I have just received a copy of the marvelous book "The Competition Bicycle" by Jan Heine. It is a wonderful follow up to his previous book "The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles".
Both books are filled with superb photographs by Jean-Pierre Praderes. I don't think I have ever seen better photos of bikes. The Golden Age book only shows French touring bikes. I have no problem with that. It is just that I feel that the title is a little misleading. It should be "The Golden Age of French Touring Bicycles". After all there were a few good handbuilt bicycles built elsewhere.
‘The Competition Bicycle’ however deals with just that, the racing bike, although including the Paris newspaper couriers' bike is a bit of a stretch. Those bikes were everyday work bikes that for one day each year were used in a race organized for them.
My one irritation about the book is the photo on the flysheet, the photo of Eddy Merckx's bike.
Eddy Merckx's bike as shown in 'The Competition Bicycle'.
In my humble opinion Merckx's bike was just about the finest looking bike ever. The proportions were perfect and it was from an era when all parts were simple and clean. No extra cables from Ergo/STI levers, no ugly threadless stems, perfect 32 spoke wheels with simple rims not covered in advertising and frame tubes of classic dimensions. Even the decals are clean and simple. I think Jan Heine must agree with me on this otherwise he wouldn't have used the photo on the cover and in all his advertising for the book. However the image is spoilt by the position of the saddle. Merckx would never have ridden it with the saddle so low. It is about five centimetres below where Eddy would have positioned it.
Eddy Merckx with his perfect bike.
Apparently after the bike was ridden by Eddy to win the '74 World Championship in Montreal it was presented to the Pope. The Pope then passed it on to a priest who was a bit of a cyclist. He apparently rode it a few times and then presented to the cyclists’ chapel of Madonna de Ghisallo.
Why when Jan Heine and Jean Pierre Pradares photographed the bike didn't they put the saddle back to Eddy's position? Jan is very knowledgeable and must have realized that it was wrong.
I haven't yet finished reading the book completely but Jan obviously knows the subject really well. I have only found one mistake in the text so far and that is one concerning the operation of the Cervino derailleur. A very minor mistake that only someone as obsessive as me about derailleurs would pick up on.
Both Heine's books are great and anyone with a keen interest in classic bikes should have them on their bookshelf.
I just wish I could get that saddle repositioned.
Both books are available from: www.vintagebicyclepress.com.