Glossary - Mountain Bikes

Have you read a magazine or listened to a friend and not understood the jargon? Here the terms are explained.

Scott Spark 94026”. The wheel size for early mountain bikes fundamentally flawed, but obviously still rideable, thus ensuring the development of full suspension mountain bikes. Benefits: good size for children’s bikes, They started it all!.

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, may be surpassed by newer 29ers. Benefits: feels fast, light, accelerates fast and lots of fun.

27.5" 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

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: Good everywhere, fast up and down, comfortable, excellent grip.

650B. The rim size for 27.5" & 27.5" Plus wheels

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.

Berm: Banking in a turn usually natural but often man made. Benefits: Allows you to corner faster on the positive camber.

Bike Packing: Touring without pannier racks usually on a mountain bike or gravel (adventure) bike with bags designed to withstand the rigors of rough and wild trails. Benefits: Travel where no one has ever been or just for some local wild camping.

Boost: wider hubs, 3mm each side rear, 5mm each side front. Benefit: less wheel flex/more downhill confidence, more clearance.

Clutch: A mechanism for controlling a mountain bike rear derailleur cage movement. Benefits: On Sram bikes it is an aid for removing the rear wheel, on Shimano bikes it is an attempt to mimic the performance of Sram to hold the chain onto the chain ring.

 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 bikes 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, more tyre clearance and tubeless. Benefit: One bike to do all – road, trail, touring, msingle track, commuting, you name it, it does it. Lots of fun.

Kinematics: The branch of mechanics concerned with the motion of objects without reference to the forces which cause the motion. Hmmmm! You’ll see this a lot. All you need to know is that there is a science behind the design. So you don’t even have to ride it to know that it is good..... I’d rather ride!

Hard Tail: Bike with front suspension but no rear suspension. Benefits: Lighter and cheaper than full suspension.

Kudos. A figurative slap on the back for doing something good on your bike. Used in Strava (see below). Benefits: recognition is good for the ego, helps motivation.

Lockout: a lever, switch or knob that firms up the suspension to solid or close too. Benefits: stops  or reduces the suspension movement.

One-by ( 1x ): single chain ring transmission. Benefit: better frame design, no front shift issues, still a good range of gears, asked for by riders for decades.

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 by 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.

Single Track: Often considered the holy grail for mountain bikers like powder is to skiers and boarders. Narrow track (25 – 50cm wide), ideally twisting with or without roots and rocks, with or without berms, can be good up and always good down! Benefits: Puts a smile on your as the bike whizzes through the turns.

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. Strava page link.

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 now they are getting wider (road bikes are following suit too). 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 specifically 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 as they have more choice than men, female fit saddle is often essential and a shorther top tube, if used, may be more comfortable.

XC bike or ride: 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. Usually 29" wheels regardless of the ridre size. Benefits: Light weight and fast, a modern XC bike is often better handling than an older style trail bike, just about all you need round here.