100 Best Bikes by Zahid Sardar

I think this title is silly.  Also, shouldn’t it be Best 100 Bikes? Or is it a play on the idea that every ‘real’ cyclist has a ‘best’ bike which only comes out for warm, dry Sundays? Either way, this book is more a catalogue of new bikes than a collection of the best 100 bikes ever.

It even has a pricing guide, expressed in relative terms of $ to $$$$$, where $ is less than $1000, and $$$$$ is more than $10 000.  There’s a Colnago CX in the book, and it scores $$$, so you can see that, for the likes of you & me, some of the content of this book is very much in the fantasy bikes area.

The choice of bikes is eclectic, with something for everyone to dislike (and like): folding tandem, electric assist cargo, Velorbis Arrow Gent’s bike, Surly Long Haul Trucker, the afore-mentioned Colnago CX, PK Ripper  … On the face of it, fairly comprehensive of the cycling spectrum, from the entirely functional Brompton to the as-yet unbuilt Intelligent Urban.  Ironically, these bikes appear in the same section, Folding / Innovative.

I am also slightly perplexed to find the Fuji Feather, a brakeless track bike, in the City / Utility section. Ok, it’s fitted with 36 hole hubs, 25c tyres and a 46-16 ratio (which, by the way, isn’t all that small a gear, and is probably a little too big for comfort), but does that really make it an ideal city bike?

After flicking through it a few times, I’m still not really sure what the point of this book is, though.  Is it designed to be an overview of the best bikes to be found anywhere right now, as the publisher’s blurb claims?  In which case, why are Bullitt not present in the Utility section?  For my money (or even if I’m spending someone else’s), Bullitt has to be best urban utility bike currently available, in terms of cost versus utility. If it’s stand-out, innovative design, then the Mike Burrows designed 8 Freight cargo bike should definitely be included, as there is no other mono-blade frame design even remotely like it, and Mike Burrows himself has come up with some of the most innovative bike design of the last 20 years, notably the Giant Compact Road series.

On the other hand, if it’s just straight-up bike pron, why isn’t, for example, Bilenky Cycleworks included?  Bilenky have been around for years, fillet braze as well as anyone, have come up with unusual designs, and have won multiple awards at the North American Handbuilt Bike Show.

Perhaps my sensibility is somewhat different to that of the author.  According to the publisher’s blurb, Zahid Sardar is a writer on architecture and design. It may be that I am not the target audience for this book.

Gripes aside, this book does have lots of glossy pictures of glossy new bikes, and the price is reasonable for 220 glossy pictures of glossy new bikes.  I would not describe it as a coffee-table book (do you know anyone with a coffee table? I can only think of one person, and she is over 60, and doesn’t keep coffee-table books on it) because it’s not hard-back and isn’t really big to be used as a murder weapon.

It does have a couple of pages of quotes from bike designers at the front which are worth a read.  A couple picked at random:

I love to see bikes becoming more popular as forms of transport rather than seeing them used only in races – Chris Boardman.

Cities are becoming myopic in their interest in cars. It is better to have vehicles that are more efficient – Bjarke Engels.

‘100 Best Bikes’, Zahid Sardar, Laurence King Publishing, ISBN 978 1 78067 008 9, £14.95

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