The Chainbreaker Bike Book: A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance

The Chainbreaker Bike Book: A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance

by Shelley Jackson, Ethan Clark

Paperback(Second Edition)

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An updated and expanded edition of our hand-illustrated and accessible introduction to the world of bike repair! Through working at both Plan-B Bike Project and French Quarter Bicycles in New Orleans, our co-authors have gathered a wealth of experience to share with would-be bicycle mechanics. The first half of this book is a complete repair manual to get you started on choosing the right bike for you, riding that bike, and fixing it when it breaks down. The second half reprints all four issues of the Chainbreaker zine, whose originals were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.This is the best bicycle repair manual that we have, and the one that many of us here at Microcosm use to fix our own bikes. It's incredibly useful for fixing older bikes, and the illustrated instructions help you suss out how to fix a wide variety of issues whatever kind of bike you have, whether it's a beater or a vintage classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781621061267
Publisher: Microcosm Publishing
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Series: Bicycle Revolution Series
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Ethan Clark is a former employee of Plan B bike collective in New Orleans. Ethan is the author of Leaning with
Intent to Fall and currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Shelley Lynn Jackson is a bike mechanic and the author of the zines Chainbreaker and New Orleans, My Love.

Read an Excerpt


gelling started.

dealing with a shop: Even an experienced mechanic will sometimes have to rely on a shop for advice, parts or accessories, especially if you live in town without a bike co-op or other type of free bike, or recycled bike space. So the best thing you can do for yourself is find a shop close to you that you can trust. The best way to do this is first to choose a shop that fits your needs. Every bike shop is different, from the employees, to the main sales of the shop, to the goals of the shop, etc. It is good to look at all of these things and find one that is good for you. Find a shop where you can communicate with the people working there. If you love fancy bikes and riding long rides on the weekends, find a shop that caters to that type of bike and maintenance and see if they have group rides you can go on, or a team or something. If you are into single speeds, or beaters, find a smaller shop where the people might be more attentive to your bike type, and who can give you good advice that will save you money. Either way, try to find one shop you like and stick with it. Buy your tubes there, tools, accessories, everything. Once you have found a good shop, try to get to know the mechanics and build a good rapport with them. When you take your bike in for a repair, ask what they did, what parts they used. If they seem really receptive, ask if they could show you what they did and see if they will give you any pointers on doing the repair yourself. Some shops are simply too busy for this, or don't like to do it out of fear of losing a customer. But some will, and a mechanic just might help out a fellow biker now and then. These kinds of mechanics are priceless, and should be given tons of love and respect. They usually like a little interaction with a dedicated and self-reliant biker and will give you time when they can. If they love questions, ask them, but be respectful of their time and be sure not to step on their boss's toes if they happen to be around, in which case, laying a little low might be the best thing to do. I know where I worked we had real regular customers. I got to know their bikes, the type and quality work they expected. If they were really sweet, a struggling musician, or tipped me regularly, I would do little things on the side to make them happy, like tightening up a janky basket or doing a quick brake tightening for free if I was fixing a flat; little things to make them happy and keep them coming back. Being bitchy to your mechanic, condescending, or low-balling them on prices will not make you a popular customer. You don't want to piss off the person fixing your bike any more than you want to piss of a waiter alone in the kitchen with your food. You know what I mean? The mechanic might just do something crazy, like fill your seat tube full of bb's (just kidding)! I have never been so extreme as to be negligent of a bike, but I have sure been known to leave the pain in the ass for last if I had a list of stuff to get done. But treat your mechanic right they will hook you up!

If you do find a great mechanic who understands your needs, do NOT for any reason ask for hook-ups or special favors in front of their boss. You can't assume every worker is on the same page as the boss. Don't get anyone in trouble or cast any doubt on them in the eyes of their employer. That happened to me quite a bit and it did nothing but make my boss paranoid that I was trying to rip him off; which I never did. So take care of those who take care of you, keep it on the down-low.

a note for ladies in shops: It is really difficult being a woman in a bike shop sometimes! Seriously! Sadly they are often very male spaces, and no matter how tough you look, walking into a shop can make a woman feel 15 again. So ladies, be forward, be assertive. You don't have to spout off a bunch of stuff about components or high end shit to get the respect you deserve. If you ride a crappy little three speed and you want to know why the brakes aren't working, ask the mechanic to show you why and where they are broken. That's actually how I got my job at the bike shop! Don't be afraid. If the male mechanic calls you sweetie, or honey, counter him with a straight-forward "sir", which draws a nice boundary and can diffuse annoying flirtation. Let him be sure the interaction is about bikes and nothing more. You can do it! Find a shop where the mechanic treats you like a customer, not a female customer. Better yet, seek out a shop with a lady mechanic. By the same token, don't think you are getting ahead by using your femininity to get extra attention. It might make you feel like you are in control, but in reality, you are just selling yourself short by playing into stereotypes.

description of bike types: Of course the type of bikes one sees in their own city varies from place to place because of the terrain and economics of the town. Here in New Orleans, we mostly used to see big clunky single speed cruisers with coaster (kick back). Recently, I think due to an influx of folks from single-speed towns like Minneapolis and Portland, we see many more racing bikes converted to single speeds; a perfect bike for our city. How do you choose? Think about what you want to do with your bike and get something appropriate. Don't just get the hippest thing for fashion's sake. Ask yourself:

What kind of riding do you do? Are there a lot of hills where you live? Do you bike a long distance every day? Do you carry a lot of stuff, or move heavy things frequently? Is your bike for recreation or transportation? These questions will help you choose an appropriate bike for your town and your lifestyle. This list will help you figure out what kind of bike is best for the riding you do.

CRUISER: this is the single-speed, heavy-duty sit-up-straight style bike. In California we called them beach cruisers; in New Orleans we call them truck bikes. Cruisers have wide tires, wide seats and are often weighted down by fenders, chain guards and wide or tall handle bars. Schwinn made great ones, Murray made decent ones, and Huffy made some pretty crappy ones. New retro cruisers are making a comeback and even come with "distressed" paint to get that old school look that folks love these days. These are great bikes for big baskets and lots of hauling. Not so good for uphill riding. I ride my dog around on mine!

THREE SPEED: these were most popular in the 70s and '80s and were made popular by department stores. They are lighter than cruisers, usually have internally geared hubs and dove bars. These are great bikes and it isn't hard to find a good old one in nearly mint condition. Tunes up well and are surprisingly fast, and when the hub goes, it's easily converted to a nice light single speed with a coaster wheel. These are strong and generally faster than cruisers. They'll hold a fair amount of weight too....

ROAD BIKE: light bikes with multiple gears (10-27), drop bars and made, in most cases, with either steel or aluminum. Built for racing, but used by commuters and weekend distance riders. Road bikes can be the fastest, but with the thinner tires and drop bars, they're not for everyone. These are the bikes that are often very easily converted to single speeds for flatter terrain. You can mount a good rack on the back of them for transporting light stuff.

TRACK BIKE: These were built for riding on a, uni, track. They are light, road style bikes with one gear cog in the front and one in the rear. Unlike single-speeds, which have a freewheel in the back, track bikes have a fixed cog which prevents the bike from coasting, so if the wheels are turning, so are the cranks — pedaling all the time. These are popular with bike messengers, and are most easily recognized by the lack of brake levers. They are meant to be light and simple with no derailleurs, no brakes, cables, or shifters and almost never having anything extra like racks or baskets — though it has been done.

MOUNTAIN BIKE: mostly straight-framed bikes with larger knobby tires and multiple gears (usually 18-27). They usually have straight handlebars with low stems for a more aggressive ride, often with front and/or rear suspension shocks. The knobby tires slow you clown a bit in the city, but can be switched out for slicks, unless you ride in dirt or grass or off-road a lot. Suspension complicates baskets and racks.

CROSS BIKE/HYBRID: similar looking to mountain bikes, only suited more for commuters. Often with cushier seats, slicker street tires (on narrower 700c wheels), higher handlebars and stems for a more upright position. Some have shocks, or seat post shocks. Hybrids were almost the perfect city commuter bike until most companies switched to only comfort bikes.

COM FORT BIKE: These are pretty new school as far as I can tell. I think I was working at French Quarter bikes when the big switch happened and most companies left out the hybrid and got these. They are similar also to mountain bikes, usually have wider but slicker tires. They often come with shocks on the front forks and seat posts, and wide seats. They usually have very high adjusting handlebars and stems and are actually very comfortable. However, they are slower than hybrids, as well as more complicated for basketing (due to the shocks), which I think is pretty important for a commuter.

BM X: short dirt/street/jump/trick bikes, usually with 20 inch wheels and tiny frames. Fun for tricks, but a little difficult for transportation riding, though Ethan used to know a maniac who couriered on one.

purchasing a bike:

fit: Mistakes in fitting can make even the best bike feel crappy to ride. So often I see people riding around on bikes that don't fit them, or are just not adjusted properly to their size. It is important, when buying a bike, to get one that fits you! This means buying a bike that can be adjusted to fit you as well as possible. You don't want to hit your knees on the handlebars when you ride, or struggle to reach the pedals. At a good bike shop, the salesperson should help you find the best size for you. At a department store they won't, and when buying a used bike it will really be up to you. Test riding a bike helps. Be realistic when you do this. A few years back, I was given a great used road bike converted to a single speed that I absolutely loved. It wasn't until I switched to another bike that I realized I had been riding a bike way too big for me. I could reach the pedals while riding, but couldn't stand over the thing at a stop, which can be pretty dangerous in the wrong situation. The next thing you know you're goin' around showing everyone your bruised privates.

Bikes are built for different heights and also different lengths. Height can be adjusted within limits, by raising or lowering your seatpost. Length can be adjusted, within limits, by adjusting your seats rails on the seat post and by the length of the stem you use. Check that your seat post clamp is on correctly with the clamp behind the post, otherwise your seat could be in front of the bottom bracket, which is weird. There is lots of geometry and math involved, but for now we'll start out with this:

Height: (ground to seat) You should be able to fully straighten your leg while pedaling, and also stand flat footed (with none of your parts touching, y'heard?) over the bike's top bar when stopped. This can be complicated when trying on ladies frame bikes, or these new, slopey "unisex" frames and frames with compact geometry. Some difference can be made up by adjusting your seat height. By loosening one bolt, you should be able to slide the seat post up or down. It shouldn't bottom out or be raised past the little dashy lines on the post, which denotes the safe height level.

Length: (seat to handlebars) This one is a little trickier. I think it is up to how you feel on the bike with the awareness of the fact that there are in fact, different lengths to choose from. One shouldn't feel cramped for space, or like you are really stretching and reaching for the bars. Try rides on different bikes to experience the differences and to see what your preferences are. Mountain bikes and especially road bikes can feel really different when comparingdifferent lengths. And again, you can change stem length and seat position to make up minor problems. There are instructions on raising or lowering seat and stem height later in this book.

materials (steelos, aluminum): Bike frames are made of all kinds of materials. Aluminum, steel (chromoly that is, a low alloy steel which is lighter than steel, but not as light as aluminum), carbon fiber, wood, bamboo, you name it. This is a good thing to think about when you are choosing a new bike, or building one up from a bike recycling shop. Lots of people ask about the differences between steel (chromoly) and aluminum and it is really pretty basic. Aluminum is light but stiff. It is more brittle and less forgiving. It is great if you have to carry a bike up 4 floors of steps, but it can be a little tough on the booty, meaning — it rides a lot bumpier. I love old steel frames. They ride softer and smoother and are welded strong, and if you build them right, you can keep them light. Using aluminum (often referred to as "alloy" when talking components and wheels) components (rims, cranks, pedals, seatposts, handlebars, seats with aluminum parts) will keep them light and you'll be happy. With steel, just be sure to take care of your frame. Try not to nick up the paint a lot with posts or locks, and keep surface rust down by an occasional cleaning with soapy water and one of those little green scrubby pads or soapy steel wool. Be gentle with the steel wool; go light on the paint. As far as other materials go, you could spend big bucks on a light carbon fiber frame, but if you've got that kind of dough, you might be better off spending it on a good, custom built steel frame from an independent frame builder. There are lots of great ones out there who would love the business, and this way you'll be spending the same amount of money, only you'll be putting it in the hands of a craftsperson instead of a corporation. And it will fit you perfectly.

where to buy: There are lots of places a person can buy a bike — small independent shops, department stores, from the newspaper or off some internet classified, yard sales, a friend, a bike recycler (like many of the community bike shops listed in the back of this book), or even from a thief off the street. As with any purchase, spend your money consciously. Think about who you are giving your business to. Bike projects are great because you can always go back and learn to maintain the bike yourself. Independent shops offer warranties and the opportunity to build a good relationship with the shop. Yard sales and friends are good because you can get some great deals, especially if you know how to make simple repairs. But, buying a bike that might be stolen is not good, for you, your karma, or for the person who got their bike jacked. Don't do it, no matter how tempting....

IF AT ALL POSSIBLE DO NOT BUY WAL-MART OR DEPARTMENT STORE BIKES! This might sound like some kind of elitist or classist crap that implies that one bike is better than another. I don't mean it that way.... All bikes are great, no matter what, but let me explain: The vast majority of large label bikes are made in China and we all know China doesn't have the best track record on human rights or great labor laws. This is true for department stores and for most independent bicycle shops. Buying a Chinese bike is difficult to avoid unless you are planning to spend big bucks on a new, hand-built bike by an independent builder. The best way to avoid buying a Chinese bike is to buy a used bike, therefore giving your money to a person, not to a specific company. But buying a Chinese bike is not the only issue here.

Once upon a time, during the six year stint at the bike shop in the French Quarter, our small shop was located far from any department store, in a time when New Orleans still tried to keep "big box" department stores out of the metro area. One actually had to go quite far to get to one. Our customers were transportation riders (rode less than 5 miles a day and generally did all of their chores by bike because they didn't own a car) or food deliverers. They were loyal to us for repairs, and many of them came to us regularly for a new bike for fun, or because theirs was stolen. Our shop did well with sales and really well with repairs and the work was fun and rewarding — then Wal-Mart came. It moved less than two miles from the French Quarter and our business changed radically. Regular buyers started coming in for regular repairs on bikes that were:

1) Impractical: mountain bikes with front shocks, making it impossible to put front baskets on; with knobby tires and a million gears, all unnecessary for flat city riding

2) Too small!: the sales people at those places don't know much about fitting bikes, it seems

3) Assembled poorly: They might have scored a new $89.95 bike, but paid another 40 bucks right off to get the thing running "properly" (which is never too impressive on one of those). Worse, because they don't come with maintenance plans like our bikes did (one year free tune-up and warranty!).

4) Annoying: The things fell apart right away due to inferior components like crappy shifters, and (gasp!) plastic crank arms!

5) Somehow these pieces of junk are made of, like, recycled bowling balls or something and weigh a million-zillion pounds.


Excerpted from "The Chainbreaker Bike Book"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Ethan Clark and Shelly Lynn Jackson.
Excerpted by permission of Microcosm Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword 9

Introduction 9

What kind of repair manual this is 15

Who this manual is for 15

Diversity 16

Safer spaces 16

A special note for women 18

DIY 19

Getting Started 19

Dealing with a shop 19

A note for ladies in shops 21

Description of bike types 21

Purchasing a bike 23

Fit 23

Materials (steel vs. aluminum) 24

Where to buy 25

How to do a Tune-Up 26

Tune up order 26

1 Gather Your Tools 26

Essential tools 27

Good tools to have 27

Caring for your tools 29

A word on bike stands 29

2 Inspection 30

3 Wheels 30

a Axles 31

b True wheels 35

c Tubes and tires 40

How to fix a flat 42

4 Brakes 44

Types of brakes 44

Adjusting brakes 46

How to stop a track bike 49

5 Shifters & Derailleurs 49

Shifters 49

Types of shifters 50

Friction vs. indexing 50

A word on gear ratio 50

Servicing your shifters 51

Compatibility 53

Three-speed shifters 53

Nexus shifters 54

Derailleurs 54

Cables 55

Rear derailleur 55

Setting up the rear derailleur 55

Cable 56

Limit screws 56

Test shift 57

Front derailleur 57

Cable 58

Limit screws 58

Converting to one-speed 60

Troubleshooting 61

Changing brake & gear cables 61

Types of inner wire and housing 62

Cutting cables 62

Dressing brake housing 62

Ferrules and end caps 63

Cable length 63

Replacing cable and housing 64

6 Bearing Systems 64

a Headsets 66

Threaded headsets 66

Threadless headsets 68

Troubleshooting 69

b Bottom brackets 69

Different types 70

Spindle widths 70

When to adjust and overhaul 71

Three-piece cranio 71

Cottered cranks 72

Three-piece bottom brackets 73

Sealed bottom brackets 75

One-piece bottom brackets 76

Bottom bracket odds and ends 77

7 Drivetrains 78

Chain 78

Get the right chain 78

When to replace your chain 78

Chain removal and installation 79

Chainbreakers 79

Pins 79

Master links 80

Installing a chain 80

Loosening tight links 81

Sizing your chain 81

Freewheels and cassettes 81

Freewheels 82

Cassettes 83

Installing 84

Older cassettes 84

The freehub body 84

Rear coaster wheel 84

Chainrings 85

When to replace 85

Three piece crank chainrings 85

One piece crank 86

Cottered crank 87

Drivetrain troubleshooting 87

8 Safety Check + Test Ride 87

Safety check 87

Seat 87

Seatposts 88

Adjusting or replacing your seat 88

Pedals 89

Replacing or lubing pedals 89

Test ride 90

The Random and (Hopefully) Helpful Information Section 90

Wrenching tips 90

1 Screwing and stripping 90

2 Leverage 91

3 Patience 93

4 Lube 93

General troubleshooting 93

Extending the life of your bike 94

Adjust! adjust! adjust! 94

Locking your bicycle 94

Safety tips 96

Group Riding 98

Helmets 98

Bike Extras 98

Getting parts 98

Accessories 98

Need vs. want 99

Fancy stuff 99

Bike aesthetics and fashion 101

Community bike programs 102

Closing statements 102

Reprints of Old Chainbreaker Zines 103

Chainbreaker #1 104

Chainbreaker #2 128

Chainbreaker #3 154

Chainbreaker #4 188

Glossary 221

About the Authors 222

Customer Reviews