Bike parts seem to come at a real premium these days, because supply chain <word salad>, and global economic <word salad>, and pandemic-driven <word salad>. If you’re trying to get a new bike or put an old bike back together, you will know this, even without my trenchant economic analysis of the various factors word-salading your process.
You may need to rethink and reprioritize your purchases, and so here is a quick guide to the various parts of the bike and how important they are.
The absolute best bike part is the head tube. It holds the front wheel on, via the fork, and sometimes it has a metal badge on it, like an old-timey washing machine or an old West sheriff. Some lunatics will put the badge on the seat tube, because they’re hell bent on being different. I like to image the head tube staring that seat tube down and saying, “There’s not enough room on this frame for the both of us.” And then one of them murders the other, and you fall off your bike.
The head tube is the bike’s prow, its noble nose-in-the-wind, its schnoz, if you will. It keeps every ride from ending in a faceplant, rather than just some of them. If you’re very tall, your head tube broadcasts that at high volume. If you’re very short, your head tube will almost disappear, but still be very important. Like the most important.
Of course, the top tube is another really good bike part, but if you ride long enough you forge a complicated relationship with it, based on the potential harm it can do to your vulnerable and most easily-damaged human parts. Easy on those brakes, killer! Watch out for that bump!
The top tube often carries the model name, which is good if you wanna brag about how much money you spent on your bike, but is otherwise kind of a dumb thing. I suspect it’s really only there to add some visual component to the frame, which is, at the end of the day, just a couple of narrow triangles suspended in space.
And ok, the seat tube shouldn’t be left out of this totally and completely unabridged survey of bike parts, on account of it gives you a place to sit. I suppose we’re all standing more these days, what with the potentially fatal ergonomics of sitting, not to mention the advent of dropper posts, but I’d argue the seat tube is still a top 5 bike part, unless you’re a Softride aficionado, in which case the seat tube doesn’t even exist. Who needs it?!?!
I’m talking to no one here though. There are no Softride aficionados. Except Stevil.
Cripes, while we’re at it, we can’t forget the bottom bracket (shell), the “BB” for real insiders and close friends. I call it the “crank hole,” which is both technically accurate and mildly offensive. The BB is an important part, cause it lets you put pedals on your bike, which means you can make it go places, the bike that is, although if you’ve got legs like mine, the places you can go are more limited than you would hope, no matter how much energy you put into the ole crank hole.
The chainstays and seatstays hold the back wheel on the bike, so you’ll need some of those, unless you’re a unicyclist, in which case you only really need the seat tube and some Visine, so people who don’t see you riding won’t automatically know you’re high. If you have chainstays and seatstays, and so a two-wheeled bicycle, the Visine is optional, unless you’re also high from hanging out with unicyclists.
I guess that just leaves the down tube, the bass player of this particular band. Very few people appreciate the bass player, except other bass players. The down tube wishes it was the head tube. It’s always suggesting a down tube solo, but getting rejected by the other tubes. No one wants to hear that. This isn’t jazz for chrissakes!
So there you have it, a deep dive into the value of the various bike parts. I hope it helps you with your next bike project. Perhaps in a future review, I’ll give you the lowdown on some of the other stuff that makes a bike, like the gooseneck, the curvy horns, the rolly bits, and even a thing called the headset. Sounds so exotic!