Top critical review
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This book is beautiful, but before you buy, be warned....
on 4 January 2010
What you need to know is that this book is about the history of French hand built touring bicycles, developed from the "School of St Etienne". Nothing else. If that's what you want, this is the book for you. If you thought it was about bicycles from elsewhere, including some wonderful bicycle and frame builders in Britain or Italy, you will be disappointed. It isn't clear until you open the the book that it is so narrowly focused. Of course, because it is about French touring cycles, the "Golden Age" concerned is approximately 1910 to 2005. (Clearly a long Golden Age.) I think that each country or form of cycling might have a different "Golden Age". But, once over the initial realisation that this book is about the touring cycles of France, it's not for us to quibble: for French randonneurs, these years were the Golden Age.
Having said all of that, if you are genuinely interested in French cycle touring machines from 1910 to 1925, this is the book for you. It is beautifully produced, the detail is just right, the illustrations are wonderful, and it reads very well.
A final point: my overall impression looking at the wonderful machines so well photographed is how functional they were. I wouldn't say beautiful - have a look at the lug work on these machines and compare it with the lug work on Hitchens, E G Bates, Condor, Claud Butler, Raleigh or even Holdsworth cycles (just to name a small sample) during this period - and excluding some magnificent Italian machines and frames as well. What do you think? Having said that, all of the machines shown look absolutely solid, functional and (certainly during the mid to later part of this Golden Age) comfortable.
My marking does not reflect the quality of this book: rather the fact that it isn't clear until you open it that it is so narrow in its focus.