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Author:         Chris Sidwells

Publisher:    Dorling Kindersley

Date:             6/7/17

Format:        Paperback

Pages:           176

ISBN:            9780241257111

Price:           £9.99

Reviewed by Richard Peploe

Every bicycle repair guide has to meet the challenge of living up to the claims that surround them: in the case of ‘Bike repair manual’ those claims include being up-to-date, complete, clear, and detailed. Achieving that is always going to be a tall order, especially when there are only 176 pages to work with, and the level of success can depend on what bike(s) you have and your existing level of competence.

Dorling Kindersley Bike Repair Manual Chris Sidwells Review

Having first appeared in 2004, this is the sixth ‘Bike Repair Manual’ from Dorling Kindersley, and is once again written by Chris Sidwells - a well-known, experienced, and prolific author. Since the first edition, bicycle equipment has developed rapidly, introducing new designs and technology, and the ‘Bike Repair Manual’ series tries to reflect those innovations with each new version: you will find electronic shifting and internal cable routing making a first appearance here, along with numerous updates to existing information.

As with most repair manuals, the book starts with a brief introduction to styles of bike, choice of accessories and tools, and even bike fitting: just be aware that in a book of this size you can’t expect anything to be covered in much depth, so it is not the place to go for really detailed advice or instructions.

Workshop manua bicycle bike dorlin kindersley review chris sidewells

As with most repair manuals, the book starts with a brief introduction to styles of bike, choice of accessories and tools, and even bike fitting: just be aware that in a book of this size you can’t expect anything to be covered in much depth, so it is not the place to go for really detailed advice or instructions.

As a relatively recent publication, this edition of ‘Bike Repair Manual’ has the opportunity to include the latest equipment, but the results are variable: for example, whilst most of us are probably not using them yet, I would still expect any guide claiming to be up-to-date to at least mention the various thru-axle attachment systems now available. These are increasingly appearing on many types of bike, normally in conjunction with disc brakes.

It is a similar story for tubeless tyre technology, which has been in use on Mountain bikes for several years: this makes the claim to be “the most up-to-date cycling guide on the market” fall short.

How about the claim to offer a “complete maintenance programme”? ‘Completeness’ means that a lot of the older technology (that many of us are still using) has to be included, and one advantage of such a long-standing series is that most of it has already been covered. Not only does Sidwells have to decide how up-to-date he wants the book to be, but at the same time he has to make a decision about what older material to leave out.

Cantilever brakes, threaded headsets, and freewheels are still present, although old-school adjustable bottom brackets, toeclips and straps, and single-pivot side-pull brakes are not: you need to decide if it has the right mix to meet your needs. It could be that an older edition of the book would suit your equipment better than the latest one.

Bicycle Biek repair manula, chris sidwell Dorling Kindersley

Offering clear instructions is a goal of all workshop manuals, and a lot of the success comes down to the illustrations. Line drawings and photographs have always been the most popular choices, and there are pros and cons to each. The photos used here are as clear and colourful as you will find anywhere, but I think that an even more effective solution can be found elsewhere in the DK stable, with the ‘The Complete Bike Owner’s Manual’ ( using nothing but CGI illustrations. There are some areas where CGI is especially valuable, such as for clear cutaways of components, and fortunately that is exactly where ‘Bike repair manual’ has made occasional use of the technology.

Your views on whether the level of detail on offer is sufficient will partly come down to your existing knowledge: I thought that wheel removal with quick release levers deserved its two full pages, but I don’t think that the three sentences and one picture covering wheel truing (after replacing a broken spoke) will be sufficient for anyone new to the activity. In fact, in unskilled hands, a mis-directed spoke key could make things worse. The depth of coverage is almost in inverse proportion to the complexity of the task!

One thing that you should not expect is much in the way of precise brand detail: this book is much more about covering the general principles of a component, suggesting that you find information about specific brands in owner’s manuals or in magazines. Take electronic gear shifting as an example: only Shimano’s Di2 system is covered, “but those of other manufacturers are adjusted in a similar way, so these steps can still be used as a guideline.”

Sometimes there is more than one way of doing things, so my techniques might not be the same as Sidwells’ recommendations. In the case of adjusting ‘open-bearing’ hubs for example, most of the time it probably won’t matter which cones you undo or adjust: Sidwells recommends operating on the drive side, for both front and rear hubs. I have always worked on the non-drive side, partly because it keeps you clear of the Freehub body, but mainly because of ‘precession’.


This is the same principle that leads to left-hand threads being used in certain places on bikes, and dictates that the cones on the right-hand side must be locked tightly into place to reduce the risk of them being able to come loose; were they to do so, they could rotate themselves into ever-tighter adjustment and eventually destroy the hub. The best way of keeping them tight is not to fiddle with them!

I am more troubled by the lack of instruction to use sandpaper when mending a puncture: when virtually every authority (including puncture repair kit manufacturers) suggest roughening the area around a hole in the inner tube before applying glue, why would you not include this important step in the puncture repair instructions? Admittedly, the sandpaper does get used at the end of the process, to create chalk dust to cover the patch – but in my experience that plays a far smaller part in a successful repair.

How well does ‘Bike repair manual’ fulfil the role of being “the essential handy guide for beginners and experienced cyclists alike”? Despite the claims, it is not completely up to date or complete, but it may still cover all the technology that you want to work on; it is clear and detailed enough on the general procedures that the target audience will encounter, but will rarely help with any brand-specific requirements; finally, it does not give enough detail to allow anyone to embark on more complicated procedures, but I doubt that the novice mechanic would be attempting those anyway.

‘Bike Repair Manual’ only partially succeeds in matching its bold claims, and is likely to suit novice fettlers more than advanced mechanics.

Images courtesy of Dorling Kindersley






Ryton On Dunsmore

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