North Avenue bike box

Bike Glossary: Learn These Cycling Terms Before You Ride

Ever wondered what a fixie was? Wonder no more.

Bike Box
A box painted (usually a different color, like green) at an intersection between the crosswalk and the white line telling motorists where to stop. This allows cyclists to position themselves ahead of traffic.

A slang term (and common hashtag) used to denote a negative or hostile reaction toward cycling and the cycling community.

Clipless Pedals
Some cyclists opt for this popular two-part pedal system. Part one is a small pedal with a locking mechanism. The second part is a cleat that attaches to the sole of a special biking shoe and locks the foot onto the pedal.

Fixed-gear bike (aka fixies)
This one-speed bicycle has seen an upswing in popularity because of its simplicity. If you pedal forward, the bike moves forward. If you pedal backward, the bike moves backward. Just don’t try to coast. Fixies can’t because they only have one gear that is fixed to the rear wheel.

Frame materials
– Although there are a lot of options available, what makes one bike frame better than another all depends on where you ride and what you can spend.

? A less-expensive option and widely used, aluminum frames are lighter and stronger than they used to be, and a popular pick for cyclists who plan on doing a lot of climbing.

? The most commonly used material of the lot, carbon (high-tensile) steel, is strong and durable, but not as light as chromoly.

? Chromoly (chrome molybdenum) steel offers a fairly light, but tough frame with plenty of flex.

? Mountain bikers or competitive road cyclists with a little more cash to spare may opt for titanium frame. It’s lighter than traditional steel, but doesn’t sacrifice strength, durability or flex.

? Feather-light yet superman strong, superior shock absorption and versatility have made carbon fiber popular. But the technology used to create this material – a laminate made from several plies of bundled continuous fibers melded together by an epoxy – is still evolving. Can be brittle and expensive.

Road bikes in action. Photo by Sean Drews.

Ghost bike
Usually old, discarded bikes painted white and set up as a roadside memorial where a cyclist was killed or severely injured. Doubles as a reminder to share the road.

Hardtail bike
This style of mountain bike features a solid frame and a suspension fork on the front only. Riders enjoy faster acceleration thanks to the ability to transfer power to the rear wheel more efficiently.

Hybrid Bike
Good for all-around riding, these bikes use components of mountain bikes (flat handlebars, larger tires), but usually sport a lighter frame, closer to that of a road bike.

Road bike
Although the term is loosely used to identify any bike ridden primarily on pavement, the term “road bike” is also used to describe race bikes. They feature drop handlebars for a more aerodynamic ride.

Designed to be used on paved surfaces and sometimes called a “postman’s bike.”

Riding against the stream on a one-way bike lane. Don’t. Just don’t.

Step-Through Frame
Traditionally, these bikes were designed for women because the absent or lowered cross-bar made it possible for riders to wear skirts and the like. Easy-on, easy-off means they’re good for everyone.

Toe-Clips (AKA toe cages)
These stirrup-like “cages” attach to pedals and usually have leather or fabric adjustable straps to hold the foot in place on the pedal platform. They make pedaling easier and more efficient by allowing cyclists to push down and pull up during the pedal stroke.