Utne Blogs > Environment

Bike Repair Demystified

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: environment, bicycle, bike, maintenance, Chainbreaker, zine,

I’m a daily bike commuter who does most of my own bike maintenance, and I’m tired of reading the wholly impractical advice doled out by many manuals and magazines. Advice like, “Clean your chain after every ride.” Are you freaking serious? I’m lucky if I can find the time to clean my chain monthly, let alone after every ride. So I love the seat-of-the-pants, low-budget guidance offered in The Chainbreaker Bike Book (Microcosm Publishing), a new do-it-yourself bike maintenance guide that keeps things simple, straightforward, and, most importantly, real.

The first half of the book is a guide to choosing and maintaining a bike and all its components, while the second half contains reprints of the Chainbreaker bike zine, which was published from 2001 to 2005. As far as I’m concerned, the zine reprints are just a bonus to a first-rate, fun-to-read bike manual that walks you through everything from how to true a wheel to how to avoid the dreaded “chain suck.”

The authors, Shelley Lynn Jackson and Ethan Clark, have a conversational voice and a down-to-earth attitude that favors reuse and eschews trendiness and unnecessary expense. “Bikes give people self-reliance, but the high-end bike shop tries to take that away,” they write. They freely admit that their manual is “slightly limited and maybe a little old school,” and that’s exactly why I like it.

gary ashcraft
8/24/2008 12:08:10 PM

Bike Shops, Bike Magazines, and in fact just about everybody in the commercial bicycle market place is not a friend of the everyday commuting bicyclist. The entire bicycle industry in the U.S. is aimed at three segments of the market. #1 High end road riders who shell out major bucks for expensive bikes and gear to participate ( or want to look like they particpate ) in century / fund raiser rides. #2 Mountain / Trail riders who shell out major bucks for expensive bikes and gear to tear up back country ( or want to look like they tear up back country ). #3 Cheap bikes for every day riding ( 10 or less miles a week ), bikes that won't last more than a couple of years at best, bikes that when they need inevitable repair will hopefully be up sold to a more expensive bike that won't last a lot longer. I live in Houston Tx and have been bike commuting an average of 100 miles a week for the better part of the last 20 years ( long before it was trendy ). I am delighted to see that as gas price's rise more and more commuting riders are hitting the streets here in Houston and around the country. The sad truth is that the type bike I have cobbled together over the years has been a machine that has function as it primary goal, and fashion is irrelavent. It has no resemblance to anything that's being marketed or sold to the public. The amazing thing is that as I look at the bikes of REAL everyday bike commuters out there from all over the U.S. ( and world for that matter )I find a near uncanny resemblance between all our bikes ( forged out of the reality of everyday life on the steets ), and yet not one of them look like anything you can walk into a bike shop purchase and ride out the door. I just watched Ed Begley Jr. riding a bike he rides 100 miles a week and it's resemblance to mine or countless other bikes of everyday commuters is so nearly uniform it's startling. I finally get to my point by saying I find it somewhat charming


gary ashcraft
8/24/2008 12:07:45 PM

Bike Shops, Bike Magazines, and in fact just about everybody in the commercial bicycle market place is not a friend of the everyday commuting bicyclist. The entire bicycle industry in the U.S. is aimed at three segments of the market. #1 High end road riders who shell out major bucks for expensive bikes and gear to participate ( or want to look like they particpate ) in century / fund raiser rides. #2 Mountain / Trail riders who shell out major bucks for expensive bikes and gear to tear up back country ( or want to look like they tear up back country ). #3 Cheap bikes for every day riding ( 10 or less miles a week ), bikes that won't last more than a couple of years at best, bikes that when they need inevitable repair will hopefully be up sold to a more expensive bike that won't last a lot longer. I live in Houston Tx and have been bike commuting an average of 100 miles a week for the better part of the last 20 years ( long before it was trendy ). I am delighted to see that as gas price's rise more and more commuting riders are hitting the streets here in Houston and around the country. The sad truth is that the type bike I have cobbled together over the years has been a machine that has function as it primary goal, and fashion is irrelavent. It has no resemblance to anything that's being marketed or sold to the public. The amazing thing is that as I look at the bikes of REAL everyday bike commuters out there from all over the U.S. ( and world for that matter )I find a near uncanny resemblance between all our bikes ( forged out of the reality of everyday life on the steets ), and yet not one of them look like anything you can walk into a bike shop purchase and ride out the door. I just watched Ed Begley Jr. riding a bike he rides 100 miles a week and it's resemblance to mine or countless other bikes of everyday commuters is so nearly uniform it's startling. I finally get to my point by saying I find it somewhat charming