Friday, January 24, 2014
Seventy Three Degrees
From the back cover text: "Four bike nuts - an entrepreneur, a frame builder, a photographer, and a designer, travel the world in search of the people who have perfected the processes behind the engineering of the ultimate hand crafted bicycle frame.
"The master builders, such as Pegoretti, Sachs and Tommasini, understand what creates the perfect symbiosis between bicycle and rider, power, performance, confidence, efficiency and aesthetics."
Written by Mark Reilly and Jim Walker, and published by Enigma Titanium Ltd. (a UK-based titanium bike company), 73 Degrees highlights about ten custom frame builders around the world, with Q&A interviews, accompanied by some very nice photography of bikes and the builders at work. There is also a chapter on the Columbus Tubing company, and another on frame-building technology that includes a glossary of terms and techniques.
The builders highlighted in 73 Degrees build hand-crafted bicycles in a range of materials. Retrogrouches and steel-frame purists will be thrilled to see the chapters on Mercian Cycles (UK), Richard Sachs (USA), and Pegoretti and Tommasini (both of Italy). Some of the builders work mainly in titanium, such as Baum (Australia), Crisp (an American, building in Italy), and Enigma (UK). Other featured builders, like Independent Fabrication and Seven (both US-based) work in a variety of materials -- including carbon-fiber tubing with titanium lugs, as well as steel.
Overall, the look of the book really delivers. Leigh Simpson's photography is great -- lots of beautiful glossy pictures of finished frames, and many more of gritty workshops, torches and files, glowing red lugs, stacks of tubing -- capturing all the expected "mystique" of frame building.
The interviews with the builders are good, revealing their techniques, backgrounds, and their philosophies on frame design and building, etc. -- although after a while, unfortunately, some of the interviews start to sound pretty similar. I mean, how many ways are there to say just how important good tube mitering is? Oh well.
One thing that detracts from the quality of the book is that there are occasional typos that really should have been caught in a book that is otherwise as nice as this one is. One that stands out is in the Foreword by former racer Sean Yates, where the word "peloton" appears as "peleton" or when "Ishiwata" tubing is misspelled as "Isiwata" (in the very next sentence after it was spelled correctly!). The English Teacher in me sighs heavily.
This is not an inexpensive book, and it isn't easy to find. Check Amazon.com, and they list it as unavailable. I could not find any distributors of the book here in the US. However, it is available direct from Enigma in the UK from their website. (www.enigmabikes.com/products/73-degrees-volume-one). The cost is £30 -- which works out to about $50 at the current exchange (then you have to pay for shipping on top of that). Maybe someday my blog will take off to the point where publishers will start sending me free copies of these things for review. (The only free review books I get now are English textbooks, and they're no fun.)
Although the price and limited availability make it more than just a "casual" purchase, I would say if you love bicycles and are into the "mystique" of frame building the way I am, you'll probably enjoy 73 Degrees.