Cycling Glossary

Cycling Glossary

Bicycle Saddle: often called a seat, the saddle is the rider’s primary contact point on a bicycle and bears most of the rider’s weight. The handlebars and the pedals are the other two contact points that also support some of the rider’s weight. (Technically, ‘saddle’ is the correct term. A bicycle seat also supports the rider’s back as well as their buttocks.) The bicycle saddle is attached to the seat post, and the height of the saddle is adjusted by moving the seat post in and out of the seat tube.

Bicycle saddles are available in different shapes and sizes. Here are some examples:

  • Racing saddles tend to be narrow, light weight, and with minimal padding. While riding in tucked position, very little weight rests on the sit bones.
  • Mountain bikers are constantly changing positions while riding – alternately standing up on the pedals, sitting back on the saddle, or crouching in the tucked position. Because of this, mountain bike saddles will have some padding for your buttocks, a durable leather seat cover for maximum wear, and an ergonomic design to facilitate the constant movement.
  • Saddles designed for hybrid, cruiser, and touring bicyclesHygia Natural Leather Anatomic Bike Seat tend to be wider, and provide the necessary cushioning and heavier suspensions for a more comfortable ride.
  • Anatomically-designed bike saddles are comfortable bike seats designed for cyclists that experience pain and numbness while riding, or have medical conditions that can limit their ability to ride. These seats have special features, such as a central channel, shorter nose, or movable seats to relieve pressure and reduce discomfort in the sensitive lower body. Anatomic bike seats are designed to give the most comfortable ride, and are often the difference between a person being able to ride their bike or not.

Bicycle Touring: self-contained cycling trips for pleasure, adventure, and autonomy rather than sport, commuting, or exercise. Touring can range from single- to multi-day trips, even years.

Cadence: also called pedaling rate, or pedaling RPM. In cycling, cadence refers to the number of revolutions of the crank per minute – the average rate at which a cyclist turns the pedals. The cadence is directly proportional to the wheel speed, but changes with the gear ratio, which determines the ratio of crank rpm to wheel rpm.

Cruiser Bicycle: also known as a beach cruiser, is a bicycle that usually combines balloon tires, an upright seating posture, a single-speed drive train, and straightforward steel construction with expressive styling. Cruisers are popular among casual bicyclists and vacationers because they are very stable and easy to ride, but their heavy weight and balloon tires tend to make them rather slow. They are designed for use primarily on paved roads and at moderate speeds and distances.

Cycling: also called bicycling or biking, is the use of bicycles for transport, recreation, exercise or sport. Cycling is widely regarded as a very effective and efficient mode of transportation, optimal for short to moderate distances. Persons engaged in cycling are referred to as “cyclists”, “bikers”, or less commonly, as “bicyclists”. Apart from two-wheeled bicycles, “cycling” also includes the riding of unicycles, tricycles, and quadracycles.

Cycling Sunglasses: also known as sports sunglasses, protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation and from wind, rain, snow, dirt, dust, bugs, and other flying debris that can injure your eyes or cause vision problems. See our guidelines for selecting the right sunglasses for cycling.

Dual Action Anatomic Bike Seat with Two-Axis Rotation

Dual Action Bike Seat: a unique, anatomically-designed bike seat with two-axis movement. The Dual Action Seat has two separate, individual seat pads that rotate up and down to follow your leg movements and reduce pressure on the back of your legs. The vertical axis rotation allows side to side movement to follow your hips and loosen tight back muscles. It can significantly reduce numbness at pressure points in the groin, hips, perineum and tailbone. This one-of-a-kind bicycle seat has been made in USA since 1990.

Derailleur Gears: a variable-ratio drive system commonly used on bicycles. They consist of a chain, multiple sprockets (often called gears) of different sizes, and a mechanism to move the chain from one sprocket to another.

Changing gears means ‘derailing’ the chain from one sprocket to another. Having multiple gears makes cycling easier under different conditions. The rider pedals at a comfortable pace while the rear wheel revolves slower or faster, depending on the gearing. It’s a huge benefit when riding on hilly terrain or when riding with a heavy load.

Fat Bike:  also known as a fat-tire bike, is an off-road bicycle with over sized tires which allows for riding on soft, and often unstable terrain, such as mud, sand, or snow. The tires can be run at very low pressure for improved traction (but only under the right conditions).

Handlebar(s): the steering mechanism for a bicycle. The handlebars are attached to the bike’s stem, which in turn is attached to the fork. They also support a portion of the rider’s weight, depending on the rider’s position.

Hybrid Bike: designed for a variety of recreational and utility purposes. While primarily intended for use on pavement, they may also be used on relatively smooth unpaved paths or trails. They blend characteristics from more specialized road bikes, touring bikes and mountain bikes. The resulting “hybrid” is a general-purpose bike that can tolerate a wide range of riding conditions and applications. Their stability, comfort and ease of use make them popular with novice cyclists, casual riders, commuters, and children.

Hybrids typically borrow the flat, straight handlebars and upright seating posture of a mountain bike, which many bicyclists find comfortable and intuitive. Hybrids also employ the lighter weight, thinner wheels and smooth tires of road bikes, allowing for greater speed and less exertion when riding on the road. Hybrid bikes often have places to mount racks and bags for transporting belongings, much like a touring bike.

Hydrophobic Coatings: Sunglasses lenses with hydrophobic coatings can repel water and sweat. Instead of the water clinging to the surface of the lens and covering it entirely, the water molecules cling to each other and form droplets, or beads, which can roll off the surface of the lens. This results is better vision for any outdoor activity. Hydrophobic lenses are also less likely to get dirty or retain fingerprints, so cleaning them is quicker and easier.

Indoor Cycling: commonly called spinning, is an organized class exercise activity, which involves using a special stationary exercise bicycle with a weighted flywheel.

Mountain Bike (often abbreviated MTB): designed for off-road cycling. Mountain bikes share similarities with other bikes, but incorporate features designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain. These typically include a front or full suspension, large knobby tires, more durable wheels, more powerful brakes, and lower gear ratios for climbing steep grades.

Mountain bikes are typically ridden on mountain trails, singletrack, fire roads, and other unpaved surfaces. This type of terrain commonly has rocks, roots, loose dirt, and steep grades. Mountain bikes are built to handle these types of terrain and features. The heavy-duty construction combined with stronger rims and wider tires has also made this style of bicycle popular with urban riders and couriers who must navigate through potholes and over curbs.

Racing Bike: also known as a road bike, it’s a bicycle designed for competitive road cycling. The most important characteristics about a racing bicycle are its light weight and stiffness. To this end, racing bicycles may sacrifice comfort for speed. The dropped handlebars are positioned lower than the saddle in order to put the rider in a more aerodynamic posture. The front and back wheels are close together so the bicycle has quick handling. The derailleur gear ratios are closely spaced so that the rider can pedal at their optimum cadence. Racing bicycles prioritize aerodynamics over comfort. Bicycles for racing on velodromes are track bicycles; bicycles for racing off-road are mountain bicycles.

Road Bike: a bicycle built for traveling at speed on paved roads. Some sources use the term to mean racing bicycle. Other sources specifically exclude racing bicycles from the definition, using the term to mean a bicycle of a similar style but built more for endurance and less the fast bursts of speed desired in a racing bicycle; as such, they usually have more gear combinations and fewer hi-tech racing features.

Road bicycles share common features:

  • Narrow tires, filled to a high high-pressure, to decrease rolling resistance.
  • Dropped handlebars to allow the rider to lean forward and downward, which reduces air resistance.
  • They usually use derailleur gears.
  • Lightweight construction.

Saddle vs. Seat: The terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. A ‘seat’ is something you sit on, and is designed to bear most, if not all, of a rider’s weight. A saddle is intended to bear some, but not all of a rider’s weight.

On a bicycle, the saddle bears the largest portion of the rider’s weight, while the pedals (via the legs and feet) and handlebars (via the arms and hands) support the remaining weight. The portion of weight borne by the saddle depends on the rider’s position.

Stationary Bike: also known as an exercise bike, is a special-purpose exercise machine with handle bars and a bike seat, but without true wheels. There are two different types: an upright stationary bike, with a traditional bicycle seat, and a recumbent stationary bike, which has a seat with back support.

It is also possible to adapt an ordinary bicycle for stationary exercise by placing it on bicycle rollers or a trainer. Rollers and trainers are often used by racing cyclists to warm up before racing, or to train indoors on their own bikes.

Touring Bike: designed or modified to handle bicycle touring. To make the bikes sufficiently robust, comfortable and capable of carrying heavy loads, special features may include a long wheelbase (for ride comfort and to avoid pedal-to-luggage conflicts), rigid frames (for long-term reliability), heavy duty wheels (for load capacity), and multiple mounting points (for luggage racks, fenders, and bottle cages).

Track Bike: optimized for racing at a velodrome or outdoor track. Unlike road bicycles, the track bike is a fixed-gear bicycle; thus, it has only a single gear ratio and has neither a freewheel nor brakes. Tires are narrow and inflated to high pressure to reduce rolling resistance. Tubular tires are most often used in track racing.

Utility Bike: designed for utility cycling. They are a traditional bicycle for commuting, shopping and running errands around towns and cities.

Utility Cycling: includes any cycling done simply as a means of transport rather than as a sport or leisure activity. It is the original and most common type of cycling in the world.