When you review bike products, sometimes they arrive with some swag. T-shirt, stickers, sure. But sometimes there’s a cool memento, like an Abbey Tool laser-etched by whatever brand has partnered up with them for the launch. Or an artifact from the product’s manufacturing and development, like a piece of the innovative raw material that made it possible. But what came with my GX Transmission kit is by far the most moving party favor I’ve ever received.
A curious 336-page book sat under the top sheet of bubble wrap. I’ve seen brand books before. Norco recently circulated one among the media, and it was an effective reminder of the impact they have had over the years. A well laid-out highlight reel that reminded me of the many eras of mountain biking Norco had been a part of. I expected the same from this book. Grip Shift, Sachs-Sedis, RockShox, ESP, Zipp, XX, XX1, DoubleTap, Eagle, AXS, Transmission. But that’s not what this book is at all. There’s a lot of stage-setting, for sure. But this is a book about Transmission. Or, more accurately, it’s a book about the people who made Transmission happen.
It is a neatly stacked pile of chaos. The stacker in question happens to be the innovative design and publishing firm, Misspent Summers. Give them a follow. You’d like them. There’s a lot of soul and craft to what they do. And when I saw their name on the masthead, I wondered if that soul and craft would simply be a prism for a bunch of SRAM’s boring, lofty promises about what Transmission can do. But after just one lazy thumb-flip through the pages, my jaw began to slowly drop. And swear to god, I think I got a little misty-eyed.
I’ve never seen a better, more densely-packed illustration of what it takes to make a bike part. Sure, I’ve seen 3-D printed models, test mules, and artsy blueprints before. But I’ve never seen them juxtaposed this well alongside the people who created them, and against the backdrop of the sport that will eventually benefit from them. It’s a type of storytelling that almost feels like a magic trick. I’ve still only read a handful of the pages, but I know more about what went into making Transmission than any first-ride review would—or should—bother to get into.
There are quick interviews with developers playing seemingly small roles, as well as pull quotes from industry celebrities within SRAM and its orbit. There are beautiful concept drawings, factory visits, athlete profiles, and page after page of Pinkbike comments.
It’s an entertaining read, for sure. And it’s simply beautiful to look at, especially if you find bike parts to be beautiful. But I think it’s more than that. So many of us build up a wall of cynicism to protest the consumerism that taints every new product launch. All-powerful brands are more skilled than ever at convincing us why the widget they just came out with is better than one we already have. But the humanity on display in this book is proof that, like it or not, the engine driving those widgets’ development is the same engine you and I have. We all want to make our rides as good as they can be. The people at Norco are doing it by rethinking geometry and value. The people at Abbey are doing it by building pride in your workshop. And the people at SRAM are doing it by making Transmission.
Although there’s a price on the back of the book ($30), I’ve been told there are no solid plans to make the book commercially available. But if I’ve gotten you curious about it, maybe ask your shop if they could bring one in to put in the bathroom. Ask the bike-magnet coffee roaster in your town if they could get SRAM to send them one to put on the shelf next to the board games. Ask your friendly neighborhood influencer if they can read it on a Twitch stream or whatever they do. I can’t promise it’ll bring you to tears, but it might restore or strengthen your faith in the bike industry. It does some pretty cool stuff sometimes.