The year was 1980 when I started working at Dirt Bike Magazine. Two weeks prior, the ownership (Bill Golden) had hired an executive to run the day to day operations and play a role in the planning and execution of the two magazines we had, Motocross Action and Dirt Bike. Roland Hinz had come from a successful job working at entertainment mags (Rona Barrett’s Gossip and Hollywood) turning them into big money makers. He was a magazine guru, a newsstand specialist and he had a passion for dirt bikes.
Roland had come into an environment where huge egos worked diligently to protect their fiefdoms and were violently opposed to most of the ideas he brought to the table. Editorial meetings forecasting our plans for the month, cover subject meetings and cover line control and working within a budget led his vision. The reigning staff boiled.
What we didn’t know was that Roland was there to rescue a sinking ship that was hemorrhaging money. His goal was to pay off the debt, then purchase the company. What I remember was that things in the office got tense. I was a full blown dirt bike whack and was just pumped to be working for the magazine. There was talk of anarchy, continuous bad mouthing and zero respect for the future owner of Hi Torque Publications. I was horrified that I’d be out on my caboose just after getting the best job on the planet.
Roland was tough yet was painted with just enough patience to kick start the change in the company. By the time he paid off the debt and became the owner, the Editors bent to his plan and incredibly, we flourished. I remember color meetings (where we’d choose the photos going into the mag, and the main cover image) that lasted hours. He was always excited about cover lines, knowing that they had the ability to grab the newsstand gawker, it they were tweaked with a bit of a hook. Forty years later Roland played a role in every cover line that graced his bevy of magazines.
He was good at letting the editors with the passion of their sport drive the content. We just had to convince him how this was good for the reader, a boon for the advertiser and on point for the newsstand buyer. I remember when Paul [Clipper] tested a Honda ATC in Dirt Bike. It was a hotly contested move, hated by the purists in the office. Roland saw it as an emerging sport and started Dirt Wheels magazine. For decades it was his most successful magazine.
In 1981 while at a Husqvarna product intro at DeAnza Cycle Park all the enthusiast press got a chance to test ride every new model in their line. Roland was on a trail ride with Mark Blackwell, I was out thrashing the canyons with Dick Burleson. Our two groups met head on in a tight canyon with near misses amongst the riders. I hit one of the pilots dead on. It was Roland. I figured that Jack in the Box was my new future. My boss was more scared than mad, and we never talked about the incident again.
There were some unique sides to the man. He was incredibly successful yet drove a Volkswagen Thing to work every day for years. In the decades that I worked for him, he wore shorts and tennis shoes religiously. And talking about the big guy upstairs, Roland was a serious Christian. Every year at our Christmas party he would start it with a prayer, allowing non-believers to leave if offended. After my wife passed following a long battle with cancer, Roland sat with me in my office every day talking about life, death and God always ending with “are you good?”
When I started working for Roland, I was a pup who feared the stern German. We battled over covers, argued over budgets to test and travel and in over four decades nothing changed. Except that we became friends. He was a mentor and in an evolving world where magazines were considered a dead deal, we remained profitable.
Roland passed away this weekend after a long battle with his health. I will truly miss this man, he was a teacher, a tough and strict boss and had the gift of taking care of the people who made great things happen which was most definitely a catalyst to Hi Torque’s success. God speed my friend.