Talk the Talk

If you’re not mechanically inclined or you just don’t have time to to work on your own bike, then the next best thing to do would be to take it to your local bike shop and have one of their mechanics work on your ride.

What’s great about a shop working on your bike is that they know what they’re doing and all you have to do is tell them whats wrong with it and you get it back in a few days.

The only problem with this notion…what if you don’t know what all those parts on your bike are called? Well you’re in luck, I found this chart that best explains it.

Mind you this chart was from the UK, yes they spell TIRE, TYRE.

Ok now that you’ve familiarized yourself with this chart, let’s brush up on your vocabulary and your mannerisms. First and foremost, don’t act like you’re too cool. When I worked at an LBS, I HATED it when guys would come in acting cool and pretending to know what their talking about. Oh, that’s another thing, don’t pretend to know everything about bikes. It doesn’t benefit you at all. Just be upfront and honest. They may ask if you tried to do the repairs yourself, if you did, just tell the truth. Shoot, they may show you how to do it the right way.

You’ll also have to learn how to mute the word “BRO” from your vocabulary. Bro is ok to use when you’re amongst friends. For example, Moe, he calls me Bro all the time. I don’t mind it at all. But I can’t stand if someone I barely know calls me BRO…”Hey BRO! Can you fix my bike, its acting up…” Bike Mechanics hate that term too, so don’t use it! In fact just get rid of that word completely. It’s totally out of place if your a white guy from Idaho and you come up to someone and say that, “Yeehaw BRO!” It just ain’t right.

Phew…now that I got that out of the way. Here are some common terms you’ll need to know to best describe your bike problems

True-It means your wheels are straight. But if yours are messed up, then you will tell the mechanic, “I need my wheel TRUED.” To fix this, they will have to remove your wheel from your bike and place it on a TRUING Stand. This service can run from $15-$25, depending on the shop.

Spongy-If you run hydraulic brakes, when you squeeze them, they feel soft. Another symptom would be that they don’t grab as hard.

-This basically means that you’re chain is not going into the right gear when you’re hitting your shifters. For example, you want to get on your granny gear in the rear, but when you hit the shifter, it goes to the second to the last gear.

Ghost Shifting
-While you’re riding, your gears are skipping from one gear to another on their own.

-Ok with this, you need to be specific with the complaint. Is it a creaking, rattling, or scraping noise? Is it coming from your pedals, seat post, saddle, headset or your knees?

Presta or Schrader Valve-There are two types of valves that can come with a bike. One is called Schrader, that’s the kind that looks like the one on your car. Then there’s a skinny kind like you would see on road bikes, that is called Presta.

SPD-This literally means Shimano Pedaling Dynamics. If you have to wear special shoes so you can be attached to your pedals, then you’re most likely using SPD pedals. Keep in mind there are other alternatives such as Crank Brothers, Time and Beebopabloo pedals that work the same way. If you are using regular pedals, then those can be called “platform” pedals.
Here’s a pic of a platform/SPD pedal.

Well that’s about it for now. These terms and guidelines should help you out the next time you go to the shop. One thing I’d like to add, a little bribery goes a long way. No, not cash, but goodies. LBS mechs love beer, food and cookies. This will ensure they will remember to do an excellent job on your bike. Trust me, it works!

About the author

RL Policar is an avid mountain biker and the Editor In-Chief of and Between the two sites, he's published well over 4,000 articles (and growing).