Book Review: The Elite Bicycle

The Elite Bicycle
Gerard Brown and Graeme Fife

The Elite Bicycle
, from the publishers of Harry Potter, is a welcome addition to ever-growing shelf of cycling photobooks. What is distinctive about this large volume, however, is the not just the excellent quality of the photos but the effort that has gone in to the research on the 29 featured cycling manufacturers. 

Even the devoted readers of websites like Classic Lightweights will learn something new. I’ve known frame-builder Chas Roberts for decades but had no idea that, as a young lad, he shared my passion for dirt-track irons (early UK precursors of the California-spawned mountain bike). Nor did I realise that John Boultbee Brooks only turned to bicycle saddles because this new fangled invention (back in the 1880s), came with an excruciatingly painful wooden saddle as opposed to the fine leather ones he’d made for horse riders.

The book features a fresh take on all the usual suspects (Reynolds, Columbus, Cinelli, Condor, Mavic, Royce, Pegoretti (it was money not art that drove him to frame-building), but also includes surprises like Eric Estlund of Oregon, who has re-created a 1918 US Army bike; or Breton tubular maker FMB – at whose workshop it takes 80 steps to make a hand-made silk tubular tyre that can then survive the Paris-Roubaix race. 

For cycling photo buffs the book features an abundance of ‘bokeh’, that hard to perfect soft-focus background that marks out classy pictures now that every phone is a camera. Savour and enjoy.

Review by: Tom Bogdanowicz