When you’re shopping for a bike, chances are that unless you’re already a fully qualified bike-nerd, you might be a little overwhelmed by the vast range of strange cycling terms you come across. Our A-Z of cycling terms may not be a complete list of every phrase ever uttered on a Sunday club ride, but it should be enough to help you find your way around. Read on to get up to speed.


105, Shimano’s very popular mid-range groupset. Shimano 105 sits above Shimano Claris, Sora, and Tiagra in the hierarchy and below Ultegra and Dura Ace.

27.5 mountain bike,a mountain bike with 27.5 inch wheels (also known as 650b) which is ideal for smaller riders or those who want a more nimble and responsive bike.

29er,a mountain bike with 29 inch wheels. These roll better than bikes with 27.5 or 26 inch wheels, but are less agile.


Aero bike,a road bike designed to have minimal air resistance. Areo bikes are characterised by low profile components, small wheel clearances, deep section wheels, areo bars, and frames designed to have the minimum possible aerodynamic drag.

Aero bars, handlebars that protrude outwards to allow the rider to assume an aggressive aerodynamic position.


Bidon, the French word for a cycling water bottle.

Booties, overshoes that keep a cyclist feet warm and/or dry. They may also offer an aerodynamic advantage.

Bottom bracket, the component that allows your crank arms and chainring to turn smoothly. There are many different types of bottom bracket. They are subject to a considerable amount of wear and will therefore need replacing from time to time.

Braze-on, any fitting on a bike frame: a braze-on could be a cable holder or a mount-point of a rack or mudguard.


Cassette, the rear set of cogs. Separate to the freewheel.

Chainset, also known as cranksets. The chainset consists of the crank arm along with the front cogs.

Chainstay, the tubes that run from the bottom bracket to the rear dropouts.

Chamois, the pad in cycling shorts. Historically this was made from chamois leather, but synthetic options now provide much more comfort.

Chamois cream, cream designed to help with saddle sores. Chamois cream was originally used to soften the hard leather pads found in cycling shorts.

Cleats, the extruding part on the bottom of clipless cycling shoes that lock with the pedals.

Clincher, tyres with a bead that attaches them to the rim of the wheel. Clincher wheelsets make it easy to remove or replace the tyre in the event of a puncture.

Clipless pedals, bike pedals which, confusingly, you clip into. The successor to toe clips and straps, hence clipless.

Cyclocross or Cross bike, a rigid bike that looks like a road bike but has a geometry suited to off-road riding and quick dismount. Features wide tyre clearance that allow for large tyres to be fitted for use in muddy conditions.


Deep section rims, oversized rims which are more aerodynamic when cycling into or against the wind.

Derailleur hanger, the part of the frame that the rear derailleur screws into. Often this part will take a lot of the impact in a crash, so it is sometimes a replaceable part.

Di2, Shimano’s electronic cable-free gear shifting technology, found on high end road bikes (the SRAM equivalent is eTAP and the Campagnolo equivalent is EPS).

Disc brakes, a type of brake with pads that squeeze a separate metal disc rather than the rims of the wheel. Bikes on which they are found are commonly referred to as ‘disc’ models.

Dropout, the slot into which the axles fit. Various designs of dropouts exist: a single speed bike might have horizontal rear dropouts for example to allow the chain to be made taught without the use of a derailleur.

Dropper seatpost, a hydraulic seat post that can be lowered for descents (and raised again afterwards) without getting of the bike.

Dura Ace, Shimano’s top of the range groupset.


E-Bike, a bike with a (non-hidden!) electric motor to assist with pedalling. E-bikes are not just for commuting and are becoming an increasingly common sight.


Fender, another word of a mudguard. Primarily used in American English.

Finishing kit everything on the bike that’s not the frame, groupset, or wheels: the stem, handlebars and handlebar tape, seatpost, saddle.

Frameset, the bike frame and fork without any of other components. The starting point of anyone wanting to build a completely custom bike.

Freehub, a freewheel built into the rear hub.

Freewheel, the mechanism which allows the wheel to keep turning when you stop pedalling. Nowadays part of the freehub.

Front derailleur, the front gear change mechanism.

Fixie, a fixed gear bicycle - one with only one gear and no freewheel.


Granny gear, a really low gear such as that found triples. Handy for if you’re carrying lots of luggage, but not found on racing bikes.

Gravel bike, a bike thats similar to a cyclocross bike but usually a bit more road-like in it’s geometry.

Groupset, the essential mechanical components one the bike: the crankset, STI levers (or seperate gear changers), derailleurs, brakes, cassette, chain, and bottom bracket.

Guru bike fit system, a state of the art professional bike fitting service, available from Cycle Division.


Hardtail, a mountain bike with front suspension but a rigid frame at the rear.

Headset, the bearings and associated parts that allow the handlebars and front forks to rotate in the frame.

Hub gear, a gearing system which is contained within the rear hub. Found on some touring bikes and many town bikes in Europe.

Hybrid bike, a bike that is neither a full road bike or mountain bike. Popular with casual cyclists, a hybrid bike is ideal for commuting or tackling mixed terrain including towpaths and other cycleways.


Jockey wheel, the small sprockets in a rear derailleur. Like any other sprocket, these will wear out over time, and will eventually need to be replaced.


MIPS, or Multi-directional Impact Protection System. Found on high end cycling helmets, the design protects against rotational forces as well as impacts.

MTB, a mountain bike.


Pannier, a bag (or pair of bags) attached to a rack on the front or back of the bike. Used by commuters and touring cyclists.

Powermeter, a device that measures your power output in Watts and passes the data onto a sophisticated bike computer or GPS unit such as a Garmin. Riders use powermeters for both training purposes and to ensure peak performance and pacing during a race.

Presta valve, the type of valve most commonly found on road bikes. Alternatives to schrader valves.


Q-Factor, the distance between the pedals on a bike. Affects the bike fit.

QR, or quick release. Axles that can be removed and replaced quickly and without tools.


Rear derailleur, the mechanism that shifts the gain between rear sprockets and keeps the chain taught.

Roubaix, a type of fleecy lining found in winter cycling tights.


Schrader valves, car type valves found particularly on children’s bikes.

Sealed cartridge bearing, bearings encased in a sealed ring. Since they are more weather proof, sealed cartridge bearings last longer than cup and cone bearings. They are replaced as a single unit.

Seatstay, the tubes that run from where the seatpost comes out of the frame down to the rear dropouts.

Soft-tail, a full suspension mountain bike.

Speedplay, SPD, and SPD-SL, types clipless pedal. SPD are most commonly found on mountain bikes and SPD-SL and Speedplay are popular among road cyclists.

Stem, the component that attaches the handlebars to the steerer tube. Available in different lengths to allow riders to fine tune their bike fit.

Steerer tube, the tube that sticks out from the forks and goes through the frame.

STI, or Shimano Total Integration. A gear shifting mechanism integrated into the brake levers, commonly found on road bikes.

Strava, the most popular social network and training app for cyclists. Join the Cycle Division community.


Thru axle, a more rigid and secure type of axle that screws into the frame itself. Particularly effective on bikes with powerful disc brakes.

Travel, the amount that a mountain bike suspension system will compress.

Triple crankset, a crankset with three rings rather than the two found on compact or semi-compact cranksets. Popular among touring cyclists and on entry level mountain bikes.

TT bike, an aero bike designed for time-trials. The aggressive position means that it is important to get a good TT bike fit done to avoid discomfort.

Tubeless, an alternative to clinchers which do not require an inner tube. More puncture proof, but changing a tyre is a little harder.

Tubular tyres, tyres with an inbuilt inner tube. Able to be ridden at both higher and lower pressures than clincher tyres.

Turbo trainer, a type of indoor cycling trainer, usually with variable resistance and sometimes with smart features that allow it to be used with various software packages.


Ultegra, a high-end Shimano group set found on many road bikes.


Wheelbase, the distance between the front and rear axles.

Winter bike, a secondary road bike specifically for use in the winter. Usually fitted with mudguards and more basic components than a summer bike.

Workstand, a stand to hold your bike up while you work on it. Workstands save you from back strain and allow you to turn the cranks and wheels with the bike held in the air.


Zero pivot system, found on high end mountain bikes, zero pivot rear suspension is more efficient and stiffer than cheaper pivot based systems.


Did we miss any? Leave them in the comments below.