Here at the HTN not so secret HQ and around this little green isle we like the simpler things in life. Well we like Hardtail Mountain Bikes instead of Full sussers. Well mostly. You will also no doubt know for me there is something else I like and have I hope inspired you to like too. And so it would seem that in the depths of Bristol a man with a plan which flew in the face of modern ” Must have now” thinking by starting a new magazine. Not just that but he’s gone “All in” and it’s all in house from writing to printing. A bold move today as we see a decline in magazine sales. Not bad for a fellow who started up somewhat further north and for now is making the South West his home. Turns out he can ride a bike pretty well too and is all round top chap.
So after reviewing his first issue of Sender Magazine we had to ask…. Who are you?
1. Who are you?
Olly Forster. Just a regular guy with a penchant for graft, projects, and bicycles.
2. Where are you from?
Born and bred in the borders, but I’ve been migrating south since my late teens. I’m currently residing in Bristol, which is pretty rad for a city.
3. What do you do for a living?
I write about bikes and the people who make them, ride them and inspire others.
4. What is the best and/or worst thing about your job?
The best thing would be all the ‘free shit bro’! I’m kidding…that seems to have dried up of late ha-ha, but really, it’s being immersed in something I’m passionate about. I’ve worked in the bike biz for over 15-years and in that time I’ve met some truly amazing people, many of whom I feel lucky to call my friends.
The downsides seem to change from job to job and I guess I’m always searching for a way to find a good work/ life balance. So far, I’m not doing a very well at it, but it beats everything else I’ve ever done hands down. I’d say it’s the hours, but I’m my own worse enemy.
5. Where do you ride?
The Forest of Dean and South Wales – on trails I can’t talk about – the Black Mountains Cycles Centre and Revolution Bike Park are rad too. BikePark Wales is sick too! I need to start riding in the southwest more. I used to hit Triscombe loads when I first moved here but it’s hard when your riding buddies live on the wrong side of Bristol.
6. Who do you ride with?
I have a great crew of mates, old and new, many of whom I’ve ridden with since we were teens, but I’m increasingly riding on my own like ‘Billy no mates’ these days thanks to the hours. I quite like it, though, it gives me time to think, but when I pop out with the fast boys or an industry buddy, it takes me a run or two to snap into it and hit the gas.
7. What bikes are you running at present?
I’ve still got the bike I bought when I left MBUK; a 2015 Transition Patrol, which I love to bits and the first bike I’ve bought in years. Got my eyes on something else though… Honestly never had a bike for so long and I’m getting the itch, which isn’t helped by the likes of Scott, Transition, Santa Cruz and the rest. It’s going to be a good year for trail bikes next year! For bike parks and DH duties, I’m borrowing a Gambler from the guys at Scott, which is a ridiculous machine! Thanks Scott!!! I’ve had every iteration of the new Gambler platform over the years and love them. I’ve also got a Cannondale CX bike for razzing around Bristol and I’m going to buy a dirt jump bike as soon as my wife says so…unless anyone wants to let me borrow one?
8. When are you happiest?
At home – which we’ve almost finished renovating – with the computer turned off, relaxing with my wife and two cats, Tonka and Monty. I love to paint and get arty, and given half a chance, I’d just do that…
9. If you could have a Superpower, what would it be?
Something like Wolverine, but without the claws…I lost 10-weeks last year thanks to injuries and being able to heal quickly would be great. I’m old now and seem to bounce less…
10. Who do you admire?
My wife, Katherine – I have no idea how she puts up with my ‘projects’ and me. Thankfully the latest one seems to be working, though!
11. If you could meet anyone past or present, who would it be?
I’ve been lucky to meet my heroes in the bike world but I’d quite like to meet the author, Yuval Noah Harari – his books have really inspired me recently.
12. What tunes do you like?
All sorts man! I like to think I have an eclectic taste in music but I’ve always loved a bit of post-hardcore punk rock, stuff like Fugazi, Dag Nasty, Minor Threat, etc. I pretty much listen to any rock music, as long as it’s good, haha! Been listening to a lot of Pearl Jam and early Misfits (when Glen Danzig was still in the mix) recently in the van. And Mogwai…so good! Love that and anything more chilled and melodic when I’m in the office. I also like hip-hop, but mostly old stuff again.
13, Money no object what would be your ideal bike?
That’s a tough question! These days…maybe something with 160mm front, 140mm rear. Not too fussed about design or material, but something with good support. I hate ‘baggy’ bikes that make it hard to work the terrain. Good dampers of course. I always run SRAM drive and brakes. Probably have a Maxxis Shorty on the front and a nicely worn High Roller II on the back to rudder it round turns. Long, but not Chris Porter long and balanced. That’s the key! The rest of it, I can take it or leave it.
14. When did you last scare yourself?
That’s easy! Last week…a car hit me. The driver didn’t see me at first and by the time she did, she panicked, mistook the gas for the brakes, ploughed into me, and then a brick wall, which stopped the car in its tracks. I was pretty lucky to walk away from that one with just cuts, bruises and another bike I can’t ride.
15. What was the last thing that made you go, WTF?
Every day I get on the roads around Bristol, be it in the van or a bike. I’m not joking, people can’t drive here…I’m sticking to the trails!
16. What annoys you?
People who tell me they’re going to do something and they don’t for no other reason than they didn’t have the balls to say no.
17. Where would you like to go that you haven’t yet?
Whistler. I think I’m the only person I know who hasn’t…
18. What is your greatest memory?
Getting married in Italy.
19. Describe your perfect day?
Riding some sick trails of course! Err…a chilled start to the day. I’m not a morning person. Some good coffee – love coffee – then a solid few hours on the bike and back to Brizzle for some food in town with the wife. The food in this city is ridiculous!
20. You have a new project on the go in the form of Sender magazine, don’t you?
I sure do, it’s a new magazine that’s about as far removed as you can get from the rest. Sender is a quarterly publication, 100% print, owned and operated by Ridgeline Media Co Ltd which is owned my me and my wife, and very independent. The content is rich, the design – by Chris Jones (Dirt Mag, Hurley Burley, The Eskapee) and his wife Harriet is top-notch, the paper is thick and the ink’s organic. I work alongside a great sub-editor (Alex Turner) and have the creative powerhouse that is Adi Gilbert on the team too. It feels good, smells good and yeah, just a very considered piece of media. I hope…
21. What inspired the idea to bring a mag out in an age of instant gratification and digital?
The idea of a magazine was originally floated in 2013 by the then web developer at Factory Jackson (which I started in 2010), Andrew Revitt. He’d stumbled upon ‘The Reason’ – an independent snowboard mag that was the breath of fresh air I’d been looking for. That was the moment I guess. From there, I knew I wanted to make a high-end print title that looked and felt amazing. After that, The Albion stoked the fire further and it was ‘the dream’ to one day make an MTB mag that looked and felt like a sick board or BMX mag. I think timing was key and in 2013, I didn’t have a clue about how to actually do it and I’m not sure MTB was ready either.
Then, later in 2013, MBUK happened. At this point in my career, I’d had no training or experience working for a publisher or alongside other editors and I knew it would give me the necessary experience I’d need to progress in the industry. It did and so much more, but I don’t think it would have worked back then either and not just through a lack of knowledge. Running a digital content business helped and it certainly opened the door to working for a title like MBUK, but there was so much more to learn.
But a lot has changed since 2013 and the media landscape has shifted significantly. Traditional mag sales are in free-fall, web traffic is declining across the board and people are increasingly going to YouTube and Instagram instead of traditional digital titles for regular entertainment. When you’re consuming content on a phone, rather than a desktop or a laptop, the whole dynamic changes and where does that leave print? Sorry, what was the question?
22. Now, I have read a good part of issue one. There’s a hell of a lot in there. How did you pull that off?
Hard work, an understanding wife, a shit load of savings and a few years of doing exactly this – managing assets and getting the job done. Everything I’ve done in my life so far, from working in bike shops to project managing construction projects, launching web titles with no experience to being apart of the busiest bike mag in the UK and the largest website in the world, all played a part. Lauren Jenkins at Pinkbike called me a ‘content machine’ last year and maybe she was right. I’ve never struggled with ideas and avenues to explore, but I think that’s just because I fucking love this sport and Sender was the platform many of my ideas have been waiting for. They sure as hell didn’t belong in MBUK ha-ha!
23. How long has the Mag been in the works?
The idea was locked down at the end of last summer and the business plan finalised soon after. I knew in my gut that it would work, but we needed more. We did some market research and explored the viability of not only creating a one-off print product but a new title with a long-term plan. Thankfully Dirt did their bookazine thing and James McKnight set the bar when he released Hurley Burley towards the end of 2016 – seeing the reception of these and having some discussions with the industry gave us the push to pull the trigger in late January 2017.
24.You managed to bag some pretty high-end names from the start. How much did you get them on board?
I’ve been immersed in the MTB media game since 2010, which helped as I’ve collaborated with many of the big names already, but the honest truth is, I knew who’d be up for it from previous conversations over the years. Sender has been a long time coming. But more than that, everyone in the mag is there because they’ve inspired me and their story needed to be told.
25, I bet you were pretty nervous when it went to print?
Yeah, I was. But I’ve been involved in the production of so many magazines and projects over the years. It just felt natural. The nerves really kicked in when we launched, though. That was the moment when your work is released in front of an uncontrolled audience and it’s up to them to decide what they think.
26. Did you think, “What the hell am I doing at any point?
Of course, I think having doubts is only natural when you’re putting your heart and soul into a project.
27. So, what has the response been like?
Not sure what to say, but pretty fucking unreal. I was worried, probably for no reason as we’d done the research and we had the content and design down, but things like the size, the paper weight, using organic inks, etc. That was unknown territory for me. I was just stoked that people got it and are into what we’re doing.
28, Even the size seems to be cleverly thought out. What brought that about?
There’s a bit of a story there. I crashed my bike last autumn and ended up going to the hospital a few times to have casts fitted, removed and countless scans of all manner on my hand and wrist. This went on for weeks and during this time I was in the process of buying lots of specialist print mags of all descriptions, to get acquainted with what was out there. One mag, in particular – ‘Ernst’ – an outdoorsy mag, was this size and it was just so easy to carry and throw around. I liked how compact and robust it felt. Bigger than a zine, smaller than a regular mag and with the heavy ass paper stock we use would make for a very apt size for the subject matter and demographic – mountain bikers. We’re not the gentlest of people and I really wanted the mag to stand the test of time, both from a content perspective and a manufacturing one as well. The size also allows us to print DPS photos without cropping.
29, Will there be a 2nd issue?
Of course! Issue two is happening right now will be out in the second week of October and it’s going to be rad! It won’t be better than Issue 1, just the same but different. Oh, and it’ll be bigger too. We’re going from 7 to 8 features and increasing the page count by 16 and retaining the cover price. Loads of new writers, photographers – most of them you’ll know and some you won’t. It’s going to be packed! Issue 3 will be out in early February.
30. So what does the future hold for you and Sender mag?
More bikes, more adventures, and more cats. You can never have too many cats! As far as the mag goes, we’ll release one more this year and four issues next year. We’ll also be initiating our digital strategy next year, which I’ll add does not involve a website, and continue to collaborate with some truly inspiring people and companies who love pushing this sport in positive directions.
31. Any thanks or shout outs etc.?
My wife Katherine and my family! I have to say a big thank you to everyone in the bike industry who believed in this project from outset, but most of all, everyone who’s bought Sender. Thank you so much for the support, I really can’t put into words, which is unusual for me… Just gob smacked and humbled. The last few months have been the toughest in my career and perhaps my life, but reading how Sender has stoked people’s fires to ride, dig and create…That was always the plan. When I was 16 and picked up Issue 1 of Dirt, that was it for me and that’s what I want to do with Sender. It’s not about the latest bikes and gear; it’s about being in the woods, scratching a line in and sending it with your mates.