Monday, 29 December 2008

Bicycle Mechanics In Workshop And Competition, Steve Snowling (1993)

Springfield Books 1 85688 037 0 160pp £11.95

An accessible manual of cycle preparation and maintenance aimed at serious road racers and those who seek to be professional race mechanics

Snowling’s book first appeared in 1986 and has been through several editions since then (some subsequent to the issue I read). That there has been demand for so many revisions is as cheery as it is mysterious. Snowling announces that ‘I am the only full-time race mechanic from the UK and I am probably the only one there has ever been’. That might suggest a rather limited market for this tome, but, clearly, that has not been the publishers’ experience.

It is a good thing too, because this book has both a charm and a scope that goes significantly beyond the usual fare. The appeal comes from the determinedly personal nature of the text. Not only is the book illustrated by dozens of black-and-white photos of Snowling in action – with his race-day tools, adjusting a cone nut and preparing a tubular rim, but much of the detail is drawn from his own life.

After a racing career as an amateur, and a brief spell as a cycle-cross pro, Snowling found himself at Tony Doyle’s side as he conquered Europe’s velodromes. Later came appointments with several national squads and the 7-Eleven Team, among other professional outfits.

Included in the topics he deals with, that you will not find elsewhere, are such simple things as bicycle cleaning . He suggests a systematic, and very sensible system. He also advises on significantly more complex projects, such as how to check whether a frame is true, and the use of frame-truing bars in the event that it is not.

There are some oddments. He devotes a good deal of space to the lost art of fitting toe straps, before announcing near the end of the book that clipped pedals are ‘a thing of the past’. A chapter detailing his own professional story is interesting, but rather curiously placed in the book. Nonetheless, for those for those seriously interested in working on racing bikes, he has guidance to offer that I have not seen elsewhere.

PS Dec 08

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