Evolution – Sneak Preview

There´s books the world was waiting for, and those it hadn´t known it was. There are books that enter upon the scene with a bang, and those that prove their value quietly over time. These are the characteristics of Florian Freund´s and Matthias Kielwein´s Veloevolution, all four of them.

velo-evolution_02When I first scanned it I thought, well, what´s new? To begin with there are about 30 pages of very informative text. Interested in production figures of the German cycle industry over the ages? You´ll find them. The reasons behind engineering inprovements? They´re there. How did a certain bicycle ride a hundred or more years ago? There´s a good chance that you´ll read about it. These facts will mostly be known to experienced cycle collectors, but even they will find new info, making the book well-suited even for those who have busied themselves with old bikes for years. The added advantage of Veloevolution is that you will find the most important info collected in one book, ready for mythbusting. This is something we have waited for.

Also when you work through the chapters it becomes clear rather quickly that the manner in which facts are presented (chronological narrative) make the book a good read for those who aren´t experienced cycle collectors, and I think that this is true for about 99.9 percent of the population, conservative guess. So Veloevolution can be considered to be an enjoyable introduction to German cycle history for those who are only mildly interested (yet) and who didn´t know they were waiting for the book.

velo-evolution_03Also the authors are on the height of current research, and that myths that bedevil many general cycle histories (no names quoted here, for obvious reasons) are not repeated. This is not only an added bonus, but can be called essential.

OK, but what about the bang? Well, the tome came in a box accompanied by a handful of colourful flyers and advertising postcards, which I imagine must be the prelude to a biggish advertising campaign. I don´t think I´ll have to explain that Veloevolution will make a long time impact, possibly as the work which will interest many people in cycle history.

velo-evolution_05And, of course, there are the pictures, about 80 pages of them, 22 by 29 cms in full colour. Florian Freund is a professional photographer, and it shows. One could lose oneself in the illustrations, all taken either of original machines (there is an appendix describing every machine and its state of originality, or restoration) or perfectly restored ones. All of them are exemplary, in their special ways. They stem from the collection, now mostly disbanded, of Siegfried Stahl.

Florian and his co-author Matthias Kielwein have managed to choose, photograph and explain dozens of great bicycles, tracing mostly German cycle history from its rise in the 1880s to its demise in the 1970s, nearly ending their tale with the infamous Sprick Active Comfort and the even more so Itera. The very last bike, however, is a beautiful 1983 Cinelli SC road bike.

This way the book also traces the history of cycle collecting in Germany – collectors having  begun with the older bikes, when solid rubber still was affordable and restorers wouldn´t flinch to destroy even well preserved original surfaces to attain mirror like finishes, then working its way through the progressively less well made black heavies, and only recently beginning to develop an interest in the way out of collecting colourful 1950s trash by developing an interest in road and track bikes which have always been at the forefront of cycle technology in Germany, where we dearly lack the British club cycling tradition as well as French cycle culture.

velo-evolution_04One could think that the pictures are the reason why the book was made, and man being a visual animal this may well be true. They will certainly help to gain the volume the popularity it deserves.


Florian Freund, Matthias Kielwein, Veloevolution, Maxime Verlag, 2014. 120 pp in full colour, hard cover, price 24.95 Euros. ISBN 978-3-931965-26-6. Obtainable direct from the publisher´s at fahrradbuch.de or in any bookshop. Out Feb. 10. Small publishers and local book shops – use them or loose them.

Check out the Veloevolution Facebook page.

All photos in this review are courtesy Florian Freund.


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