I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on this book, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is not a bicycle design history book though it will appeal to anyone with more than a passing interest in bicycle history or in bicycle design. The bikes don’t appear in chronological order anyway, and there are – to me at least – one or two omissions. But complaining about what’s missing from the book rather misses the point. This book is nothing more or less than a pictoral record of one man’s bicycle obsession. And it’s a wonderful thing. Richly illustrated, the photography is flawless and the bikes are amazing.
After a foreword by renowned cycling enthusiast (and sometime clothes designer) Paul Smith, an introduction to the collection by Embacher himself and a short history of the bicycle we head toward the collection. The first bike we are introduced to reminds us that there is precious little new under the sun – a Vialle Velastic from 1925 demonstartes a ’suspension’ seat post fashioned from a cart spring, an idea which predated the Allsop Softride beam featured later in the book on a Breezer ‘Beamer’ by seventy years.
There follows 200 more pages of lushious images of beautiful, quirky, rare and delightful bicycles. Bernard Angerers photography is excellent. The main images show the bikes off very well and the many detail shots never left me feeling like I’d missed anything important which is so often the case when photographers get too ‘arty farty’ on the subject matter. It’s a book about bikes and Angerers obviously understands the subject.
Some of the bikes in Michael Embacher’s amazing collection have to be seen to be believed. I consider myself a bit of a bike geek but well over half of the bikes are new to my eyes – and I’ve been to a few museums in my time. Historically significant bikes such as the Pedersen and Moulton stand handlebar to handlebar with machines which are out of this world. With only a very few bikes which might be classed as mainstream – the overall impression I got from the exploring his collection through the pages of this lovely book is that Embacher’s interests lie in the unusual and exotic. And that, to me, is definitely part of its appeal.
Cyclepedia is a visual delight and a really fascinating read.
Cyclepedia: A tour of Iconic Bicycle Designs by Michael Embacher
Published by Thames and Hudson £19.95