Mountain Bike Glossary of Terms
26”. The wheel size for early mountain bikes but fundamentally flawed (but obviously still rideable), thus ensuring the development of full suspension mountain bikes. Benefits: good size for children’s bikes.
27.5”. Bigger than 26” and developed after the 29er, used for longer travel full suspension bikes, big tyred trail bikes and entry level mountain bikes. Benefits: feels fast, light, accelerates fast and lots of fun.
29er. The first generation big wheeled mountain bikes originally thought of in the eighties, common in the USA by 2005 and mainstream here by 2011. Benefits: Fast up and down, comfortable, excellent grip and light.
Air fork: Previously only available on bikes £1,000+, the spring is controlled by air pressure. Benefit: the fork can be perfectly set up to match your weight, riding style and location.
Bike Packing: Touring and a mountain bike with bags designed to withstand the rigors of rough and wild trails. Benefits: Mountain bike where no one has ever been or some local wild camping.
Boost: wider hubs, 3mm each side rear, 5mm each side front. Benefit: less wheel flex/more downhill confidence, more clearance.
Compact frame. A bike with a shorter top tube. Benefits: the handle bars feel closer so has less reach and the rider feels more upright, marketeers will use this to promote to women too but a compact frame will suit as many men as it does women.
Cyclo-cross. A bike that looks like a road racing bike but designed to race in muddy fields using wider and knobbier tyres. Benefits: Great for winter training, improving off road skills
DH – Downhill bikes. Gravity powered 200mm travel full suspension bike designed for going down hill (usually races or extreme trails) and to be carried or pushed up hill. Benefits: The only thing to use racing downhill.
Dropper post: A seat post the can drop and the push of a button for descents and can pop back up again for the climbs and flats. Benefit: The whole dynamic of the bike changes when the seat is down. You have a lower centre of gravity, you can move your body back over the rear wheel, cornering and jumping are easier, lifting a foot off a pedal is easier and affects the bike less. You feel safer and have way more fun!
Enduro bikes: Like Trail mountain bikes but with longer travel suspension, wider rims, knobbier tyres, baggier shorts and bigger grins. A pedalling version of DH bikes. Benefit: Faster downhill, safer landing, better for more extreme trails and trips to the Alps.
Full suspension: Bikes with suspension forks and a suspension frame. Benefits: Faster than hard tail, more comfortable, more confidence inspiring too.
Gravel bike: Road style drop bar bike based on a cyclo-cross bike but more a more relaxed head angle and more tyre clearance. Benefit: One bike to do all – road, trail, touring, mountain bike tracks, commuting, you name it, it does it. Lots of fun.
Hard Tail: Bike with front suspension but no rear suspension. Benefits: Lighter and cheaper than full suspension.
Lockout: a lever, switch or knob that firms up the suspension to solid or close too. Benefits: stops the suspension moving, although I can’t figure out why you would want to, great to talk about when buying.
One-by ( 1x ): single chain ring transmission. Benefit: better frame design, no front shift issues, still a good range of gears.
Plus: 27.5 inch wheels with a 2.6” to 3” tyre. Benefit: Staggering grip both up and down and adds downhill bike performance to a light weight trail bike
PR: Personal record for a run. Benefit: Makes you feel good! See Strava below.
Rigid: Bike with no suspension front or rear. Used to be popular when riding was thought to be better the more pain you experienced. Users often twisted the knife but running them single speed. Popular at the turn of the century. Benefits: light weight, nothing to go wrong, lots of pain, kudos amongst the few.
Single speed: A bike with only one gear sometimes used to augment and enhance a rigid bike. Popular at the turn of the century. Benefits: Cheap, simple, nothing to go wrong, makes you tough (or kills you), more Kudos.
Strava: A web based recorder of all your activities including time, speed, average, elevation and whether you have a personal or an overall record. All you need is a GPS unit that can upload to the web. Most smart phones will do but are not as accurate. Benefits: personal motivation, detailed records and analysis of rides, bragging rites, Kudos.
Super wide bars: Handle bars are now 760mm even 800mm wide. These must be combined with a very, very short stem. Benefits: Better cornering, more control on technical climbs and descents, extra kudos amongst your mates, great for clearing overhanging foliage.
Trail bike: basically just what we used to call mountain biking but with an emphasis on going down and technically challenging trails, roots, rocks and jumps. What we all love.
Tubeless: Like a car tyre the tubeless tyres fit tight onto the rim and so don’t need a tube. You then add a fluid that will seal the tyre when it leaks out through a puncture hole. Benefit, lower tyre pressures, better traction, without the worry of a pinch flat, and, of course no more punctures.
Wide rims (up to 40mm): nearly all mountain bikes used to have 19mm wide rims. Benefit: The wider rims help the tyre sit better for more grip and combined with a tubeless set up can be run much softer again for better traction – you’ll feel safer……Faster.
Women specific bike: A marketing term to cover bikes that may or may not have been designed for women. Usually fitted with a female fit saddle and often will have shorter top tube but not in all cases. The shorter top tube may or may not suit any given rider. It is good marketing but just because it is in the women’s section it does not guarantee that it will be the right fit. Benefits: Increases the options for women, they have more choice than men, female fit saddle is usually essential.
XC: Cross country, basically just what we used to call mountain biking but with more of an emphasis on distance, climbing and speed from the South Downs to racing the rock gardens of an Olympic or World Cup course. Benefits: a modern XC bike is just about all you need round here, lighter than other bikes.
Zwift: Social media bike training. Your static bike trainer is linked to a worldwide community of riders. You can simply ride, follow a training program or set your avatar against 1, 2, 3 or even thousands of riders. During 2020 when races were cancelled even the pros replicated their “Classic” racing virtually on line. Top Zwift riders have been spotted and recruited to pro teams. Sadly, it is so real that mechanical and drug doping has occurred.