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The Anatomy of a Sideburn Story

A friend, journalist and former magazine publisher, who I won't name because it was a private email, sent a note saying...

'For some reason (I suppose the wackiness of Dirt Quake and the way out cartoons etc), I’d got it into my head Sideburn was a lot more irreverent, kinda like an dirt-oval version of Dice. But now I'm actually seeing copies the quality and professionalism of both the writing and the production values and the seriousness with which it portrays its subject matter in very knowledgeable depth take it far above anything like that. You probably don’t know me well enough to know this, but I really don’t do sycophancy, if I do offer praise it’s because it’s genuine and well-meant. So congratulations on a really superb magazine mate, you have something there you should be very justifiably proud of.'

It made me wonder what other people think Sideburn is. I push the fact that we're independent, but that doesn't mean amateur or fanzine-y (though I love some aspects of fanzines). I've earned a living as a full-time journalist and author since the 1990s, supporting a family, buying a house, etc. I'm not messing at it. While I like introducing new and untried writers in Sideburn, more often than not successfully, it's all created to a high level, hopefully without all the raw edges and character taken out of it. So, I thought it was time to explain what goes into making one Sideburn feature, and I chose one called 'It Had To Look Fast' from Sideburn 28. I might be preaching to the converted, but you never know. A bit of self-promotion never hurts.


1. Mid-2016 I emailed Harley-Davidson's Milwaukee head office with an idea to promote Sideburn at the Flat Out Friday race in Milwaukee in February. They like the magazine and, fortunately, said yes without much back and forth. I said I'd like to visit Milwaukee and research a lot of different Harley stories. A date was set for October 2016, because it would coincide with a Flat Out Friday race.

2. Sideburn was assigned a PR manager to help set up the stories. I submitted a wish list of stories and interviews and they worked to set them up.

3. I flew to Chicago, rented a car and drove to Milwaukee.

4. For the story in question I met H-D's head of Styling and Design, Brad Richards at H-D's corporate HQ at Juneau Avenue early one Thursday morning. One of the XG750Rs, that we were going to base the interview around, had been brought from Vance and Hines in California. Not exclusively for Sideburn, it would be there to be displayed at Flat Out Friday, the same week, but it had been brought especially to the factory early for the feature.

The interview lasted two hours, the interview captured on a digital dictaphone.

5. Sideburn booked photographer Josh Kurpius to shoot our week of H-D stories. He shot the bike and Richards during and after the interview

6. Back in England, I transcribed the interview and wrote the story, carrying out any additional research and fact-checking with Brad.

7. The word document of the story was sent to Mick Phillips, the mag's dep ed, in Rome, for sub-editing.

8. Brad Richards said he could supply original concept sketches produced by H-D designer Chetan Shedjale for the feature. They were emailed over.

9. The sketches, photos and a shot of the XG750R being raced by 2016 factory racer Davis Fisher are dropboxed to Kar Lee, Sideburn's art ed, who lays out the story.

10. A better photo of Fisher on the XG turns up on instagram. It shows a particualr area of the frame mentioned in the story. I contact the photographer, Ken Weisenberger, for the original and permission to use it. Ken kindly agrees.

11. Kar changes the photo and sends the InDesign document to Mick for proofing, captioning and cutting, if necessary.

12. Mick subs the designed pages, then sends it to me.

13. I give the story a second read, to pick up any small mistakes or make any final alterations.

14. Kar gives the story his final check, to ensure none of the photos have moved or our edits and cuts haven't affected the design.

15. Prior to print the feature is made into a PDF to send to the printer.

So that's how one five-page feature comes to life. Huge thanks to Mike L, Mike R, Brad and Vance and Hines for helping make this feature, and others in Sideburn 28, happen.

If you like the sound of reading an independent, but professionally put together magazine, go buy a copy of Sideburn magazine. That would make us very happy.

UPDATE: Before anyone gets the wrong idea I should make it clear, this blog isn't a dig at any other mag or how they choose to put it together with their time or resources and outlook, just the way I choose to run Sideburn. I own every issue of Dice.

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