Cyclepedia is a tour of iconic bike designs and provides a record of the now auctioned Embacher collection that we wrote about back in May 2015.
The book starts with a foreword by design guru Paul Smith, himself a keen cyclist over the years. The collection had been put together by architect and designer Michael Embacher. Perhaps it is because of the roots of these two famous individuals in design that this book is one of the best examples of attractive graphic design and layout I’ve seen.
The Cyclepedia “tour” is of 250 bikes, a collection of Embacher’s most unusual and most coveted pieces, each described clearly as to why they were unusual in their day – and in many cases still – with some of the best bike photography that you will experience, the work of Berhard Angerer.
As you turn the pages, you will find classic road bikes from events like the Tour de France next to folding bikes, touring bikes alongside a WWII 1940 BSA paratrooper bike, more conventional bicycles and bikes that employed the latest technological advances.
A timeline illustrates when the different bikes were brought out, ranging from 1922 to 2010. A table shows the range of weights, going from the ultra light single speed 7.7 kg Schauff Aero track racer (built in Germany 1980 and owing some of its design to testing in Mercedes Benz wind tunnels) to the 32 kg Long John cargo bike built in Denmark in 1983 by Smith & Co – the race horse and the cart horse, and so many other types of bike in between.
The notes about each bike make fascinating reading, bringing your attention to the details that made each bike different in its own way: sometimes the differences are blatantly obvious, such as in the example just quoted of the Schauff Aero and the Long John, but other times they are more subtle. The explanations by Michael Zappe and Martin Strubreiter are clear and concise, and well supported by the 482 illustrations in the 304 pages.
Are you going to sit and read the book in one sitting? I didn’t, but returned to it gradually working my way through. It might be clear and concise but it’s a lot of detail to take in if you are a keen cyclist but not experienced at bike design. But it wasn’t a question of getting to the end and putting it away on the bookshelf – the book is addictive and a great way to learn about bike design and the history of bike design.
Given that the collection has been auctioned, it is wonderful that Cyclepedia exists as a record of an astonishing collection and an insight into the observational powers of a designer to select these remarkable bikes – all 250 of them.
Cyclepedia has to be a great gift idea for anybody who loves bikes. It is published by Thames and Hudson at £14.95.