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Glossary of Terms

Glossary of cycling terms for beginners

If you’re new to cycling and want to understand what all of the technical cycling jargon means, then this is a great place to start cracking the code.

If you’re looking to take that first step towards cycling as a way of getting around, it can be daunting when there’s a world of experts talking about cadence, clinchers and all sorts of slang you’ve never heard before.

But knowing what some of these technical terms mean can be a great help maintaining your bike, and preparing for when things go wrong.

So if you can’t tell your derailleur from your drivetrain, then you’re in the right place! We’ve prepared a beginner-friendly glossary of terms used by everyday cyclists to help you crack this new lingo as you venture into the world of cycling.


Also known as a clunker, a beater is usually a bike that has seen better days, but can still get you around. A great option for urban commuting on a budget.


A type of cycling shorts that use suspenders to stay on instead of an elasticated waistband. Most cyclists prefer bib shorts for comfort.


This is your pedalling rate – measured usually by the number of rotations per minute (RPM).


The set of sprockets (the spikey set of gears your chain sits on – see ‘Sprockets’ below) that sit on the rear wheel of the bike.


Chainrings are the round metal gears next to the pedals that carry the bike chain.

Chainring tattoo

A chainring tattoo describes the grease stain you get when you accidentally bump the chain while cycling.

Chainset / Crankset

Both of these terms refer to the chainrings and the crank arms (connected to the pedals) that turn them.


Bike shorts that come with padding to wick away moisture, prevent chafing and add extra cushioning.


A type of bike pedal that lock into the hard cleats on the bottom of special cycling shoes so that the rider is securely attached.


The tyre unit on your standard road bike (thin, lightweight bikes designed for road riding). This includes the tyre, an outer rim for the tyre to latch onto and a separate tube inside the tyre.


Also known as mechs, derailleurs are responsible for moving the chain from gear to gear. Each bike has two – one to the rear for the cassette, and one in front for the chainset.


This refers to the entire mechanical system that drives the bike forward, made up of the cranks, cassette, sprockets, chain, derailleurs and pedals.


When a cyclist flips over the handlebars – end over end.


The main component of the bicycle – the backbone that connects everything together. Usually hollow and made of lightweight metal, depending on the type of bike.


The part of the bike frame that holds the front wheel.

Granny gear

This describes the lowest gear ratio possible (on the smallest chainring on the front wheel and the largest on the back). On flat roads, this will feel effortless but is sometimes needed for steep inclines.


The set of components that connects the front fork to the frame, and allows it to turn the front wheel. It is mostly made up of four races: the adjustable race, the upper head race, the lower head race and the crown race.


The shirt of choice for cyclists. These are made out of a material that wicks away sweat and often come with pockets on the back.

Jockey wheel

Also known as a jockey pulley, this wheel-based mechanical system is used to guide the bike chain from one sprocket to another.


Stands for ‘local bike shop’.


Slang term used for helmets – the most important piece of kit.


A semicircle guard hovering over the wheels to protect from water and mud spraying up from the road.


Bags, boxes, baskets or other containers that mount to the front/rear racks for storage.

Pinch flat

When you get a flat tyre despite not running over a sharp object, caused by the tube inside the tyre getting stuck between the rubber tyre and metal rim (the part of the wheel that the tyre fits onto), causing a puncture.


A nickname for a cyclist that pedal at a slow cadence (slower pedalling, higher resistance).

Quick release (QR)

A bolt and lever mechanism that allows cyclists to manually adjust different parts of the bike without needing tools. For example, there is a QR for adjusting seat height on a bike.


Used to describe a dedicated road cyclist.

Road rash

Not an actual rash, but it refers to the cuts, scrapes, grazes and brush burns you get from falling on the road.


Another name for your bike seat.

Saddle sores

As the name suggests, these sores come from chaffing as the leg brushes past the seat. These can be minimised by wearing a chamois.


A valve used to inflate the inner tube. These aren’t just limited to bike tyres – cars have them too.


The opposite of a pusher, a spinner is a cyclist that pedals at a fast cadence (faster pedalling, lower resistance).


Also known as cogs and gears (although there are very slight differences between sprockets and gears), sprockets are the spiked wheels that latch onto the links of the bike chain.


Wire rods connecting the centre of the wheel to the rim.


A nervous or unstable cyclist that tends to swerve unexpectedly and struggles to maintain a consistent speed.


The component that connects the handlebars to the steerer tube.


An inexperienced or unskilled cyclist.


The unit of measurement used to define cycling power.

And there you have it! This new knowledge should help you begin to understand how your bike works, what kind of kit you might need, what to look out for, as well as giving you the confidence to engage with other cyclists in Tees Valley at your local cycle centre.

To see the full list of cycle centres and active travel hubs across Tees Valley, head over to our Local Cycle Centres page.

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