Max Marquardt - "Auf Asphalt" On Tarmac

The founder of CLEAT Mag wrote a book. Of course you should read it, but more interestingly let’s talk!

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In 2020 Max contacted me for the story of our film project “rEUnion”. (Haven’t seen that? Go watch!) He reported about it on his own site CLEAT Mag and well you know how it is. You stay in touch. You connect on social media and once a while you text each other because of the cool stuff the other person is doing.
But this time I wanted real talk. I wanted to talk longer and learn about that person I only know from the digital world. We jumped on a call to discuss his book, but also SOOOO much more!

Auf Asphalt a book by Max Marquardt

Max is employed by the German military “Bundeswehr” which he describes as a love and hate relationship. He is a professional journalist with a lot of experience in his 13 year long career. But most of his time goes into his cycling journalism platform “CLEAT”. Of course we all pursue the dream of life as a cyclist! Max has a passion for road cycling and we can without a doubt name him as an expert. Enough of the intro on the man with a very sympathetic name. This man wrote a book! Here we go with the facts, why and what.

Max, why? Isn’t print dead?

It was time. Time to write about road cycling. Time to report about probably the greatest passion in my life. You know, originally I bought an old road bike just because it was beautiful. I wanted to hang it on my wall, with no intention of riding it. I liked the aesthetics and how this machine was so simple but at the same time an object of beauty and high class manufacturing.
But you know how it goes: Eventually I took it off the wall and started riding it. Nothing serious just through the city, with jeans and flat pedals. And I completely fell in love! Just wow. I was infected with the cycling virus. A rabbit hole I couldn’t escape anymore. It went on and on with fixed gear, alley cats and all the beautiful mutations cycling has for us.
All of this started in a gruesome time for cycling:
Horrible Jerseys, RTFs (the very unsexy german version of a Gran Fondo) and a cycling culture so old and repellent to young aspiring riders, they all fled to the cooler forms of cycling like MTB, etc.
This passion and the heritage of road cycling, it’s hard to put into words. But I wanted to give it a go. So I quit my job at Playboy and wrote “Auf Asphalt” - On tarmac, to pass my knowledge to beginners, as well as Pros who want to have a laugh.

Max is definitely a veteran road cyclist

Wait, Playboy? We’re talking about the magazine with naked women and all that?

Haha well, apparently the Playboy has a very high reputation, being a high class print magazine in Germany but also worldwide.
It was an honour for me to work there, especially as you have a lot of time and resources for your research. This is not a given anymore in journalism. In fact I would consider it luxury.
Let’s be clear here: The Playboy was in fact one of the first feminist journals in the world. At the time the magazine contributed a lot to emancipation of women, where they usually were expected to stay silent and keep the house. At Playboy they were displayed strong and independent, breaking the unwritten laws of marriage.
Of course it was also about very beautiful women.

Max at Playboy magazine

No doubt you learned how to defend yourself in this regard! But back to the book. Really, Italopop? And what is so special about Italy? Is it a German thing?

Of course it has to be Italy. First off, it is THE country to ride a bike. THE cycling nation. THE heritage and cultural fundament of our sport. If you ever conquered one of the legendary passes in the dolomites or experienced the passion of standing alongside one of the legendary races you know what I’m talking about.
Italopop is part of that in some weird way. I discovered this band “Roy Bianco and the Abbruzzanti Boys". They wrote a really cheesy song about the Giro d’italia. About the love to Italy as a nation but also love towards the sport of cycling. I had to interview Roy and ask him about the connection of Italy and cycling. So the real answer to this question… You will find it in the book.

Sneakpeek into the book "Auf Asphalt"

What a sales expert you are. But then you also included How To’s. So it is in fact a book for beginners?

Hear me out: If you are an expert rider you know about the unwritten laws of cycling. And of course we need to laugh about them, because they are absurd. So it is a guide for everyone, but hopefully will have the “pros” burst out laughing.
Facts like why you can’t mount a pump on the beautiful piece of art that is your bike. I even included the story of being schooled by the mailman in front of my house as the length of my socks was not correct and the colours were not matching.

Max doesn't even shy away from bikepacking and overnighters

And somehow you managed to include a collection of your favorite pass roads and routes too.

Yes I did. Traditional Highlights like the Sella Ronda or the Mt. Ventoux, but personal highlights and hidden gems as well.
I also included tips and highlights for good spots to grab local food and some secrets you will not find on the internet. The point is that not all of them are connected to cycling. If you cycle in a beautiful area you have to enjoy it. You can do something else as well while you’re there.
It is nice to be an amateur rider. And you should enjoy the fact of being just this. You don’t need to “play pro”. Look pro go slow!
We need to move away from riding like we are being haunted and go towards just having a good time. Of course you need to suffer a bit to discover the real glory of cycling. You need to be fit, but you definitely don’t need to become the next Jan Frodeno.

Look pro go slow!

Well spoken. The unavoidable question: Aero Race bike or classic steel frame?

It depends on what you want to do! I personally own both of them and I love steel. It just really is one of the most reliable materials. But for races? Of course I’m choosing a full fledged carbon road bike.
It is important to use the right tool for the appropriate job. However, if you own a “dentist bike” you automatically are obliged to have the according skills!

Max rides all kinds of bikes: Steel, carbon, aluminium, whatever is fun.

Last but not least: We get it you’re a roadie. But what about Gravel and bikepacking? When will you publish a book about those topics?

It’s all there. The ideas, everything is prepared. I will publish something on this and I definitely want to write another book.
Even more on the heritage of cyclocross. The history of this sport is fascinating and needs to be highlighted!

road cyclist Max and his book

Thank you very much for this nice talk on the phone. Both of us on the road, but deeply connected through the passion for the sport of cycling. The book has been released on the 21st of March 2022. You can buy it here. (German only for the moment.) I can’t wait to meet Max in person and go for a ride or just enjoy beers pretending to be super pro cyclists.