TRF:Hi Jon. What have you been up to this week? Is the life of a motorcycle journalist packed with test rides, free gear and hanging out with the good and great of the motorcycle world?
Jon:Well, yes it is, if I'm honest. This week started with the Yamaha WR450F launch in Almeria, Southern Spain. That test ride was 10-hours and over 200km including plenty of rocks and dried-up gravel beds and all the while chasing a certain rapid Dakar racer called Franz Verhoeven (he's a top privateer who races Yamahas, naturally) – so they made us work for our money. The report for that was something of a ten-hour marathon as well as RUST wanted to be first to publish. I needed to be quick too as I had to clear my decks before two back-to-back classic bike tests mid-week. The second was another marathon effort as it was over 300 miles away, so that turned into a 19-hour working day. So tail end of the week, I've got to prepare both those features asap to meet the Christmas print deadline for Practical Sportsbikes. As usual, even in a week where I do a lot of riding I'm doing ten times the amount of time riding in writing, travel and admin.
Jon test rides the new Yamaha WR450F for Rust
TRF:You are a long time supporter and member of the TRF. Is this for work purposes or something that you have a genuine interest in? Do you have a trail riding background?
Jon:To say I'm a long time follower would be more truthful, membership only came in 2014. My background is rooted in road racing, my father was one and although I'd fully intended to ride enduro as an adult, a chance ride at Brands Hatch at a race school got me hooked (my brother-in-law had been given a place as a birthday gift, so I was just company for the day) and actually I road raced again this year, it's still not out of my system.
Christian, Jon and John looking relieved to have made it coast to coast in one piece
TRF:Has journalism, and in particular motorcycle journalism, been a life long career? I think many of our members would jump at the chance of being paid to ride bikes and write about it. How did you end up doing what you do?
Jon:There's a family photo of of me sat on my dad's Domiracer at Brands Hatch. I'm less than a year old, still in nappies, so I guess I've been immersed in motorcycles from birth (I'm one of four children). So I had a paddock bike, then a BSA Bantam field bike, and then at ten I tried schoolboy motocross on a Suzuki 100, proper Roger De Coster style. I was rubbish though and after one or two particularly disturbing crashes my mother retired me before I did any lasting damage. My father was still road racing so we lived bikes every hour of every day, but I came back to bikes myself much later, probably age 15 or 16 with a Kawasaki and then a Fantic trials bike. Trials was brilliant and the best preparation I could have had for my adult riding life, be that road racing or trail riding.
It wasn't always dirt bikes in the early yearsAfter three years of that I went back to university and studied journalism so I could do the job properly, and became Kiwi Rider's editor. Like a fool I came back to the UK in 2003 to launch a magazine called MotoX and have been full-time a journo here since then.
TRF:Last year, many trail riders were saddened to see TBM (Trail Bike Magazine) leave news stands as the magazine folded. It had been one of the very few publications that really catered for our pastime. So, it was with a pleasant surprise that we logged onto Facebook a few months ago to see TBM's successor, RUST launch out of blue. What happened?
Jon:Warren Malschinger happened. He bought the physical and intellectual properties of TBM, put Si Melber back in the editorial chair and re-assembled the team. Warren's background is in international property and finance, but he's a former motocrosser now a trail rider, so has the financial capability and the inspiration to get the show back on the road.
Jon gets his hands on the new Honda Africa Twin
TRF:RUST is clearly a different proposition, with no print run, shorter content but more regular issues. What can readers expect?
The end of an era...
...and the start of anotherIt's still early days for RUST and the full roll-out of the new format has yet to happen, it'll soon be a lot more dynamic by way of embedded videos, hyperlinks and such, plus a much bigger website with archives and more. It's USP, which isn't that U, is that it's shorter – although still a long-read in terms of article length – and more frequent. The reasoning being if you give a reader a publication on their tablet they're done, had enough after 20 page turns, no matter how enthralling the publication. Any more than 20 pages and you're wasting content. So best leave them wanting more (hopefully) and don't leave it so long between servings.
TRF:How do you think RUST as a magazine and company can play a part in strengthening the conservation of Green Roads?
Jon:That's a tough question. I think, just as in mainstream media, the job of the journalist is to be there reporting on situations, attempting to give an impartial and objective overview on what's happening, that and insightful well-researched in-depth investigations.