Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Bicycling Illustrated Bicycle Maintenance, Todd Downs (2005)

Rodale 1 4050 8788 9 Quarto 320pp £17.99

A comprehensive repair manual that is rich in step-by-step photos and exploded diagrams aimed at the most serious end of the consumer market

This venerable publishing institution has been in production – in various guises – for more than 20 years. Nonetheless, this edition is up-to-date in its coverage and modern in its presentation. From brake-lever gear controls, to sealed bearing headsets and servicing SPD pedals, it has everything that a modern bicycle owner could need. It goes well beyond routine servicing and maintenance jobs, and includes such puzzlers as removing and replacing cottered cranks and disassembling a cassette. It does not include wheel building or realigning frames – in other words it covers everything that a home mechanic might contemplate undertaking with only a book for instruction.

If I have one criticism it is that the book is a bit wordy and dense. A manual of this kind does not promise to be a laugh a minute, but there does seem to be an awful lot of text for the amount of information that it actually imparts.

It also throws up a question. Just how do you gain the experience that you need to start really taking bicycles apart?

Bicycling’s guide tries hard to cover all the bases. Gear systems from Campagnolo and Shimano, components old and new. But everyone knows that as soon as the printing presses roll, new components will appear whose servicing the book does not describe. And yet, millions of home mechanics will capably dismantle and revitalise such components without recourse to any kind of manual. Most of them will probably have started off in adolescence with a book such as this one. It is the repeated pulling apart of mechanisms and then reversing that process from which they have really acquired the skills to make bikes work, however, as well as the occasional steer from someone more experienced than themselves.

To put it another way, Illustrated Bicycle Maintenance is arguably the most comprehensive cycle maintenance manual available in bookshops today – but it won’t make a bicycle mechanic of you until your copy has oily marks on at least half the pages.

PS January 09

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