The Elite Bicycle Book

£31.50 available from www.bloomsbury.com

This wasn't the book I thought it was going to be. It isn't rammed with machines that are drop dead, how shall I say, 'wantable'...

It does however have bicycle makers in there and plenty of them. But it’s not precisely about the bike, it’s about those that make wonderfully interesting bicycles or parts. It’s much much better than expected and although there is a picture of the Condor Paris (as the story of this bike marque is told in the book) it’s not focussed on retro machines, it doesn’t hark on about the good old days but, it does spell out the traditions where necessary. Question in point is the books first company. Brooks and when you read the story you understand why they do it the way they do. Before you even get there though the forward from Paul Smith is telling. It’s all about the craft, be it technical or traditional.

Some of the companies covered in over 200 pages are; Breadwinner, Colombus, Chris King, Roberts, Sachs, Selle Italia, Time and many more. Put together by Gerard Brown and Graeme Fife. Gerard is a fantastic photographer and in each chapter his keen eye can be seen, I think without a knowledge of the subject or subjects one could not do such a good job. If his work is good enough for Rouleur, it’s good enough for this book! Graeme is a well known cycling journalist and has contributed to many papers (the grown up ones) as well as many cycling publications. His style is really nice and the the pace is good as is the way of explaining the companies or people and at no point do you feel like an idiot who knows nothing!

As with all Bloomsbury hardback coffee table books the print quality is superb. This number is printed in China which made sound like a bad thing but lets not forget the long long history of printing in middle kingdom. It makes good economic sense and I’m sure some will disagree with that but, I’m just glad books are still being made! You just can’t beat that tactile feel. Anyway the finish is superb, I love the green endpapers and headband. You only get those things from a casebound book (or hardback book in lay terms).

There isn’t too much I can say about the book, you just need to look at it to appreciate the care that has gone in to picking the companies, research, writing and photography. This book is the sort of book worthy of being under the christmas tree or as a birthday gift to a bicycle fan, or should that be cycling fan? Either way I’ve spent hours flicking through looking at all the pictures and reading the text. Picking up interesting facts and finding newfound respect for those involved with bringing this cycling equipment to life.

There isn’t anything I would change about this book, I really appreciate the choice the words and pictures. The layout is good and doesn’t interfere with the subject in any way, that is a sign of good design. The only thing I would be interested in is a version two!

Verdict

This for me is the perfect book to celebrate what it takes to bring a bicycle to life, what goes in and what comes out. It also shows the faces behind these brands helps us connect and feel part of this sport cum industry. If I'm a marker of a cycling fan then I would be overjoyed to receive this book as a gift. In fact I think I would find an excuse to buy it myself and the price is very reasonable too (for a big coffee table book).

Rating

Review date: 1 December 2013

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