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.