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Bike Term Glossary

Posted by Jared Menk on

This glossary is meant for those trying to familiarize themselves with the bike industry's lingo. It can be confusing when you hear some of these terms pop up in your research or conversations. So we'll try to help you understand cycling from a ground up perspective. 

  • Aero- Shortened version of “aerodynamic” used to describe any piece of equipment that is designed to reduce wind resistance.
  • Air Cap- Small cap that protects the inflation valve, can be on the top or bottom of the fork.
  • Air Assist- Fork that features a coiled spring, and an air spring. Hybrid between an air fork and a coil fork
  • Arch/Bridge- Support bar that connects the forks two legs together. Strengthens fork and provides even movement of the fork.
  • Bottom bracket- Bearing set that holds the spindle of your crankset, and is fitted into the frame.
  • Bumper- Rubber pad that prevents stanchions form hitting the metal fork lowers in extreme compression.
  • Brakeaway- Force needed to compress the fork.
  • Cadence- Number of revolutions of the crank per minute, or pedaling rate.
  • Caliper- Piece of the brake that attaches to the frame and clamps to the rim, or rotor.
  • Cassette- Rear cluster of cogs/sprockets.
  • Clincher- Typical tire design consisting of two steel or kevlar beads, which uses the air pressure to force a tight connection with the edge of the rim.
  • Cyclocross- Off road racing style, typically with some sort of obstacles or features.
  • Cog/Sprocket- single metal ring with teeth on it inside of the cassette.
  • Coil spring- Coiled wire spring that provides the compression and return of a fork.
  • Compression- Downward travel where the bike moves down towards the wheel or vice versa.
  • Chainring- The front metal cog(s) attached to your crank arms.
  • Cleat- Metal piece that is fixed to the bottom of a cycling shoe to interface with a clip in pedal.
  • Crankset- Consists of the crank arms, chainring(s),  bottom bracket and spindle. The crankset is the mechanism that attaches your pedals to your bike; gives you the ability to pedal.
  • Chainstay- Part of the bike’s frame closest to the chain.
  • Damping- The rate of suspension compression or rebound. Most forks will have a staged damping system for controlling the speed of the compression.
  • Derailleur- This mechanism is what provides the ability to shift. The Derailleur physically moves the chain from one cog to another, or from one chainring to another. There are front and rear derailleurs.
  • Doubletrack- Wide off-road trails, usually with two riding directions.
  • Dropout- Tabs on the frame or fork where the wheel is attached.
  • Frame- The body of the bike. Consisting of the main triangle and the rear triangle.
  • Fork- Provides the ability to steer, and holds the front wheel onto your bike.
  • Ferrules- Plastic or metal end cap that fits onto cable housing to provide a solid connection.
  • Freewheel- Ratchet style assembly attached to your rear hub that allows coasting.
  • Granny Gear- Largest cog in the rear cassette, and the smallest cog on the crankset. Makes pedaling as easy as can be.
  • Hub- The center cylindrical part that allows the axle to connect to the wheel, and houses the bearings that provide movement to the wheel. Also anchors the inner end of the spokes.
  • Headset- Bearing assembly that provides a solid connection between fork and frame. Allows the fork to be turned for steering.
  • Lock Out-  Mechanism that restricts a fork’s travel. Generally controlled by an external or barmounted knob and used to restrict fork bob when climbing.  
  • Oil Damping-  uses the resistance to oil flow through holes in a valve to provide adjustment to the amount of travel on a suspension fork.
  • Pinch Flat- A flat where the tube does not puncture but pinches and creates a hole.
  • Piston- Component connected to a compression rod, that slides up and down a stanchion.
  • Preload- Compression on a spring before any load is applied. Helps provide a stiffer spring rate.
  • Quick Release- A lever on the end of the axle that increases or releases tension on the wheel to keep it in place. A toolless way to remove and install wheels.
  • Rim- Outer hoop of the wheel that the spokes connect to from the hub. Also where the tires and tubes are installed.
  • Rear Triangle-  part of a bicycle frame comprised of the seat tube, chainstays and seatstays.
  • Reach- The combined length of a bike’s top tube and stem, which determines the rider’s distance to the handlebar.
  • Rebound- The opposite of compression and the return phase of the suspension where the wheel returns to its original position
  • Rim- Outer hoop of the wheel that the spokes connect to from the hub. Also where the tires and tubes are installed.
  • Rim Strip- Vinyl or Rubber strip that lines the inside of the rim to protect your tube from the spoke nipples.
  • Rotor- Disc that attaches to the hub and inserts into the brake caliper for the pads to compress.
  • Saddle- The bike seat.
  • Seat tube- The tube that the seat post inserts into.
  • Steer tube- Tube attached to the fork that inserts into the frame. The steer tube also interfaces with the stem and headset to hold the front end of the bicycle together.
  • Shifter- Lever that clamps to the handlebar to actuate the derailleur.
  • Stem- Clamps to the steer tube of the fork to allow the handlebars to be mounted
  • Seatpost- Post that inserts into the seat tube, to allow your seat to be adjusted and connected.
  • Singletrack- Single lane wide, single direction track for mountain biking.
  • Slipstream- Air pocket behind a rider moving roughly the same speed. Provides the ability to draft on another rider.
  • Spoke- Metal rods that connect from the rim, to the hub to hold the wheel together, and provide a safe, solid connection from the rim to the hub.
  • Spoke Nipple- Nut that attaches the spoke to the rim.
  • Stanchion- Upper legs of a suspension fork, that insert and compress into the lowers. 
  • Taco’d- Severe wheel damage where the wheel folds resembling a Taco
  • Thru-Axle- Threaded axle that goes through the dropouts  
  • Travel- The amount that the suspension can compress.
  • Tuck- When a rider makes themselves as small as possible to reduce wind drag and roll as fast as possible.
  • Unweight- Goes along with pressure control.  Temporarily shift, or remove weight onto your bike by relaxing your arms and legs or vertically moving your body over the bike.
  • Wash out- To lose traction while going around a turn
  • Wheelbase- Distance between the front and rear axle.


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