NYC quarterly art and cycling Chalet magazine has been exposing the urban beauty of cities around the world from the perspective of a bicycle enthusiast since 2013. Interview with its founders, David Trumpf & James Stevens
Baron: What’s the story behind Chalet magazine?
Chalet: We met while bike racing some years ago. We’d both experienced bad breakups and ended up living together in NYC’s Lower East Side. We spent most of our time training and racing. It started as an inside joke – we started calling our place the “Chalet” in reference to the places cyclists often stay in when they go to train in the mountains. It’s a refuge from the harsh outside environment, which, for us, was the noise, smell and traffic of NYC. Eventually it stuck and became something more, a place of camaraderie where everything revolved around cycling in one way or another. It then took on a life of it’s own: the phrase “That’s So Chalet” became our mark of approval for pretty much everything: a man playing the flute in front of a Chinatown fountain every single day: “That’s So Chalet”; “That girl is so chalet”, “That guys is so chalet”, “That climb was so chalet”, “That party was so chalet”… It was our mark for something that was a little absurd, but also beautiful. We started a Tumblr where we curated images that we felt represented the Chalet mentality, and then, it felt like we had to take it to the next level, so we decided to do a magazine. We’ll be releasing our 2nd issue in April of this year, with Montreal as the featured city.
B.: How does that translate to an editorial policy?
C. M.: Chalet explores cities from the perspective of a bike. Each issue is the end of a six-month exploration of a city. We travel from NYC, where we live and ride every day, to another city, to learn about the local bike culture and build a new community through their stories. In the case of Montreal, we visited numerous times to get a sense of the city, and because cycling is a worldwide language, we quickly found new friends. In Montréal, it was a group of fixed gear riders. Last summer, several of them came to NYC and we rode the 440 miles back to Montreal. It was pretty amazing.
B.: Why choose print? What kind of paper do you use and why?
C. M.: When we first thought of taking Chalet to the “next level”, we immediately wanted to do print, because we were drawn to its permanence and beauty that you just don’t get with digital.
The magazine is large format, a mix of glossy and matte. Oddi prints it in Iceland. Typefaces are Simplon and Roman, made by Swiss Typefaces, a young type foundry. Simplon, which we use for titles, headers and sub heads, is named after a Swiss alpine pass. Coincidently, we learnt recently that one of their founders is an obsessed cyclist himself… so we speak the same language.
B.: What has been the readers’ response?
C. M.: It’s been great. We’re a small operation, so distribution and PR can be challenging, but it has been really well received in the cycling world and by people who appreciate its design and spirit of exploration.
B.: Good print mags get a lot of love, but this isn’t always reflected in sales or advertising. How are your sales? What is your advertising philosophy?
C. M.: Advertising is a challenge – we’re juggling this with our full time jobs, and searching for advertisers is a time consuming pursuit. And to be honest, we’re reluctant to break the flow of the magazine with advertising from brands that we don’t see as fitting. Maybe it’s idealistic, but we’d like to partner with a brand that would be interested in more than just advertising.
B.: Upcoming projects
C. M.: After the NYC – Montreal Issue, we’ll get started on our next issue: NYC – Bogota. Colombia has a really rich cycling heritage, and the city is a rapidly evolving cultural capital, so we’re curious to get on the ground there. Moving forward, digital will play a more important role in our ecosystem. We’ll always have the printed magazine as the “souvenir” at the end of each exploration of a city, but digital will allow us to create more dynamic, more time sensitive content, and will become the hub for building the Chalet community.
We have a couple of other projects in the works, and if we can find the time, would really love to ride up to Montreal again. We have very fond memories of that ride.