50 years, 50 bikes

by Howard Kelly

with photography by Michael Lichter

Motorbooks International
$40 (hardcover), 224 pages, 225 color photos

This impressive coffee-table book was financed by S&S Cycle to celebrate their 50th anniversary, but such creative marketing surely merits recognition. Broken into six sections, each representing a type of engine sold by S&S Cycle (P-, SB-, SH-, V-, T-, and X-Series), the book features top custom builders and a bike made by each of them.

It’s unfair to generalize, yet this volume provides a glimpse into the different aesthetic styles and engineering approaches of today’s custom builders. Bertrand Dubet, Kendall Johnson, Jesse Rooke, Aldo Querio Gianetto and other less familiar names take their place beside Chica, Paul Cox, Kris Krome, the Teutels and the team at Redneck Engineering. Naturally, Arlen Ness is included but son Cory and grandson Zach, who have too long been overshadowed by the creations of the big daddy of customs, are also showcased.

One commendable feature of the book is that it doesn’t mention that the 50th anniversary project was a competitive build-off, with judging by the builders, S&S personnel, media, attendees at the 2008 exhibition show and by Internet, nor does it include an index listing the winners or their prizes. The 50 bikes—and their builders—stand on their own merits and the reader is responsible for choosing their favorites.

The book is a delicious bit of eye candy that has a luscious look and feel. I love well-crafted books, more so when the glossy pages are filled with photos of beautiful bikes.


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