The Custom Road Bike
“Bikes are like music, with many different genres and styles. What overwhelms me about them is the breath of different approaches and diverse opinions.”
BYOB—Build Your Own Bike. Actually, the book is not about you building your own dream bike so much as having a custom builder do it for you, per the specs you’ll be able to lay out after reading this book.
The press release calls this book “bike porn” and if you have seen the acclaimed UK cycling magazine that the book’s author edits, Rouleur, you can see why. Printed eight times a year on heavy art-stock paper, it revels in page design, custom photography, and top-notch printing—just like this book, one of now several from Andrews’ pen. He’s been doing the magazine for over 15 years and has been racing for over 25, which means he not only knows his way around a bicycle but also anyone who is anyone in this business. If, indeed, you are already a Rouleur reader, be kind and accept that this book—as all books—cannot be all things to all people in equal measure; it is more than an introductory primer for the novice but less than the final word on the often subjective options of making a sum greater than its highly customizable parts.
The book focuses on performance road bikes, so the intended reader would fall somewhere between pottering around town and chasing the yellow jersey. If you’re serious about biking you’ll want just the right tool for the job and a bike that is optimized for your individual physical attributes and riding style. Whether you want to upgrade or start from scratch—or just want to know what the various bits do—this book explains the inner workings of seven key components (frame, steering, wheels, saddles, controls, gears, drive). Each of these sections features a mini bio of and interview with a practitioner in the field, and even though this is a UK book, five of the seven are from the US and only one from the UK and two from Italy. The idea here is to show the reader how representative long-time craftspeople/artisans think about their work and process, not to list everyone under the sun who does good work. These profiles also enumerate the respective builder’s favorite materials, price ranges and waiting periods (newbies may well be surprised by either: thousands/years), annual output, number of employees etc.
An introductory chapter explains different types of bikes (road, time trial, track, and cyclo-cross) and the novice reader will come to see that these are not academic differences. Befitting its vital importance in the overall scheme of things, the bicycle frame is the first of the seven chapters on components/assemblies, and the longest. People who have already gone through the exercise of getting a custom frame designed and built will find this section in particular rather superficial but it does give a good survey of styles, criteria, geometry, construction specifics, and materials. Again, the point here is for you to be able to identify your own needs and then have an informed discussion with your builder. From road hubs to handlebar tape, Andrews emphasizes how choices in one area will affect another, clearly something not fully understood or appreciated by riders who only know mass-market bikes.
No matter how much or how little you may already know about the nuts & bolts aspect of the custom performance bike, the many custom photos can’t fail to please everyone. They are mostly studio images, mostly by three photographers, beautifully photographed from interesting and often unusual angles and reproduced with reach-out-and-touch-it crispness
Appended are a list of select builders by preferred material (steel, aluminum, titanium, carbon) and websites/bibliography. Good Index.
Owning—and planning—a custom bike is something special, and this book gives an inspired and inspiring look at what makes it so. First published in 2010, it is now also available as a softcover (exact reprint, March 2012, ISBN-13: 978-1856698139, $29.95).
Copyright 2012, Sabu Advani (speedreaders.info).