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Sam Tracy

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Sam Tracy began working as a bike mechanic in 1993, when he cut his teeth at Wheel and Sprocket in Milwaukee. After receiving a BA in political science from the University of Wisconsin, he returned to Minneapolis, where he found work as a bicycle messenger. In 1998 he moved to Arcata, CA, for a position as Managing Editor of the Auto-Free Times, a nonprofit quarterly. His first bicycle repair manual, How to Rock and Roll: A City Rider’s Repair Manual, written during this period, was published by Black Kettle Graphics in 2001.

In 2000 Tracy was hired to manage Calhoun Rentals in Minneapolis, a position he held for four years. Among other tasks he was responsible for maintaining a 70-bike rental fleet, a complex and challenging mission which demanded a commitment to safe and effective low-cost repair techniques. Over the winters he worked as a mechanic at Calhoun Cycles, a recumbent bicycle specialty shop, where he became immersed in the lively and experimental DIY frame-building culture for which the ’bent enthusiasts are known.

After signing on with Speck Press to write Bicycle! A Repair & Maintenance Manifesto in 2003, Tracy moved to the cycling mecca of San Francisco, where he worked to further refine his repair skills at the Freewheel, a high-end commuter and road bike shop. He picked up numerous key techniques from the seasoned mechanics that really kept the place going.

After releasing Bicycle! in 2006, Speck Press published Tracy’s third book, Roadside Bicycle Repair: A Pocket Manifesto in 2008. Returning to the non-profit sphere, Tracy spent two years as Office Manager for HomeStart, a non-profit dedicated to ending homelessness in the Boston area. In 2008 he and his wife left to serve with the Peace Corps in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, which among other things provided exposure to a whole new level of resourcefulness in bicycle repair.

Most recently, in 2010 he worked as a mechanic at the Hub Bicycle Co-op, the Twin Cities’ only cooperatively owned bike shop. Tracy’s first book is out of print, and his last two are now in second editions. He is currently working on a novel. He and his wife live in Riga, Latvia, where she is posted as a U.S. diplomat. 

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Bicycle! A Repair & Maintenance Manifesto, 2nd Edition
Author: Sam Tracy
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-640-7
Published February 2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 10 by 7
Page count: 256 Pages
Subjects: Cycling/Transportation

There is nothing sacrosanct about bike repair. Its pursuit only requires the will to learn. At their finest hours bikes exist on a level above mere machines, and there’s no reason why the joy should end when the ride is over.

Bicycle! written by a long-time bicycle mechanic, covers everything you need to know to feed and care for your ride. This book cuts through the obtuse techno-speak and delivers maintenance clarity with a touch of humor and radicalism, while categorically denying mechanistry’s supposed dreariness. Bicycle! is about encouraging society to learn for themselves how to make their bikes work, not because they have to, but because they want to.

With detailed descriptions of all maintenance tasks and repair situations, clearly illustrated with photographs and drawings, this guide will serve the need for a serious rider’s manual. Professional bicycle workers—messengers, mechanics, pedi-cab drivers—as well as bicycle commuters have been waiting for this book. This second edition includes an abundance of helpful photos, an expanded index, and an updated resources section. Moreover, it benefits from insights gained through five years’ worth of additional mechanic experience including low-cost and no-cost repair solutions the author developed while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania.

Some of the Topics Covered:

  • Essential Tools
  • Bike Components (Maintaining, Adjusting, Repairing)
  • On-the-Road Repairs
  • Build Your Own (Scavenging)
  • Locks / Thief Deterrents
  • Rust, the Elemental Bike Nemesis
  • And much, much more!

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What others are saying...

bicycle!Bicycle!: A Review
Library Journal
May 2013

Tracy's second edition boasts five years' worth of additional hands-on experience since his first, gained during his bicycling pursuits around the globe. He writes in a humorous, unintimidating tone, e.g., saying of bike frame creaks, "they exist to mock us." Maintenance, repair, and selecting the right type of bike are all covered, and, from headsets to wheels and brakes to drive trains, the mechanics are discussed. Additional helpful chapters include "Winter Riding," "Boxing Bikes," and "Scavenging, Rust, and Security." From seasoned bike builders to novice bike riders, everyone will find something of value in this manifesto. VERDICT A smart buy for any library serving a bike culture.

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bicycle!Bicycle!: A Review
by Kurt Morris
May 17th, 2013

"While the material may be more detailed than a basic bicyclist may need, author Sam Tracy has plenty experience with repairing bikes (including in the African country of Mauritania) to know what he's talking about. Written in paragraph form, he writes of ways to improve one's bike as well as simple fixes for what ails it. Overall, Bicycle! seems thorough and comes from an author who is quite knowledgeable in the field. Unfortunately, for someone like myself who is a more casual bicyclist, it was a bit over my head. But for anyone interested in taking on the maintenance aspect of their bicycle, this is recommended."

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bicycle!Bicycle!: A Review
Midwest Book Review
May 2013

Keeping a bike running can be done with anyone with a little ambition and know how. Bicycle!: A Repair & Maintenance Manifesto is an educational manual from Sam Tracy, who advises readers on how to keep their bikes rolling for years to come, even when improvising on the go. With additional thoughts on those who want to build their own bikes, fighting rust, safety and security, and much more, "Bicycle!" is a fine addition to any collection focusing on practical bicycling wisdom.

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bicycle!Bicycle! in Carbusters: A Review
by Kelly Nelson
April 2013

Sam Tracy, a bike mechanic and former bike messenger, also wrote Roadside Bicycle Repair: A Pocket Manifesto and How to Rock and Roll: A City Rider’s Repair Manual. This third book in Tracy’s bike-care trilogy has been updated to include low-cost and no-cost solutions he learned during his Peace Corps stint in Mauritania. It’s geared toward people who are seriously into their bikes. Owning it is like having a bike mechanic to chat with while you undertake repairs yourself. You get tons of technical advice such as “loosen the rear derailleur cable before adjusting the H screw” and “we like the straddle hanger’s intersection to end up sitting just above the fender hole.” You also get opinion (“The cheap cranks won’t let you do this, because they suck”), tips of the trade (“The ubiquitous Parmesan cheese container can come in handy for storing road kits”) and a few stories (“I’ll never forget the reaction I got from a couple punk rockers up by the local art school…”).

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bicycle!Bicycle! in Urban Velo: A Review
Urban Velo
April 10th, 2013

Bicycle mechanic Sam Tracy is no stranger to the urban cycling realm, he’s been at it as a ‘zine publisher since the early 1990s and wrote an early no-nonsense repair guide, the pictured out of print How to Rock and Roll – A City Riders Reapir Manual. Now he is back with the second edition of Bicycle! A Repair and Maintenance Manifesto, with the same mix of digestable DIY tech advice and humor. Sam isn’t scared to tell you to use a hammer and duct tape when called for — this isn’t the manual for those with plastic bikes and torque wrenches, this is more geared towards keeping your bike working in the real world, sometimes with scavenged parts, sometimes by forcing the issue to keep the wheels rolling. This book is more about low-cost and no-cost repairs than upgrades and weighing your bike. Make no mistake, Sam is an accomplished mechanic and his tech advice is spot on. An ideal book for novice mechanics put off by the tech jargon of other tech manuals, experienced wrenches will also find solid advice from his experience working in bicycle co-ops and in the less than ideal conditions of Mauritania.

Sam Tracy wrote about his time in Mauritania in Urban Velo #15, On The Road To Azougui.

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