From 1938 until today, Cycles Alex Singer has made some of the most wonderful bicycles ever made. (I may be biased, since I ride my 1973 Alex Singer randonneur bike more than any other bike.) Alex Singers have been appreciated especially by Japanese cyclists. This new hardcover book celebrates Cycles Alex Singer, seen through a Japanese lens.
On 168 pages, the large-format book shows studio photographs of 44 Alex Singer bicycles. The highlight is the machine that won the 1946 Concours Duraluminum technical trials (above, click on images for higher resolution). Weighing only 6.875 kg (15.16 lb) fully equipped with fenders, rack, lights and even a pump (but without tires),* this probably was the lightest “real-world” bike ever built. Detail photos show how every part was modified to save weight. Even the pedal bodies were cut away, exposing the spindle and bearings.
Renovating this bike was Ernest Csuka’s last project before he died in late 2009. This book is an homage to this builder, who was the soul of Cycles Alex Singer for half a century. Between the studio photos of the bicycles are historic photos of Alex Singer bicycles in action and wonderfully evocative views of Ernest Csuka in his shop.
Most of the bikes featured in this book were built during the last two decades for Japanese customers. At first sight, they look like historic machines from the 1940s and 1950s, because they are outfitted with classic components like Cyclo derailleurs, Stronglight cranks and Maxi-Car hubs. Only some details of the frame construction (and their serial numbers) give away their recent age.
Reprints of Alex Singer catalogues with their artful Daniel Rebour drawings complete this book. The text is in Japanese, but a (sometimes rough) English translation of a few chapters is included with the book. The texts don’t offer much new, certainly not an in-depth history of Cycles Alex Singer, and they contain a few errors. Even so, I enjoyed Olivier Csuka’s reminiscences of visiting suppliers in the Paris region with his mother.
For Alex Singer aficionados and those who appreciate beautiful bikes, this book is worth the price for the photos alone. We expect an airshipment of books in the next two weeks, and the rest should arrive in late February/early March. Each large-format (9.25″ x 12″), hardback, full-color book costs $80. Pre-order your copy now.
* Lightweight bicycle tires were available only on the black market in 1946, so the bikes were weighed without tires and tubes to level the playing field. For comparison, the lightest randonneur bike Bicycle Quarterly has tested, with carbon fiber frame, fork and fenders and a titanium rack, weighed 8.825 kg (19.46 lb) without tires, or 1.95 kg (4.3 lb) more than the 1946 Alex Singer.