Saturday, December 28, 2013

Classic American Bicycles - Book Review

Classic American BicyclesClassic American Bicycles by Jay Pridmore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book, which is now 15 years old, is a good blend of readable text and color photographs of mostly iconic bicycles from the earliest bicycles in America through the 1990s. The book is published as part of as series titled, "Enthusiast Color Series" so the presumed audience would most be people like me who are already interested and know something about bicycle history.

The photographs are generally of bicycles on exhibit at the Bicycle Museum of America - most were taken outdoors in posed settings. There are a small number of reproduction period photographs, too. Perhaps the main drawback of this kind of book is that the photographs are all full shots of the bicycles at medium distance so that you usually can't make out particular details - it really takes a coffee table size volume to have lots of close-up shots, too, I guess.

Given that more than half the space in the 96 pages is taken up with the photographs, the text does a good job of being both engaging and informative, even though it can't serve as an in-depth description of the subject. Mr. Pridmore, whose other books include ones about Schwinn's history, seems well qualified to write this book.

A book like this, focusing on "classics," tends to emphasize the unusual - for the enthusiast these are often the most interesting. And for a so-called enthusiast, that's fine - such a person will get that. As a photographic history of American bicycles more generally, however, this wouldn't work very well.

I gave this book five stars because it fulfilled my expectations for such books very well - I bought it used from Powells Book Store - I like to have books like this to pick up and page through from time to time.

View my reviews of cycling books on Goodreads.

Additional comment: Having read this book, which credits the Bicycle Museum of America as a "collaborator" on the title page, I looked at their website. I assume there are any number of reasons why small museums like this provide somewhat inferior presentations of their collections online - for one, if one could see the bicycles well on the site, why travel to New Bremen, Ohio? And also such web presentations cost money. The "online museum" includes a timeline of bicycle history (that reflects many of the highlights in the book) and an alphabetical directory of bicycles, presumably ones they have on exhibit. Oddly the entry for Pierce Arrow misspells the company's name as "Piece Arrow" in not one but two places. The selected images in this directory of bicycles are small and not likely to take away anyone's desire to visit the actual museum.

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