Bike repairs can be confusing, but do you know what can be even more confusing? Trying to choose the best bike repair book to help you maintain your bicycle. That’s why I’ve bought a copy of each of the most popular bike maintenance manuals so that I can review them all and give you my opinion on what the Pros and Cons are of each. That way you can pick the book that’s right for you and get on with the bike maintenance you should be doing. So, let’s dive in and take a look at the books.
Reviews of the best bike repair books
The Bike Book
Pros: Good, clear repair photos / Some useful appendices and troubleshooting guide / easy-to-follow guides
Cons: Written for a UK audience / Repair guides don’t show tools needed, time to complete, or skill level required
The name “Haynes” is synonymous in the UK with car manuals – basically, if you owned a car in the 60s and 70s, you probably had a Haynes manual for that make and model sitting on your bookshelf. You probably never used it, but it was there in order to make you look knowledgeable about the inner workings of automobiles. Fast forward to the 21st Century and Haynes have expanded their catalog to include not only car maintenance, but also beekeeping, van life, and looking after your own Millennium Falcon. Thankfully, you don’t have to be Han Solo to benefit from Haynes expertise as they also have an excellent bicycle repair manual – The Bike Book – now in its 7th Edition.
The Bike Book is a useful repair guide, covering common bike problems (such as punctures, faulty brakes, and rusty chains). It also goes into more challenging issues, such as stripping down wheel hubs, bleeding hydraulic brake systems, and replacing bottom brackets. Pictures and explanations are easy to follow for the repairs although it would be helpful if they explained what tools were needed for each repair, estimated time to complete the work, and a guide to the skill level required. Those quibbles aside, this is a useful book and one that I often find myself reaching for…Read more+
The Complete Bike Owner’s Manual
Pros: Very clear guides with CGI images used to illustrate repairs / Comprehensive list of repairs / Tools for each repair are listed
Cons: No info given on skill levels required or time to complete each repair
DK (Dorling Kindersley) always do a good book and The Complete Bike Owner’s Manual is no exception. In this case, DK have done away with photography altogether and opted to illustrate all the repair techniques with CGI images. This is great because it allows some real close-ups of components and also exploded diagrams showing the inner workings of various bike bits. Many of these would be tricky, if not impossible, to show with photos.
The Complete Bike Owner’s Manual gives a very comprehensive list of repairs that might be necessary on your bike – though whether you’d be confident enough to attempt them all (even with DK’s assistance) is another matter entirely! There are a number of particularly handy sections in the book on making sure your bike is generally fit-for-purpose (carrying out “M-checks”, cleaning and lubrication). There’s also a useful section on emergency bike repairs – puncture repairs and other quick fixes to get you back home. It’s probably best to make some notes on this or take a photo with your phone though, as trying to stuff this hardback book in your saddlebag is probably not an option.
This is a great bike resource and incredibly useful to see the computer-generated images of the tiny or inaccessible components. Highly recommended…Read more+
Bike Repair & Maintenance For Dummies
Pros: Handy “Pre-ride Flight check” / Repairs split out into “Basic” and “Advanced”
Cons: No color photography of repairs / Repairs can run over multiple pages meaning page turns with oily hands! / Many repairs seem to assume a high level of bike knowledge
‘Dummies’ books have a special place in my heart – I like the basic premise that you can use the books without having any previous knowledge about the subject and instantly have ‘expert’ level skills. So, I was excited to get a copy of Bike Repair & Maintenance For Dummies. Unfortunately, I’ve been quite disappointed with the book. Published in 2009, it really feels like it’s ‘showing its age’: there are no color photos (the entire book is printed in black and white) and the format feels kinda clunky, particularly when you compare it to DK’s The Complete Bike Owner’s Manual, for example.
I like the way that the authors have split out the repairs into a Basic section and an Advanced section. Though, throughout the book, I felt like there was a fairly high level of bike knowledge that was needed in order to carry out the repairs – not exactly fitting in with the ‘Dummies’ ethos! In many cases the repair explanations also spanned multiple pages – meaning that you had to flip pages as you followed the instructions. That’s fine when you’re sat on the couch reading the book, but not so great when you’re up to your elbows in bike oil and road gunk attempting to actually carry out the repairs.
The authors clearly know their way around the inner workings of a bike but, in my view, there are better bike maintenance books available…Read more+
Big Blue Book Of Bicycle Repair
Pros: Easy-to-follow structure / Clear images / Covers just about everything that could ever go wrong with a bike
Cons: Some of the repairs are probably too expert-level for many amateur bike repairers and require too many expensive tools
Considered by many to be the bible of bike repairs, the Big Blue Book is an essential part of any bike mechanic’s toolkit. Written and published by the team at highly-regarded bike repair tool manufacturer, Park Tool, the book covers every kind of problem you’d realistically ever come across in a bike. That might seem like it’s the perfect bike repair manual, but look at it like this: Consider a box of chocolates, the type in a fancy box with a selection of exquisite candy treats in a range of flavors. If you’re anything like me, there are maybe two or three different chocolates that I actually like in these boxes (if I’m being really honest it’s just the caramels…) The rest of the chocolates, whilst they look lovely, never get eaten and eventually just get thrown in the trash.
For non-bike mechanics, lesser mortals like you and I, many of the repairs shown in the book are a little like those too-fancy chocolates and are best left alone. They either require expensive tools that you’ll only ever use once or are so technically demanding that you need to be doing them day-in and day-out to make it worthwhile doing. Or, they don’t come with a caramel center.
The Big Blue Book is well-written, has clear photography, and an easy-to-follow structure. Because I have a copy of the book, I do use it as a resource for repairs that I do. But, if I only had ONE bike maintenance book on my shelf then I would go with a book that covered the basic list of repairs really well and acknowledged that some repairs were best left to the pros…Read more+
Zinn & The Art Of Mountain Bike Maintenance
Pros: Covers everything (literally) that there is to know about mountain bikes / Clear diagrams (the exploded diagrams are particularly good)
Cons: No photographs (there are drawings instead) / limited to mountain bikes and hybrids
Lennard Zinn has written a number of cycling books, including three books on repairs to specific categories of bike: mountain bikes, road bikes and triathlon bikes. The Mountain Bike maintenance book that I bought is a true heavyweight. It’s a deep-dive into all things mountain bike (and also covers hybrid bikes) and, at nearly an inch thick for the paperback covers pretty much everything you need to know…and likely many things that you don’t. And, that’s my problem with Zinn’s book. Sure, it’s an excellent repair manual for your mountain/hybrid bike. If there’s a problem, you’ll find the solution in this book. But, like Park Tool’s Big Blue Book, it’s mostly going to be used by pro bike mechanics.
The repair write-ups are easy to work through. There are no photographs in the book but there are clear drawings throughout. One thing I particularly appreciate is that many of the repairs come with a difficulty rating – one wrench for a basic repair up to three wrenches for the most demanding.
For me, this is a nice book to look at and dip into now and again. But what I’m really looking for is a book that covers all the basic bike repairs well, helps you to identify problems that have more challenging solutions and then acknowledges that some repairs are best left to the pros. Zinn’s book is excellent, but I don’t think it’s what I’m looking for…Read more+