Book Review: Chainbreaker Bike Book

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The Chainbreaker Bike Book: A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance by Shelly Lynn Jackson (3-Oct-2011) Paperback
 Long, long ago, in what amounts to a past life, I was a contributor to a review blog. We mostly reviewed books, but sometimes we took on music and movies and products too. The reviewers were all women, and we thought and critiqued and wrote from a feminist perspective. Today I’m sharing one of the reviews I wrote for the blog. The book in question is The Chainbreaker Bike Book: A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance by Shelley Lynn Jackson and Ethan Clark. (The image to the left is connected to my Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it to shop, I will receive a commission from your purchases.)

This “rough guide to bicycle maintenance” is really two books in one.

The first half is a bike repair manual, with which the authors strive to “serve many people, from the very beginner to a decent mechanic who just likes to geek out…” I found the how-to instructions accessible, written in a way that is easy to understand, not in “high tech or cool dude language.” Although both authors have been professional bike mechanics and stalwart volunteers at the New Orleans Community Bike Project, they come across as real people who just want to help other real people repair and maintain bicycles—no bike snobs here!

The illustrations—by Ethan, Shelley, and Happy, the title page proclaims—are really awesome. They are simple but informative, slightly cartoonish, but factual. For folks who need to know what different styles of bikes or different kinds of tools look like, there are pictures here to help. There are also drawings to assist with adjusting breaks, truing wheels, and replacing cables, as well as other repair and maintenance projects.

The manual ends with two appendices. The first is a directory of community bike programs in the United States and abroad, followed by a helpful glossary of bike terms.

The second half of the book consists of reprints from past issues of the Chainbreaker zine. Shelley Lynn Jackson edited and self-published Chainbreaker from 2001-2005, but was unable to continue after losing her typewriter, clip art, desk, drawing supplies, and home to flooding following Hurricane Katrina. Lucky for readers, she was able to collect some of her favorite parts of the old zines in this compilation.

Shelley’s excitement about bicycles shows in the articles she wrote and collected for her zine. In her introduction to the very first issue of Chainbreaker, in a love letter to bikes aptly called “For the Love of a Bicycle,” she details all that bikes have to offer. “…[T]he bicycle shows a person that their [sic] are options, that there are other ways of living, new horizons undiscovered.” Romantic? Yes. True? Definitely.

Chainbreaker contains not only Shelley’s voice, but includes the art and writing of other folks too. There are instructions for making a bike tube belt from Spitshine the Eye zine, directions for constructing bucket paniers [sic] from Joe Biel of Microcosm Publishing, and art and words from long time zinester Icky Apparatus. Andalusia contributes an account of volunteering at Maya Pedal, a bicycle-recycling center in Guatemala, and Happy explains bicycle delivery New Orleans style. Co-author Ethan Clark has participated in the project from nearly the beginning as a contributor of stories and images to the zine.

This bike repair manual doesn’t just show how to fix things; it provides a lot of encouragement and inspiration as well. Shelley gives several pep talks to women throughout the book, cheering us on to…”stand up and be heard…get to know the tools and language…ask questions and look for guidance, but look to your own sense of logic as well.” That’s good advice, not just for bike repair, but for everything we do in life.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

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