Contributions from CTC members are an essential part of Cycle magazine.
Everything you send to the magazine will be read by the editor. But due to the volume of material received, not everything that’s sent will be published, and you may have to wait a couple of weeks before getting a reply.
Ways to contribute
All letters and emails to the editor are assumed to be for publication, unless you state otherwise. They should include your full name, address and membership number. We reserve the right to edit letters for reasons of space, clarity or libel. All letters are read and acknowledged, but we can’t guarantee that yours will be published, or that you’ll get a personal reply.
By ‘acknowledge’ we mean that you’ll receive a brief letter or postcard confirming receipt of your letter - or an email if you wrote via email. Please note that the editor is unable to enter into detailed correspondence about the subject of your letter.
You can use the letters pages to comment on any cycling topic, but if you have a specific complaint or query about CTC policy that you want answering, you should address it to the relevant councillor or HQ officer; the editor can only provide an opinion and a platform for debate.
Some general rules for letter content:
- Try to be concise. Well written shorter letters are more likely to be printed than longer ones. Letters longer than 150 words long are rarely printed unedited.
- If you’re expressing likes or dislikes about the magazine, try to be specific.
- Try to be either timely (the letter relates to a letter or article in the previous issue) or timeless (the letter is about cycling, not the content of an earlier magazine).
- Don’t send poetry.
For each issue, the editor selects a representative cross-section of letters and emails for the letters pages. Many more letters are received than are published, but if a lot arrive on one subject, some of them will see print.
As with letters, we are only able to feature a sample of the queries that we receive. We cannot guarantee to answer queries that do not appear in the magazine. However, if you are a member you can contact CTC's Senior Technical Officer Chris Juden directly.
At least two Travellers’ Tales appear every issue and they are always written by CTC members. A Traveller’s Tale article should be about 300 words long and must be accompanied by one or more relevant pictures. No payment is made for those that are printed.
Travellers’ Tales are never commissioned. If you’ve got a good idea for one, there’s no need to phone or enquire by post. Just get writing. We print the best of those we receive. Those that aren’t used initially are kept on file for possible future use. If you specifically request that your Travellers’ Tales submission be returned, it will be – subject to the inclusion of a stamped SAE.
Travellers’ Tales can be about any trip by bike, and could cover the whole trip or just short episode in a particular trip. If it entertains or inspires other CTC members, anything goes.
From a practical point of view, an article that is the right length and has a good picture to go with it stands a better chance of being published than one that lacks these things.
The most important element, however, is a spark of interest, originality or personality. And all of those things come from the writing. The best advice here is: try to write it like you’d speak it. This isn’t meant literally (we don’t want the article punctuated with ums and ahs!). But we do want your ‘voice’. You’re not writing an essay or a policeman’s report, so you don’t need to ‘put your writing head on’.
Try this instead: imagine you’re describing the events to a friend in a cafe or pub. What do you start with? Do you begin by telling your friend how you planned your trip, or do you leap straight in with the edited highlights?
Good journalism is just one person speaking to another by a different medium.
Each issue we aim to print every obituary that we receive, although sometimes obituaries are carried over to the next available issue. Space is limited, and as a result obituaries may be heavily edited. Aim to write 100 words or fewer. This should ensure that the obituary is printed sooner rather than later, and it will certainly mean that it is edited less heavily (or not edited at all). That way the printed obituary will better reflect what you consider to be the more important aspect of the deceased’s life, and not what the editor assumes are the most important things.
Cycle welcomes product reviews from CTC members. We’ll generally offer some kind of free gift for all those that we print – keep an eye on the ‘Gear up’ pages for details.
To submit a review, you’ll need to send 150 words and a picture. That’s not many words, so don’t waste them. What should this product do, and what does it do? How does it compare to other such products? Is it well made? Expensive? Well thought-out? Fragile? Good value? Give us these answers – and more – concisely and informatively. Ideally, you will have used the product over a period of months, and will have experience of one or more similar products. Don’t forget that there will be a picture too, and that will do some of your describing for you.
Cycle does not use numerical ratings, but you can and should use the final sentence of your review to draw some kind of conclusion. Be sure to review items that you’re interested in and have something to say about. Make sure you give the product its correct name and its retail price, and do check that it’s currently available. We don’t review obsolete products.
Articles in Cycle are written by a variety of people: cycling journalists; specialists in a particular field (such as health, for example); CTC staff members; and CTC members like you.
If you’re knowledgeable about a particular subject, you can write about that. Otherwise, the most obvious avenue is to submit a tour report. Most tour reports from members are rejected. That’s not because we don’t want you to write, but because competition is fierce. If you write well enough and you’re persistent enough, you will get published – and even be paid for doing so.
Touring articles in Cycle are usually around 1200-2400 words long and we will need print-quality pictures as well. If you’ve had work published elsewhere, it’s enough to send samples of your published work along with a short précis of the article you propose to write. The editor will decide whether or not to commission you to write your article on that basis.
If you haven’t had work published elsewhere, you will need to write your article ‘on spec’ and hope for the best. Take a look at the touring articles that are printed in Cycle. Re-read them. They represent that kind of work the editor is looking for.
Remember that your aim as a writer is not to write what you want to write about, but to write what other CTC members want to read about. Many tour reports fall at this first fence.
The comments in Travellers’ Tales (above) about writing apply to articles too. Here are some additional points to note:
- If the story does not interest you, it will not interest the reader. Always make it interesting.
- Grab the reader from the opening paragraph. Long, involved, or just plain dreary opening paragraphs dissuade readers from reading your article.
- If you wouldn’t say it, don’t write it. Be conversational, but be correct.
- Long sentences and long paragraphs confuse the reader. Avoid.
- Avoid using a long word if a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut out a word, then do so.
- Don’t over-write. Keep to the required word-count.
- And don't pad. Padding reads like padding.
- Do not be afraid to go into detail if you need to do so.
- Do not use the passive if you can use the active (eg ‘X opened the door’, not ‘The door was opened by X.’)
- Be wary of sounding stuffy, pompous or arrogant – it will offend the reader.
- Avoid slang or clichés (unless you’re giving a direct quote).
- Use specific, concrete words not general, abstract ones (tea break, not ‘interval for refreshments’).
- Don’t tell us what you had to eat on tour unless it’s relevant or interesting.
- Do not use foreign words (American, Latin, etc) unless in a direct quote or product name.
- Try to eliminate jargon. Always go for colloquial English.
- Take pride in accuracy. Never guess, particularly where names, phone numbers or prices are concerned. If in doubt, don't just leave it out – find out.
- A final note: sometimes even really good articles are rejected through no fault of the writer. Whether it’s fate or synchronicity, it often seems to happen that two articles about, say, Iceland will turn up one after the other. While it’s possible we’d print a combined article, it’s unlikely that two articles on basically the same tour will appear one after the other.
Charity rides: a special note
‘Are you interested in my 1,000 mile charity ride?’ Probably not. Let's qualify that - essentially, the fact that the ride is for a charity is neither here nor there. That doesn’t mean that charity rides never appear in the magazine, only that they’re judged on their merits as an article and not on their charitable worthiness.
- CTC members go on cycle tours for pleasure. Enjoyment is the raison d’être. Sponsorship as a prime reason to do a ride (as opposed to a useful extra element to a ride you’d want to do anyway) is to some extent anathema to the cycle touring mindset. To a keen cyclist, ‘sponsored ride’ sounds like ‘sponsored sunbathe’.
- CTC, and the Cyclists' Defence Fund that CTC supports, are both charities - so other charities aren’t much promoted in articles in the magazine.
- You need some thread to hold the article together apart from the charity aspect. A good article that mentions the charity in passing and ends with a web link to it is fine. An article that focuses on the charity and all the good work it’s doing is not: that’s an article for the charity itself and its media, and not for Cycle.
Sending pictures to Cycle
You don’t need to be a photography expert or have a fancy camera to submit pictures to Cycle.
The pictures should be relatively sharp, of course, and a good proportion of them should have one or more cyclists in shot. A bike leaning against a fence is a poor substitute. If there are no other cyclists, the only solution is to get at least some pictures with you in them. This is easy (but time consuming, since you'll end up with several pictures where you're not quite in shot!) using a digital camera's timer function (which even compact cameras have these days) and a cheap tripod like this: http://joby.com/gorillapod/original/ . You can wrap it around trees and fence posts etc. to set up shots.
If you’re taking a landscape shot, it often helps to have a cyclist in the foreground even if the cyclist is not the main subject of the photo. Tiny cyclists in the distance rarely add much to a picture (unless the picture is excellent in itself), and with a fixed-focus camera you don’t need to be that far away for your subjects to look tiny. With a fixed focus camera, get in close so that the subject fills a good proportion of the frame.
For touring photos, take shots that include local details to avoid that ‘could have been anywhere’ look. And look out for opportunities to get an unusual, dramatic perspective.
You can often get interesting pictures by changing the point-of-view of the photograph. Lie on the floor. Kneel down by the verge. Get up on that bridge.
If you’re using a digital camera, the main is point to note is that we print at 300 dots per inch, whereas a picture will look fine on your computer screen at just 72 dots per inch. A ‘dot’ is the same as a ‘pixel’.
To work out how large we can use one of your digital pictures, all you need to do is divide the number of pixels by 300. That’s the size we can use it at in inches. So if your picture is only 600 pixels wide, we can only print it two inches wide. Conversely, a full page A4 picture would need to be approximately 3600 pixels high by 2500 wide!
As noted above, we can open most image formats. The default image format is ‘jpeg’ or .jpg. Now that high-resolution cameras are the norm, jpegs can be used for print purposes. For while the jpeg format is ‘lossy’, when you start off with a sufficiently high resolution image it doesn’t matter if there’s some compression of the image. That being the case, jpegs are best saved at ‘maximum resolution’ if you’re supplying them to Cycle.
If you’re sending image files on CD or DVD, or you’re using an image-sending facility such as https://www.yousendit.com/ , you can send as many images as you like at whatever size. You can also set up a free image gallery for your pictures at flickr.com, where they can be downloaded.
If you’re sending images by email, you’ll run into problems if you send large files. Problem one: any single email that is bigger than 10Mb will not reach the editor. Problem two: a succession of large emails may fill up the editor’s email inbox, which will make subsequent emails ‘bounce’ back to the sender.
If you’ve been asked to send high-resolution images by the editor, and if email is the only practical way you can send them, send them through one image at a time, on a succession of emails. If you haven’t, it’s best to send through a selection of small, low-resolution images by email instead. The editor can then see what’s available and request high-resolution versions of any images, if they’re needed.
If you’re using a conventional camera, slide film is better than print film. We can use the picture larger without it becoming grainy.
If you do use print film, get the photos printed out larger to begin with: 8 x 6 inches, for example, rather than 5 x 3. Even then, we may need to scan from your negatives if we plan on using the picture large in the magazine.
Do I want the editor?
The editor can only deal with correspondence that relates directly to the content of magazine – articles, and so forth. Other queries are handled by someone else.
- Missing magazines? Contact Membership. Tel: 0870 873 0061. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 
- CTC policy or complaints? Contact: The Chief Executive, CTC, Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, GU2 9JX.
- CTC member group activities? Contact Julie Rand, Events & Local Groups Coordinator, CTC, CTC, Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, GU2 9JX. Email: email@example.com 
- CTC website? Contact Ian Taylor, CTC, Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, GU2 9JX. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 
- Letters to the magazine? These are passed onto the editor but should be sent to: Cycle Letters, CTC, Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, GU2 9JX. Email: email@example.com 
See the Contacts page of the magazine for other details. It’s near the back of each issue.
Please note the address for magazine contributions:
PO Box 313
email: firstname.lastname@example.org 
As the top-line of the address, above Cycle Magazine, please use something that tells the editor what it is, eg, Travellers’ Tales, Cycling Answers etc.
Contributions sent to National Office will reach the editor, but will take more time to do so, incurring further postage costs along the way.
Post or email?
If you’re sending a contribution in the post, it should be typed or word-processed. Letters, Cycling Answers or other short items such as Travellers’ Tales or product reviews are an exception and may be hand-written. Illegible letters are rare but do turn up; they aren’t used.
If you send something in the post that you want returning, include a stamped SAE. Pictures, in particular, are sometimes damaged or lost in transit so never send originals unless you have been expressly asked to do so by the editor. It’s safer to send duplicates. (In the event that you do send original pictures it is prudent to send them Special Delivery, which will cost from £4.)
If you’re sending an email, please note that you will probably not get an instant reply. The editor files all emails and responds to them – sometimes promptly, often not – in date order. Because of this, please ensure that your computer is showing the correct date. Wrongly dated emails may not be replied to at all.
Attached files are fine, but please do not send unnamed attachments. Unnamed attachments are a common way to spread viruses and they will generally be deleted – as will any file that the editor’s email filters consider to be spam.
The editor’s Apple Mac computer can read many different word processing and image file formats, but there are some that it won’t recognise. You don’t have to stick to Word (.doc or .docx) and jpeg (.jpg) files, but should use something that’s at least fairly common. That doesn’t include Microsoft Works word processing files (.wps). Better still, if it’s only a letter, put the text in the body of the email.
If you’re sending electronic media by post, CD-ROMs or DVDs are fine. Other discs aren’t. Thumb drives are okay, though.