Bicycle repair book review

picture of bicycle repair book on top of another

Have you ever been shocked at the high price of repairs that bike shops quote? The solution is simple and is available in the repair books listed in this post.

Whilst we have already covered online bicycle repair resources, books can be an authoritative source of information and sometimes easier to follow. The prices range from around £9 – £14 but each one has the opportunity to pay for itself many times over. First of all let’s start with a quick comparison of the top sellers:

Mountain Bike Maintenance: The illustrated Manual Zinn & The Art of Road Bike Maintenance Bicycle Maintenance & Repair: For Road & Mountain Bikes
Author Mel Allwood Lennard Zinn Todd Downs
Focus Mountain bikes Both road and mountain bike versions are available Road & Mountain bikes
Illustrations Colour pictures Hand drawn illustrations Black and white pictures
Aimed at Beginner Beginner to midrange Beginner to midrange

There are some commonalities between the repair books. They all have introductions to the kind of tools you will need, they are all written by huge bicycle enthusiasts and all have troubleshooting sections which are great for resolving common problems such as squeaking brakes. Let’s have a look at each one individually.

Bike repair book illustrated manualMountain Bike Maintenance: The Illustrated Manual (US version of book )

In terms of illustrations this is the clearest of all three bicycle repair books. Each step has its own colour picture making it very easy to follow.

The book has large clear headings so you know what each page is covering and the content feels well spaced out. Where other books may switch between components, which can be confusing, this book focuses on one component per section. For example V-brakes are covered first, followed by cantilever brakes and then disc brakes. This also makes it very easy to use as a quick reference guide for repairs and adjustments.

Mel Allwood writes in a very clear style and of all three books I found it the easiest to follow. This makes it very well suited to beginners. The vast majority of repairs you are likely to come across are covered. However, for more advanced repairs and a wider coverage of components it is best to look elsewhere.

Just a quick note on the availability of this bicycle repair book. I personally ordered it from rather than as it worked out much cheaper, even with shipping.

bike repair book zinn & the art of road bike maintenanceZinn & The Art of Road Bike Maintenance (US version of book)

This is the only book out of the three to opt for drawings rather than pictures. At first look you may think this would be a disadvantage. However, I found that the illustrations were clearer than the pictures found in Todd Down’s book.

Navigation is fairly good with bold headings to guide the reader. However, this bicycle repair book does suffer from too often switching between components leaving you sometimes thinking “which component am I reading about again?”

On the whole however the book is well written and instructions are easy to follow. A wide range of components is covered and also there is fairly good coverage of more advanced repairs. The text won’t leave you wishing for more information as is often a downfall with Todd Down’s book. This book is catered for beginners to midrange users.

Worthy of a mention is the highly resourceful emergency repair section which is useful for repairs while out on a ride. I particularly enjoyed the picture of a cyclist smacking their wheel against the ground to straighten it with the word “klonk” printed next to it. The appendix also includes some useful extras such as a troubleshooting index, road bike fitting guide and a torque table.

DSC00575Bicycle Maintenance & Repair: For Road & Mountain Bikes (US version of book)

The illustrations in this bicycle repair book can be described as unclear and insufficient. The pictures that are included tend to be too focused on one part of the bike to work out what is going on.

The text also tends to be hard to follow. Take for example one section that simply reads “True the wheel.” Logically after this you would expect: “(See section V-II page 38)”. No such luxury in this book.

Whilst I did enjoy Todd Down’s writing style I found this book lacking in detail when it was most needed. For example there is a detailed explanation of the history of brakes which is very interesting however when it comes to actually adjusting brakes far too little space is dedicated to it.

Overall bicycle repair book review

For complete beginners I would stick to Mel Allwood’s: The Illustrated Manual and as experienced is gained move on to Zinn. I would recommend staying away from Todd Down’s book as I simply found it lacking in detail where it was needed and badly illustrated. Obviously your choice of book will depend on the type of bicycle you are repairing.

There is a great satisfaction that comes from been able to do your own repairs and maintain your bike rather than rely on bike repair shops. These books help you do that.

Often people argue about the value of a book versus online repair websites. The truth is that books will inevitably become out of date and will be limited in the range of components they can cover. I believe however there is still a lot of value in a book as it has been very well thought out and can be great for beginners. Ultimately you will probably find yourself complementing a book with an online resource such as the Park Tool Repair website. If you have used and fallen in love with a bicycle repair book please leave a recommendation.

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7 Responses to Bicycle repair book review

  1. Andrew 05/06/2009 at 8:23 pm #

    Thanks for the reviews. I own the Bicycle Maintenance & Repair: For Mountain and Road Bikes, and have the same issues with it that you mentioned. I’ve had much better luck with online tutorials than books thus far.

  2. mo 12/10/2009 at 5:02 pm #


    brakes! 🙂

    From Andreas: Doh! And I thought I had such a good grasp of the English language!

  3. Alex 13/10/2009 at 12:06 pm #

    I use the The Bicycle Book by Haynes – lots of high quality illustrations and accessible writing:


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