The bike frame forms the main structure of a bike. From road bikes to commuter bikes, mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes, frames come in lots of different shapes and sizes to suit different styles of riding. Getting a good quality frame is a good starting point when buying a bike as many of the other parts and components can be adapted, upgraded and replaced over time without changing the frame itself. Make sure the frame gives you the best riding position for its intended use and get the right size for ultimate comfort and performance.
Bike brakes allow you to control your speed whilst cycling and also bring the bike to a complete halt, so making sure you have high quality working brakes is vital for your safety. Additionally, brakes can also aid performance on the bike; on the road you can vary your speed according to other cyclists and vehicles around you and if you’re on the trails you’ll need to modulate your braking to control the bike on tricky descents. There are four types of brakes; V-Brake, Cantilever, Calliper and Disk brakes. V-Brakes and Cantilever brakes are commonly used on commuter, trail and entry level mountain bikes. Calliper Brakes are popular on road bikes. Disk brakes are most often used on Mountain Bikes but are now starting to appear on Road Bikes too.
The chainset of your bike includes the cranks, bottom bracket and chainring. These components are fundamental to the drive chain which is essentially the engine, driving the bike forward. There are many different options when it comes to chainsets but the key to performance is to find a set up that suits your riding activities best.
The rear cassette determines the range of gears that you have on the bike. Made up of several sprockets of varying sizes, each cog will require a different level of pedal power with the larger sprockets providing easier gears and the smaller sprockets providing harder gears. Finding the optimum number and size of sprockets for your rear cassette can significantly improve your riding experience. The difference in size between the sprockets will also affect the jump between each of the gears so you need to decide how fine you want the changes to be.
Handlebars allow you to steer the bike, so it’s important that they provide you with control and confidence. Road bikes typically use narrow drop bars to provide better aerodynamic positioning on the bike when descending, commuter bikes have flat handlebars for a more upright position on the bike giving better visibility of the road ahead, and mountain bikes use wide riser handlebars to assist control around tight bends and over obstacles. If you want to reduce the weight of your bike, look out for featherlight carbon handlebars, but make sure they are still robust enough for your style of riding, in particular MTB handlebars need to take a bit of a pounding without compromising control of the bike.
A wheelset is simply a pair of bike wheels. Bike wheels are made from a range of materials including steel, stainless steel, aluminium, titanium and carbon. Wheels can be a very cost effective way of upgrading your bike, making it lighter, faster and more responsive. Take a look at our Guide to Wheelsets for more advice.