Farewell to the One and Only Matt Miller, Singletracks Managing Editor

After six years of writing and editing at Singletracks, Matt Miller is moving on. We take a look back at his contributions over the years and wish him well.
Photo: Matt Jones

Singletracks Managing Editor Matt Miller joined Singletracks almost six years ago, and today is his last day. As an editor Matt brought a level of professionalism and quality reporting across a wide range of topics from trail advocacy to industry analysis and product reviews. He will surely be missed by our staff, freelance writers and regular readers.

Last week I chatted with Matt on the Singletracks podcast about some of his most memorable articles over the years. The following is an edited transcript from our conversation.

You’ve written a ton for the site and over those years, like, I mean, literally hundreds of articles maybe 1000. I don’t know… I should have counted.

It’s over a thousand maybe.

Photo courtesy of Chris Beratlis, My Buddy’s Bike Shop

Oh my gosh, crazy. Obviously it’s impossible to go back and read every one of them but I do want to highlight some of the ones that really come to mind for me. One was an article about the end of the pandemic-induced bike boom. You were one of the first to write about that. A lot of people thought that this crazy demand for bikes was going to keep going but you actually did a really great job interviewing people and coming away with a different conclusion.

I remember talking to some bike shops at that time who had been thrown into the mix and were still expected to keep orders that they had placed during the height of the pandemic, and just seeing the interest in those orders basically evaporate. And so I feel like the bike shops were kind of the first ones to really see this bike boom falling out from under them. We all know now that the industry as a whole is not doing well and, and definitely fell into that trend. I remember that article being a big one and getting way more reads and interest beyond our general mountain bike audience.

This wasn’t an accepted point of view at that time. You were courageous to say that maybe the good times won’t last.

I don’t know if it was veiled optimism from a lot of the brands. Many thought they were going to keep this large percentage of people who picked up riding or mountain biking and cycling in their neighborhoods after the pandemic. But you know once baseball games and bars and everything like that open back up, hopefully some people are still out there riding.

As a journalist you really try to be independent as much as possible and you have been really good at finding out for yourself like, is this true?

Journalism was a third or fourth career for me. I went to journalism school and felt really strongly about being independent doing it for your readers. That is still a very big guiding principle for a lot of my writing.

Yeah, that’s awesome. And you’ve definitely left your mark. Another one of your articles that’s not so serious but was extremely popular was a commentary on a Toyota marketing campaign that included an image of a mountain biker. How did you come across that?

Originally Toyota had posted an image to its Instagram and they were just getting trashed by mountain bikers and mountain bike influencers in the comment section. Obviously this isn’t like hard hitting news, but being a small, independent mountain bike website gives us room to comment on it. And so yeah, I kind of turned it into a news article in the sense that Toyota tried to appeal to mountain bikers by having a photo of this guy or gal or whoever it was, clad in this dirt bike kit. They’re like towering over this bike that looks like a Walmart bike, to be honest.

And it was all black like maybe they were trying to hide what kind of bike it was so that it wasn’t distracting.

Yeah, they probably just took a can of spray paint to it. But the other fun thing is that I own a 4Runner. Many of my friends own 4Runners or Tacomas or Tundras. Toyota is a hugely popular brand with mountain bikers and so it was fun to poke fun at them from the perspective of mountain bikers not really needing to be in the ads. You’re doing a good enough job but your marketing department kind of botched it on this one.

Did you ever hear from anybody at the brand or anything?

No but they came out with follow-up ads were like ‘the gloves are off now’ or like ‘the training wheels are off now’ or something like that. And they posted a more authentic-looking mountain biker. They still had ankle socks. You’re almost there, but maybe I’m just picky about socks, I don’t know.

Photo: Matt Miller

That’s funny. Another series of articles that you wrote looked at wildfires and how that impacts mountain biking. The coverage wasn’t necessarily mountain-bike specific since obviously this affects a lot of things from recreation to people’s homes and it’s a huge topic and you did a great job researching it.

There was a ton of research and if you live in the Western US or even in the East with all the smoke coming down from Canada, you’re dealing with some trail-related impact from wildfires, whether it’s too smoky to have an enjoyable ride or the forest that you’re trying to ride in is closed because there’s massive fire damage. Or it’s a year or two after the fire has come and gone and you get rainstorms and then erosion and all these things have a big impact on the trail. So learning about forest fires and forest conservation and forest health is still really fascinating to me because it is an ecosystem but it’s also this little economy of all these parts that work together.

I’m interested to know which other stories were your favorites to cover or were there certain topics that you enjoyed the most?

Because I have — I don’t know if I would call it old school but — a rigid standard of journalism influence in my work, I do love trail access reporting. So I reported on the population boom in Colorado and how mountain biking has kind of evolved past some of the old ways of management. That was one of my favorites.

The reporting I did in Copper Harbor after some of the trail closures out there was great. There are so many different stakeholders to talk to and you kind of look at this like here’s what’s going on. Why is the trail closed? Local governments are worried about being sued even though if you talk to lawyers, they weren’t necessarily at risk. And then the question is, is this going to have an effect on the economy, on tourism? I like digging into those stories and having pages and pages of research and trying to figure out how to weave it all together.

Elk in Golden, Colorado. Photo: Matt Miller

There’s a recent one on hunting groups and their opposition to mountain bike trails in Steamboat Springs, Colorado that I wrote in December. That one was interesting to tackle because I’m a new hunter and so seeing the values that hunting groups have and how that interferes with potential new mountain bike trails is a clash of ideals for public land which everybody is entitled to in some aspect.

But I think that my favorite thing honestly was just being at a publication where I can write about almost anything as long as it’s related to mountain biking. So there’s, there’s a number of essays that I wrote and honestly, like, I feel like I got the most valuable or the most heartfelt reader feedback where I get a lot of personal emails thanking me for something I wrote, which is always nice.

For other writers, if you’re willing to open yourself up and be vulnerable to an audience, the audience generally returns the favor. People appreciate that kind of writing and that’s what made me want to be a writer.

I’ve done so many bike reviews that they feel fairly formulaic to turn out but every once in a while you’ll just hit the nail on the head and a review will do really well. Or you review something a little oddball, like an internally geared bike.

I would just say having the ability to write a multitude of different types of articles — essays, opinions, reviews and reporting — and having the ability to connect with readers on every type of writing was my favorite. There are a lot of digital mountain bike publications out there that solely focus on gear and I think it would have gone crazy if I was in that position.

Well you offer great advice for any writer in terms of being open and honest and vulnerable sometimes. Hopefully this is something that your replacement is reading and they’ll be able to pick up the torch and carry it on. What can you share with us about what you’re moving on to next?

I accepted a technical writing job with the Federal Aviation Administration. It seems like a pretty big jump from what I’m doing right now and it definitely is. I would add that I’m a military veteran and if you are a vet, there are pathways to get into the federal government which is notoriously difficult to get into. So it’s a change of pace for me and my wife trying to start a family. It’ll be a really solid foundation for us to have. So I’m excited about it and I’m planning to continue freelancing as long as you guys will have me.

Yeah, absolutely.

As much as I love mountain biking, and as big of a part of my life as it is, it’ll be nice not to have it consume my life for now.

We’ll certainly miss you, and your contributions will be felt here for a long time for sure. And we’re looking forward to having you come back every now and then to share your words with us.

Yeah I appreciate it. It’s been a dream. Eight years ago I decided I’m gonna give this journalism thing a shot and at the time I was going through school a lot of my professors, hardcore newspaper journalists and magazine journalists, were watching the Denver Post fall apart and get acquired by private equity firms and just gutted. And that was happening at every major newspaper across the country. So it was a long shot for me to get any sort of full time journalism job out of school. And looking back I would have loved to get into some sort of newspaper job back then, but then things worked out with Singletracks. I guess it’s not surprising if you look at the way that Singletracks is managed as an independent publication, but it is great to see it doing well in when many publications are not. I think that speaks to independent journalism and smart management. I’m really fortunate to have put in six years in this dream job as a mountain bike journalist and editor. I’m super grateful for the experience.

Singletracks will continue to publish Matt’s final articles over the next couples of weeks.