To mark the publication of his new book, The Bicycle Artisans, we spoke to author Will Jones about the renaissance in custom-made bicycles around the world today.
The US, UK and Australia have a lot of custom bike builders at the moment, and some European countries such as the Netherlands are not far behind. In the UK and other European countries, builders tend towards traditional styling and construction methods. In the US and Australia, they tend incorporate new materials and new styles, such as the cyclo-cross.
How is bicycle design influenced by other design practices and vice versa?
Bicycle design, for the most part, is very traditional – think of the almost unchanging geometry of the frame. But advances in materials technology have brought new possibilities, not only in terms of reduced weight and improved performance, but also in terms of new and innovative styles and forms.
Which bike builder from the book appeals to you personally?
My favourite builder in the book is Frances Cycles. The designer, Joshua Muir, builds cargo bikes because he wants people to see that the bicycle is more than a leisure vehicle. His goal is to reduce people’s dependency on cars – quite the challenge considering he is based in the US, where car ownership is the highest in the world.
How does one become a bicycle artisan?
Many of the builders in the book (too many to mention names) started out life with jobs in manufacturing, aerospace, even carpentry, and all quit to follow their dreams of building bikes. All of them will state however that it’s no get-rich-quick scheme, so it wasn’t a decision they took lightly.
Why is your book The Bicycle Artisans so relevant today?
Cycling has regained popularity in the past few years because it’s environmentally friendly, it encourages a healthy lifestyle, almost everyone can get involved, and because the machines people ride are a wonderful example of perfect design.
How should people use the book?
Flick through, see what catches your eye and then delve further – before long you’ll have read every page.
Finally, what was your motivation for writing the book?
I loved the idea of taking my design knowledge and focusing upon a new sector, a sector (cycling/bikes) that I have always been part of without really knowing it.
Available for £24.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.