Frameset Meaning: What Is A Bike Frameset?

Photo of author
Written by
Last Updated:

The most important part of any bike, the frameset is the foundation of the bicycle.

Although we all know what the frame is, you might have heard people talking about a frameset, but what else is included in this?

There are a few different definitions of a frameset which can include different components. Different types of bikes, and different riding styles, are suited to different framesets.

The most common definition of a bicycle frameset includes only the frame of the bike and the front fork (including the steerer tube).

But what are the key differences between different types of bicycle framesets, and what should you be looking for in a frameset for your riding style?

We’ll answer all of this and more, covering:

  • What Is A Frameset?
  • Road Bike vs Gravel Bike vs Touring Bike Framesets
  • Different Types Of Road Bike Framesets
  • Mountain Bike Framesets
  • Frameset Sizes

Ready to learn all there is to know about framesets?

Let’s get started!

Bike Frameset Meaning: Title Image

What is a frameset?

The frameset is the core of your bike, the parts which hold you up, fit in the wheels, and bring everything together. Essentially, the frameset includes the frame and the forks.

Sometimes, the frameset also includes the seat post and the headset. The seat post fits into the seat tube, with the saddle itself fitting onto the seat post. The headset protrudes from the head tube (where the forks fit into the frame) and is where the stem fits to attach the handlebars.

A number of tubes make up the frame; the ratio of their sizes generally determines the bike’s geometry. These tubes include the top tube, the down tube, the seat tube, the chainstays, the headtube, and the seat stays.

The top tube runs between the seat post and the handlebars. The down tube runs from the handlebars to the bottom bracket.

The seat tube runs from the seat post to the bottom bracket. The chainstays and seat stays connect to either end of the seat tube and is where the back wheel fits onto the frame.

The ratio of lengths together with their widths determine the geometry of the frame. This generally varies to allow for different styles of riding, by accommodating different riding positions.

Different types of bikes, therefore, have different geometries. If you’re entering a road race, you’re going to need a different position and geometry than if you’re zooming over off-road terrains! This means that the framesets of gravel bikes, road bikes, touring bikes, mountain bikes, and hybrids all differ greatly.

Four bike framesets hang on the wall of a garage.

Road Bike vs touring bike Vs gravel framesets

These are bikes that can look, to an untrained eye, pretty similar.

Whether you own one of these types or you’re considering buying one of them, it’s useful to know the difference between the framesets so that you can be more informed on what you need for your specific use.

Road bike framesets

A cyclist on a black road bike rides through the countryside in summer.

Road bikes are built for speed, efficiency, and tight handling. Tricky sharp bends on mountain roads require high levels of agility when it comes to handling, and of course, speed and efficiency are high priorities if you’re entering a race. Road bikes prioritize the ability to ride very quickly on smooth surfaces over the ability to comfortably ride off-road.

Road bike framesets therefore accommodate a more aggressive, stretched-out riding position to improve aerodynamics and allow for optimum power from your legs. This is generally accomplished through lower handlebars, longer top tubes, and higher seat posts. This forces the rider into a less comfortable, but far more aerodynamic position.

They also tend to have narrower wheels. This makes a huge difference to the frameset since they are able to have lower clearance and thinner forks, allowing for less metal and a lighter frameset.

Gravel Framesets

A red gravel bike stands in a misty forest surrounded by fallen leaves.

Gravel bikes, on the other hand, are built for an entirely different purpose. They are also built for efficiency and speed but prioritize the flexibility of riding over rough surfaces more comfortably. This unlocks a whole new world of possible cycling routes for the rider, at the cost of going slightly slower on roads.

Gravel bike framesets tend to allow for a more comfortable, upright riding position, giving a more stable ride for off-road adventures. This is achieved through shorter and occasionally sloping top tubes, taller headsets, and lower seatposts.

In order to be able to ride over rough, off-road surfaces and give the rider the flexibility to ride considerably more routes, you need much thicker tires. For this reason, the forks in a gravel bike frameset tend to be wider set to allow for greater clearance over the tires.

In addition, they sometimes even have suspension to further the comfortability of riding on different terrains. Suspension allows for the ability to ride over extremely rough terrain without taking the brunt of the force on your wrists and backside!

Touring Bike Framesets

A bikepacker on a neon green touring bike frameset adjusts their brakes in front of a mountain.

Touring bikes do have some similarities with gravel bikes – and cyclists often use gravel bikes for bikepacking too.

One of these key differences is a clear prioritization of comfortability and stability over speed. They allow for incredibly long days in the saddle slogging through a diverse range of terrain.

Touring framesets are often considerably heavier, often due to the additional fittings and greater durability – and the fact that they’re often made of steel, which lends itself to the stresses of bike touring.

This seems a little counter-intuitive since if you’re on a bike tour, you’re going to be cycling a lot further, and dragging a heavier bike seems like a bizarre idea. But this is entirely necessary to be comfortable and to be able to carry all your stuff.

Another key difference is a far greater range of fittings on the frameset to allow for racks, mudguards, additional bottle holders, and bikepacking bags. This is essential since, if you’re carrying a lot of stuff, you generally want to keep the weight as low as possible, in order to retain a low center of gravity and improve stability.

Different Types of Road bike framesets

Depending on your use, you may want to consider choosing different framesets for your road bike. The first thing to consider is what sort of rides you are going to go on. Are you going to be riding long, 200 km rides? Are you going to be trying to ride short routes incredibly quickly? Or, are you planning on riding over huge mountain passes?

The answer to these questions will determine which type of bike frameset you should be looking for. Of course, these are questions you should ask after deciding that you’re going to want a road bike (if you want to prioritize going quickly and efficiently and your routes are well-surfaced).

Endurance Frameset

If you’re going to be riding extremely long routes regularly then it makes sense to get an endurance road frameset.

These are still, like any road bike, built for speed and efficiency. However, they’re generally better suited for long days exploring country roads. They allow for a slightly more relaxed and upright position with a shorter top tube, lower seat post, and taller headset.

So if you’re a casual rider who doesn’t mind quite as much about your aero, then you probably want to look for this geometry on your road bike frameset.

Racing Frameset

This is the best choice if you’re looking to prioritize pace on your rides: maybe you’re entering a competitive race or just trying to beat your own records.

These framesets, as you might expect, prioritize speed over all else. You get thinner tubing, shorter top tubes, higher-set seatposts, lower handlebars, and often internal cables. This forces an aggressive riding position when you’re racing, and angles your legs in such a way that they can produce the maximum power output.

These are extremely aerodynamic but substantially less comfortable for a very long ride. They’re also often made of carbon fiber which can drive up the price of your machine.

Mountain bike framesets

Mountain bikes have a completely different frameset design.

The geometry of mountain bike framesets is very different from that of a road bike. They typically have an extremely sloped top tube and a much shorter seat tube. This is to allow for greater clearance over the frame, so that during a jump or steep downhill section you’re able to shift your weight more effectively.

In addition, a mountain bike frameset will usually have some form of suspension. If there’s suspension only for the front wheel at the fork, it’s a hardtail mountain bike; if there’s suspension both on the front and back wheels, it’s a full-suspension mountain bike.

Frameset Sizes

You might be looking for a new bike but are unsure of what size you need. This is understandable, as it’s a complex process that’s dependent upon the ratio of your legs to torso, the type of bike you are buying, and your height.

If you’re looking to find the best size for your new bike, there are a ton of sizing guides online. Here’s one by Evans Cycles which is available for all types of bicycles.

Found this guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips Experts below!

Photo of author
Jack is an experienced cycling writer based in San Diego, California. Though he loves group rides on a road bike, his true passion is backcountry bikepacking trips. His greatest adventure so far has been cycling the length of the Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia, and the next bucket-list trip is already in the works. Jack has a collection of vintage steel racing bikes that he rides and painstakingly restores. The jewel in the crown is his Colnago Master X-Light.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.