The Geography of a Road Bike - Cycling Magazine

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Sunday 28 May 2017

The Geography of a Road Bike

The Geography of a Road Bike

The Suspension System

As we now know, the frame and fork are the main parts of the bicycle that the bike company makes. The frame consists of four main tubes and two sets of smaller tubes that make up two triangles.
The top, seat, head, and down tubes make up the front triangle. The stiffness of these tubes makes your bike stable and helps support the weight of your body. The seat tube stiffness is very important as it can influence how much power transfers from your body to the pedals. The rear wheel sits inside the back triangle and is made up of the seat stays (that connect near the seat), chain stays that follow the run of your chain, and, again, the seat tube. The two triangles are put together at the factory, then the rest of the parts are added to it.
The fork, which looks like a musical tuning fork, is separate from the frame but is designed by the manufacturer to work specifically with the frame. Some forks can be swapped out for aftermarket upgrades, but it’s pretty unusual if you’re buying a bike directly from a shop.
All these parts make up what is commonly considered the “frame” but sometimes referred to as the “frame and fork.” By changing the angles of these triangles and of the fork (as well as the material they’re built with), manufacturers can manipulate how the ride feels when you’re on the bike.

Most people are familiar with wheels, but don’t understand that they actually consist of three main parts: the rim, the spokes, and the hub (the center of the wheel that spins). It’s important to appreciate what wheels do for the quality of your time on the road. They are both your support system and suspension, which makes them one of the hardest working parts of your bike. The type of wheels you want will vary greatly depending on your riding style. Inertia makes them heavier, so rims and tires take more energy to get moving. In the case of racing, a lighter wheel can give a huge advantage. For commuting or touring, you’ll want a nice, heavy rim and stout tire to support the extra weight you’ll be carrying and to prevent flats. Wheels are the most expensive components on the bike after the frame and fork—sometimes even more expensive in the case of ultralight race sets. All that being said, it’s likely you’ll just stick with the wheels that come with the bike you buy, as they’ll be designed to work best with it.
The quick release (or QR) skewers are what fasten your wheels to the frame. They were designed to make it easy to get the wheel on and off—for storing or transporting the bike or for changing a flat. They’re simple to use—once you know how to use them correctly. If you’re not absolutely sure you know how they work, the bike shop will be happy to take a few minutes to show you; then go home and practice a few times so you cement it in your brain. If you use them incorrectly, you can damage your hub (making it much harder to pedal) or your wheel can come loose while riding.
Tires come with the package when you buy the bike, and their width, durability, and ride quality vary as much as wheels. The width of the tire is directly connected to its use. Narrower tires are usually found on racing or fitness bikes and wider tires on commuter or touring bikes. Basically, heavier tires are just like the heavier wheels: They’ll be sturdier and less likely to go flat, but slower and harder to get rolling. Tires are the component most likely to be skimped on when bike manufacturers are putting together the complete package, so it’s likely it’s something you might upgrade right after you get your bike.
Tubes are found inside the tires and are what actually hold the air to make the tire fill up. Tubes are mainly made in one big factory in Taiwan, so their quality is fairly comparable across the board. For road bikes, the valve stems (where you put the air in) are usually Presta valves. These valves look skinny and have a tiny nubbin at the top that can be unscrewed to let air in or out. If you’ve never used them, ask your shop for a quick lesson before you walk out the door.

Your saddle (also called a seat) helps cushion the road and supports your body weight so you can transition power to the pedals. Though a bigger saddle seems better (especially when you’re just starting out and you’ll have more soreness), there are great reasons road saddles are the shape and size they are. Many, many riders swap out saddles from what comes stock with the bike

Beneath your saddle is the seatpost, which attaches the saddle to the frame and is adjustable for height. This makes it so a generic bike size can be somewhat tailored to your body.
Under your hands reside the handlebars. Their depth and width adjust with the frame size, so a smaller frame will have narrower, shallower bars than a larger one. This is the key to a comfortable ride. There are three main hand positions on the handlebars, and this variability is what gives them their shape and saves you from sleepy or painful hands. The most common is resting your hands on top of the levers (called the hoods) where your fingers can easily reach both the brakes and shifters. When you’re cruising along or want to sit up a bit, you’ll use the top, flat part of the bars that are horizontal to the rider. The U-shaped curved parts of the bars are commonly referred to as the drops. The lowest part is the best place for you to descend because it helps lower your center of gravity. The handlebars not only support you, but in conjunction with the bar tape wrapped around them, they cushion your upper body from fatiguing road vibration.

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