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Bicycle misnomenclature

Old 04-16-15, 11:36 AM
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Bicycle misnomenclature

Originally Posted by southpawboston
We should start a thread on cycling misnomers!
Fulcrum, a word Sturmey Archer misused to mean cable stop.

Main triangle, which refers to the quadrilateral formed by the top tube, head tube, down tube and seat tube.

Rear triangle, which refers to the array of two seat stays, two chain stays, plus those rear fork ends or those things we sometimes call dropouts and then get chastised for calling them dropouts. The shape of the seat tube plus one seat stay plus one chain stay actually does make a triangle, but we use the term rear triangle to refer to the pair of these triangles as a single structure.

Handlebar: Do I put my pair of hands on a pair of handlebars, or am I putting them on my handlebar?

Bottom bracket: In that film that Raleigh made in 1947, the speaker referred to all the lugs as brackets. The one where we put the crank was obviously the bottom bracket. But now, bottom bracket refers not to the bracket but to the bearing (cups, balls, and spindle) rather than the bracket.

Bearing: a bearing is something that bears (weight). A headset is an example of a bearing. Most bearings we see are of the ball type, so they are ball bearings. We inaccurately call the little balls in the bearings "ball bearings" but they are actually bearing balls, i.e. balls for the bearings.

C: 700C is a series of tires, and it refers to the diameter of the bead. To specify a tire size, we often say 700x28C as if it is 700C tall and 28C wide. But it's really 700C x 28mm. C is not a measurement of distance!

Fork: In the US, the fork is the steerer tube, possibly a fork crown, plus a left blade and a right blade. In the UK, this structure is called the forks. Both make a bit of sense. The bigger structure is like a two-prong fork. But a fork blade, with a tip for one end of the wheel axle, is also fork-like in its shape, because of the fork-shaped tip.
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Old 04-16-15, 11:54 AM
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I've heard a lot of people refer to the "front forks". I wonder if they every think there might be rear forks.

Of course toe clips are really cages, and pedal/shoe combinations with integrated clips are called clipless.

And wonder of wonder, the bicycle manufacturing industry went over to using English measurements (mostly) instead of metric.
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Old 04-16-15, 12:07 PM
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I can never figure out whether the thing in the middle of the pedal is a spindle or an axle. It's all relative to your frame of reference. Maybe Einstein could sort it out.
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Old 04-16-15, 12:17 PM
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I had a recent thread about Schwinn's "tubular" wheels, which are not in fact wheels for tubular tires, but rather rolled from tubes of steel.

On wheel sizes, 29" is the same size as 28" and both are smaller than 27". Further, 26x1.25 does not equal 26x1 1/4.
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Old 04-16-15, 12:19 PM
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I think stuff spins around an axle but a spindle spins inside of something. Or something like that. Or maybe it doesn't matter.

Yeah, the word clipless drives enough people crazy. Clipless systems are clipful, because we clip into them.

Before the clipless systems came out, we didn't say cages, but I'm very happy to use that word, because it distinguishes the old devices from the new ones. At least I'm happy when I remember to say toe cages, which is pretty much never.
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Old 04-16-15, 12:21 PM
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Oh, we can talk about misconstruing names and mispronounced names, too. When I was growing up, people from certain neighborhoods had their own name system for bike parts:

freewheel: star
rim: frame
tubular tires: tubaliss tires
... more I can't remember.

I'm not kidding!
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Old 04-16-15, 12:35 PM
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Aw, come on, Tom, you can do better! There is not a single true misnomer on your list; they are all just oddities of nomenclature.

You want a misnomer? Okay, rake, according to the dictionary, refers to an inclination from the perpendicular. An angle, that is. So the rake of a fork is properly measured as an angle, so 72 degrees or whatever. Forks also have offset, which you could measure in centimeters or inches or whatever. To refer to that offset as the "rake," well, that is a misnomer.
Originally Posted by noglider
Fulcrum, a word Sturmey Archer misused to mean cable stop.
No, this is not a misnomer. Obviously a Bowden cable is not a lever, so calling part of the Bowden cable mechanism by the name of part of a lever mechanism is an analogy of sorts, but the purpose of the Sturmey Archer fulcrum is very much like the purpose of the fulcrum in a lever mechanism.

Originally Posted by noglider
Main triangle, which refers to the quadrilateral formed by the top tube, head tube, down tube and seat tube.
This is true on some bikes, but on some bikes it really is a triangle. And if you recognize that the "diamond frame" is formed from two triangles, then this is the main one.

Originally Posted by noglider
Rear triangle, which refers to the array of two seat stays, two chain stays, plus those rear fork ends or those things we sometimes call dropouts and then get chastised for calling them dropouts. The shape of the seat tube plus one seat stay plus one chain stay actually does make a triangle, but we use the term rear triangle to refer to the pair of these triangles as a single structure.
So it's a double triangle; but it's still a triangle, and it's in the rear. When we speak of the rear triangle we all know what we're speaking of. Do you have a better term for it?

Originally Posted by noglider
Handlebar: Do I put my pair of hands on a pair of handlebars, or am I putting them on my handlebar?
Your call. What's the confusion?

Originally Posted by noglider
Bottom bracket: In that film that Raleigh made in 1947, the speaker referred to all the lugs as brackets. The one where we put the crank was obviously the bottom bracket. But now, bottom bracket refers not to the bracket but to the bearing (cups, balls, and spindle) rather than the bracket.
So the term that once referred to a frame part now refers to the bearing set into that frame part. That bearing was previously called the "hanger." Whatever. The meaning of the term has shifted; that's the way language works.

Originally Posted by noglider
Bearing: a bearing is something that bears (weight). A headset is an example of a bearing. Most bearings we see are of the ball type, so they are ball bearings. We inaccurately call the little balls in the bearings "ball bearings" but they are actually bearing balls, i.e. balls for the bearings.
Eh.

Originally Posted by noglider
C: 700C is a series of tires, and it refers to the diameter of the bead. To specify a tire size, we often say 700x28C as if it is 700C tall and 28C wide. But it's really 700C x 28mm. C is not a measurement of distance!
Granted, the information contained in the term is not obvious; but it is very specific, and when you order a 700 x 28c tire you are ordering a specific size, as opposed to, say, a "26 inch tire."

Originally Posted by noglider
Fork: In the US, the fork is the steerer tube, possibly a fork crown, plus a left blade and a right blade. In the UK, this structure is called the forks. Both make a bit of sense. The bigger structure is like a two-prong fork. But a fork blade, with a tip for one end of the wheel axle, is also fork-like in its shape, because of the fork-shaped tip.
And your point ... is... what? Oh, I know, the individual pointy things on a table fork are called tines, while the pointy part of a table knife is called a blade. So the bicycle fork has tines, not blades. That's a misnomer, there.
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Old 04-16-15, 12:42 PM
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Maybe you guys can clear this up for me, with your historical perspective.

We have saddle and "seat post". Why isn't it "saddle post" and "saddle tube"? Same goes for "seat stay".

The pipe holding the saddle is "post", but the one on the fork is steerer "tube". Doesn't "steerer post" make more sense? For what reason "head tube"? Seems like steerer tube or "fork tube" since it's the tube that the fork post goes into.

Derailleur, or even Sheldon Brown's "de-railler" makes no sense. There is no rail, but there are cogs.
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Old 04-16-15, 12:47 PM
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Rudi, none of this needs to boost anyone's blood pressure. I am just musing at how language evolves in funny directions. Some of it irritates me, but not most of it. I might have thought that as we evolve, we would be become more accurate over time, so it's funny that in some ways, we become less accurate, and to understand a word, we have to learn layers of history behind the word.

My observations of our uses of the word triangle are not irritations at all, just curiosities.

Bottom bracket is one that does irritate me, and it's my fault more than anyone's. Newcomers to cycling might find it confusing to hear us speaking of a bracket that isn't a bracket at all.
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Old 04-16-15, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton
Derailleur, or even Sheldon Brown's "de-railler" makes no sense. There is no rail, but there are cogs.
Right. A train rides along rails, and can get derailed. A chain rides along cogs. It should get de-coged.
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Old 04-16-15, 01:04 PM
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Right, but "derail" is also a verb with meaning outside of train terminology. As in, this thread has become derailed.
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Old 04-16-15, 01:09 PM
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Old 04-16-15, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
Rudi, none of this needs to boost anyone's blood pressure.
Agreed! I forgot to add lots of smiley faces from my post.

As for derailleur, my French is weak and I don't know exactly what the word suggests in that language, but I do know it's a French word that we use in English to refer to a specific bike component. This is the beauty of English and I'm disappointed that St. Sheldon (peace be upon him) thought to anglicize it. We don't anglicize "kindergarten" and if we did, people would ask where the garden is. Not to derail this thread, though!
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Old 04-16-15, 01:12 PM
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Saddle vs seat. I like Sheldon's distinction between the two:

"You'll notice that I do call them "saddles," not "seats." There is a reason for this. A "seat" is something you sit on, and is designed to bear essentially your entire weight. Recumbent bicycles have "seats," but conventional upright bicycles have saddles. A saddle is intended to carry some, but not all of your weight. The rest of your weight is mainly carried by your legs, and some by your hands and arms."
-St. Sheldon, from: https://sheldonbrown.com/saddles.html

And then we have:
Saddle = leather suspended over a cantle plate/frame
Seat = everything else

Also, "shifter" vs "shift lever"

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Old 04-16-15, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
...people from certain neighborhoods had their own name system for bike parts:

freewheel: star
rim: frame
tubular tires: tubaliss tires
... more I can't remember.

I'm not kidding!
Figure 8 (pronounced "fig-YATE") = rear derailleur.
Sponges = Grab On foam grips.
Speed handles = safety levers.
Flettahs = reflectors.
Stretchers = bungee cords.


I always liked the German word for toeclips: Fusshaken (foot hooks).
And the Australian word for trouser clips: boyangs.
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Old 04-16-15, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Sir_Name
A "seat" is something you sit on, and is designed to bear essentially your entire weight. A saddle is intended to carry some, but not all of your weight.
Well put.

I worked as a bike mechanic last summer. A customer asked me to raise his chair. That was a first for me.
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Old 04-16-15, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by thumpism
Figure 8 (pronounced "fig-YATE") = rear derailleur.
Sponges = Grab On foam grips.
Speed handles = safety levers.
Flettahs = reflectors.
Stretchers = bungee cords.
These are great. Where did you hear them? I was in NYC. The terms I listed came from black people.
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Old 04-16-15, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
Well put.

I worked as a bike mechanic last summer. A customer asked me to raise his chair. That was a first for me.
Heh - chair. In drummer world we have drum stool/seat/throne, or the odd times you forget it at home and use a chair/bench/whatever you can manage.

Re the quote, that wording is Sheldon's, from his site. I'll edit to clarify. Agreed it is well said, just not me who said it.
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Old 04-16-15, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
These are great. Where did you hear them? I was in NYC. The terms I listed came from black people.
Working at a shop here in Richmond in the late '70s and early '80s. Similar source for the jargon, and the dudes loved them some 27" inch frames. Could not keep some Fuji and Panasonic models in stock, they sold so fast.

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Old 04-16-15, 01:29 PM
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I've always been bothered by the bottom bracket term as well.
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Old 04-16-15, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
Fulcrum, a word Sturmey Archer misused to mean cable stop.
At least they're consistent in that the band that holds the plastic sleeve in position is called a fulcrum clip.
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Old 04-16-15, 01:32 PM
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Old 04-16-15, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by thumpism
Working at a shop here in Richmond in the late '70s and early '80s. Similar source for the jargon, and the dudes loved them some 27" inch frames. Could not keep some Fujis and Panasonic models in stock, they sold so fast.
You and I must be the same age. I was born in 1961. And yes, there was a trend of buying much too big bikes! It was sometimes an effort to keep a respectful tone when people were making decisions I would recommend against.
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Old 04-16-15, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
I think stuff spins around an axle but a spindle spins inside of something. Or something like that. Or maybe it doesn't matter.
I agree, and to my way of thinking the thing in a pedal is an axle, since it stays stationary relative to the crank arm and the pedal rotates around it, but it seems like more people call it a spindle.
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Old 04-16-15, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by rhm
...You want a misnomer? Okay, rake, according to the dictionary, refers to an inclination from the perpendicular. An angle, that is. So the rake of a fork is properly measured as an angle, so 72 degrees or whatever. Forks also have offset, which you could measure in centimeters or inches or whatever. To refer to that offset as the "rake," well, that is a misnomer...

I agree here.

In the motorcycle industry they got it right. Rake has always been prescribed as the head tube angle off of vertical, so typically reads from ~32-degrees (for a cruiser or desert sled) down to ~24-degrees for a sport bike.

They publish "rake" and "trail", which is about all that you need to know. Fork offset is rarely altered by the owner, so the "trail" figure (measured the same as on bicycles) is sufficient to complete the picture in practical terms.

My beef is with the term "offset" as applied to bottom brackets.

While the industry universally uses this term to convey how much longer that the right end of the bb spindle protrudes further than the left end of the spindle, "offsetting" a symmetric spindle "4mm" in their terms only offsets the chainrings by an actual 2mm.
Much better imo to refer to "offset" as the distance of the spindle's center off of the bb shell's center.

Oh, the semantics!

There is also the occasional confusion surrounding the terms "upshift" and "downshift". Downshifting to me means going to a lower numerical or "easier" gear ratio, yet I often see this term used as meaning shifting to a smaller sprocket, whether front or rear.

And there is also the related "first position" freewheel cog, which traditionally is the smallest cog if you read up on freewheel building, but witch may not be intuitive or in agreement with the usual meaning of "first gear".

I might have to invent a term for the tire bead fit diameter of a wheel rim, which for hooked-bead rims is still the lower "shelf" diameter of the inside of the rim adjacent to the sidewall, even while the tire bead seats fully against the (more-)critical minor diameter of the rim sidewall's bead hook.
But the inside corner "shelf" diameter is crucial to realizing wire-beaded tire's pressure ratings, and today again it is critical for the seating and sealing of the new tubeless tires, just as it has been on automotive rims since tubeless tires became common there.
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