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Haynes The Bike Book: Complete Bicycle Maintenance review

4 Nov 2020
Verdict:

A decent and wide-ranging primer on bicycle repair that could be useful to beginners

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Broad and fully illustrated • Easily accessible • Includes info on choosing the right kit
Against 
Spreads itself a little thin • Design could be neater • Some irrelevant information likely

Since being founded in 1960, Haynes has produced manuals explaining how to service everything from the Austin-Healey Sprite to Star Trek’s USS Enterprise.

While tinkering with either of those machines might seem more daunting than fiddling with your bike, bicycle maintenance is not without its complexities.

Nowadays, a good deal of these arise from the huge number of competing standards found on bicycles, along with the fact that unlike a car, bikes are often assembled from an almost random assortment of components.

Currently on its seventh edition, Haynes's latest The Bike Book has been updated to try and keep pace with the latest trends. Now covering everything from setting up an electronic drivetrain to diagnosing problems with a press-fit bottom bracket, there's also a new section on fitting tubeless tyres.

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If you’re new to bicycle maintenance, there’s a huge amount in the book’s 196 pages to devour. All the principles needed to keep your machine rolling are addressed: from how to index your gears, through to adjusting your hubs, servicing your brakes or replacing almost any component that might wear out.

In between, you’ll also find out how to correctly wash and clean your bike, get to grips with clipless pedals and fix a puncture.

The book also begins with several pages discussing the merits of different types of bicycle, how to get the correct fit and what you’ll need to keep the one you end up with running correctly.

This is rounded off by a final section on safety, security, accessories. Taken all together, it should take you from newbie to competent and self-reliant cyclist via its series of step-by-step guides.

 

In use

Illustrated with over 1,000 colour photos, these guides are all clear and easy to follow. While some of the bikes and products featured are a bit dated, mechanically this is unlikely to be an issue.

However, I’m not going to pass on the opportunity to suggest that reshooting the images with a standardised set of bikes and tools would improve the way the book looks.

This might seem a minor grumble, but as most people’s immediate reaction to encountering a mechanical problem is to find a video featuring the exact product online, reference manuals need to offer as much as they can if they’re to stay relevant.

Instead, the vast range of different components available means some tasks in The Bike Book are addressed more generally.

Still, while a rear derailleur might be 6-speed or 12-speed, electronic or mechanical, and made by Sram, Shimano, or Microshift, all basically work the same way. Meaning once you’ve grasped the concepts involved, you can apply this knowledge almost anywhere. It’s this generalised learning that The Bike Book majors in.

At the beginning of each section, the way a component or system works is explained. Taking as an example the part covering brakes, both the design and merits of each type are discussed, helping the reader make better-educated buying choices.

Every area of the bike is covered, along with systems specific to either road, mountain or commuter bikes. Giving readers a good overview, this multi-faceted approach means there will be a few areas irrelevant to dedicated roadies.

This is compounded by a few odd choices on what to grant space to. Occupying only half a page, it’d be nice to see universal topics like how to true a wheel given more room.

Throughout are liberally sprinkled the sort of tips you’d normally have to spend serious time in the workshop to acquire – like how you can float on handlebar grips using hairspray.

Despite being a fan of a well-executed bodge, there are also a few tricks suggested I think might be better taught in person. For instance, the idea you can remove a quick-link from a chain with anything other than dedicated pliers is going to condemn lots of readers to an oily and ultimately wasted half-hour.

The thought of people knocking in headset cups with a hammer and a block of wood is also a bit nervy.

 

Alternatives

Haynes's rivals in the market include Park Tool’s BBB-4 Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair and Lennard Zinn’s excellent Zinn and the Art of Bike Maintenance.

Outfitting more bike shops than any other toolmaker, Park Tool’s workshop bible is exhaustive and covers all the latest standards in serious detail. It’s also nicely designed and benefits from having been revised last year.

Zinn’s books also work very hard. Split between road and mountain bike editions, this leaves each more space to explore its topic in greater depth. Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance runs to an expansive 560 pages and despite last being updated in 2013 it remains very relevant.

 

Conclusion

If you have some existing knowledge I’d recommend either of the previously mentioned books above the Haynes manual. However, if you’re after a general primer, the Haynes Bike Book is a good place to start, especially for readers after information on choosing and identifying a new bike and kit.

It is perhaps best-suited to owners of less expensive bikes employing fewer exotic standards and components, though readers with multiple machines covering both road and mountain bike usage will also be well-served.

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Its simple layout is easy to follow, while there’s easily enough depth to see you through your first few years of bike fettling.

Navigable via its contents page or the index, it includes a glossary, and thanks to its chapters on bike choice and security, also provides a good general introduction to cycling.

All considered, if Haynes's The Bike Book were on my work stand, I’d probably suggest it could use a slight tune-up but is still mechanically sound.

Price: 
£18.99

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