By Rob Van der Plas and Frank Berto
Review by Robert Leone, Bike Coalition Board Member
The word “Illustrations” instead of “Art” is used quite deliberately in the
title of this vast and wide ranging collection of drawings. Daniel Rebour was
an illustrator, focused on depicting the reality of bikes, parts and
accessories in understandable ways. He wasn't creating art to hang on the
walls, but instead building pictures to inform his bike-riding, or
bike-selling, audience. In his heyday, the mid-to-late 1940's and early 1950's,
his illustrations from trade and manufacturing shows, from bike races and bike
shops, documented and displayed the fascinating products of fertile
imaginations increasingly freed from World War II's restrictions on trade and
His five decades or so of productive work, first seen in now-old
periodicals (whose widest distribution was in Europe), or out-of-date ephemera
such as catalogs, is carefully collected (with captions, and in a few select
cases careful endnote descriptions) and sorted into a boggling twenty-eight
sections here. This is a good thing in many ways. As time passes, the original
sources for this important documentation is increasingly fragmented or lost.
Further, someone whose immediate interest is in a certain component or frame
part can go directly to the section on “Suspension Systems” or “Drivetrain
On the other hand, the sheer size and breadth of the book, and of
Rebour's lifetime of work, is daunting as a single read. Also daunting: The
creativity of the bike trade. As early as the 1940's, there were CO2
inflators. Late 1940's rear derailleur drawings include exploded illustrations
of mechanisms whose flat sides are seemingly punched or sawed out of sheet
metal or bar stock, and appear one parts list and hardware store trip away from
being a home project for the most ambition of home metal workers.
Some of the
illustrations are mildly shocking: As late as the 1950's, decades after Tullio
Campagnolo supposedly made the world safe for quick wheel changes, even top
name competitors in the Tour de France rode on bikes with nutted axles instead
of quick-release skewers (admittedly those nutted axles were secured with big
wingnuts for ease of change without tools). In light of today's innovations in
generator hubs and powerful LED systems, the many illustrations of sidewall
generators powering incandescent (even if halogen-bulbed) lights seem quaint.
In short, this is a massive collection and celebration of one man's work that
documents an important and fruitful era in the technical development of the bicycle.
Take a look – you might get an idea!