mrs washingmachinepost is a childminder, and a darned good one at that. however, while many of you who have passed the stage of having little darlings about your feet will own your own sitting rooms, i do not. habitat and ikea may be the watchwords for those with an appreciation of interior decor; ours has far more in common with the early learning centre. we have two sofas and an armchair, but the hearth permanently has a thick blanket along the front to prevent little heads meeting with harsh fireplace tiles. a tiny inflatable chair sponsored by in the night garden joins the two sofas together and i can just about see the sky tv box past an almost neat row of plastic microwave, cooker, washing machine and kitchen sink. these are bordered by an unkempt pile of large and small illustrated books, and a brightly coloured toolbox that has an annoying habit of randomly inviting me to hammer nails and saw some wood, along with sound-effects to illustrate just what i'm missing.
the little darlings generally appear after i have left for the office in the morning so the bulk of my day is painless, but rare is the day that they have departed prior to my arriving home. how many of you are intimately acquainted with makka pakka, the tombliboos and buzz lightweight? i cannot complain, for despite being happy to wave bye-bye as the last child leaves to make his/her parents' life a misery for the evening, they do have a tendency to make a house a home. it should also be seriously noted that almost every other corner of the home is filled with cycle clothing, cycle books, cycle photos and other paraphernalia with which you will all be familar. people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, particularly when it involves financial income.
however, despite what used to be acres of free floor space, there is one almost obligatory item of furniture that is conspicuous by its absence; the coffee table.
mrs washingmachinepost and myself are not predisposed to regular coffee breaks; that's what debbie's is for. but should we fancy putting the moka pot on the stove (as we picturesquely like to call the electric cooker) and savour a strong cup of java, the cups will likely need to sit on the floor, the mantelpiece, or those overstuffed drawers at the side of my chair. little people who like to run in circles often find coffee tables to be somewhat of a physical distraction that often involves the word 'ouch'.
but it is not only coffee cups that are bereft of a traditional home, for the publishing world has not been slow to see the possibilities of a glass-topped pine table at shin height. i'm sure somewhere abouts we all have at least one coffee-table book. this is an intriguing area of the printed word and oversize illustration that seemingly knows no bounds, stretching from the utterly pointless to the edifice that really could not be proffered in any other suitable format. i'm sure i have no need of elucidating the genre, but seeing as you ask, i will make brief recount. while the description more often refers to a large format, hardback tome that comfortably sits invitingly on the aforementioned coffee-table, some of the more extreme examples, but for the want of four short legs, could easily fulfil the function of a coffee cup repository themselves.
large format, quality printing has a tendency to inhabit the upper echelon of price brackets, not necessarily commensurate with the importance of the content. a preponderance of the latter has more or less singlehandedly revived the converse of don't judge a book by its cover; i have been on the receiving end of several. thus guy andrews' the custom road bike may engender a disappointing sigh as its considerable heft lands on the welcome mat just below the ghosts, witches and bats on the front door inviting little feet to the imminent joys of hallowe'en. judging this book not only by its cover, but the size of same in such a manner, would be an elementary mistake.
guy andrews is perhaps better known in the world of cycling as the editor of rouleur magazine and as a particularly fine writer, but his palmares includes a keen ability as a bicycle mechanic, and a subsequent skill in making all manifest through the written word. i will confess to having queried several times, as i leafed from large format page to large format page, as to why it was found necessary to have the subject writ large, but by the time i was just under half-way through, it all began to make sense.
the march of technology is incessant, and not any less so than in the world of cycling. while the custom road bike is pretty darned near bang up to date, it will not be that long before the sell-by date begins to slip. one would therefore question the validity of spending £30 on some words and pretty pictures that will look dated by this time next year. but in fact, this is one of this book's unique selling points; we are constantly reminded of cycling's great and rich heritage, but seem content to let someone else be the gatekeeper. we really need to take our own turn at some point through owning a book such as this one which, despite substantial contemporary relevance, will maintain a link to the past when we get to the future.
but what of the words? i will embarassingly admit to low expectations; a cursory flick through the big pictures, aside from underlining the superior graphic skills of jonathan bacon, will simply confirm any erroneous preconceptions. but lift thomas the tank engine off the armchair and sit back to investigate further, you will find a surprising amount of knowledge, fact and opinion surrounding those big pictures. guy takes a similar line to that of the post in disparaging the necessity of the integrated and semi-integrated headset, and a healthy attitude towards the efficacy of carbon in places of doubtful advantage. so while the accompanying photographs are very easy on the eye, and utimately inhabit the more refined end of the how much? category, this seems particularly apt since few, if any, will be considering the assembling of a custom road bike on the cheap. most of the fun is looking at much of the available trinketry and figuring out how to afford it without scaring the bank manager and incurring the wrath of your very own mrs washingmachinepost.
mr andrews however, although well qualified to present such a book as this, has realised the importance of incorporating the views, opinions and knowledge of others perhaps better qualified to discuss some of the finer and more personal points of view. this is manifest in his introduction to members of bicycle royalty: richard sachs, bob parlee, dario pegoretti, ernesto colnago, indyfab, and profiles of both brooks saddles and chris king components. if one is qualified to criticise, it is that a third member of framebuilding's great triumvirate is missing in action: sacha white of vanilla cycles.
combine the foregoing with guy andrews' undoubted perspicacity on the contemporary world of high-end componentry, and how it's all meant to go together, and you have a large format book that laughs in the face of our narrow-minded preconception of the average coffee-table book. £30 is a not inconsiderable sum to spend on a book, particularly if the notion to assemble a custom road bicycle is only that of a passing fancy. but in truth, that is the very reason to own a copy; aside from the ultimate delight of drooling over cycling's equivalent of nasa technology, there's that nagging reality that one day that superlative bicycle might just inhabit the bike shed.
i have a sneaking suspicion that it may be just as essential as an inner-tube.
posted wednesday 13 october 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................