December 18, 2010
The winter season is a great time to get on top of some bike maintenance projects, or to learn some basic mechanical skills to help save time and money spent at the shop. Regardless of your skill level, the book Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance is a great manual to have on hand.
In its 5th edition, Lennard Zinn's book adds on to an already impressive knowledge base, keeping things up-to-date with current innovations and tools. The book is heavy on dialogue, but there are still plenty of diagrams that are well-referenced, and provide great detail as well as expanded views of parts that illustrate how the nuts and bolts of various components fit together. Like the previous editions, the writing style does not talk down to the reader, and makes no assumptions about your skill level when explaining how things work. The books is also well organized, so you won't waste any time trying to find answers to your question.
To get an idea of how challenging a repair or adjustment will be, the book rates its level of difficulty based on the tools required for the job. The easiest level consists of a basic tool kit that you could possibly carry on a day ride, such as allen wrenches, screw drivers, a pump, and tube. The second level is still fairly basic, but includes tools you probably wouldn't carry on the road, such as crank pullers, cable cutters, and socket wrenches. The third level demands a solid garage shop, and includes not only more advanced (and expensive tools), but also spare parts, such as a cassette and cables. The fourth and final level is reserved for professional shops or serious home mechanics who want to do it all, with items such as bearing replacement and frame alignment tools. This is probably more than you care to know now, but it gives you an idea of the range of skill levels that the book covers.
My favorite feature of Lennard Zinn's book is that it doesn't spend all of its 464 pages going over installation and maintenance procedures. There are also a lot of useful tips and tricks mentioned, such as changing a flat tire without a tube or patch kit. There are also a couple pack lists for single and multi-day rides that can be very helpful.
The book isn't something you will want to tote around on your next tour, but it is certainly worth making space for on your workbench. If you're looking for something road specific, there is also a book Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance available.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.