Imagine a crisp fall day where the trails are hooking up so nicely it feels like you’re riding on rails. It’s so sweet you decide to skip the parking lot and continue on. After a few more miles you’ve peaked with adrenaline and start to put more power down to get up a small, steep climb — and your chain snaps. When “f***!” is the first thing that comes to mind, instead of, “Sweet, I finally get to use my new multitool”, well, that’s when you phone home to say you’ll be late for dinner.
Or how about this: You’re on a leisurely bike ride with that girl you’ve been dying to meet from the gym, the one you’ve dubbed “Velo Chick”. You dressed the part: new kit, sweet Oakleys and your buddy’s Pinnarello Dogma. After about 30 minutes of imagining a life with Velo chick you notice your rear tire has been leaking air. The moment you realize you will need to demonstrate your mechanical skills, or lack of, panic sets in. After fumbling around to get the wheel off, you realize you forgot tire irons and only have a vague sense of how to change a tire. Velo Chick realizes you have no clue what you’re doing and, like a ninja, she jumps in to fix your flat in a nanosecond.
Either scenario can be a moment to shine rather than a disaster — and in many other instances, a wealth of knowledge and the right tools can save you hundreds of dollars over the lifespan of your bike. All it takes is an understanding of a few basic repairs. We’ve picked out our favorite bike repair books so you can back to the car in time for steaks and, if you’re lucky, a second date with Velo Chick.
Big Blue Book of Bike Repair, 3rd Edition
Best All-Around Book: Park Tools is known for making some of the highest quality bike tools, so it should be no surprise that the the Big Blue Book of Bike Repair is a must have for everything from basic repairs to complete overhauls. Written by Park Tool Director of Education Calvin Jones, the Big Blue Book is the perfect reference guide and step-by-step repair manual for nearly any bike, including road, mountain, BMX and single-speed.
Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance, 5th Edition
Best Mountain Bike Book: Mountain bikes are made to take a beating, but they’re not bombproof. Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance covers every procedure to repair, maintain, tune or upgrade a mountain bike could ever need in an easy-to-follow guide. The fifth edition offers coverage of all the newest mountain bike tech without neglecting the bikes and components from the last decade. Lennard Zinn’s smart tips and exploded views of how parts are put together enable a newbie to make basic repairs while giving the more ambitious home mechanics the knowledge they need to do it all themselves.
Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, 4th Edition
Best Road Bike Book: Zinn’s road bike repair covers the gamut of techniques and solutions, from basic repairs like how to fix a flat tire to emergency jobs like broken chains and bent derailleurs, and also includes a troubleshooting guide to help you snuff out that irritating creak. If you’re feeling more advanced, more than 600 illustrations provide the road map for overhauling almost any bike built in the last 20 years. The 4th edition includes a section on preparing cyclocross bikes for racing with a detailed guide on selecting the right components.
Barnett’s Manual: Analysis and Procedures for Bicycle Mechanics (4 Vol. Set)
Most Comprehensive Book: This industry standard is the book need if you’re after a masterclass in bike repair. Barnett’s Manual breaks down every aspect of bicycle repair in a four-volume set printed on perforated, grease-resistant paper. It feels more like a guide for aircraft than bicycles, with every chapter detailing terminology, reasons for service, prerequisites, tool choices and complications to anticipate. This is not a guide for the faint of heart.
Made in England: The Artisans Behind the Handbuilt Bicycle
Best Coffee Table Book: If you’re more of a maker than a mechanic, Made in England is your kind of literature. Co-authors Matthew Sowter and Ricky Feather are both award-winning mountain bike, track bike and road bike frame builders. The hardcover book features 12 frame-builders and one tubing manufacturer, highlighting the art of being a frame-builder. Made in England is written in a conversational style and is composed of interviews with 12 separate frame builders (along with a tubing manufacturer) in their studios to investigate their art. Beautiful photography breathes life into the craft of handbuilt bicycles.
Bonus: Bike Repair App
Best Maintenance App: You guessed it: There’s an app for that. The Bike Repair App for iPad, iPhone and Android has developed guides that are associated with every major mechanical area of the bike, from wheels to cranks. Each guide provides an overview of the procedure, how often it should be performed and the necessary tools. While this app is not going to provide you a dissertation with large diagrams for the procedure, it is a good Cliff’s Notes approach to learning.
Dirk Shaw is the Group Director at WPP / Ogilvy & Mather. His pursuit of two-wheeled adventure includes training for long distance mountain bike races, commuting to work and ripping through canyons on his Daytona. Follow Dirk’s musings about cycling on Tumblr or his blog for insights and observations on media. @dirkmshaw.