The market for cycle maintenance manuals is already pretty well covered, with even Dorling Kindersley (DK) offering the 'Bike Repair Manual', but The Complete Bike Owner's Manual goes one step further and introduces an important new feature that sets it apart from others: CGI illustrations.
Like me, you may already have experience with one of DK's 'Complete Manuals', which cover topics as diverse as aquariums, gardening, photography, and sailing. The general consensus seems to be that they are beautifully presented books that offer good value, and cater well for the novice up to a more advanced user – but after a certain point a more specialist or detailed publication is required. In my view this manual builds on those strengths, but the CGI illustrations set it apart.
A major challenge with most repair manuals is how to make the pictures or diagrams clear enough. It can be hard to give focus to the important areas with photographs, so line drawings are often favoured – such as is the case in 'Zinn & the art of Road bike maintenance'. DK uses neither, preferring 'high quality CGI illustrations to detail every component of your bike. With no hands in the way to obscure detail and vivid imagery, the step-by-step instructions offer unprecedented clarity'. As you can see in the accompanying picture of a rear hub, the ability to show 'cutaways' and the lack of unnecessary distractions make it easier to demonstrate how things work.
Much of the CGI work was carried out by Brendan McCaffrey, who has considerable experience as a 3D artist. The results are outstanding, and I can see more publishers using this form of illustration in the future.
The book attempts to cater for most bike types and their associated componentry: road, off-road, and assorted utility styles. Some quite advanced (and expensive) technologies are covered, which is recognition that the ability to look after your bike is not related to the size of your wallet, nor indeed your riding experience. The book is about making the process simple, but is not limited to simple technologies.
Like many of its type, the book starts off with a few pages talking in general about bikes, components, and accessories: there are no brand names, prices or recommendations, just some pictures to show what a typical puncture repair kit or power meter looks like. The next few pages about workshop tools and techniques are more pertinent, and set the scene for the main act: the service, maintenance, and repair of your steed.
For a 'beginner to intermediate' audience, I thought that the choice of technologies and tasks was well judged. The operation of taking a quick release front wheel on and off properly is given two pages, with the same again for the rear wheel; however, with 'through axle' wheel mounting systems becoming more common, I was surprised to see them receive only a passing mention.
At the other end of the scale there is no attempt to cover wheelbuilding, only basic truing – which I felt was the right balance. Similarly, tubeless tyres are in, but tubulars are not.
Tuning a front suspension fork, setting the sag, and servicing the lower legs all get two pages each; it is good to show riders what can be done to improve their riding experience, but I hope that these pages spur readers on to find out more rather than just relying on the necessarily limited information presented here.
Many pages also have a 'Workshop tip' section, providing additional sound practical advice, such as 'If you are unsure whether the bearings in your wheel hubs need servicing, spin each wheel while resting your ear on the saddle, as any noise from the wheel hub will be amplified through the bike frame'. Certainly a lot less risky than putting your ear near the hub.
I have already mentioned the use of CGI, and there are numerous examples of where DK has used its advantages to make a difference. A good example is the two pages about replacing handlebar tape, which you can see in the accompanying picture: this is the sort of task that is often much easier to understand by watching a video, but this is as clear a printed instruction as I have ever seen.
By contrast, the two pages that Zinn gives over to the same task contain a couple of small line drawings – but a lot of text containing tips and advanced techniques that could bamboozle the novice, albeit invaluable to the more experienced practitioner. A novice may struggle initially with following Zinn's instructions, but once you have more experience you will definitely benefit from graduating to his book.
One of the reasons that Zinn's manual is twice the size of this book is that he goes into quite a lot of detail about the specific requirements of each manufacturer, which DK does not; there is an acknowledgment that there are differences, but the DK offering generally only focuses on the general principles of working on a given component – with the exception of bottom bracket and chainset systems, where there has to be some brand-specific detail.
Overall the book lives up to its claim of guiding you through 'repair and maintenance in simple steps', making it ideal for the new or semi-experienced home mechanic. For the most part it offers non-brand-specific guidance, and stops short of covering the more specialist tasks – so if this book inspires you to take on more advanced tasks you will eventually have to look elsewhere for guidance.
Covers the general principles of cycle maintenance in simple steps, benefiting from clear CGI illustrations
road.cc test report
Make and model: The Complete Bike Owners Manual Dorling Kindersley
Size tested: Hardback
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From Dorling Kindersley:
This is the complete reference guide to bike servicing and repair, and an essential hardback bible for every cyclist's bookshelf.
Incredible CGI illustrations show you every aspect of bike repair and maintenance more clearly than ever before, whether you're a mountain biker, cycling commuter, or road racer. All major types of bicycle from the leading brands are covered, with bike care advice to take you from symptom to solution. The Complete Bike Owner's Manual takes away the need for expensive expert advice, showing you how to service and maintain every aspect of your bicycle.
Learn how to replace or repair a chain, correct sagging suspension, fit brake cables, service a handlebar, and much more, with incredible up-close detail helping you to get your wheels turning again.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: The Complete Bike owner's manual
Author: Claire Beaumont and Ben Spurrier
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well illustrated, but not as comprehensive as you might like.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The clearest illustrations that I have seen.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not quite as comprehensive as the marketing would have you believe.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I would have welcomed something like this when I was learning bike mechanics.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Very good at what it does, but be aware that, despite the claims, it will not satisfy every level of expertise.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding