Dave Moulton

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« Hilton Head | Main | Airbags for cyclists »

Review: "The Custom Road Bike."

What initially got me into cycling was the machine itself.

This fabrication and assembly of colored paint along with bright and shiny parts into a piece of pure art.

It was something that looked so fragile and yet was quite strong, and when you rode it you became one with this machine.

In my immaturity I several times almost ran into parked vehicles because I was looking down admiring the bicycle, or looking at my reflection in store windows as I rode by.

My father bought me a modest lightweight bike, then later when I joined a local club and started racing, I upgraded it by buying and replacing various parts, until I eventually bought a new frame and so had a completely new bike.

Every time I had an important race I would spend the day before completely disassembling the bike, cleaning every part, and then reassembling with just the lightest smear of grease in the bearings, and the same adjusted to smooth perfection.

Working on the bike brought as much pleasure as riding it. Equipment was often replaced, not because it was worn out, but because something new and wonderful came on the market that I just had to have.

This was all brought back to me when I was recently sent a review copy of “The Custom Road Bike” by Guy Andrews, who for the last fifteen years has been the editor of “Rouleur” magazine.

The book is a large and lavish publication, detailed and beautifully illustrated with all the top of the line component parts that go to make up the modern road bike. It describes in detail for example, the differences between Campagnolo, Shimano, and Scram without opinions or prejudices.

I looked for miss-information because so many books like this have some. I didn't find any, Guy Andrews did what a good editor should do, he spoke with experts and reported what they said.

There are interviews with American framebuilders Richard Sachs and Ben Serotta and while some may feel others should have been included, there is such a thing as “Paying your dues.”

These two were around in the 1970s and are still at it when most others, including myself, have long since thrown in the towel. There are also interviews with Italian builders Ernesto Colnago and Dario Pegoretti.

As I said this is a lavish and spendy book at $50, although Amazon has it for $31.50 and Barnes & Nobel for $33.75.

So should you buy it? It is rather like the bike you ride; the most expensive bike is not necessarily going to bring you the most cycling pleasure, especially if you can’t afford it. On the other hand if you can afford the most expensive bike, then go for it.

The same with this book. Today one can gather much information on the Internet for free, but if you can afford it, it is a pleasure to have all the information in one place in a book that is nice to own.

If you are old skool like me, and want to get up to date on the new stuff, this book will do it. But only if you are a hands on guy who likes tearing your bike apart and building it up again once in a while.

Otherwise get the book from the library, and take your bike to the local bike shop.


Reader Comments (10)

Dave, I like your blog.

October 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Liverman

Wonder if it doesn't need a chapter by a psychologist to explain how/why individuals feel like "one with a cycling machine". I too prefer old skool and try to keep up to date via the net. However I keep my old frames relatively free of the latest tech so I look forward to reading about what I'm missing.

October 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Last spring I drank beer with several Portland builders. I discovered that if you want to really learn something about a builder, steer the conversation toward "the first bike you loved."

October 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Souders

But only if you are a hands on guy who likes tearing your bike apart and building it up again once in a while.

That would not be me. As fascinated as I am with a bike's mechanics - I love spending time hanging around the wrench side of a bike shop - I'm strictly a groupie in that regard. Respect to those who can do more than watch in fascination.

October 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

Dave Ive got about 250 cycling books, all road bike and road racing related. I normally just buy everyone that comes out. I looked at this and just didnt get excited by it.
I have 2 x custom bikes. 1 x Mercian, a Strada Speciali with clover lugs and a Brian Rourke 953.
I suppose Ive been riding that long that the book wouldnt tell me a lot. I get Rouleur magazine which is top notch.
What would be nice would be a book which listed framebuilders past and present.

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdaz h

Dave, I know exactly what you mean about being obsessed with the features of your first "good" bike. My first good one was a Claud Butler in the 1950s. What attracted me to this marque was the pencil-thin seat stays. They were so much cooler than those as thick as your finger on "common" bikes.

As for the book, does it have anything about lugged steel "keeper of the flame" bikes, or is it just about those plastic ones with sloping top tubes?

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Thank You for the heads up. I contacted Barnes & Noble whom confirmed the hard back was in stock & I am off to make a purchase. I'll combine my shopping commute with a trip to the LBS for brake hoods. Barnes & Noble did not have your book in stock so I shall order it from you. thanks again

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTOM KNOBLAUCH

Perhaps the "being one with the bike" is addressed in the book Cycling - Philosophy for Everyone: A Philosophical Tour de Force, anyone read it yet?


October 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I find little to no need for anything produced after 1979.
...except healthcare and computer technology,
obviously... lol

October 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlocals_only

I had someone in my town build me a frame and racks for commuter and, possibly, touring.

It took longer than I expected, and cost me more than I had planned for ... but worth it.

Bike is just what I wanted, and more ... builder put in some very nice touches.

I strongly recommend going custom, particularly if you can find someone in your town so you can meet, in person, and go over your dream.

October 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRider

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