Lowside Syndicate first popped up on my radar as a lone tweet among a search for #motorcycle that was simply asking if anyone would be interested in a publication about garage built motorcycles. As a fledgling mechanic, a sucker for visual art, and a motorcycle enthusiast my heart jumped. Could there really be someone out there with the same passion as I?
Two replies, one to give me the name, the second to fill me in on their progress and expected publication date: Sept. 2009. Well, I didn't hear from Eric or Lowsidesyn for a few months after that initial connect. Not a murmur out there anywhere I could find it. Sept. came and went and I had all but forgot my initial excitement.
Then out of the great tweeting abyss a reply comes:
February 5th 12:15pm
edoubledub: @Rodneylucas it's been a while Rodney, but the magazine is finally in publication @lowsidesyn
Immediately I'm following @lowsidesyn on Twitter and scouring the profile info for a website. It is a nice website, small, simple, great picture ushering the way into the content. At that point the Store portion either wasn't up or the link was broken so I couldn't purchase the magazine.
The next day I send a reply to @edoubledub: Where can I pick one up?
He's in Baltimore, Maryland. I'm in Portland, Oregon. Four more days and he says he's sending one to me complimentary, as I was apparently the first to respond to the interest in this publication. Pretty cool, but is it at all good?
At this point I don't know what to expect. My emotions have run the gamete. Excited, thrilled, cautious of a poser, doubtful of the quality, suspicious of the cost, back to thrilled, excited. It's now been almost two weeks since I received my copy and I feel now I've had time to really analyze what it is I'm looking at, and call it for what it's worth.
Here are the facts:
It's six" wide x nine" tall
Sixty eight pages if you include the cover.
Two staples are the binding.
The publication sits heavy in my hand. A good and thick paper was used. A low gloss on every page. The cover is simple. Not like most magazines with spoilers on the outside telling you what page to turn to. No, just simple: Lowside: garage built suicide machines. Winter 2010 * Issue 1 * $6.
The price seems fair initially. Smaller publications are generally more, and I've paid upwards of $12-$15 for some really obscure stuff. There is an image of a bike on the cover. Some hard tale with a side mounted license plate from Maryland. I open the pub and it sits even better in my hand. Small enough that I can hold it in one hand without the pages flopping down to the side like Dumbo's ears.
A couple ads, a note from the editor and now I'm to the good stuff. A shadowy side profile of a guy that must be in his 60's, bearded; long and white. There is a story to go with it. You can tell the author likes this guy and isn't afraid to show it. White-beard is a good soul, you can feel it in the pages, hear it in the writing, and see it on the photos. This is a good start. I was afraid I was going to find pretentiousness. None so far. But it's only page 10.
An ad, a profile of a bike shop, another story. Whoa, there are cars in this one. I wasn't ready for that one. I thought this was all about bikes. My bad really, a suicide machine can be either/or I simply don't have one in my garage. That's what I get for making assumptions right? On to another good story, another good soul.
As I'm sitting here writing about it with the publication on the couch next to me and I simply want to quit reviewing and start reading again. I'm to the section that talks about the bike they used on the cover. Some good shit right in here that starts making me feel like I'm out there in my garage. I'll be right back, I'm going to get a Pabst.
Aah..much better. I keep going and I get to some fun parts. A ride that looks like more trouble than it's worth (and secretly planning a trip out there to attend next year). A review of a product with a picture of a guy that my wife says I'm going to look like in 40 years. He could be Santa Clause with the large white beard and twinkle in the corner of his eye. But standing next to his hog with his leathers he may also be the ruin of your Friday night.
The remaining pages follow through to profile rides, bikes, cars, small shops, and men with busted knuckles. You've got grease balls, knuckledraggers, a few almost cafes, and the list goes on. The one thing that I see in common in all of this is a do it yourself mentality. I don't see stories of some guy rolling into a shop with a checkbook in his hand wanting some more bling for his suburban garage. These guys are dirty, the gals are pretty, clean, and spunky. They do what they like and fuck anyone who doesn't. But I don't imagine they'd ever tell you to go shove it. No, they'd probably just smile and walk away enjoying a cold brew with some friends and on you go.
The quality of the print and images really is top notch. The thicker paper ads to that I think. It's artistically designed, simple, yet unique. The writing is good. The whole publication tells a story, and doesn't read like a Cycle World BMW advertisement. No offense to BMW, I personally love you guys, but you know what I mean. The writing isn't flawless. There are a few errors that a simple spell check could have caught, but the writing flows. And that I respect. Perhaps that has more to do with me dropping out as a Journalism Major in college when my Professor told me no one would employee me because they'd have to hire a copy editor just to correct my grammar.
All in all it's a great read, stimulating images, and good fun protrudes from it. At the price, being a quarterly publication currently, I'd say you get more than you paid for. This isn't a fan boy publication by any stretch, it reflects a choice of life, and as biased as I am it's a good one. You'd do well to pick a up a copy yourself from their website. Or check your local shop. Who knows, you might find one sitting silently in a magazine rack soon.