Bike Info
July 4, 2010 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Teach me about bicycles. What are the best online resources to learn about bicycles?

I really enjoy cycling and I'd like to make bicycles a bigger part of my life. I know some basic skills like how to change a flat and how to install new housing and cables.

I'm going to try and apply as a bike mechanic at a university bike shop (they only fix, they don't sell parts). This means that I don't have to be pro and they will give me a little basic training. Still, I want to read up and actually know the differences between certain brands and pricing differences. When I look at the craigslist bike section for instance, I have no idea what a "good deal" is.

I know of the more popular websites like Sheldon Brown, Bicycle Tutor, and the Park Tool site. I've read a few dozen of the BikeSnob's older entries as well. I also own the Zinn book. I don't need to become a bike snob per se, but I really want to be educated on this topic not only so that I can get the job, but I also want to build my own bike one day.

To recap, what I'm looking for:

- Differences/comparisons between bike brands
- What certain numbers mean (50cm this, 19" that,
- Resources that would at least gradually teach me what to look for in a bike or a craigslist listing


- history of bikes

posted by bluelight to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
The late, much lamented Sheldon Brown's site is the first place I go for general bike know-how.
posted by pharm at 2:18 PM on July 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Sheldon Brown has so much to read. Keep reading it!

He's kind of absurd, but I've grown fond of this guy on Ebay, BikeManForU:

He has lots of parts/tools/etc for sale. Click through his selection. Almost all of his items have videos showing you all about how to use them. The best part is, if you have questions you can call him.
posted by TurkishGolds at 2:28 PM on July 4, 2010

Tom Demerly at has a lot of good information about what 50cm this and 19" that means. Sample:

Steering Geometry for Tri Bikes
Bike Geometry
Seat Height
Cockpit Length
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:45 PM on July 4, 2010

Sorry, I meant to say Dan Empfield at

Tom Demerly ran/owned Bike Sport Michigan, and wrote great articles that broke down road and tri geometry issues, like this one.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:50 PM on July 4, 2010

For 2 and 3 of what you're looking for: Barnett's Manual (full text Scribd link or download link (I didn't upload either of these, by the way and for the record)).
posted by cog_nate at 4:26 PM on July 4, 2010

If you're looking for the fastest way to learn about bikes, all you have to do is talk to people. Bike people love to talk and teach about bikes. You will probably have trouble getting them to shut up. If you have a friend who's handy with a wrench, ask them for help the next time you want to tune up or fix your bike. If you don't have any knowledgeable friends, hang around in the bike shops in town and chat with the staff. The walls are lined with things to ask questions about. Some shops are friendlier than others, so don't get discouraged if a mechanic doesn't have time to talk.

It is important to ask specific questions. Anything along the lines of "what is the best ___" will get you a useless answer. There is no best frame brand. There's no best hub or tire or seat. There are only preferences, which you will develop after riding and fixing enough bikes. If you want to learn something useful, ask someone to show you how to overhaul a hub or tune a derailleur or adjust your brakes. Or go on the Park Tools site for some instructions and spend an afternoon figuring it out yourself. Five minutes of getting your hands dirty will teach you more than a week of reading websites. I learned most of what I know from fixing my bikes by myself in my living room. I bought tools as I needed them and now I have a pretty nice set that I am very familiar with.

Knowing how to spot a good deal just comes with time. There is no Kelley blue book for bikes. Some things can't be learned from the internet. Just keep riding and tinkering, and have patience.
posted by Bunge at 5:15 PM on July 4, 2010

This is a great forum for any specific technical questions you may have.
posted by jacobean at 5:19 PM on July 4, 2010

Best answer: I'm sorry if this is annoying, but does it have to be a website? There are SO MANY great books out there. The Park Tool website is great but their book is even handier.

Sheldon Brown's (R.I.P.) site is a spring of information. I can always always always find something new on it. Keep reading that one.

As for figuring out which brands are best, check out the Bike Forums. They'll school the crap out of ya.
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:20 PM on July 4, 2010

Best answer: See also the website for Rivendell Bicycles. Click the "Read" option at the top right for a pop-up of many options.
posted by 10ch at 6:31 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Repair and maintenance wise, Bicycle Tutor is a fantastic resource.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:56 AM on July 5, 2010

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