Just Getting Started

Just Getting Started Freehub Celebrates 15 Years of Independent Publishing

March 2024 marks 15 years since we announced our signature, community-driven independent publishing model and launched headfirst into the realm of mountain bike media with a bimonthly online e-zine.

The brainchild of Michigan-native, Brandon Watts, Freehub made the jump to print with our Spring 2010 inaugural issue, a 212-page behemoth packed with rider profiles, Q&A sections, features, and destination showcases. In just three words— “We are you”—the first sentence of our first “Who We Are” column made clear just how closely we wanted the magazine to align itself with readers and supporters. So close, in fact, that there would be no discernible difference.

“In reality [that first sentence] was pretty literal—that first issue was completely community generated,” Brandon said. “There were a lot of stories by people in bike shops that I would just cold call, or bike advocacy groups that I would ask to write pieces.”

Stored in the back of the office is first issue of Freehub accompanied by news clippings from the early days of the magazine.
Freehub founder Brandon Watts soars down a trail at Big Sky in Montana.
Starting from a humble beginning of dirtbagging by the beach, Freehub has evolved to something much greater (and with a new, and improved logo, as well.)

As Freehub 1.1 took shape, Brandon’s own family rallied to help. His mom copyedited the issue and was listed on the masthead as “Senior Cit. Editor.” His uncle's business bought one of the first advertisements. Close friends gathered images and assisted in any way they could. Since that very first issue, our network of designers, writers, photographers, producers, and editors has only grown. In addition to a vast team of international contributors, Freehub Media now employs 10 full-time staff members who work to produce four print issues of Freehub a year, along with original, web-based content such as product reviews, feature films, and online articles.

In recent years, hosting fundraisers and giving back to trail advocacy organizations that provide the infrastructure for mountain biking’s growing popularity has become a newly energized mission for our small, Bellingham, Washington-based company. In 2022, we partnered with local mountain bike nonprofits and hosted more than 50 benefit film screenings across North America for our documentary “Biketown.” The events raised a total of more than $135,000—all of which went to local bike nonprofits in each respective region. Beyond film screenings, our continued work with One Percent for the Planet has netted $118,725 for vetted environmental partners, many of which are also mountain bike advocacy groups. Our staff sees these efforts as one aspect of the natural evolution of the company’s commitment to community within mountain biking. Striving for high-quality, fact-based storytelling that puts the emphasis on the people, culture, and relevant issues surrounding the sport is another pillar of this model. As print magazines continue to shutter, we’re finding a niche in delivering in-depth stories to a readership and audience that treat mountain biking with reverence and emphasize its meaning within their own lives.

“It is humbling to be surrounded by such an all-star team that continues to raise the bar in mountain bike media,” Brandon said, “With our latest issue, we mark the 15th anniversary of Freehub magazine, and it is undeniably the best piece of comprehensive journalism I’ve seen on Arkansas mountain biking to date. It’s honestly crazy to look back and see how far we’ve come since day one.”

As we plug away on production for another issue, we couldn’t be more proud of the past 15 years. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your support. We meant it when we wrote “We are you” in that very first edition of the magazine and now, a decade and a half later, those three words are still every bit as true.

So, with that, here’s to the next 15 years of Freehub… We’re just getting started.

Welcome to Issue 15.1

Northwest Arkansas’ trail expansion over the past decade is well documented. Much less so is the state’s mountain biking history, which long predates the modern boom of flow trails and easy-to-access singletrack hubs. To kick off our 15th anniversary of independent publishing, Freehub is proud to present the Arkansas Photo Book, a visual field guide and in-depth journal that digs through the rolling Ozark and Ouachita ranges to unearth the Natural State’s storied fat-tire past. Each page adds another layer in understanding how Arkansas grew to become such a notable destination for mountain bikers. From the rocky slopes of Mount Nebo to the twisting labyrinths of Bentonville and Fayetteville, standout trails are outlined in tandem with influential community members working tirelessly to firmly stamp Arkansas as a model for how to build a buzzing bike culture. Grab a copy of 15.1 and plan your own adventure.