This diagram and the
detail photos below it, show what the parts of a modern road bicycle
are called. Knowing the bike component names (nomenclature) and how
to correctly identify them will help you when you need to explain
something to a mechanic working on your bike, when you’re shopping
for upgrades and when you’re talking about bikes to other cyclists.
Another excellent resource is Sheldon
Brown’s bicycle glossary.
Hidden by the crankset in this picture is the bottom bracket.
There are actually two bottom brackets.
You call the bearing
assembly that the crankset spins on, the bottom bracket (marked A
in the photo; the mechanic is holding the end of the bottom bracket
axle that runs through the frame and that the crankarms attach to).
Mechanics and cyclists often say “BB” instead of bottom
And you also call the
part of the frame that the bottom bracket bearing assembly is screwed
or pressed into, the bottom bracket (marked B). Cyclists and mechanics
can call it the bottom bracket “shell,” too.
Finding a bicycle’s
Incidentally, often the serial number of the bicycle is stamped into
the bottom of the frame bottom bracket. Other common bicycle serial
number locations include the left rear dropout and on the bottom of
the frame seat tube above the bottom bracket. You need to find your
serial number for registering your bicycle if you need a bicycle license.
If you record your serial number and keep it someplace safe, it can
help you prove your bicycle is yours if
it gets stolen and found.
I identify the headset in the main photo at the top of the page, however,
it’s too small to see it very well and the term “headset”
is not self-explanatory. So, here’s another photo taken from almost
a rider’s view with
a few words about the headset’s function.
The headset is like the
bottom bracket, and instead of holding the bearings for pedaling the
bicycle as the BB does, it holds the bearings for steering. It is
also the mechanism that joins the fork to the frame.
While headsets seem mysterious
because, like the BB, everything is hidden inside, quality headsets
are comprised of relatively few parts. They are usually reliable and
mostly trouble-free. If repairs are needed, it’s often a quick adjustment.
Pedals with toe
clips and straps
In the main photo above, a common modern road pedal is shown, called
a clipless pedal. It’s called clipless because it is not made to accept
a toe clip and strap. Toe clips are plastic or metal clips that attach
to your pedals (see photo below). Toe straps run through the toe clips
and around the feet.
Toe clips prevent your
feet slipping off the pedals when you’re pedaling, something that
can lead to the pedal striking and cutting your shin, a potentially
serious, and painful injury. Toe
clips and straps also hold your feet in the right position for
efficient pedaling. Plus, they can be tightened to lock your feet
on the pedals for even more pedal power.
The way clipless pedals work is with special cleats that attach to
your cycling specific-shoe soles. The cleats are designed to be held
fast by a retaining device on the clipless pedals. Just step down
to click into the pedals and twist your feet to the side to exit.
The clipless and cleat
connecting mechanism is based on ski bindings that lock your boots
to the skis. Clipless pedals provide even more efficient pedaling
than toe clips and straps, which is why enthusiasts and racers prefer
them. They are also easier to enter and exit.
road riding, I use and recommend, Look
Keo and Speedplay
Zero clipless pedals. On my mountain bikes I use and recommend
For commuting and touring, a great choice is Shimano’s
dual-sided A324 pedals (clipless on one side, platform on the
Two notes on
confusing marketing jargon and misnomers/mistakes (please
feel free to submit more and I may add them to this list).
clipless pedals, you may hear riders say “clip
into your pedals.” That’s a misnomer. You can’t clip
into clipless pedals because there are no clips. What you want to
say is “click into your pedals,” because when you enter
clipless pedals the cleats click into place.
the sailing, aircraft and automobile term “cockpit” has
become slang for a bicycle handlebars and controls (wikpedia says
cockpit was first used in the 1580s and meant a pit for fighting cocks).
Now you read it in catalogs and bicycle reviews sometimes used to
describe the bars, controls and seat. It may seem clever—one
of those things that you kind of know what it means—but it’s
not an accurate bicycle term and requires guessing exactly which parts
are being referred to. To be sure which components are being described,
you usually need to search the bicycle specifications chart.