The sport of cycling, like all hobbies, has its own language. In addition to all of the technical names of components, there are slang expressions that have come into use through history and tradition.
A complete cycling dictionary could be a day-long reading project, but if you want to get started with a few essential items to avoid looking like a "phred," check out these five:
1. Drivetrain: One of our customers said, "When I hear you mention the drivetrain of my bike, I just space out, because that makes me think of part of the transmission on my car." Actually, that analogy is appropriate, because we use the term drivetrain to refer to the collection of parts on your bike that actually make it "go." The chain, crankset & chainrings, bottom bracket, and cassette or freewheel are all considered part of the drive train. Sometimes the front and rear derailleurs are included, and sometimes the shifters as well. We refer to the drivetrain as a unit, because all of the parts need to be maintained well in order for the whole system to work together well. Learn more about the different parts of your bike in these past TechTalk articles, Bike Components for Beginners and Freewheels vs. Freehubs.
2. Clipless Pedals: Contrary to what it sounds like, the term clipless refers to the type of pedals that have a mechanism that attaches to your shoes to hold your feet in place on the pedals. The older style of pedal that has a cage and strap that surrounds your foot is referred to as a "toe clip," so the term "clipless" was adopted to distinguish the newer style from the cage-and-strap style. If you're still confused, you're not alone, but it's just one of those things you have to get used to. You can learn more about the different types of pedals in this TechTalk article, Choosing Pedals.
3. Fork: The fork is the part of your bike that holds the front wheel in place. Don't call it the "forks;" your bike only has one fork, consisting of two "fork legs." If you've got a mountain bike or hybrid, you might have a "suspension fork," meaning that it's got a shock absorber; otherwise, you've got a "rigid fork." The uppermost part of the fork is the "steerer tube;" it runs through the inside of the frame and connects to your stem and handlebar to allow you to turn your front wheel. The set of ball bearings that let the steering happen smoothly is called the "headseat;" learn more about headsets in this TechTalk article, Beginner's Guide to Headsets.
4. Cadence: For these last two items, we're getting away from the parts of the bike and talking about the actual activity of cycling. Cadence refers to how fast your feet are pedaling around, measured in revolutions per minute (RPMs). This is different, but related to, the speed that your bike is actually traveling. Your goal as you pedal and shift into different gears is to select a gear that allows you to maintain a consistent cadence as the terrain varies. For most people, an ideal cadence for fast fitness cycling is around 85-95 RPM. Learn more about how speed, cadence, and gears are related in this helpful video tip, How to Select the Right Gear.
5. Out of the Saddle: The saddle is another word for "seat." Those in the know call it a saddle, but you can call your bike's seat a seat; that's okay! "Out of the saddle" is the expression used for when you are standing up and pedaling with your butt hovering above the seat. This is a good and sometimes necessary thing to do, either to get an extra burst of power when you get going after stopping at a traffic light, or to muscle your way up a steep hill. Even if you don't have a need for speed, getting out of the saddle every few miles during a long, casual ride helps to keep your legs loose and keep the blood flowing through your own, er, seat region.