For the last week I’ve been trying to put together a massive image dump of a goodly portion of my 200 or so images I shot at the San Diego Custom Bicycle Show. As it turns out, there can be too much of a good thing. I crashed WordPress on three occasions by uploading too many images; I was too impatient to try to do another three or four posts.
What follows is a further edited group of favorite shots/bikes/cool stuff.
Builder Greg Townsend shows a lug with a piece of cut tubing that he will braze in place so that he can cut a new point for this lug. It’s time consuming work, but offers a great opportunity to make a fresh statement with a lug.
Santana Cycles has been perfecting a foam cutout packing system for tandems for some 10 years now. They seem to have it down. The system not only packs the tandem safely, it makes the process nearly foolproof.
One of the great tragedies of the bicycle industry is that most of the best work being done in bicycles is presented to readers on crap paper. So, when I heard that someone was finally going to publish a coffee-table book on handbuilt bicycles I couldn’t wait to see a copy. The book is published by images Publishing, which is known for its books on design and architecture and written by Australian cyclists Christine Elliott and David Jablonka.
Amazingly, Elliott and Jablonka uncovered builders I’ve never heard of, very fine builders who certainly deserved to be presented alongside the likes of Richard Sachs and Dario Pegroretti. Those discoveries are perhaps the book’s greatest treat. But those discoveries come at a price. The authors profiled 39 builders, a mere fraction of the builders who appear annually at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, but given the realities of paper cost and the amount of time writers are typically afforded to work on a nonfiction title and you are quickly forced to make some hard decisions. The representation is refreshingly international. Represented are builders from the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy.
Those choices—whom to include and whom to leave out—seem almost random. Many of the builders included are must haves: Richard Sachs, Dario Pegoretti, Bruce Gordon and Alex Singer. No book on handmade frames would be complete without them. Pleasantly, there are some lesser known veterans who could have been easily overlooked but no less deserving of the attention; I’m thinking specifically of Andy Newlands of Strawberry and Dave Bohm of Bohemian. However, there are some glaring omissions. No Brian Baylis, no Peter Weigle. Independent Fabrication is included but no Seven or Serotta.
At 240 pages, the profiles range between four and eight pages depending on the number of photos used. And the text, though brief, does a serviceable job of giving an overview of the operation while leaving the majority of the space devoted to a builder for photography.
The photography is, unfortunately the most hit-or-miss aspect of the book, which I find utterly baffling. Hard bound coffee table books are about nothing such much as gorgeous photography. For a book like this, the author isn’t so much the writer as it is the photographer. However, most of the photography is supplied by the builders, sometimes shot by the builders themselves, sometimes shot by a pro hired by the builder. That lack of continuity is frustrating and ultimately it gives some builders a much better presentation than others. In some cases—such as the lifestyle shots provided by Signal Cycles—the builder-supplied shots add a dimension to the portrait giving depth that might otherwise have taken, well, another 1000 words. Some builders included lots of shop shots, some none. The result is a quirky patchwork, but it does give each portrait a surprising individuality as a result.
That I find points to criticize in this book shouldn’t lead you to think I don’t like it. I love this book. I’m critical because this is a topic to which I’ve devoted great thought. And because some of the work contained within is very good, it’s reasonable to hope for the same level of work throughout.
Simply put, for the fanatics, this is a must-have. Because it is hard bound the press-run was likely fairly short; if you want it, don’t wait around to pick it up. And if this one sells well, maybe the publisher will decide to do a second volume and hit another 40 builders; lord knows there are plenty just as deserving.
The builders included:
Anderson Custom Bicycles
Bilenky Cycle Works
Black Sheep Bikes
Bob Brown Cycles
Bruce Gordon Cycles
Columbine Cycle Works
Cycles Alex Singer
Davidson Handbuilt Bicycles
Don Walker cycles
Ira Ryan Cycles
Jeff Jones Custom Bicycles
Keith Anderson Cycles
Llewellyn Custom Bicycles
Naked Bicycles and Design
Richard Sachs Cycles
Roark Custom Titanium Bicycles
Steve Potts Bicycles