Cycling Jargon Buster – with thanks to Bikes Etc Magazine

Alleycats

Informal races usually held in cities, often organised by and for messengers. Various formats but often have checkpoints at start and then only revealed once the rider reaches the next one! So riders progressing around a city course. Not legal but popular around the world!

Audax

The British name for what the French call a randonnee or a brevet. These are essentially very long rides, typically hundreds of miles. Like the shorter Sportive, these rides are not races, rather a challenge within a set time limit.

Aero

A catch all term used for anything aerodynamic e.g. bike frames, wheels, helmets etc. Often look good but don’t always make much difference!

Bacon

An amusing term for the less than funny condition that is road rash - as it looks like streaky bacon!

Boot

An emergency, get you home, cover, inserted between inner tube and tyre wall to a cut in the tread or sidewall of a tyre (to prevent the inner tube blowing).

Bonk

A term used by cyclists for what marathon runners call ‘hitting the wall’. To bonk is caused by glycogen depletion.

Bottom Bracket

The assembly of bearings at the base of the main triangle of your bike frame, housing the spindle that joins the crank arms allowing you to turn the pedals freely. There are multiple e.g. over 3,000 different types of modern Bottom Bracket (BB). A pressfit BB is simply one in which bearings are housed in a metal or plastic cup and pressed into the shell, rather than screwed in.

Broom Wagon

The support vehicle that follows a race or ride, that sweeps up any bonked or mechanical failing riders.

Cadence

How fast the legs spin. Measured in revolutions per minute (RPM).

Cassette

The cluster of cogs (or sprockets) that sits on the hub of your back wheel, which your chain moves up and down depending on which gear you’ve chosen.

Century

A 100 mile ride. A metric century is 100km (62.137 miles).

Chaser

A slow rider in a race that is trying to catch the rider ahead.

Chainring

The metal ring with teeth that the pedals are fixed to.

Chainset

The combination of chainrings, crank arms and spindle joined to the chainring.

Chaingang

A small group of cyclists, usually in a single ‘pace line’, riding in the slipstream (drafting) of each other. As it’s easier to cycle in the pack (up to 40% less effort) riders take it in turns to lead. Turns are taken in rotation in a chain-like loop.

Cleats

The means by which cycling shoes attach to clipless pedals.

Clipless pedals

Pedals that you clip into, using cycling shoes with cleats.

Criterium

Aka a Crit. Short, fast races usually of less than 1 hour. Typically raced on city roads in a closed circuit (loop) of between 1 to 3km.

Cyclocross

Aka CX. An off-road race, often over muddy terrain with obstacles. Can also refer to the type of bike used, which often look like road bikes but with fatter, knobbly tyres and disc brakes.

Domestique

A rider whose job is to work for their team leader in a race. A tactical role, responsible for setting the pace for and defending a team’s top rider, as well as fetching bottles and food from the team’s support car.

Derailleur

Most bikes have two of these, front and rear. The front is positioned just above the chainrings, the rear just below the cassette. They are the mechanics that move the chain from gear to gear when shifting.

Drivetrain

The mechanics that convert leg spinning into forward motion. Includes pedals, chainset, cassette and chain, plus front and rear derailleurs.

Drops

The lower curve of the handlebars.

Easy

A shout that indicates the need to slow down and take care. 

Echelon

When riding in a group hit by a side wind, riders position behind and to the side of the rider in front to secure more shelter from the wind. The resulting formation is often a reminder of geese flying over head!

Endo

When a rider flips over their handlebars, head over heals (and bars!).

Fixie

Aka Track bike. A fixed gear bike that has a single speed and often no brakes. No freewheeling (coasting) and pedal backwards to stop!

False Flat

A low-gradient climb that appears in the course of a steeper climb. It may look easier but still requires effort!

Gear Inches

Early, penny-farthing style bikes, had large front wheels to achieve higher speeds. Then safety bicycles were invented, allowing multiple gears to be introduced.. Combining a big chainring (front) with a smaller sprocket on the rear wheel. A modern road bike with a 50T (tooth) chainring, paired with am 11T sprocket, is equivalent to having a 120-inch front wheel! You can work out the ‘gear inches’ of any combination by multiplying rear wheel diameter by the number of teeth on the chainring, divided by the number of teeth of the sprocket. Best to use a calculator!

Granny Ring

On a bike with 3 chainrings, this is the smallest, usually used in combination with the largest sprocket. This makes pedalling easier, which is the gear your granny would use!

Gravel bike

Aka Adventure bikes. Like a regular road bike but with chunkier tyres and disc brakes. Designed for more off-road exploits and rides on gravel tracks.

Grupetto

A large group of stragglers on a mountain stage, who join up to work together to finish within the time limit; so allowing them to ride the next stage of the race.

Half Wheel

When riding alongside someone on the front and allowing your front wheel to creep forward, forcing them to speed up. Not popular! Also used to describe overlapping your front wheel with the rear wheel of the rider in front. Again not popular!

Hoods

The top of the handlebars or brake levers.

Hole

A shout, regularly heard in Hertfordshire, indicating a pothole or obstruction in the road, to be avoided by those following you. 

Look

French bike maker that invented the first clipless pedal.

LSD

Long, steady (or slow) distances, a term used to describe lengthy training rides.

Mechanical

A shout used when a bit of your bike fails!

Peloton

A group of cyclists (French word for Platoon)

Pinch flat

When you hit a bump/hole in the road ‘pinching’ your inner tube between tyre and wheel rim causing a flat. Often leaves two closely spaced holes referred to as a ‘snakebite’.

Presta

A type of valve often found on high pressure inner tubes used on road bikes.

Quick release

A bolt lever that allows you to manually remove wheels or adjust your saddle height without the need for tools.

Rouleur

A rider considered a great all-rounder for a team. Can pump out the miles and do a good time trial too.

Schrader

The main alternative to Presta valves and commonly used on Mountain Bikes (MTB).

SPD

Shimano Pedalling Dynamics. A clipless pedal system with cleats that are easier to walk in as they are recessed in the shoe sole. Mainly used for MTB and Cyclocross where frequent dismounting is required. Works on road bikes too.

Soigneur

A non-riding support member of a racing team.

Souplesse

Used to describe a member of a race team whose style (smooth and graceful) is pleasing to the eye!

Steady

A shout to inform the front rider(s) to lower their pace a little e.g. 1 mph.

Tubeless tyres

A wheel system using air tight clincher tyres and liquid sealant, eliminating the need for inner tubes. Allows low tyre pressures without pinch flats. If something penetrates the tyre, the liquid quickly seals it. A bugger if you do get a puncture!

Thru-Axle

A wider diameter axle that screws into the frame dropouts (point where the wheel meets the frame). Stiffer but slower to remove than quick release.

UCI

Union Cycliste Internationale - the world governing body of cycle sport, based in Geneva.

Watt

The SI (System Internationale) unit of power or rate at which energy is used over time. In cycling watts per kilogram also takes the riders weight into consideration.

Zycling

The art of mindful cycling, taking a ‘zen’ approach, avoids punctures apparently!