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Bicycle Glossary

Banana Seat – A bike seat that looks like a banana…sort of. Chopper style “high-rise” bikes of the 60s and 70s featured these long curved seats, made extraordinarily popular by Schwinn's Sting-Ray.

BMX – Bicycle motocross. Originally introduced as motorcycle style off-roading bikes for kids, the BMX took hold of the American market in the late 70s, and lasting for almost a decade. The BMX bike grew in part out of the Schwinn Sting-Ray and it was largely responsible for the birth of the mountain bike.

Braze-On – something permanently attached to the frame like cable stops, shift lever bosses, cantilever brake bosses, and pump pegs. These pieces used to be attached by brazing, but the term stuck and many braze-ons are glued, welded, or attached in some other way.

Brazing – attaching two pieces of metal together by using a third metal that has been melted and is used like glue to bond the pieces together. In lug-frame technology, the frame tubing fits into a separate fitting, a lug, at the joints. The space between the lug and the frame tubing is filled with a softer metal at molten temperature. This could be done at lower temperatures than the old method of simply welding frame components together and consequently it did not require such thick tubing. The result was a significantly lower weight frame. This technology became widespread during the 1970s American bicycle boom.

Chrome-moly – A lightweight steel alloy containing chromium and molybdenum. It became the material for high-end bicycles in the 1970s.

Coaster Brakes – Coaster brakes allow you to pedal, stop pedaling and coast, and brake by reversing direction with the pedals. This is what you rode as a kid. Not to be confused with a single speed which does not brake when you pedal backwards or a fixed gear which does not brake when you pedal backwards, it actually pedals backwards.

Cruiser – Most 3 or 5 speeds are cruisers. These have upright handlebars and usually a pretty comfortable seat (read: large springs). These bikes are usually 30 years or older. But don't dismiss these classy bikes because of their age or style. Some of them are remarkably lightweight. These are not high performance machines, but they are just great for tooling around town.

Cutter – Dave Stoller lives on the wrong side of the tracks in the 1979 film Breaking Away, but he yearns to compete with the Italian cycling team. “Cutters,” short for Stonecutters is the derogatory name given to the working class members in Stoller's community. For the final competition, Stoller and his friends wear the name Cutter on their t-shirts. The film borrows heavily from the real lives of early American road racers George Koenig and Rick Bronson.

Fixed Gear – There is no coasting on a fixed gear bicycle. You must pedal continuously and you slow down by reversing your “thrust”, by adding resistance to the pedals with your legs to stop them from going around. This makes stopping quickly more difficult. Only the most serious of cyclists ride fixed gears.

Frame Size – Re-Cycle measures the frame from the center of the bottom bracket (where the pedal cranks enter the frame) to the top of the top tube where the top tube meats the seat tube (the tube that ends at the seat). There are a variety of other ways that are used to measure the frame size. NOTE: Frame Size is estimated to within a half inch on women's frames as these bikes do not have a horizontal top tube.

Freewheel – The sprocket cluster (sometimes called a cassette) on the rear wheel. The “gears.”

Hybrids – are sturdy bikes half-way between Mountain Bikes and Road Bikes. They have medium width tires to get you through the grass to road. They have upright handle bars that are usually pretty much straight across (just like mountain bikes).

Lug – A fitting used to connect the tubes of a bicycle frame. Lugs and tubing are joined together through brazing, a process similar to soldering or welding where a molten metal (often silver or brass) fills the space between the lug and the tube.

Mountain Bikes – are designed for off-road use, trail-riding and the like. They have fairly wide tires to maximize traction on a variety of terrain.

Pneumatic – Strictly speaking, something operating with air pressure. Pneumatic tires (air filled tires) became popular (and practical) in the 1890s. They provided a smoother ride than their predecessor, solid rubber tires.

Presta Valve – High-performance tires (usually less than 1 ¼ inch) use a narrow air valve rather than the standard. It requires a special adaptor and some fiddling about to get your standard air hose to work. There is a small metal cap built into the Presta valve that must be unscrewed before you can put air in the tube. Unscrew it completely, it will not come off. Then screw on the adaptor completely and fill.

Road Bikes – are meant for riding on smooth paved surfaces. They have narrow tires to reduce the amount of friction with the road. They usually have drop handlebars (curved down handlebars).

Saddle – seat

Safety Bicycle – John Starley's 1884 diamond frame bicycle was considerably safer than its high wheeling predecessor that was prone to toppling forward over its huge front wheel. This brought its rider down head first from a five or six foot perch. The Safety bicycle featured wheels of approximately equal size and a chain powered drive train that separated the pedals from the wheel. The safety bikes diamond frame is still the basis for today's frames.

Single Speed – A bike with only one gear (not to be confused with a coaster brake). Single speeds are often preferred by the more serious rider. One gear means less weight and a faster ride.

Standover Height – The standover height is the distance from the ground to the top of the top tube (the horizontal tube on a men's frame). Your inseam should be larger than this number. You should be able to stand over the top tube with your feet flat on the ground. If you can do this, the bike is probably not too big for you. If there is more than a couple of inches of clearance between you and the top tube, then the bike is probably too small for you. Further sizing should be done by riding the bike and adjusting it to where you are comfortable. Generally you should NOT be extending your leg fully when you pedal, but you should come close. And obviously, your knees should not hit the handlebars when you turn. The only hard and fast rule is comfort. If you like riding the bike, it's probably the right size.

TIG welding – Tungsten Inert Gas welding. Electric arc welding combined with an inert gas to prevent oxidation. Most bicycle frames are assembled this way today.

Touring – Strictly speaking, touring is packing up and taking your bicycle out for a multi-day “tour.” But it has come to mean many things and thus, its meaning must be derived from the context in which it is being used.

If you have suggestions, questions, or corrections, please write us: Cutter@Re-Cycle.com


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