Sunday, December 19, 2010

The 12 6 Days of Festivus, Part 5

This one's a little riskier -- I think the cyclist on your list needs to be just a bit bike-geekier for today's gift to really be a winner. Either that, or your cyclist needs to be vulnerable to bike-geek tendencies... and you have to be prepared to live with the consequences of encouraging those tendencies.

I'm talking, of course, about a subscription to the best bicycle magazine in print today (ATMO, trademark R. Sachs), Jan Heine's Bicycle Quarterly. The genius of BQ is its ability to expose a piece of cycling history you may have never seen before: the French "constructeur" bikes of the mid-20th century. While race bikes were only starting their grinding evolution toward the one-trick ponies of today, builders like Herse and Singer were crafting fully-equipped, fully-integrated, surprisingly light bikes... fenders, lighting, racks, handmade components, the works. I confess, I was entirely ignorant of these builders and their bikes before BQ came along, and now I can't get enough of them.

Not content with just doing history, BQ then tries to figure out what it is about these bikes that makes them ride so darn well... and puts their hypotheses to the test with the most rigorous attempts at bicycle science I've seen to date. I may take issue with the results from time to time (don't get me started on "planing"), but I admire the attempt to bring some objectivity to the murk. You'll never swallow another boilerplate, regurgitated-press-release bike "review" (laterally stiff yet vertically compliant!) quite the same way after a taste of BQ.

(If your cyclist has been extra-good this year, think about popping for one of the gorgeous books from Bicycle Quarterly Press: The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles or The Competition Bicycle - A Photographic History. I have the former, and I keep hoping to someday get off the naughty list and receive the latter... hint, hint.)

1 comment:

Scott Loveless said...

I, too, have a copy of "The Golden Age...". The porteurs and campeurs are among my favorites and have had a significant influence on the way I attach, um, off-the-rack components to my, uh, production bikes. Sigh.

BQ is the best bicycle-related publication currently in circulation, ATMO.