Meet your bike

This seminar is designed for kids who want to learn about bicycles. We’ll cover what the parts of the bicycle are called, basic mechanics, improving confidence, and safe riding.

The picture below labels all the main parts of a bicycle. First thing first: we have to learn how to talk about bicycles.

Al2 [CC BY 3.0 (]

Parts of the bicycle

  • Wheels and Tyres
    • Wheels are made up of hubs, spokes, and rims. The tyre is technically a separate part, but sometimes when we talk about a wheel we mean the tyre too. Keep your tyres inflated!
    • Hubs
      • The hubs are the part that spins. They have bearings, which help the hub spin smoothly. If the bearings are too tight, you might feel a grind when the wheel spins. If the bearings are too loose, you might feel a wobble in the wheel.
    • Spokes
      • The spokes hold the rim to the hub. They are under a lot of tension to make the wheel strong. When a spoke loses tension, the rim will move away from the spoke and you’ll see a wobble in the wheel. This might happen if you hit a kerb, for example.
    • Rims
      • The rim spins around the hub, and the tyre attaches to it. We want the rim to be a perfect circle, and we adjust the spokes to make this happen.
      • On some bikes, the rim is where the brakes make contact with the wheel. It’s important that this part of the wheel be clean and free of grease and oils.
  • Cranks and stuff
    • Often when we talk about the pedals, we mean the whole mechanism that spins around at the bottom of the bike. But really:
      • the pedals are attached to the cranks
      • the cranks are attached to the bottom bracket.
      • If you feel grinding when you pedal the bike, this might mean there’s a problem with the bottom bracket, where there are bearings, just like in the hubs.
  • Brakes and stuff
    • Brakes work by friction. All brakes, disc or otherwise, have a brake pad that rubs against some part of the wheel to slow it down. Rim brakes rub against the rim; disc brakes rub against a rotor.
    • The brake lever tightens the brake pad against the rim or rotor. It’s important that:
      • you don’t have to pull the lever too far to get the pads to contact the brake surface
      • the brake surface doesn’t rub against the brake pads.
  • Shifters and stuff
    • When you shift, you actually move the chain from one size gear to another. When you tighten the shifter, you make it easier to pedal; when you loosen the shifter, you make it harder to pedal — but you can go heaps faster!
    • If your bike doesn’t shift right, it all comes down to something being too tight or too loose.
  • Tubes
    • Head tube: the one the handlebars come out of.
    • Top tube: the one that goes from the handlebars to the seat.
    • Down tube: goes from the head tube to the cranks.
    • Seat tube: has the seat sticking out of it.
    • Bottom bracket: where the down tube and seat tube meet; the cranks go through here.
    • Seat stays: go from the top of the seat tube toward the rear wheel.
    • Chain stays: go from the bottom bracket toward the rear wheel.

How the parts work together

To get the bicycle moving, turn the pedals in a circle. This sounds really basic, but really think about it as you move your feet and legs. Don’t just push down on the pedals; think about moving in a circle. Trust me, it helps make things easier, and you’ll go faster!

Chain rings are gears attached to the cranks. You’ll have at least one. There’s a chain wrapped around that gear. The chain also wraps around a gear on the rear wheel called a cog. As you pedal, you transfer the energy from your legs to the back wheel, through the chain.

Shifting, braking, and controlling the front wheel all happen from the handlebars.

When you pedal (I mean crank), you can shift the chain from one gear to another, but you must be pedalling — not coasting — to make this happen! And don’t pedal backwards when you shift. Things can get ugly.

The thing that moves the chain from one cog to another is called the derailleur. Springs in the derailleur create tension on the chain so that it doesn’t flop around. As you shift, you add or remove tension on those springs.

If you see a hill coming up, shift in the tightening direction to make it easier to pedal. Also, as you come to a stop, it’s a good idea to shift into an easier gear for when you start back up.

When you’re going down a hill, shift in the loosening direction to get the bike to go faster. Only go as fast as you’re comfortable, and make sure you have a feeling for how long it will take you to stop!

When you want to slow down, squeeze a brake lever. When you squeeze the lever, the brake pads press against the part of the wheel that slows it down. If you squeeze really hard really fast, you might flip over the front or skid the back wheel. Avoid this.

Instead, get to know how it feels to squeeze the brake lever smoothly.

Confidence and safety

Wear a helmet!

Confidence comes from riding a lot and trying things out. It’s important to just get out there and ride and learn how your bicycle feels to ride.

Try out the brakes and get used to how they work.

Try out the shifters and get used to how they work.

Ride up some hills, then ride back down.

Ride to get somewhere. Give yourself a purpose. And I especially encourage that you ride to get ice cream!

While you’re riding, be aware that you’re hard to see. Make yourself as visible as possible around cars.

Always wait at roads and crossings.

Be sure there are no cars coming. Look right, look left, and look right again, then look left as you cross.

Scan around
behind you to the right,
ahead of you to the left.

If you see a car coming, wait until your path is clear.

Remember, as you cross a road, keep an eye to the left in case a car sneaks up on you. Stand up, if you can, while you cross a road; it makes you a bit easier to see.

Also remember that, if you’re riding on a footpath, you’ll probably be moving faster than people walking. Be polite. Announce when you’re approaching a pedestrian, or ring your bell! Say thank you as you pass.

Most importantly, HAVE FUN!