Print is not dead, but its best years are behind it. We are getting more and more used to consuming information online, and online information is getting better and better at meeting our needs. Producers of printed content are at the front of an ever-evolving debate over what should still get put down on paper and what makes more sense to be broadcast over the internet. In case I'm not laying it on thick enough, I'm talking both about Bike Magazine itself and about bike service guides like the long-running Zinn and the art of Mountain Bike Maintenance book, now in its sixth edition.

The section on b-tension covers the fundamentals of an under-appreciated adjustment.

When Zinn's first volume was published in 1996, the concept of a printed repair guide made perfect sense. Not because the internet era had not matured yet, but because our bikes hadn't either. Nearly everything you would ever need to know about maintaining nearly any bike you might encounter could be covered in a single book. With very few exceptions, there was just one dropout standard and one bottom bracket shell. Disc brakes wouldn't gain mass appeal for another few years. Even V-brakes had yet to proliferate after their still-recent introduction that same year, leaving just relatively standardized cantilever rim brakes. There was a negligible number of oil-dampened and air-sprung forks out there, with the majority running on simple stacks of elastomers. There were no dropper posts, no electronic shifters, and no tubeless tires. It was a different world, and Zinn's book did an excellent job covering it. I got mine for my 16th birthday in 1997 along with a Nintendo 64. The fundamentals it taught me laid the groundwork for the real-world knowledge I would start amassing when I got my first bike shop job later that year.

Modern how-tos like servicing and adjusting a Shimano derailleur clutch are peppered among the broader maintenance topics in the book.

 

Those fundamentals are still in the 6th edition. Unfortunately, they get diluted by Zinn's attempt to address everything that has changed in the years since the first edition. There are sections about things like a proprietary Manitou thru-axle, pairing your Garmin with your Shimano Di2, and rebuilding Crank Brothers pedals, each of which are already covered in high-quality video and text how-tos generated by the manufacturers themselves. It gets specific about several contemporary technologies, but leaves out so many others. Things like Wolf Tooth and OneUp range-expanding cassette rings, tubeless tire plugs, and frame geometry flip chips are nowhere to be found. And similar products are coming out at a pace no print publication can keep up with.

Timeless concepts like chainline measurements haven’t changed fundamentally since the first edition.

But my point is not that there should be more of these books or more should be in them. There should be less because Zinn's fundamentals are as strong as ever. When reading through it for this review, I got some ideas for more Bike Hack videos and learned the proper terminology for the several measurements that relate to chainline. I got an in-depth refresh on the science behind b-tension adjustment and took a trip down memory lane in the section on dislodging a stuck quill stem. And the wheel-building section is just as good as any high-and-mighty tome that focuses on the "art" of the bicycle wheel. All that stuff is just as valuable as it was 22 years ago in the first edition, albeit a little buried. If you're willing to cut through the fat, the basics that you'll need to start building a holistic understanding of your bike are still in there. We call it "evergreen" content in the publishing world. It's not user-generated and there are no advertisements. And it's in a form that you can leave on a greasy workbench or let fall on the garage floor. And you can put it on a bookshelf and hold it in your hand.

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