Zine Review: Chainbreaker #4

13 September 2007

Zine - Chainbreaker 4

Chainbreaker #4 is really badly organised — or at least, my copy is. I should say this up front, because it got in the way of my jumping straight in to read it through.

It looks like there was a fight with the photocopier with no clear winner. Instructions for brake adjustments begin unintroduced with steps 4 to 6 on an upside-down page 15, before finishing with steps 1 to 3 on page 35. Worse still, some stories seem to be missing bits — Moose’s “Bike Nation” article seems to jump back a couple of pages, with at least a couple of sentences missing in the middle.

These frustrations aside, when I’d grappled with those layout issues enough to get properly stuck in to Chainbreaker #4, I found it was a vibrant, passionate and informative discussion about bikes, the people who ride them, and the problems of gender, capitalism and urban planning that confront them. The writing is truly inspiring:

[O]ne of the main reasons I love the bicycle so much is that you don’t need a car to use it. I like the rides that begin and end at my back gate. The rides that take me through old familiar neighbourhoods, winding crazy loops that criss-cross the city and eventually, bring me back home again.

These contributors love their bikes, and they love their cities. Being out in the open air as they commute or courier or play gives them a stronger connection to the streets they move through. For Sean, a ride across town “brought back a rush of memories”. Now that he lives too close to work to ride there, he thinks back to a bicycle commute and says “it made me feel alive.” Scott Spitz describes similar feelings: “This is how I celebrate freedom.”

But it’s not all rosy all the time. Freedom comes with risks, like Moose’s “broken teeth that I got from being nailed by a minivan on my bike” or “the cyclist that got killed in the French quarter last night”. But these horror stories are taken as inspiration: for a documentary (One Shoe in the Road, about “struck riders and their stories”), or a bike conference, or a more inclusive town planning system. And there is plenty advice on keeping safe, including tips for riding in traffic, and instructions for maintaining your brakes.

Zines and bicycles are both low-tech in a high-tech world, and Chainbreaker #4 is a celebration of both. It’s about getting stuck in with scissors and glue and bolts and grease. It makes me glad I own a bike — and guilty that I don’t ride often enough.

Shelley, Chainbreaker #4, 1/2 size, 48 pages.
Available from UrbanVelo, Microcosm and Paper Trail.

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