I have always thought of Anybody’s Bike Book as the best bicycle repair book out there, or at least I always did until I read Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance. I love the 4th edition of Lennard Zinn’s road bike manual for the same reasons I have always loved Anybody’s Bike Book; it is simple, easy to follow and the illustrations are magnificent. Add to that the comprehensive coverage of every aspect of road bike repair, and you have my new favorite bicycle maintenance bible.
Everyone in my household thought Zinn’s book was fabulous, from my thirteen-year-old stepson who is just starting to dabble in bicycle repair, to yours truly, who started working as a professional bicycle mechanic in 1982. From chapters on “Basic Stuff” and “Emergency Repairs” to 33 highly detailed, exquisitely illustrated pages on wheel building, and everything in between, this book has you covered. Whether you are looking to fix up your 1978 Specialized Expedition or are trying to keep your carbon wunderbike with electronic shifting and disc brakes running perfectly, you can find complete instructions in Zinn’s book.
Yes, I have mentioned the illustrations more than once already, but their impact cannot be overstated. This book may be Zinn’s brainchild, and he is clearly the architect that put all these ideas and images together, but the work of illustrators Todd Telander and Mike Reisel take the book from being very good to being entirely superior. As an engineer and a visually-oriented person in general, I have come to appreciate the benefits of good pictures and diagrams. This book is FILLED with such; almost every page contains at least one illustration. I also appreciate the huge amount of effort that went into creating these finely-detailed ink drawings. In our age of computer aided design and Photoshop, I thought such work was a thing of the past. This book reminded me how wonderful such drawings are, and it made me glad that there are artists out there who are keeping this form alive.
If you are looking for a bicycle repair manual, get this book. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, this book has information that will help you. Think of it as an exhaustive encyclopedia for all things related to road bike maintenance.
Of course, I asked Zinn for an interview to get more insight into the creation of this manual. He was kind enough to agree to my request. Enjoy!
Q: Please tell us a bit about the development of your maintenance manuals. You are on your 4th Edition of your road bike manual and the 5th edition of your mountain bike manual. How have they evolved over the years?
A: In every edition, I have always tried to clearly and concisely explain everything I think someone would need to or want to do in the way of maintenance on a road, mountain or cyclocross bike. The books have evolved as bike technology has evolved. Things were much simpler in 1995, when I wrote my first book, Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance. Since then, suspension, disc brakes, electric shifting, tubeless tires, all sorts of unthreaded bottom bracket and headset standards have appeared, and I have included all of them as they appear in the market. I only remove things when they really cease to be used out in the field anymore, like Mavic Zap and Mektronic, and Softride suspension seat beams and stems. As long as there are lots of old bikes out there being used with equipment from previous editions, I'll keep it in the subsequent edition.
Q: Your illustrations are fantastic! How did you partner up with your illustrators?
A: Todd Telander lived in Boulder through the first few books, and then I communicated with him remotely, as he lives in Spokane. He is a great illustrator of wildlife, primarily, and he stepped up to do these things outside of his normal repertoire. Mike Reisel is so talented; I've been amazed at his creativity for years. He is the art director at Velo, and we've worked together on the magazine for a long time. When Todd was unavailable for this edition, Mike stepped in and did a fantastic job. Both of them ride, and both understand and appreciate bikes as well as art. Most importantly, both are committed to getting the illustrations the way I want them to illustrate the critical things and leave out the distracting things. I'm very appreciative to have been able to work with both of them.
Q: How does the process of developing illustrations work between you and them?
A: With Todd, I sent him the parts and the instructions from the book related to them. With Mike, we sometimes did it that way, and sometimes I performed the tasks to be illustrated while he photographed them.
A: Now with disc brakes on road bikes. there is a lot of overlap. If they were to get only the mountain book, they wouldn't get information on drop-bar levers (or aero-bar shifters) or road brake calipers. They would get about everything else. If they were to get only the road book, they wouldn't get information on hydraulic flat-bar levers, flat-bar shifters, multiple-piston hydraulic disc calipers, or front or rear suspension systems. They would get about everything else.
Q: Some of my readers are proud retrogrouches. If they wanted to do maintenance on a 1972 Cinelli with a Campagnolo Super Record gruppo, would your book cover everything they needed to know?
A: Yes. That's why it's so thick. Because it covers all of the old technology as well as the new.
A: No, I have not. There are too many variations, each with lots of complexity. The book would become 1000 pages!
Q: What else would you like to say?
A: I love communicating in such a way that people find themselves able to do something they had originally thought was beyond them. It warms my heart when people tell me what a difference one of my books has made for them. Many people have told me they became professional mechanics after using my book, and I love hearing that I inspired someone's career!
Q: Have you read any good books lately, on subjects other than bicycles and bicycle maintenance?
A: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
If any readers are interested in hearing more from Lennard Zinn, please read my previous interview with him, focused on the bicycles and components he makes for tall cyclists.