Introduction- Essential Bike Components and Accessories
Guest Contribution by Simon
Are you eager to hop onto the saddle and explore the great outdoors on two wheels? Don’t want to purchase any old bicycle without knowing what you’re getting yourself into first? While getting a complete model might seem more convenient, it’s often more beneficial – and cost-effective – to buy a bike in pieces so you can get exactly what you need.
After all, you don’t want to end up with a set of features you’ll never use or, even worse, components that keep you from enjoying your ride. To get started on the right foot – or rather, the right tyre – you should know each component and its purpose.
What Are the Major Components of a Bicycle?
As with any moving vehicle, there are several key bicycle components that work together to make a bicycle function. Each one has a specific purpose, and if even one is out of commission, it can render the entire bike useless.
The wheels provide the structure and support necessary to keep the bike – and rider – upright and stable while in motion. Most bicycles have two wheels of the same size, although some models designed for specific purposes (like BMX bikes) will have one larger wheel in the front and a smaller one in the back.
In most cases, the wheels are made of metal – typically aluminium – although some higher-end models may have carbon fibre or titanium wheels. These materials are much lighter than metal, which makes pedalling easier, but they’re also more expensive.
Tyres and Tubes
The tyres are round rubber casings covering the wheels’ inner structure. They provide traction between the bike and the ground, cushioning the ride and helping absorb impact when riding over rough terrain.
Most tyres have a smooth surface, ideal for riding on paved roads and trails. However, if you’re doing more off-road biking – like mountain biking – you will want tyres with a more aggressive tread pattern to provide a better grip on loose or slippery surfaces.
The tubes are the inner part of the tyres inflated with air. They’re made of rubber or latex and can be replaced if they get punctured. The more expensive ones are also thinner, which makes them lighter and easier to pedal with, but they’re more susceptible to punctures.
The stem is the long metal rod that connects the handlebars to the bike frame. It’s what you steer with, so it’s one of the most important bicycle components in terms of safety and control.
Stems are generally sturdy, but they can break if you put too much weight on them or crash into something. That’s why it’s important to choose one that’s the right size and made of durable material – like aluminium or steel – for your riding style and bike.
Seats and Seatposts
Where you sit on a bike is just as important as how you steer it. The seat – also called a saddle – needs to be comfortable enough to sit on for long periods without causing numbness or pain. It should also be positioned at the right height so your legs can reach the pedals easily.
The seat post is the long, vertical rod connecting the seat to the bike frame. It allows you to adjust the seat up or down, depending on your height and riding preference. The higher the seat, the more pressure you’ll feel on your hands and arms, but the lower it is, the more strain you’ll put on your legs.
Another vital bike part, the handlebars, is what you hold onto while riding. They provide stability and control, so you should find a pair that’s the right size and shape for your hands and the riding you’ll be doing.
For example, if you’re mostly going to be riding on paved roads, you’ll want relatively straight handlebars that offer a good grip. But if you’re planning to do more off-roading, you might prefer wider handlebars with a more comfortable grip for your hands.
Gears and Drivetrain
The gears are the cogs – or teeth – on the wheels that mesh together to create forward motion. They’re an important component of the drivetrain, which is the system that transfers power from the pedals to the wheels.
Most bicycles have two or three gears on the front wheel and seven or eight on the back, although some higher-end models may have more. The number of gear you need will depend on how and where you’ll ride.
Generally speaking, bicycles have two brakes – one on the front wheel and one on the back. The front brake is linked to a lever on the handlebars, while a pedal operates the back brake.
Both brakes are important for stopping quickly and safely, but the front brake is typically used more often than the back. That’s because it provides more stopping power than the rear – which can be useful when you’re going downhill or riding in traffic.
Pedals and Cleats
The pedals are the platforms you stand on while you’re pedalling, and they’re connected to the crank arms – the long metal rods that connect the pedals to the bike frame. Most pedals have a rubber or plastic surface to provide traction for your feet, but some higher-end models may have a metal surface instead.
Cleats are the small, metal plates some cyclists attach to the bottom of their shoes. They clip into the pedals and keep your feet from slipping off while riding. They’re typically used by more experienced riders who are comfortable pedalling with them for extended periods.
Additional Biking Accessories
In addition to the major bike parts listed above, there are a few additional biking accessories that can improve your rides and make them more comfortable and enjoyable. After all, the better equipped you are, the more fun you’ll have.
Wearing protective gear can help reduce your risk of injuries if you happen to take a spill. You may want to invest in some protective gear depending on where and how often you ride. This can include a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads.
Just make sure that any gear you buy fits properly and is comfortable to wear. Otherwise, you’ll risk it being more of a nuisance than a help. You do not want to be distracted by an ill-fitting helmet while riding.
If you’re leaving your bike unattended – even for just a few minutes – you should lock it up. This will help deter thieves and keep your bike safe while you’re away. Whether a simple chain lock or a more sophisticated U-lock, having a good-quality lock is always worth the investment.
Last but not least, keeping a few basic maintenance tools on hand in case you need to adjust your bike while you’re out riding is a good idea. A small multi-tool that includes a few different types of wrenches and screwdrivers can be a lifesaver if you need to make a quick repair.
You should also carry a tire pump to inflate your tyres if they start to get low. And if you’re planning on doing extended riding, it’s not a bad idea to bring along a spare inner tube in case you get a flat tyre.
Images: Unsplash/ Fortune Vieyra, Daniel Llorente, Alejandro Lopez, Brina Blum, and Coen van de Broek
Simon is a content contributor at Highland Bikes. He lives by the mantra, “When life gets complicated…. I ride”.