Friday, 20 February 2009

Mountain Bike Maintenance, Rob Van Der Plas (2007)

Cycle Publishing/Van Der Plas Publications 1 892495 53 8 Octo 176pp $16.95/£10.95

Lavishly illustrated in colour, this is a very competently written and assembled guide to fixing most things on most bikes, as well as such mountain-bike specific jobs, such as servicing your suspension

There is a tension at the heart of cycle culture. On the one hand, part of the appeal of cycling is that it stands apart from late-period capitalism. Bicycles span more than a century – scarcely changed as a piece of technology. One can be had for peanuts, and riding it costs not a groat. So, by doing so you enter a real, wind-in-your-hair world, that stands apart from the oil-guzzling simulacra of majority culture.

On the other hand, without effectively making and selling things, there would be no bicycles. Cycling requires the on-going invigoration provided by new techniques in production, sales and marketing . Modern groupsets, for example, are fantastically better than their 1970s counterparts – but keeping up with Campagnolo and Shimano’s planned obsolescence and Chinese-menu marketing methods is endlessly frustrating.

This book is a product of that tension. It is a simple, effective guide to cycle maintenance that should allow all but the mechanically dyslexic to keep their cycles on the road. By doing so, those wielding spanners and hex wrenches will be taking their own little stand against the ‘buy it, don’t use it, chuck-it-away’ current that flows the modern world.

But one can’t help but wish that a single book should serve for all bicycle maintenance needs. Of the 18 chapters in this book, only three (disk brakes, front suspension and rear suspension) are mountain-bike specific. True, for someone who simply wants to maintain their mountain bike, they will purchase no needless chapters on brake-lever-control gears, for example. Such guidance doesn’t take up much of more general guides, however.

Van Der Plas is a titan of cycle maintenance publishing, and clearly need to make a living to keep his company afloat. And any business school will tell you that they more products you can create from the same stock of intellectual capital, the more you will sell.

Part of me admires him for rebottling his ideas with such verve. Part of me wishes that it was possible for someone of his standing to commit all his best ideas to a single volume and sit back happy in knowledge that such a publication was in the spirit of cycling.

Pedalspinner Feb 09

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