Your Guide to Common Bike Terms

1.8/2.0 spokes: Spokes are usually butted so they are thinner in the middle and thicker where the stresses are higher near the ends. Thickness is called out in millimeters. The most common spoke is butted, stainless steel, and 1.8 by 2.0 millimeters in diameter.

700 x 23 tires: The first number in the road standard wheel size is 700C—which loosely relates to the outer diameter of a tire mounted to the wheel being 700 millimeters. The second number is the width of the tire when fully inflated and mounted to a conventional 20-millimeter rim. Average clincher or tubular sport/racing tires are between 20 and 23 millimeters wide. Track and time trial tires can be as narrow as 18 millimeters.

12/25 cassette: The smallest and largest cogs of a freehub are usually invoked to describe its range. For instance: Shimano offers ten-speed cassettes in 11/21, 11/23, 12/23, 12/25 and 12/27. The steps (number of teeth) vary significantly between the extremes of each available ratio in order to produce a proportional measure of resistance (rate of change) between each shift. The 11/21 cassette's steps are 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21. The 12/27 cassette's steps are 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 24, 27.

I'm in my 14: The number of teeth in your present cassette sprocket (cog). "I sprinted that roller in the 14."

27.2 Seatpost: The most often used seatpost diameter is 27.2 millimeters. 31.6 millimeters is the emerging standard for oversized posts.

Short wheelbase: The measurement from axle to axle. A wheelbase one centimeter less than one meter (100 centimeters) is short, and one centimeter over is considered long.

Q-Factor: The distance between the center of the pedals and the center of the  frame. A narrow Q-Factor is considered optimum, but this measurement is not adjustable for a given crankset, because the right-side crank must be aligned with the center of the cassette to meet the requirements of derailleur manufacturers.

73.5-degree seat angle: The angle of the seat tube relative to a horizontal line formed by the axle centers. The frame-builder standard for road bikes is 73 degrees. Slack seat angles (up to 72-degrees) favor in-the-saddle, lower-rpm climbing. Slightly steeper angles ease the transition from seated to out-of-the-saddle pedaling and a higher cadence.

Time-trial and triathlon seat angles range from 76 to 89 degrees, partly because this position has proven to favor high watt, long-duration efforts, and because the near vertical seat position requires significantly less bend in the back to attain a low, flat aerodynamic position.

74-degree head angle: The angle of the head tube of the bicycle frame, measured from a horizontal line between the front and rear axles. Steep is an angle greater than 73 degrees and slack is any number less than that. When integrated with the correct fork offset and frame geometry, steep angles give the bicycle nimble steering and reduces its tendency to sway when sprinting. Slacker angles create hands-off stability and a smoother ride over rough terrain.

My heart-rate was at 190: Racers and wannabes spout their heart rates quite often. After a decade of cycling, you should have a working knowledge of your heart and respiratory functions and not require a monitor—but many insist.

Take your age and subtract it from 220 to get your maximum heart rate.  Eighty to 85 percent of your maximum is a good figure for establishing the best pace you can hold continuously without blowing up (that doesn't mean it won't hurt). Use your maximum for climbs and time-trial situations. The average road rider is 37 years old, which is a max rate of 183 beats perminute. 85 percent of that is 156 BPM—so the 190 guy is abnormal, or young.

15-Bar tubulars: One Bar ( from barometric pressure) is a measure of atmospheric pressure at sea level—which is darn close to 14.5 pounds per square inch (psi). 15-Bar tubular tires can be safely inflated to 220 psi. To put that in perspective, a good racing clincher is rated at 10 bars, which is 145 psi.

My cadence is 85 to 90: Cadence is pedaling in revolutions per minute. Most pedal in the 80-rpm range and, on extended climbs, somewhere near 60 rpm. In the annuals of training, tradition dictates that 90 rpm is optimum for road cycling. If you don't have a computer that registers cadence, one revolution of the crank per second is 60 rpm and one and a half is 90 rpm. If you fall somewhere in between—fahgettaboutit and ride.

Road Bike Action is an enthusiast magazine focusing on new products, bikes, training and the transformative culture of bicycles. Check us out at

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