Ultimate Bicycle Lingo

What is the hardest thing about riding a bike ? Talking about it. If you can’t tell a chain from the chain rings, then it’s quick time for a quick lesson on cycling lingo.

brakes – The things that make you stop. Variations include rim brakes (which squeeze the rim of the wheel to slow—see photo on the left) and disc brakes (which squeeze a metal disc at the hub).


cassette – Nope, not a throwback mixtape from the 80s. A cassette is the set of sprockets (the pyramid shaped set of gears) on the rear wheel. The chain moves up and down these gears to make riding easier or harder depending on the cyclist’s needs.

chain – A loop of roller links that transfers power from the pedals to the rear wheel to propel the bike forward. If you drop your chain (i.e., if your chain slides off the gears), it’s easy to put back on, but be prepared to get your hands dirty. Chain lubricant will keep your chain in tip-top shape.

chainrings – Circular metal discs with teeth that are closest to the front wheel and next to the pedals. Together they make up the crankset, which is rotated by the crank arms. Your bike can have one, two, or three chainrings depending on the bike or type of riding you do.

crank (or crankarm) – The arm that connects the pedals to the chainrings.

frame – The bike’s backbone or the geometrical tubing connecting its parts. Often hollow and made of lightweight material, the frame comes in all different shapes and sizes. A frame should fit you properly for efficient energy use, pedaling posture, and comfort.

fork – Nope, not what you eat with. The fork is the part of the bicycle that holds the front wheel.

headset – A ball bearing system (commonly hidden inside the head tube) that allows your handlebars to move so you can steer the front end.

hub – The center cylinder of   a bicycle wheel that allows the wheel to rotate around one point.


lid – Your helmet. Cover your cranium. Mind your mind. Don’t neglect your noggin. However you want to say it, make sure to wear a helmet. It’s a cyclist’s most important piece of gear.

rim – The hoop portion of the wheel, which the tire fits onto, supported by the spokes. Historically made of wood, rims are now made of a variety of metals, alloys, or carbon fiber.

road tires – Not to be confused with wheels, tires are just the rubber portion of the wheel. Road tires are typically very narrow and smooth for maximum speed, unlike the big, knobby ones you find on mountain bikes.

saddle – The bike seat, where you sit while your legs spin away. Saddles get a bad rap for being uncomfortable, but finding the right one for you is key (what works for your friend might not work for your rear end).

spokes – The wire rods that connect the center of the wheel or hub to the outer edge or rim.




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