Mike Burrows: the biography of the man and his bicycles

Carlton Reid
Mike Burrows: the biography of the man and his bicycles

“Bicycle design” by Mike Burrows is a classic how-to book on – you guessed it – the design of bicycles, and it’s had updates via new editions (it’s up to the fifth edition), but until now there hasn’t been a book on Burrows himself, and on all of the many bikes he’s designed over the years. Until now, that is. “From Bicycle to Superbike” is written by cycle historian Tony Hadland, with input from Burrows.

With a foreword by Chris Boardman – boy, does Chris get around – “From Bicycle to Superbike” is a bicycle-biography, a full-colour, fact-packed look back at some of Burrows’ iconic machines. In some ways Burrows could be given a lot of the credit for Team GB’s recent Olympic successes because it was his Lotus superbike that Boardman used to win Olympic gold – the first for Britain in 72 years – at Barcelona in 1992, and which kick-started Britain’s renaissance as a fast-cycling nation. In his foreword Boardman says Burrows is “the godfather of modern bicycle aerodynamics”, and writes about how he was way ahead of his time. (He still is.)

But, of course, Burrows is responsible for more than “just” the Lotus super bike; he also developed – in 1994, for Giant – the Compact Road Bike, the design of which was soon nicked by every road bike company in the world. Today’s road bikes all tend to be based on this 1994 design (and, thanks to its economies of sizes, helped bike companies make more money).

Hadland’s book also has lots on Burrows’ other passion – human-powered vehicles, specifically the low-slung recumbent trike. And also featured in the book is Burrows “shopping” bikes, starting with the Amsterdam in 1989. This was was later developed into the Paris, a (sadly rejected) project by Giant, and has now been developed into the Gordon, a Pinion-gearbox-equipped city bike that Burrows says could be mass-produced in China and could be a highly-practical yet technologically advanced “bicycle for the people”.

Stuart Dennison, proprietor of Bikefix in London, writes in the book:

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“To break free from the norm requires some imagination, a critical mind and some stubbornness. It helps if you like to question accepted conventions and are not afraid of a few failures. These are characteristics that Mike Burrows has in bucket-loads. My favourite quote: “That’s a really stupid idea, I know because I tried it.””

If you’ve got “Bicycle Design” you’ll want this book. If you haven't got “Bicycle Design” you’ll still want this book. Because of Hadland’s eye for detail it’s not as idiosyncratic as “Bicycle Design”, but has tons of insider trade information that industry types will lap up.


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“From Bicycle to Superbike” costs £25 and is available from Hadland Books. For shops wishing to stock the book trade discounts are available.

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