A Guide to Bike Parts, Names, and Sizes

Searching for a new bicycle can be overwhelming if you are new to the cycling world. Bikes come in a variety of styles and sizes that serve different functions. You can customize everything from color to storage, and there is something to suit every commute. To help you find your way around the right bike for you, here is a guide, including bike styles and bike parts names. 

Guide to Bike Parts Name and Function

Understanding basic bicycle anatomy is essential for any bike owner. Most bicycles work similarly, however, there are variations in materials and design. The differences are there to accommodate a variety of intended uses. The below guide provides a basic overview of the common essential and optional bike parts you might find on any bike. 

Bike Frame Parts

  • Top tube – connects the head to the seat tube. It is also the most important part when it comes to choosing the size of your next bike.
  • Head tube
  • Seat Tube
  • Down tube
  • Seatstay
  • Chainstay

Essential Parts

Before you step into a bike shop, you need to understand the absolutely essential parts of a bike and what function they provide. Here is a list of the essentials and how they relate to one another:

  • Handlebars. A single handlebar is connected to another by a tube that allows you to maneuver the front wheel. They are supported by a stem and connect to the front wheel through the fork.
  • Chain. The chain is made of metal links that interlock with the gear and chain wheel to put the bike in motion as you pedal.
  • Front derailleur. The front derailleur functions to change gears as you ride, using a shifter that is attached to a cable.
  • Chainstay. The wheel hub uses a tube called the chainstay to connect to the crank.
  • Pedal. You place your feet on the pedal to rotate the chain and put the bike in motion.
  • Seat (Saddle). The seat is obviously where you sit. Its size, shape, and padding thickness varies depending on the type and size of the bike. The seat is easily replaced or adjusted on any bike, and most manufacturers offer covers for additional padding if your seat is uncomfortably thin.
  • Seat tube, stay, and post. The seat tube is the part of the frame that joins the seat post to the pedal and leans toward the rear of the bike. The stay connects the seat tube with the rear wheel, and the post is the part that attaches the seat to the bike.
  • Brake. The brakes are comprised of a cable, pads, and caliper and return springs. When activated, the pads press against the wheels to stop the bike. The cable transmits the pressure that activates the brakes.
  • Crossbar. The crossbar connects the head and seat tube.
  • Down tube. The down tube connects the pedal mechanism to the head tube. This is the longest tube on the bike.

The wheels are a complex component of the bike. They have many parts, including the spoke, tire valve, tire, hub, and rim. The hub and rim make up the metal frame and are connected by the spoke. The tire fits around the frame in the same way that a car tire fits. Tires vary in width, thickness, and grit to accommodate different terrain. The tire valve is the small extension that is used to place air in the tire and trap it there.

Optional Parts

There are many optional parts that allow for customization. You can place head and rear lights on the front and back of your bike for additional safety. They are usually powered by a generator. For comfort, you can add bar ends to the handlebars to provide an additional place to rest your hands as you ride. An odometer or speedometer is good if you want to track your speed or if you have an electric bike and need to monitor how fast you are going.

If you want storage, you have many options. You can place a carrier on the back that allows you to strap bags or boxes to your bike. A water bottle clip is usually placed on the frame beneath you but within reach. There are attachable bags and baskets that come in various sizes to accommodate different loads. Remember that the size of your bike and tires affects the weight capacity. 

Bike Styles and Sizes

Bikes are designed in many different styles and sizes to accommodate different conditions. Road bikes, mountain bikes, and cruisers can all be used interchangeably, but they each work best for a certain type of terrain. Take a look at the most common bikes available and how they are most efficiently used. 

Road Bikes

Road bikes are lightweight with thin tires. The handlebar is dropped lower than the seat height to position the rider for maximum speed. They work best on smooth pavement and are often used for on-road racing. You can take a road bike on a paved trail, but off-roading can be uncomfortable. Adventure road bikes offer more versatility for off-road riding.

Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes have straight, upright handlebars and are designed for rough terrain. They typically have front or back gear suspension to absorb shock and make the ride slightly smoother. You can adjust them to use as commuter or touring bikes, but they are significantly heavier than road bikes. Many mountain bikes are sold with fat tires to make them more efficient on rough terrains, such as snow and sand. 

Hybrid Bikes

If you are looking for something with the capabilities of road bikes and mountain bikes, hybrid bikes were designed to have the advantages of both. The bike seat is padded for casual riding on paved roads and short commuting. They are heavier than a road bike to accommodate unpaved bike trails, but they are not ideal for off-road mountain biking. The tires are semi-smooth to create grip for bumpy rides but still allow a smooth experience on paved roads. Some even have front suspension to create a more comfortable ride. 

Cruiser Bikes

The cruiser bike is designed for the ultimate casual rider. The bike seat is large and well padded for comfort, and the handlebar is upright and significantly higher than the seat. Most of them are single or three-speed and have wide tires for smooth terrain. Most manufacturers make cruiser bikes in many different colors and styles because they make for a fun ride for beginners. 

Commuter Bikes

Commuter bikes, also known as city or urban bikes, are designed specifically for riding in an urban setting. They have characteristics of road, mountain, and cruiser bikes. For example, the wheels are similar in size to a hybrid bike, which is designed for work for road and mountain biking, but the handlebar is upright for the comfort of a cruiser bike. 

Some other characteristics of a commuter bike that makes it unique are:

  • a skirt guard on the rear wheel,
  • fenders,
  • chain guard,
  • a generator and lights,
  • and internally-geared hub.

The lights make it easier to ride in the dark, even in an urban setting that is typically well lit. Most of the features on a commuter bike make it amenable for riding without bike clothing and gear. Adjustment is the key to keeping a bike in good working condition.

For a complete guide on different types of bikes check the bicycle types article here.

If you plan on building your own bike or want to try fixing the one you have, ensuring that everything is fitted and adjusted well will help you maintain it.

For more information on bike parts and their functions, check out BikeLVR.

BikeLVR as part of LVR Publishing LLC participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.