMA Hall of Famer Kenny Roberts carried during his early racing days—I didn’t inquire about a test ride.

I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, precisely what I was buying—a well-rounded, impeccably finished, liter-class motorcycle that is relatively inexpensive to license, insure and maintain, with available heated hand grips, a center stand and hard luggage. Plus, the big V-four goes like stink.

Wait, Columbus? As in, Ohio?

How did I get here? Well, I left my home state of Indiana for Southern California in 1990, and I didn’t look back, intent on a career in motorcycle journalism. And that is the life I led, in spades. But in February, like tens of thousands of other people this year, I was laid off.

In April, when AMA COO James Holter extended an offer to lead the Association’s communications team, I immediately agreed. My wife, Robin, and I sold the beach bungalow in which we raised our daughter and made a beeline for the Buckeye State.

American Motorcyclist, the AMA’s monthly print publication, is one of my responsibilities. For the past five months, Managing Editor Jim Witters and I have labored to refine the editorial package. We’ve brought on several new contributors—talented photographers Michael Lichter and Andrew Wheeler and veteran journalist John L. Stein feature prominently in this issue—and Creative Services Director Mark Lapid and Senior Designer Dustin Goebel have dramatically improved the look of the book.

Beginning with the November issue, we are taking another important step. Now, American Motorcyclist will be printed as a single version, rather than as separate “Street and Recreation” and “Competition and Off-Road” editions.

In the past, when AMA members accessed to purchase or renew a qualifying membership, they were encouraged to select an editorial theme that reflected their motorcycling interests.

Due to the changing business climate and other factors, communicating with members through a single version of the magazine, as the AMA has done for much of its history, makes the most sense.

The benefits are twofold: increased space, helping to provide a more balanced and cohesive editorial package; and reduced printing costs. While it was actually cheaper to print two smaller versions of the magazine when the decision to go to two versions was made, that is no longer the case. In other words, producing one version of the magazine with more pages, due to the shifting economics of printing and paper, now will cost less than creating two versions with fewer pages each.

In addition to the printed magazine, a digital version of each issue, including recent back issues, remains available online in the “Members Only” section of

Members who have paid an extra $10 to receive both versions of the magazine will have an option to get a prorated refund or to donate the balance of their subscriptions to the AMA.

Please call AMA Member Services at (800) 262-5646 or email [email protected] for questions about current subscriptions.

And if you want to reach me, my email is [email protected] I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going for a ride on my new motorcycle.

Matthew Miles is the AMA Director of Communications.