You are here

Just Getting Started: Freehub Celebrates 15 Years of Independent Publishing

Published March 29, 2024

BRAIN does not edit, endorse, or fact check these press releases. They are posted as a service to our readers and supporters. Contact us to submit a press release or if you find a posting objectionable.

March 2024 marks 15 years since Freehub announced its 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 its 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 the title's first "Who We Are" column made clear just how closely the magazine aimed 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," Watts 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."

As Freehub 1.1 took shape, Watts' own family rallied to help him. 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, the company's 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 the small, Bellingham, Washington-based company. In 2022, Freehub Media partnered with local mountain bike nonprofits and hosted more than 50 benefit film screenings across North America for its 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, Freehub Media's 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.

Watts sees these efforts as one aspect of the natural evolution of his 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, Freehub is 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," Watts 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."

Join the Conversation