Monday, November 22, 2010

Chugging from the Fountain of Bicycle Knowledge

How do I work this thing?

I have purchased various bicycle repair manuals over time in an effort to improve my skills and efficiency when it comes to working on my bikes. Stuff on bicycles works best a certain way, often that certain way is not obvious, and for me figuring out that way and adding that knowledge to my mental tool bag is a kick. From a summary perspective, to gain high-level techniques and some orientation to the world of bicycle wrenching, I rank "The Bicycling Guide to Complete Maintenance and Repair" at number 2, and the Park Tool "Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair 2nd Edition" at number 1. I think both of these are good at what they are meant for.

Yet, they leave me wanting more. What they have in completeness they lack in detail. What they have in broad appeal they lack in more complex techniques and explanations. I want more information!

While messing around with the rear derailleur on Yasuko to try to smooth out some of the shifts, I realized what a total rube I am about derailleurs. How do they really work? They look relatively simple, until I started to ponder the motions of a dual-pivoting dual-geared parallelogram that interacts with the physical monstrosity that is a bicycle chain, and my head started swimming. I wanted more information.

This search lead me to "Barnett's Manual DX (7th Edition)" from the Barnett Bicycle Institute. Let me say at the outset, this is not an inexpensive reference, mainly targeted at professionals and people who have completed the various courses and certifications offered by the Institute. I had heard of it before, but thought it would be too detailed (and expensive) for my home wrenching purposes. Then came my derailleur curiosity, which changed that view.

Exploring the page linked in the previous paragraph, I discovered a sample chapter on derailleurs. I downloaded it and started reading. It is, in short, the clearest written, most comprehensive, best organized, more accurate, and most helpful text related to bicycle mechanical function that I have ever read. That chapter alone will cause me to buy that manual. While it is electronic in PDF format with a rather clunky graphical design (usually three strikes in my book), the contents flowed into my brain like sweet waters from the fountain of bicycle knowledge. 

The actual manual is cross referenced and links out to other helpful information not included in the sample chapters, so I wasn't even able to experience it in all its informative glory. But if you are curious about the details of bicycle mechanical functioning and sometimes find yourself scratching your head when intuition and summary books fail, this is probably the solution. Not that burning an entire weekend afternoon twisting the various adjustments and tensions on a rear derailleur without a good result isn't fun. It's just that life is too short for too much fun like that. And now Yasuko's derailleur does what it should. Get up. Go read.

Disclaimer: I have not received any compensation or free stuff for writing this. I don't even own the Barnett's Manual DX 7th Edition yet. I based this on the sample chapter provided free on the web site linked above. Any friends or loved ones reading this review may take it as a hint of what would make me very happy for Xmas, in addition to the White Industries ENO 16t freewheel already on the list.      


  1. Have you borrowed a copy via interlibrary loan? I suspect the Worldcat library will have a copy.

  2. It appears that the Phoenix library has it, though probably not the latest edition, so that should hold you until your very own reference arrives. It would be interesting to compare the technology in the two editions.

  3. Steve, I will check out the PHX library..which is both very interesting architecturally, and sits on top of a deck built directly over the freeway! It's going to be a couple of days before I can get over there though. I'll check the on-shelf status before I head over.

  4. I think it might be worth purchasing the CD version for $140. It would be nice to have the info you need when you need it. I don't have any manuals, I just glean info from the internet.

    Deraillers are my favorite bike part, although I still don't know how to properly adjust them. I'm happy to stick to friction shifting.

  5. RTP, I agree about the CD purchase. I too mine the Interwebs for information, but sometimes find it frustratingly incomplete, misleadingly titled, or wrong. Whereas this manual is the opposite of those.


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