Most helpful positive review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful, close to great, whimsical
on December 8, 2011
This is basically the best photo overview of bike design. The diversity depicted is inspiring. I just love a big bike book.
Chronicle Books knows what they're doing -- they consistently pick great topics and execute them well. Whenever you see the "spectacles on a spine" you know you're in for a treat.
(Say, I just heard there's now a "Cyclepedia App" available offering zoomable and 360-degree views of all the bikes! ...Plus extra historic footage. [...]
This book is very satisfying. Still, it has a couple aspects that make me hunger for the next big bike book... I suppose no bike book is exhaustive, and there's always room for more -- but a couple came close in their day (Richard's and Durry/Wadley's). This book has a couple aspects that might baffle a reader. First, the book is a presentation of one architect's amazing collection. This is mentioned nowhere. Michael Embacher's collection is world famous in a few ways, including because it has been touring on its own as an art exhibit with bikes displayed on an amazing S-track near the ceiling of galleries. It's been quite an attraction. This exhibit is shown in a tiny sidebar pic in the book but not explained.
Next, Embacher is not a bike buff per se, but a Viennese designer. He picked bikes that seemed quirky and cool to him. He was even accepting of failure. He went for audacity. If a laugh resulted, that was fine.
Now, many of the bikes depicted are enduring classics. But there are so many amazing bike designs that both astonish and succeed which don't appear. I miss them! Goofy false-start bikes might be more satisfying if successes along similar lines are included. (For instance, it only brushes the ultra-creative world of recumbents.) Oh, to have seen a dozen more 'just right' bikes! But I don't hold a grudge -- it's one guy's collection, and it's amazing! I agree that bike design can have a sense of humor, but more of today's important bikes would've made me happier.
Next, Embacher's text occasionally sparkles, but often seems to be riffing a bit too much. A highlight or two is noted then the subject might wander. Light is OK, but you might notice the lightness in this case. Also, it's German translated to English, which is also usually fine here, but is noticeable fairly often.
This basic book first came out as a German book called "Smart Move." That book included a few pages about the famous touring exhibit and the rationale of the collection -- helpful! It was also candid about the quirky nature of the collection (which still didn't really help it as a bike book, in my view). Thankfully, this new "Cyclepedia" doesn't have as much of the quirky bent and includes more pages, which extra coverage is used on bikes which are classic or useful -- good!
Whew, what complication for a pretty book! Now, just enjoy the photos...
(As a disclaimer, I publish a book, sold here, of pretty bike design called "The Recumbent Bicycle," and a website/magazine of indie outdoor culture which has an anthology, sold here, called "Out Your Backdoor.")