Size & Buying Guides

Bike Components 101

Carol Ching

In this comprehensive guide to key bike components, we’re going to give you the run down on all you need to know in order to understand the parts of your current or future bike. Read on to dive in!
Bike Components 101

Bike Components 101

In this comprehensive guide to key bike components, we’re going to give you the run down on all you need to know in order to understand the parts of your current or future bike. Read on to dive in!

Bike Frames: What are bike frames made of?

carbon bike frame

Carbon

The highest quality of frame for a couple of reasons. Carbon is well known to be the lightest frame material on the market, but it is also the most comfortable. Carbon is a woven material, so it soaks much of the vibrations from the ride very well and dampens them so that it fatigues the riders less. Another benefit of it being a woven material is that we can make the weave very efficient and stiff from left to right pedaling power but also very compliant vertically to increase the ability of the frame to flex and accommodate rough ground. It is because of this extra strength & comfort combo factor that carbon is a higher grade and therefore more expensive frame material. Riders must be careful with this material as any damage to the frame will end up being a catastrophic failure to the structure of the frame.

Aluminum

This frame material is lighter and more efficient than steel. It is more common in frames these days as customers value the easier ride that aluminum provides. Quality of aluminum has increased so much over the years that aluminum frames can be extremely comparable to carbon frames. The aluminum is a more durable frame and if there is damaged to the frame, the structure is less likely to fail.

aluminum bike frame

Bike Forks: What materials are forks made of?

Front Fork

The suspension system which connects the front tire to the frame of the bike. Entry level models of this system will be heavier because of the coil system that makes the suspension system work. Usually not smooth and less customizable, this system is found on lower spec bikes. Features that may be found in this fork style include a coil tensioning system to set how stiff the fork gets as well as a lockout system which prevents the fork from moving up and down.

Material

Aluminum forks will be cost effective, entry level forks.

Steel forks will be move damp than aluminum forks, but tend to be heavier.

Carbon forks will be lighter than both aluminum or steel forks, and also does a great job of dampening the ride.

Suspension forks are best for riding over rough terrain to help smooth out the ride and increase traction.

Bike Brakes: What brakes are right for you?

There are several types of bike brakes, however, depending on the type of riding you are doing you'll want to choose the right braking system.

centre pull brakes

Centre Pull Brakes

These are frame mounted brakes activated by the tension of a cable system. Cable runs down the centre of the head tube and branches off to each of the left and right calipers. The brake pads apply pressure to the rim. Not as common of a rim braking system.

Side Pull Brakes

Similar to centre pull in that they are cable actuated as well, but different set up and movement. The cable comes across horizontally from one side of the calipers to the other. Can be disconnected by squeezing both of the braking arms together and removing the noodle from its connection point. Much more standard rim braking system.

side pull brakes

mechanical disc brakes

Mechanical Disc Brakes

Mechanical disc brakes are the entry level form of disc braking systems. A caliper leads down towards the centre of the wheel where the disc and caliper is located. When activated a cable pulls the brake pads together applying pressure to the disc. This system is well liked as it is very easy to maintain and not putting extra pressure on the rim is better for the bikes composition as well as more reliable in all weather conditions.

Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Hydraulic disc brakes are considered the highest quality braking system you can get. The system works with the use of hydraulic fluid. These brakes are capable of providing the most stopping power and will feel the most ergonomically correct. Great for mountain bikers and endurance road riders. Requires a brake bleed as maintenance or to ensure maximum stopping power.

hydraulic disc brakes

Bike Valves

There are two types of valves and its important to know the difference for compatability reasons.

presta valve

Presta

The valve found on road bikes is called a Presta valve. Presta valves are more commonly used because they are narrower, and therefore require a narrower hole in the rim, and the valve hole is the weakest part of the rim. They also come in different lengths, so if you have deep rims you can purchase tubes with valves that are long enough to be accommodated in your rims, however, you’ve got to remember this when you buy your tubes.

Schrader

A Schrader valve is easier to use. Simply removed the cap, apply the pump and pump up your tire. This type of valve is bombproof, rarely suffering from any damage, and works beautifully.
The “car” valve is called a Schrader valve, and it is found on kids bikes, mountain bikes and others, but rarely on higher quality road bikes.
People who have not been road cycling are much more familiar with the “car” valve. These are much more commonly found on cheaper bikes and on mountain bikes or kids bikes, and you can usually blow them up at your regular gas station.

schrader valve

Bike Wheel Sizes

All bikes should be ridden with their correct tire size. If changed, expect a difference in the fit and feel of the bike as well as potential frame damage as the bikes low point will have been brought closer to the ground. Trying to put a larger tire on may present a problem as forks and frames are usually not built with enough clearance to handle this alteration.

26 inch tires

These tires are generally the smallest size you will find on an adult bike but are becoming more uncommon now as newer sizes provide more speed and efficiency benefits. These are very nimble tires, so they can sometimes still be found on downhill bikes as it provides the rider with the quickest handling. Can still be considered a kid’s bike and a small adult bike because it provides a great stand over height for fitting those who struggle to find small enough frames in bigger tire bikes.

27.5 inch/650B

These two can be called either one of these names but it’s basically saying that the tire has a 27.5 inch diameter. These tires are newly created as a cross between the 26-inch tire and 29-inch tire. They have great control and can still provide similar capabilities of rolling over obstacles and maintaining a good speed. This is a dedicated mountain bike tire size and will almost never be found elsewhere. These again can sometimes be better in geometry for smaller frame sizes compared to the 29-inch tires.

29 inch/27 inch/700c tires

Although this can be very confusing all these names mean the same size of tire which is the 29-inch diameter. Even though it is called 27 inch it is a full inch and a half bigger. When the tire is called 29 inch it is generally being referred to as a mountain bike. These are the fastest mountain bike tires because of their extra surface area and their height, which provides the most clearance for the bottom bracket. Also, they roll over and through obstacles the easiest. 700c is usually referring to road bikes and hybrid tire sizes. Tubes that will accommodate the width of the tires can be used for all these tire sizes.

650b plus

these tires have a rim size built for a 650b 27.5 inch tire diameter but because of the extra width and volume this tire provides, it increases the total measurement to that of a 29 inch tire. This is very much so common in really only mountain bikes. Bikes are now coming with the ability to swap between a plus tire 6650b or run a standard 29inch tire for different levels of riding styles without changing the geometry of the bike. This tire will offer speed but excellent control and handling because of the larger contact patch it has with the ground. This tire size requires a wider hub in front(110mm) and rear(148mm) wheels to accommodate the structure of the tire.

Bike Derailleurs

Component Comparison

SKILL LEVEL MOUNTAIN ROAD
Shimano SRAM Shimano SRAM
Basic Tourney TX-55, TX-35
Basic Altus
Entry Acera 8 Speed X-3
Entry Acera 9 Speed X-4 Claris
Recreational Alivo X5 Sora
Recreational Deore 9 Speed X7 Apex
Enthusiast Deore 10 Speed NX Tiagra Apex 1
Enthusiast SLX 10 Speed GX 105 Rival
Race SLX 11 Speed X1 Rival 1
Race XT Ultegra Force
Race XT DI 2 Ultegra DI2 Force 1
Race XTR XX1 Dura-Ace Red
Pro XTR DI 2 Dura-Ace DI2 Red eTap