Seventy Three Degrees, the world’s finest bicycle builders, is a new coffee table hardback based on Q&A interviews with a selection of frame-builders from around the world.
The £30 book has a foreword by Tour de France yellow jersey holder and ex-Sky DS Sean Yates, and was launched earlier this month. It is co-authored by two veterans at titanium specialist, Enigma Bikes: the MD, Jim Walker (who is described as an entrepreneur in the acknowledgements) and frame designer Mark Reilly.
It’s not quite a book by frame-builders for frame-builders though. It’s for their customers, or as it says on the website, it’s ‘the perfect book for all those who love the hand crafted bicycle’.
That means there’s a fair bit of technical detail. The book has useful box-outs explaining what various terms mean. That page by page explanation is supplemented with a Tech section at the back, which carries a full glossary and obscure information such as the melting points of silicon bronze welding rods.
However, the main focus of the book is on the heritage and emotion and those frame-builders who do things in the old way. Those repetitive refrains are tiring and it borders on pretentiousness quite frequently. Passages such as this, where US builder Richard Sachs explains how long it’s taken him to hone his skills, are common: ‘It would be wrong to say that I could do this blindfolded but I do now finally feel that I have mastered it, that doesn’t mean that my evolution has ceased but I really think that I know what I’m doing now; I don’t even think I could say those words 10 years ago.’
Many of the pull-out quotes are corkers for the myth-building that’s grown up to help builders sell bikes too. How about this from Independent Fabrication’s Jesse Fox? “If I wasn’t designing frames, I don’t really know what I would be doing! Maybe fulfilling my other dream and touring as a musician.”
Or this in the Mercian chapter: “Customers are not encouraged to visit this hallowed place, Grant prefers his workshop staff to get on with the important work.”
Other problems – especially in a book with such a weighty pricetag – are the typos and minor mistakes throughout. In Yates’ foreword, ‘peloton’ is spelled ‘peleton’ and tubing from Ishiwata, is rendered Isiwata.
Frame-building is particularly photogenic – it’s all those blowtorches, different textures, old tools and grimy workshops – and the photographer Leigh Simpson made the most of it. The book does look gorgeous.
Seventy Three Degrees is fine to dip into and ogle at pictures of people welding, but the interviews pall after a while. Frame-builders all sound the same; they’re all passionate, they’re all still learning and they’d still be making frames for fun even if it didn’t pay the bills.
The book is published by Enigma Titanium Limited. For more information visit: Enigma Bikes.