Cycling Lingo 101



Need a cycling lingo 101 refresher? Familiarizing yourself with common bike components will help you when shopping for a new bike, getting your bike repaired, or when tinkering around on your own.

Drivetrain: Forward ho! The drivetrain converts your pedal power into forward movement and includes pedals, front & real derailleurs, crankset, cassette, sprockets and chain.

Pedals: They’ve come a long way, baby. Bike pedals have evolved and now come in a variety of forms:

Rubber pedals – great for basic cycling. As you increase your mileage and speed, you might want to consider upgrading. Feet have a tendency to slip and change positions when on rubber pedals, resulting in wasted energy and sometimes injuries.

Clips and straps – Toe clips and straps form cages to hold your feet in the correct place, thus keeping your feet from slipping off of the pedals.

Clipless– Now if you’re me, this term doesn’t make sense as these are actually pedals that you clip into. Originally, they were called “clipless” to differentiate them from the toe clip and strap system. With the clipless system, you wear special shoes and a cleat is fitted into the sole of the shoe. The cleat then snaps into the pedal. There are two types of clipless pedal systems:

SPD – a 2-bolt system attached to a small cleat, which fits into the sole of your shoe. Once you’re off the bike, these cleats are suitable for walking.

Look/Time – a 3-bolt system that attaches the cleat to the sole of your shoe. These cleats are larger than the concealed SPD cleats, which makes for difficult and ungainly walking. Don’t worry, no one will be watching.

Derailleur: “de-RAIL-er” or “de-RAIL-yur.” Say what?! The actual French pronunciation is more like “day-RYE-EUH.” No matter how you pronounce it, it’s important for you to understand the function of a this formidable yet integral object. A derailleur is a mechanism for shifting gears on a bicycle by moving the chain from one set of exposed gears to the next. There are two derailleurs: front (for the crankset) & rear (for the cassette). We don’t expect you to know how to repair the derailleur, but if you must, here’s a short video from

Crankset: When you pedal, the crankset takes the power from your legs to drive the chain, which then rotates the real wheel. The crankset is composed of chainrings and crank arms.

Chainrings – Large forward rings. Your chain attaches to cogs that connect to your crankset and drive the chain when you are pedaling. The chainrings are driven by the cranks and pedals of the bicycle.

Crankarms – straight pieces of the bicycle that are attached to the pedal and connect to the chainrings.

Cassette: A tape recorder that uses tape reels permanently housed in a small removable cartridge. Just kidding! The bicycle cassette is the stack of gears that are located on the rear wheel. It’s part of your bicycle’s drive-train, and it can help you ride up hills easier. Your chain moves from one gear stack to the next by using the rear derailleur. The larger the gear (cog), the more power and less rotations of the wheel; the smaller the gear (cog) the more times the wheels spin when you pedal.

Sprockets: A wheel with teeth that enmeshes with a chain. Can also enmesh with your skin. Watch out. They bite. And, they can leave a nice “tattoo” on your calf.

Stay tuned for more Cycling Lingo 101. Next lesson? Safe cycling lingo.

Want to put  your newfound lingo to use on a Colorado bike trip? Contact us now!

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