Glossary of Terms

Merlin Cycles Help explain the common used terms within cycling.


Brake Caliper

Attached to the bike by a single bolt through their centre, caliper brakes use a single mechanism to bring the brake pads together. These are typically the most common form of bike brake.

Cantilever Brakes

Cantilever brakes have two separate arms which are brought together by a transverse cable.

Disc Brakes

A form of hub brake, disc brakes utilise a caliper which squeezes against a discscrewed to the hub, in order to bring the bike to a halt. As discs are able to disperse heat incredibly well, this form of brake has become increasingly popular for racing events.

Transverse Cable

Otherwise known as a straddle cable, this is the cable that links the two arms of a cantilever brake.

V Brakes

A variation on the cantilever brakes trademarked by popular bike manufacturer Shimano; V-Brakes do away with the transverse cable and instead use a direct-pull system.


Bull Bars

Otherwise known as bullmoose bars, these handlebars and stems come as a single unit. The handlebar is connected to the stem at two off-centre points; leaving a triangle shaped gap. These bars proved particularly popular with early models of mountain bikes.

Drop Bars

Drop Bars are a form of handlebar where the middle is the highest point. Bikes that are built for long-distance riding tend to have drop handlebars, which allow the rider to adopt a wide range of different grip positions, giving them the opportunity to change positions depending on their terrain and riding conditions.

Flat Bars

Flat bars comes as standard on most mountain bikes. They’re a simple straight tube, sometimes slightly angled towards the rider.

Riser Bars

Risers are a slight variation on the original flat bars, with the centre of the handlebars rising up out of the stem by a few centimetres.

Tri Bars

Otherwise known as aerobars, these forward facing bars are bolt-on extensions which allow riders to gain an aerodynamic advantage by positioning themselves forward into a lower position.

Although known for helping reduce race times, these handles are also banned by some event holders as they make it difficult for the cyclist to quickly reach the brakes, therefore removing some levels of control and safety.


Clipless Pedals

Clipless pedals use a mechanism much like that seen on ski bindings. By wearing a cleat (a metal or plastic fitting on the bottom of cycling shoes), cyclists are able to step into clipless pedals and lock their feet into place.  

Flat Pedals

Flat pedals are the traditional type of pedal, with a large flat, or slightly rutted area for the cyclist to place their feet on.

SPD Pedals

Shimano Pedalling Dynamics (SPD) are a variation on the clipless pedal that use a smaller cleat, hidden within the sole of the shoe, to connect the cyclist to the pedal. This smaller cleat allows cyclists to dismount and walk if needs be.

SPD-SL Pedals

SPD-SL pedals have a wider cleat which gives the cyclist more stability, and therefore allows them to apply more power. Because of this the pedals are particularly popular with road cyclists.

Bicycle Components

Bottom Brackets

The bottom bracket connects the chainset to the bike, and contains a spindle which allows the chainset to rotate without obstruction.

Brake Levers

The levers found on the handlebars which are pulled to activate the brakes.


A stack of gears on the rear wheel of a bike, which can be shifted to make riding easier.


A chainset or ‘crankset’ refers to the collective mechanisms that operate your bike chain. This consists of two cranks, the sprockets, and the bolt that hold the pieces together.


Another term used to describe front sprockets.


The mechanism which allows you to change gears on a bike by moving the chain from one sprocket to another.


The component which is attached to the front wheel of a bicycle. Suspension forks have shock-absorbing suspension built in, whilst rigid forks do not.


The bare skeleton of the bicycle. Different bikes will have different frame types, with the most common being the diamond frame.


A Shimano trademarked rear hub in which the mechanism that allows the wheel to turn independently is built into the hub itself.


A set or series of bicycle parts which originate from a single manufacturer. Usually consists of the brakes, bottom brackets, derailleurs and chainset, chain, cassette and shifters.

Handlebar Stems

The stem connects the handlebars to the steerer tube of the bicycle fork. Stems come in two designs, quill or threadless.

Quill stems are common on older bikes; they fit into the steerer tube, and require a specifically threaded headset depending on the model of the bike.

Threadless stems are the newer style, and are now widely considered the preferable style. Threadless stems clamp around the extended fork steerer tube.


The hub is located in the middle of the wheel. It contains the axle, shell and bearings to which the inside of the spokes connect.


The cylinder which supports your saddle and connects it to the bike frame. Modern seatposts have a clamp mechanism which attaches to the seat and allows for finer adjustments to be made.

Quick Release Skewers

A mechanism that attaches your wheels to your bike and allows them to be quickly removed without any tools.


The ridged wheels or gears that make up the chainset.


Tyre Bead

The hoop that forms the inner edge of the tyre.


The most commonly used bike tyre, clinchers consist of a tyre and an inner tube. Clincher rims have a supportive lip that threads through the bead and holds the tyre in place.

Folding Tyre

Foldable tyres are created from Kevlar beads and can be easily folded and stored away.


Tubeless tyres are sealed air-tight to the rim of the wheel and thus do not require inner tubes.

Tubular tyre

Mainly used for racing these tyres don’t have beads, and are instead sewn together and glued to the rim.