Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A repair guide for the masses

When was the last time you bought a book that interacted with your iPhone?

Bicycle books hit the market all the time and, on occasion, I’m asked to review one on this blog. And some good ones come along, but m
any follow the same old formula. Someone rides across a country or around the world, and chronicles the “adventure.” Or someone writes a new guidebook or repair manual. A lot of them are perfectly good books, but few are fresh and fun.

The Bike-Owner’s Handbook is the first book I’ve seen in years that I would actually buy as a gift.

A woman with the great name of Ziggy Hanaor e-mailed me from London a couple of months ago to offer a copy of this new release from Cicada Books, but I wasn’t interested until I looked at Cicada’s website and became intrigued by the design and content.

This is a cool little 112-page book that will never replace Leonard Zinn’s comprehensive guides to road and mountain bike repair, but that’s OK, because it doesn’t have to. Some people don’t own a headset press or wheel-truing stand. They just want to know how to fix a flat tire, adjust a brake, or tighten a headset.

And they don’t necessarily want to wade through a bunch of technical lingo to get the information they need. Author Peter Drinkell eases into things with simple explanations and hand-drawn illustrations, with an occasional photo thrown in just for decoration.

Some people have simple questions, such as: What do you call this part of a wheel? What’s the difference between a Presta valve or a Schraeder? How do I take my freakin’ wheel off and put it back on? Can I look this stuff up in a book that doesn’t weigh as much as the Detroit Yellow Pages, or leave me scratching my head in confusion? And, better yet, could you print a bar code on some pages so I can scan it with my smartphone and be taken directly to videos that will show me how to do certain jobs?

Yeah. That’s what I said. This book directs you to videos you can watch on your phone while working on your bike. That’s a brilliant use of smartphone technology to make a printed product dramatically more useful. It also makes this book -- which sells for about 10 British pounds, or about 10 bucks at -- a better bargain.

This is exactly the kind of book I’d give to a new bike owner, or someone who has gotten tired of feeling helpless and is ready to start getting their hands dirty, but wants a simple guide that’s easy and fun to use.

“We wanted to create a handbook that was accessible to people like me, basically,” Ziggy told me in an email after I asked what inspired this book. “I ride my bike to work, and it's my primary means of transport, but I am not a particularly technical person, and when things go wrong, I end up spending lots of money on things that I can sense are quite basic.

"Pete had the idea for the book, and when I looked into the competition, all the manuals we found were either way too technical or just really badly presented. Also, there's such a cool aesthetic to bikes generally and to the cycling community, and we wanted to reflect that in the overall packaging of the book.”

Newbies who use The Bike-Owner’s Handbook might get hooked on doing their own repairs, and eventually outgrow this guide, but I’d be willing to bet they’ll keep it on their shelves for sentimental reasons. They're going to appreciate the book that got them started.

The Bike-Owner’s Handbook is distributed by:

D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers Inc.
155 Sixth Avenue
New York NY 10013
T: 212-627-1999 x 209
F: 212-627-9484

and ...

Thames and Hudson
181A High Holborn
London WC1V 7QX
T: +44 (0)20 7845 5000
F: +44 (0)20 7845 5050

1 comment:

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