Some time back I wrote a piece for Paddling.net outlining the uses of the Kindle e-book reader. And as the title of that article suggests, books are just the beginning. Many manufacturers make PDF versions of their user guides and manuals available for the price of a click, and since the Kindle has no trouble digesting and displaying most PDFs, I’ve now loaded a sizable library of product manuals onto my 3G. Never again will I have to rely wholly on my (somewhat fallible) memory when I struggle with the more arcane functions of my GPS! It won’t make any difference if I’m traveling by pedal or paddle, either. What works in a riverside camp will work equally well during a lunch stop on a cyclotour.
And the story doesn’t end there. Why should I limit myself to manufacturer-supplied manuals and user guides, after all? I can roll my own, too. Making PDFs is pretty straightforward, after all, and my Paddling.net article outlines the basic steps. But maybe you’re wondering why I would want to go to the trouble. Well, here’s a for-instance: I do all the work on my bike that needs doing. All of it, without exception. So frequent jobs like changing a tube, cleaning a chain, or fitting new brake shoes are pretty much second nature. But other jobs come round only once in a blue moon. Take replacing a shifter cable, for example. A couple of years back, I snapped a cable on a grocery run into town. I had a spare cable, but I’d never had to replace one before. To make matters worse, it was January, and the shifter in question was an SRAM GripShift. A great shifter, to be sure, but fitting a new cable to any twist-grip shifter is a notoriously fussy job. (Farwell compares it to threading a moving needle in an unlighted room at midnight.) I struggled for a few minutes, but I soon realized I needed the help of a repair manual, and at that point I decided to beat a retreat before frostbite claimed my fingers. Luckily, the failed cable was the one controlling the front derailleur, so it was a simple job to wedge the cage over the middle chainring and soldier on. I was down to seven speeds, but I only had 10 miles to go. Needless to say, I didn’t set any records on the hills, and it was all hills on the way back.
Back home, in a heated room with a repair manual (and a wee dram of Islay malt) at my elbow, I swapped out the old cable for a new one in short order. OK. That’s an exaggeration. It took me the better part of an hour. Farwell is right. It is a fussy job. But the outcome was never in any doubt. Suppose, however, that I’d been 100 miles from home base instead of 10 when the cable parted. Or 1000. What would I have done then? I don’t have room in my panniers for the 1088 pages of Barnett’s Manual. But I do have space for my Kindle. The good news? That and my carry-along repair kit give me the tools I need to do almost any job.
But first I need to do a little homework. So now I’m working up a series of take-along guides, illustrated PDFs outlining a variety of common (and not-so-common) roadside repairs. Here’s the list so far:
- Replacing a broken spoke
- Truing a wobbly wheel
- Dealing with a broken chain link
- Replacing brake and shifter cables
- Adjusting derailleurs
- Removing and replacing cranks
- Adjusting old-style cup-and-cone bottom brackets
- Overhauling pedals
At one time or another, I’ve had to do all of these things, and so far I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to do them on my workbench at home. If trouble struck while I was on the road, however, I’d probably need something to jog my memory. But even if I didn’t, it would still be good to know that help was at hand, just in case. So I figure any time I spend preparing the guides will be time well spent. Don’t you agree?
This article was originally published on June 18, 2011.
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