Authors: Guy Andrews and Rohan Dubash
Date: October 2014
I have been waiting nearly 30 years for someone to produce a book like this, but it has been worth the wait for something to improve upon one of my all-time favourite books.
Way back in 1986 I bought a book called Bicycle Mechanics (in workshop and competition) by Steve Snowling and Ken Evans. As a fledgling race team mechanic it gave me great advice on what to do and how to do it. It comes as no surprise that it is acknowledged as the inspiration for this new book, titled Bike Mechanics (tales from the road and the workshop).
This review prompted me to go back and look at the 1986 book, and it is a reminder of just how limited riders’ and mechanics’ choices were in those days. Virtually every team used Campagnolo components, and if they didn’t, any other components were still compatible or even interchangeable. All gearing revolved around 6-speed freewheels, frames were steel, and tyres were tubular.
Reviwed by Richard Peploe
Today’s book expands on what ‘the original’ did, and as a result will appeal to a wider audience of road bike enthusiasts and serious fettlers.
Part one gives an insight into the life of a pro team mechanic. The only time we normally see a mechanic at work is when he (and it is normally he) is performing a wheel change: this critical operation is “a pressure situation, practice and a calm approach is essential”. We read how a good mechanic will have a loose set of frame dropouts to get the quick release set ‘just right’ well in advance of approaching the stricken bike.
However, this time-saving trick has been partly scuppered by the insistence of the UCI (the world governing body for cycle racing) that mechanics do not file off so-called ‘lawyers tabs’, so front wheel quick releases now have to be twiddled on the bike.
Part two covers hardware, and I have to warn you that it will be bad for your wealth. Every tool that you could possibly need is beautifully photographed and expertly described, and you will find yourself creating a shopping list of new tools that you simply have to have. Or is it just me?
The justification for buying good quality tools is covered well: “they need to fit precisely and be durable so they wear out slowly and evenly”. Even if you are not going to use your tools as frequently as a professional mechanic, investing in good tools will save you time and prevent damage to components.
The final part of the book covers the routine tasks that a race team mechanic will undertake, most of which are equally relevant to our everyday bikes. Each section is preceded by a discussion on the components in question, with special reference to the things that matter to the mechanic such as reliability and service requirements. When you read that the author has “three key greases in my workshop that I use depending on the characteristic required”, you know that this part is going to be thorough.
Fitting clincher tyres quickly and attaching bar tape perfectly applies to us all, and a discussion on the pros and cons of various bottom bracket systems is increasingly relevant. The section on saddle comfort is full of sensible and practical advice: how your position on the bike is as important to comfort as the actual saddle, and why the quest for light weight can reduce comfort – and comfort is just as important to seasoned professional as it is to leisure cyclists.
If you want to know what it is like behind the scenes as a professional team mechanic then this book is for you. If you just want to be a better mechanic then this book acts equally well as an advanced repair manual for those who already know the basics. It has been a long time since anyone tried to cover cycle mechanics from this angle, and none has ever done the job as well.
REVIEW ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 2015