That said, I certainly appreciate what the folks at Rides are up to, especially since the mag preaches the enthusiast gospel more passionately than just about any title I've seen. Enthusiasm/passion in magazines = good. By the transitive property, then, Rides = good.
For those not tipped off by the cover image, Rides chronicles the world of cool cars and the steps auto buffs can take to render them cooler still: flashy rims, tricked-out doors, saunas in the trunk, etc. It does so using up-to-the-minute vernacular that stodgy Stevie Nicks fans like myself can't be expected to comprehend, which gives it a credibility that most titles lack. The enthusiasm is infectious: I don't know who or what constitutes a "donk" car, but Rides banters about them with such obvious joy that I was quite eager to find out (happily, there are resources for just such an undertaking: UrbanDictionary.com defines "donk" as a circa-1970s Impala).
The November issue of the mag goes about its business in a visually pleasing, easily navigated manner. From a design perspective, Rides gets the multiple-entry-points thing just right, adding a few graphic tchotchkes here and there but never too many. While the mag should probably devote more space to its photos -- the "Showtime" shots from car-buff get-togethers lose their impact when shrunk to the size of a stamp -- otherwise its glossy presentation fits the subject at hand just right.
On the feature front, Rides doesn't bomb its readers with huge chunks of text, instead offering a mix of Q&As (with personalities like DMX and cover boys Lil' Wayne and Baby) and quirky features. The former, which crackle with enthusiasm, work better than the latter: the too-easy "A-to-Z" treatment shortchanges the mag's coverage of the New York-to-L.A. Bullrun auto rally. On the other hand, the first-person recollection of a stint at BMW's performance-driving school captures the experience in all its mag-wheel glory.
(Do mag wheels still exist? Those used to be huge during my make-a-Schwinn-slightly-more-bitchin' middle-school days. Holy lord, I'm old.)
I don't have a problem with the November issue's mostly fawning reviews of new models, as Rides is quick to call attention to the problems/features likely to affect its readers' purchasing decisions. Plus the reviewers add several clever quirks: instead of "price," they list the "damage." And you gotta love the "flaw" in the 2007 Ford Expedition that the mag soberly notes: "Back in '98, Big Pun associated the Expedition with narcs. It's still true; in the wrong color (white, light silver), the Expedition looks like a fleet car." Great call -- I'll go with the sky-blue one, which is sure to attract less attention as I help my brother-in-law shlep crumb cake to the school bake sale.
I wish Rides paid as much attention to its front-of-book "Hood" section as it does to everything that follows. The item on the African Automotive Design Association deserves more space (and illustration) than it receives, while the "My First Whip" interview with some random gal (a "whip" is a car, dontcha know) comes across as filler. I also question the mag's judgment in describing the building manager of Manhattan Motocars as "a Mexican-born overachiever." I'm not riding shotgun on PC patrol today or anything, but it's hard to see how a person's ethnicity has much to do with his or her ability to run a car shop.
Those few missteps aside, Rides feels both smart and authentic to me (and yes, I realize statements like that coming from a child of the suburbs might actually be cause for alarm in the publisher's office). Other enthusiast titles would be well served to follow its lead.