the post

book reviews

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if they didn't exist, we'd have to invent them

velopress

"velopress is a sports fitness publisher and a trusted authority among cyclists, endurance athletes, and snow sport athletes on the subjects of training, nutrition, equipment, and performance.
located in boulder, colorado, velopress strives to bring the highest quality publications to sport enthusiasts and competitors."

parent company Inside Communications publishes three magazines: VeloNews, Inside Triathlon, and Ski Racing

so goes the text on the velopress website, but it does rather underestimate what they actually do. go further and trawl through the website, and you'll find a wealth of books about cycling, about triathlon, fitness and training. companion website, velogear.com, has a wealth of cycling jerseys (led zeppelin anyone?), cycle jewellery, antique posters - well, you get the general idea.

while my knowledge of the cycling world has gaping holes in it, i was only vaguely aware of velopress and its activities until they sent me john wilcockson's book about marco pantani and michael barry's book 'inside the postal bus'. both these publications came with the inevitable sales leaflet promoting their current range of books, prompting an evening of 'oooh, i'd like that, and that, and that...' and you realise that for a supposedly minority sport even in the usa, a prominent part of bike culture is alive and well and living in boulder colorado.

products of note, just as an aside, are the alpe d'huez t-shirt and the kiddie's bib 'born to trike'.

so to coincide with featuring velopress in this edition of the post, we have three velopress books of note. first one is a 'must buy' for everyone, whether you cycle for fun, for speed, for mudplugging, whatever. (uk readers can order from cordee

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andy pruitt's complete medical guide for cyclists. $18.95 (usa) 200pp. illus.

andy pruitt medical guide

andy pruitt is one of, if not the, foremost expert on bicycle fit and cycling injuries in the world. he was chief medical officer with the us national cycling team at the 1996 olympics, he pioneered video analysis to determine bike fit and has worked with lance on his time trial position. succinctly put, this man knows his onions. and if he has the great good sense to compile his knowledge into a two hundred page book, then we should form an orderly queue at the web browser. while i'm sure the good doctor's knowledge would fill about six times as many pages as we have before us here, it is unlikely that he will endanger his boulder colorado practice by telling absolutely everything.

however, the information contained within is worth its weight in gold. if you have ever wondered about which parts of your knee are called what, in order to find out which part it is that hurts, then this is the very book. all the common knee ailments are covered with photographs marked to illustrate the necessary.

and let's face it, we've all experienced aches and pains on the bike, or after a ride without a clue as to the remedy, and while so many general practitioners are blissfully unaware of the specific ailments that can afflict the regular cyclist, what's a pedallist to do. ironically, if i pre-empt one of the following reviews, when setting up a pair of drop handlebars and ergopower levers, the general scheme is to run a straight edge forward along the bottom of the bars and line-up the end of the brake levers with the edge. however, if you suffer, as i do, from a stiff neck or shoulder at one side, then it could be advantageous to have one lever higher than the other to equalise pressure. but it doesn't mention that in the mechanic's manual, while pruitt points this out as if it was as common as round tyres (or tires if i'm sticking to usa conventions). stunningly obvious when it's pointed out, but even more so when pointed out by an expert in the field

the book's chapters are conveniently split into related sections: we have bike fit rules, saddle position, handlebar position and an excellent chapter on pedals and cleats. part two contains remedies for common cycling injuries and part three is entitled 'getting the most out of cycling', proof that the good doctor knows an awful lot about an awful lot about cycling health and fitness.

the complete medical guide for cyclists makes distinction between those who ride knobblies and those who ride skinnies, because there is a difference in bike fit and bike position - so unless you are the one cyclist in the whole world who never gets injured, or who never feels even the slightest twinge when pedalling, click the link and get the credit card out. we've waited long enough for a book like this, so grab it now that it's here.

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zinn and the art of road bike maintenance. (2nd edition) lennard zinn $24.95 (usa) 12.89 (amazon.co.uk) 356 pages softcover. iilus.

road bike maintenance

now i am in the fortunate position of being fairly knowledgeable about the mechanics of the modern bicycle. granted i'm a bit hazy on disc brake technology and i doubt i'd feel too comfortable taking a pair of suspension forks to bits (see next review), but when i wander into a bicycle shop i have no fear. i am quite comfortable conversing about the merits of the latest ten speed gear systems and hollow pin chains with store staff whose sole purpose in life is to make the customer feel as inadequate and as small as possible.

i generalise of course, but i'm sure there are plenty of you out there who can identify with the above scenario. well, cower no more. lennard zinn will give you back your self esteem over the course of an easily handled number of pages. based on some of the repairs i am called upon to do over the course of a year, including a large number of repairs to touring cyclists, there are a lot of people out there who know little or nothing about the velocipede astride which they travel.

while it's maybe rude to point fingers, i had a call the other day to fix the brake on a child's mountain bike. 'something must have happened while we were transporting it'. the 'problem' was that the quick release had unhitched on the front v brakes. so i clipped it back in place. with only a teensy bit more knowledge, they could have saved a phone call and a visit.

now this is hardly relevant to a book about road bike maintenance, but the principle remains, and while i'm sure many of us drive around in our cars oblivious to what exactly is making it move forward other than where to put the petrol (gas), somehow i don't feel this should travel over to the cycling world. after all, up to a point, bicycles are inherently simple machines which are, believe it or not, quite simple to fix and maintain.

lennard zinn is a name i came across a few years ago while reading daily technical updates from the tour de france on velonews.com, and i remember at the time, e-mailing him at the end of the tour to thank him for such excellent technical coverage. as serendipity would have it, here i am a few years on reviewing two of his books for thewashingmachinepost. who would have believed it?

lennard zinn has a degree in physics from colorado college, is a member of the us olympic development (road) cycling team, worked in tom ritchey's frame shop, and now produces zinn cycles as well as continuing to write for velonews

now i always figure that it's good to get the gripes out the way first, so here we go.

there is a wealth of excellent info in this rather large tome, much of which would be of great benefit while out in the bike shed taking things apart and trying desperately to remember how to put them all back together again. and trying to do this with a book that is bound into a thick spine is not an easy task. i think the principle was amply demonstrated while trying to scan some of the illustrations for this review. the big brother of this book, barnett's manual also published by velopress and which takes cycle maintenance to the nth degree used to be ring bound, and now comes 'pre-drilled' ready to be placed in a ring binder, allowing the pages to lie flat while the pride and joy lay in small shiny bits over the shed floor. i am not sufficiently well versed in the economics of publishing to know how much more exensive this would make the lennard zinn volumes, but it would be a nifty idea. (barnett's manual costs $124.95 in case you're interested - 64.58 amazon.co.uk)

road bike maintenance

and then there's the illustrations. the jury is out on this one - i well appreciate the fact that drawn illustrations can be better used to illustrate methods, procedures and part diagrams more clearly than photographs often can, but it's the style of the illustrations by todd telander that has put me on edge. this is not helped by the brief end note that states his favourite subject is birdlife. i feel that illustrations of a slightly more technical perspective may have been more appropriate. still, that's only my opinion, and you can judge for yourselves from the (badly photographed by me) illustrations shown in these pixels.

worth the price of admission alone, are the quotes that begin every chapter - items of wisdom such as "if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail" and "basic research is what i am doing when i don't know what i am doing". these set a healthy frame of mind before attempting to wrest a reluctant nut from whatever that nut is attached to. it also lets you know that you have not purchased barnett's manual, which is altogether of a more serious demeanour. and that's absolutely fine by me, because it's often hard enough to make a start on an individual or series of repairs or maintenance schedule and a little humour goes a long way.

for instance, chapter five gives elaborate instructions on how to refurbish shimano sti levers and also campagnolo ergopowers and i'm not too sure that humour would be uppermost on my mind midway through one of those procedures.

the book is divided into practical sections to ease classification of repair or maintenance - with a book of so many well filled pages, it would be unfortunate to have to thumb through a mass of pages with greasy paws. yes i know we can get gloves to wear during such operations but i always get those really messy too.

it's as up to date as any maintenance book can be, considering shimano's inveterate tinkering and the fact that the big two bring out new models every year which often vary just enough to invalidate some previous method of repair (anyone else remember 'tightening' cantilever springs by bending the brake through 180 degrees? then they changed the spring housing to plastic and they broke. or was that just me?) for instance, with both shimano and campagnolo working on electronic shifting systems, i think lennard will have to add a whole new chapter, and then some. (strangely enough, at the beginning of the chapter on shifting systems, it states that the chapter is organised with cable operated systems at the beginning and electronic systems at the end, but try as i might, i couldn't find any refrence to the latter anywhere - not even in the index.)

and as a for instance, sram are already running their road gearing systems on some american sponsored teams and are rumoured to be supplying csc for 2007. and guess what? their shifters don't work the same way as the other two.

however, this is a problem that affects not only zinn's books (see following review) but has also pressured barnett's manual to offer a subscription based system for purchasers of 'the manual' whereby they will receive a pdf of the whole book every year including all upgrades and improvements since the previous version

chainsets

despite my earlier comments regarding the illustrations, they are very helpful and generally pretty clear, which makes a big difference when following instructions on a process with which you are not familiar. zinn makes little pre-supposition as to the technical abilities of his readers and it's this aspect that makes you feel that you can manage the majority of the repairs detailed in the book. to be honest, the only ones that you probably can't manage have more to do with availability of very expensive tools rather than a lack of mechanical aptitude. if you're only ever going to replace your own headset once (or maybe twice), then purchasing a park tool headset press may not make too much economic sense. it's nice to know how it's all done, but take it to your bike shop anyway. it's nice to be self sufficient, but battering a campag record or chris king headset into a carbon frame with two bits of wood and a hammer just doesn't bare thinking about.

so if you're new to road biking or been doing it for a while, even the very least you owe yourself is a copy of lennard zinn's book. it'll let you find out how the whole thing hangs together and maybe why parts of it make strange noises. that way, if you do have to put the bike into your local shop for repair, you can tell them what's wrong with it rather than the other way round.

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zinn & the art of mountain bike maintenance (4th edition) by lennard zinn. $24.95 (usa) 12.89 (amazon.co.uk) 419pp illus. softcover

mountain bike maintenance

i'm not too sure what the situation is in the usa, but on this side of the pond it is frighteningly easy to buy a 'full suspension' mountain bike (for kids or adults) at around 50. granted it weighs as much as a small car, and has all the suspension qualities of a church pew, but it's cheap and easy to buy through mail order, and you never have to deal with a snotty bike shop sales assistant (my apologies to all bike shop sales assistants, of course i didn't mean you). however, it will perhaps come as no surprise that having purchased said velocipede from a mail order establishment, that no self respecting bike shop will touch it with the proverbial barge pole when it requires a bit of maintenance. so what are you going to do? read on

i think you've already been introduced to lennard zinn through the previous book review, but just in case you've skipped the last one because you don't own a road bike, i suggest you scroll back up a bit and at least read about who the guy is.

ok, now that that's done, we are on similar territory here. basic bicycle maintenance is basic bicycle maintenance whether the bars are flat or dropped, and perhaps becoming even more blurred now that offroaders have discovered 700c rims (29 inchers). there is very little difference between fixing a flat on a mountain bike and same thing on a road bike. and the wheels pretty much work on the same principal.

however, as i know to my cost, there are also substantial differences between skinny and knobbly. personally, i like the inherent simplicity of the bicycle, a feature which is rapidly disappearing on the knobbly side of the counter. cable operated disc brakes i can handle, but even after watching a dvd on the assembly and bleeding of hydraulic discs, i would still need a bit of practice before i offered my services as someone who could repair or maintain same. granted, you don't come across much of this stuff on our wee island, but you just never know

but i'd feel a lot more confident with this book sitting next to me. same gripe, it doesn't fold flat and the illustrations are by the same guy as the above, but the latter is more an aesthetic thing, because i have to admit that they serve their purpose fairly well.

paris roubaix aside, skinny wheels tend not to attach to suspension systems, nor to be stopped by discs, (though some touring bikes already are). and such innovations lead to others. there's little point in having sidewalls on the wheel rims if they are never to be touched by brake shoes. and while mountain bikers are probably no harder on their steeds than roadies, the ground underneath tends to be less smooth (unless you're on islay's roads) and creates problems that don't necessarily affect road bikes.

oh, and while i think of it, i meant to mention that both books share instructions on wheel building (not as much of a black art as it's tipped to be), but i notice that lennard zinn uses much the same method as that promoted by barnett's - which involves putting all the 'straight' spokes in for both sides, before finishing off with the 'cross' spokes. now while this does indeed build an excellent wheel, personal experience has taught that, if you make a mistake at any point during the lacing procedure, it's usually as you thread the last spoke that you discover this.

as a result, i have shifted to the method favoured by swiss expert, gerd schraner, where you lace up one side completely before starting on the second side. this has, so far, proved faultless for me, but maybe because i don't get to build as many wheels as i'd like, and simply haven't got into the necessary good habits as espoused by zinn and barnett.

mountain bike wheels have the added advantage/disadvantage of now having the aforementioned disc option. so now we effectively have the need to dish the front wheel as well as the rear in order to accommodate the rotor. and rotors can be attached in two different ways - threading on to the hub or bolted using torx bolts. all this and more is comprehensively covered and without it becoming as confusing as i've probably just made it. now you know why i don't write bicycle maintenance books:-)

gear systems covered are the 'other' big two - sram and shimano. despite campagnolo now manufacturing triple gear systems, flat bar levers and linear pull brakes, they have made no attempt to ease back into the mountain bike market. there are so many different ways of changing gear on a shimano equipped bike, that you need a manual for that alone. do you know if you have regular rapidfire or rapidrise? indeed.

and then there's suspension. i generally wouldn't entertain doing anything to suspension forks or rear shocks other than the user adjustments that you're supposed to be able to do anyway. but much as i mentioned in the road bike review, it is almost incumbent upon the modern mountain biker to understand how the shocks work to know when, and even what maintenance is required, and how to give detailed instructions when you ship them off to a suspension specialist.

however, zinn is not of faint heart, and despite the plethora of different makes and models of shocks on the market, he has a pretty good stab at informing how to maintain whatever floats your knobblies (if you see what i mean). i think this almost rates along with those 'missing manuals' that exist for computer software. when was the last time the manual that came with your bike, bore any relation to the connection of metal/carbon fibre/rubber that now sits in the bike shed? exactly. you could barely buy a decent tyre for the price of this book, and that should be justification enough.

oh, and i almost forgot, but there's also a dvd of mountain bike maintenance by the very same lennard zinn at $29.95 in case you can't be bothered reading. though how many of us have a dvd player in the bike shed?

always carry a flagon of whisky in case of a snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake. w.c.fields.

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this website is named after graeme obree's championship winning 'old faithful' built using bits from a defunct washing machine

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as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

this column appears, as regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.

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