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Let us start with a test: take a look at the list of companies featured in The Bicycle Artisans by Will Jones (on the contents page), and count up how many you actually know about. If you manage over half of them you are truly a knowledgeable connoisseur of the artisan bicycle market. Whatever your score, this book is a good introduction to the sort of brands we can see at the Bespoked Bristol show in April.
There are 88 brands featured, and each one is awarded half a page of text. Jones wrote the text based on correspondence with each manufacturer, and whilst the initial questions to each brand might have been the same, the answers back were anything but – which is only to be expected from such a diverse range of participants.
All the builders also get the chance to tell us their favourite rider, favourite bicycle, and favourite object. The results are predictably varied, interesting, even controversial – and also reveal so much about the builder.
The main emphasis of the book is on the fantastic selection of pictures accompanying each featured builder, nearly all in colour. The subjects range from the planning stage, through every conceivable aspect of the building process, to some remarkable shots of finished work. All the images were supplied by the manufacturers themselves, and again it is interesting to see how each responded to the same brief.
In many ways the book is a complement to Bike! where the pictures are small but the prose is plentiful – and with nearly 50 companies featured it also covers a lot of ground.
The choice of manufacturers to feature will never please everyone, and indeed there are some unusual decisions: to pick on just a few examples I would say that the choice of our own Saffron Frameworks and Shand Cycles is to be expected, whereas Corima and Neil Pryde Bikes might be more surprising inclusions – although their chapters are still informative. Jones's aim was to try to give a good spread, whether it be in geography, technology, time in business, or size – and he certainly achieved that.
Most of us will be able to suggest other companies that could have been included, because although there are more builders here than in any other book of this type (that I am aware of), there are still many more that would also have been suitable. That has to be a good thing for the industry, and shows that such craftsmanship is still alive – and even thriving.
The artisans in question produce more than just bikes, with Greenspeed representing recumbent trikes and Busyman Bicycles making bespoke 'leather upholstery'. One company, Pony Bikes, doesn't really make bikes at all, concentrating instead on refurbishment and renovations.
And now for a wealth warning: while the cover price of the book might be surprisingly reasonable given the quality and quantity of pictures, the real threat to your wallet comes later as you are tempted by so much fine work. 'N + 1' might not be sufficient to cover it.
The book is a highly varied and beautifully illustrated showcase for some of the finest craftsmen in our industry, and it has introduced me to many names that I was not familiar with before.
Although this book is not a recent publication, I only became aware of it quite recently; Thames & Hudson are the publishers, and they don't produce many books on cycling – but when they do they tend to be fairly epic works. Their previous production was Cyclepedia, which was later joined by an app offering 360-degree views of the bikes. In a somewhat surprising move they recently went 'old school' with a set of 100 postcards of pictures from the same book.
A highly varied and beautifully illustrated showcase for some of the finest craftsmen in our industry
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road.cc test report
Make and model: The Bicycle Artisans by Will Jones
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Today's cyclists are seeking increasingly custom-made bicycles as reflections of their personalities – whether a Danish-style cargo bike, a recumbent, a cyclo-cross trainer or a randonneur.
Often working in tiny studios and workshops in hidden parts of our cities, the master craftsmen featured in these pages produce pieces that are highly personal and sought after and rarely seen.
Alphabetically presented, this richly illustrated guide to 88 of the most creative bicycle makers working today, includes established names such as Achielle, Cielo Cycles and Corima and new kids on the block such as Art and Industry, Bondi Beach Cruisers and Foffa, as well as product designers (Torkel Dohmers, Marc Newson).
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: The Bicycle Artisans
Author: Will Jones
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Date: April 2014
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding