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-- Sheldon (d. 2008), Harriet, John.
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Washer
A metal disc with a hole in the middle. There are several different types of washers used on bicycles, to serve different purposes:
Wedge bolt
Conventional handlebar stems use a long bolt running down the middle of the shaft to clamp the stem to the inside of the steerer. At the bottom of the stem shaft, this bolt screws into a special shaped nut. These nuts are of two different types:

stems

Each system has advantages and disadvantages: Note: Steerers are butted at the bottom, so the hole in the steerer is constant-diameter until near the bottom, then the walls taper inward in the butted section.

It is vitally important that the stem extender (or stem) not be inserted so far that the wedge is installed where the steerer is narrowing, or it could come loose unpredictably.

When this happens, only the edge/corner of the quill or wedge contacts the steerer, and it is trying to "grab" a slanted surface.

This is sometimes a problem on smaller frames if you try to insert the stem or a stem riser too far down into the steerer.

Stem Inserted Too Far

Illustration by Nicholas Flower

See also Hands Up! Adjusting Handlebar Height

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Wedgie
Disparaging term used by recumbent fans to describe a conventional upright bicycle.
Weight weenie
Disparaging term used to describe cyclists who reduce the weight of their bicycles by using lightweight and modified parts, often at the expense of utility and reliability. In the 1970s, it was common for weight weenies to drill holes in bicycle components ("drill them out"). The ultimate weight-weenie component is the drilled-out water bottle.
Weinmann
A noted manufacturer of rims and (formerly) brakes. Formerly, Weinmann was based in Belgium and Switzerland, but the current Weinmann company is U.S. based.
Welding
A process of joining similar metals by heating them so that they melt into one another. Compare to brazing.
Well
The deepest part of a rim between the flanges. To remove or replace the tire, it must be dropped into the well on one side, so the opposite side can be lifted over one of the flanges.
Westrick Rim
A colloquial name for Raleigh pattern rims. "Westrick" is a made-up word combining "Westwood" with "Endrick." Westwood rims were only for use with rod brakes; Endrick rims were only for use with caliper brakes, but Raleigh Pattern, a.k.a. "Westrick" rims can be used with either type.

They combine the raised (or dropped, depending how you look at it) center that keeps rod brake shoes free from the risk of hitting the spokes, with the flat sides required for rim brakes.

One excellent feature of Westrick rims is their parallel sidewalls, which allow a caliper brake to work more evenly if a rim is out of true. However, the hollow, steel sidewalls are easily deformed by curb and pothole impacts, and the chromed steel braking surfaces are very slippery when wet.

Westwood Rim
The old-fashioned type of rim usually seen on roadsters. Westwood rims have rounded sides, so they are not suitable for use with caliper brakes. They are designed to be used on bikes with rod brakes, where the brake shoes rub on the inside circumference of the rim. The Westwood profile has a ridge between the braking surfaces. The spoke holes are drilled into this ridge, and the ridge protects against the brake shoes hitting the nipples.

Westwood rims are most commonly seen in the 635 mm (28 x 1 1/2) size, but they were made in most of the middleweight British sizes.

Whatton Bars
Handlebars located below the seat of a U.S.S. recumbent.
Wheel
A hub, rim, and spokes all together; may also include the tire and tube.
Wheelbase
The distance from the center of the front wheel to the center of the rear wheel. In general, a bicycle with a longer wheelbase is more stable and comfortable; one with a shorter wheel base tends to be more manuverable. See: angles.
Wheel Goods
Bicycle/toy industry term referring to ride-on wheeled toys, such as scooters, little red wagons, pedal cars, etc.
Wheel-Retention Device
A device which keeps the front wheel of a bicycle from coming out of the fork if the axle nuts or quick release is loose. With axle nuts, the retention device is usually a washer under each axle nut, with a tab at one side that runs parallel to the axle and fits into a hole in the forkend. With a quick release, there have been three common types of retention device: the so-called "lawyer lips" on the forkend; tabbed washers like those used with axle nuts; or a pair of clips that pivot around special hub locknuts and attache to a peg on each fork blade. Only the clip type, invented by Schwinn engineer Frank Brilando and only used on Schwinn bicycles, prevents the wheel from coming off it the quick-release skewer breaks, and holds it securely enough that it can not wobble.
Wheel Sucker
A cyclist who drafts other cyclists without taking his or her share of pulling.

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Wheelie
A wheelie (short for "wheelstand") is the act of using a combination of pedal thrust and weight shifting to raise the front wheel into the air. A skillful freestyler can lift the front wheel high enough that the center of gravity moves over the rear wheel, then ride the bicycle as if it were a unicycle. The correct verb to describe the act of doing a wheelie is "pop". Wheelies often cause great stress on a bicycle's fork when the front wheel comes back down.

stoppieA "nose wheelie" results when the front brake is applied hard enough to cause the rear wheel to lift off. A controlled one is called a "stoppie" or "front wheelie." An uncontrolled one in which the cyclist goes over the handlebars is called an "endo" and may result in a "face plant."

Wheelie Bike
Also known as a "high-riser", "Stingray", "polo bike", "banana bike", "Chopper". The most horrible children's bikes ever made. Some who had them as children retain a sentimental attachment to them, so there is an active market in "collectible" wheelie bikes, but they were, in my considered opinion, an unmitigated disaster.

Early wheelie bikes were home-made by adapting a bike made for a small child for use by a larger child. A frame from a 20" wheel child's bike would be equipped with tall "ape hanger" handlebars and a "banana seat" which extended back over the rear wheel. The resulting weight distribution created a bicycle that would do a wheelie with the slightest effort.

The American bicycle industry, led by Schwinn with its "Stingray" and "Krate" models, jumped on this early '60's fad. Schwinn made a lot of short-term profit, but, I believe, the wheelie bike led to a serious long-term setback for the American bicycle industry.

Before the wheelie-bike craze, there was a well-established progression of frame sizes for growing children, from 16", to 20", to 24" and finally to 26" wheel bicycles. The wheelie bike killed the 24" bike market, because these bikes would sort-of fit children who should really have been riding on 24" wheels.

Wheelie bikes also greatly reinforced the idea that the bicycle was a child's toy, not a serious vehicle. Wheelie bikes were easy to do wheelies on, but their awkward riding position made them hellishly uncomfortable to actually ride more than a half-mile at a time.

Wheelie bikes in turn were killed by BMX bicycles, which are much more "rideable", but the 24" market never completely recovered.

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Whitworth
Sir Joseph Whitworth was one of the great inventors of the 19th century. He invented the milling machine, and was the first to manufacture all-metal machine tools. I believe that he was also connected with the Rudge bicycle company (later acquired by Raleigh).

He was also one of the first to establish a standardized set of screw threads and wrench sizes. Whitworth fasteners were used in British industry up until the late 1960's, when Britain adopted the metric system. The Whitworth system is now virtually extinct.

Whitworth fasteners used a 55 degree thread angle. The wrench sizes were confusingly marked, the wrenches are all larger than you would think. This is because the dimension given on a Whitworth wrench is the diameter of the bolt thread usual for that size wrench, rather than the size of the head. Some Whitworth wrenches even have two marked sizes, because the same head size is used with one coarse thread and a different-diameter fine thread.

Some of the smaller-sized Whitworth threads are interchangeable with S.A.E. threads.

Wishbone
Wishbone type frames have seatstays that do not run all the way up to the seat cluster. Instead, there is a single tube running from the seat cluster down to where the brake bridge would normally be. The seat stays come up and join this tube, much as the blades of a unicrown fork join the steerer. The advantage usually given for this type of construction is that it provides a more solid mounting for cantilever brake studs, since there is only a short length of narrow seatstay above the stud.
Wooden rims
In many ways, wood is an ideal material for bicycle rims, and most bicycles in the early part of the century were equipped with them. They are light, strong, and resilient. Wood rims are not suitable for "clincher" tires, but worked well for other types.

Wooden rims went out of style for road bicycles when rim brakes came in, but continued to be use on the track well into the '40's. They were eventually outlawed for competition because of their dangerous failure mode: When a highly-tensioned racing wheel with a metal rim was damaged, it would fold up, but it would stay together. Similar wood-rim wheels, when overstressed, would suddenly turn into a cloud of sharp, dangerous splinters.

Woods Valve
A type of valve very rarely seen in the U.S., which has a bottom similar to a Schrader and necks down to about the size of a Presta is the Woods valve, also known as the "Dunlop" valve. Woods valves were formerly popular in the British Isles and Asia. You can pump them up with a Presta pump.
Woods Schrader Presta
Woods valve Schrader valve Presta valve
Older versions work with rubber tubing and spit. If they don't hold air, you can unscrew the knurled ring that holds the valve core (the "Presta-sized" part) in place. You should see a short length of rubber tubing covering the inner part of the core. If the rubber tubing has deteriorated,, the valve won't work. Some patch kits include short lengths of replacement rubber tubing for this purpose. When installing new tubing, lubricate the valve core with spit before slipping the tubing in place.

Newer versions use a modern spring-loaded valve mechanism.

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Wrench
A tool for turning nuts or bolts. This term is not common in British usage, where the term "spanner" or "key" is generally preferred.

Wrenches are divided into two families:

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