Cycling Jargon Buster – with thanks to Bikes Etc Magazine


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!


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.


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!


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


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).


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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.


The means by which cycling shoes attach to clipless pedals.

Clipless pedals

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


The lower curve of the handlebars.


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


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!


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


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.


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!


The top of the handlebars or brake levers.


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


French bike maker that invented the first clipless pedal.


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


A shout used when a bit of your bike fails!


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’.


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.


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


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


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.


A non-riding support member of a racing team.


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


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!


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.


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


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.


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

By joining the VCC and renewing your membership annually, you agree and understand the following:

  1. To abide by the Club Constitution;

  2. To ride in accordance with the club Riding Rules;

  3. To have and maintain appropriate third party insurance e.g. as provided by specialist suppliers such as British Cycling, Cycling UK, to cover them in the event of a claim by a third party;

  4. To consent to the Club using appropriate images of you for reasonable club purposes, typically promotional activities e.g. website, flyers etc.;

  5. To act in a manner to represent the club appropriately and not bring the club into disrepute;

  6. To comply with the disciplinary process of the club and respect any disciplinary actions taken (subject to the stated appeal procedure, see Club Constitution).

  7. That we are a club run by volunteers and that there is an expectation that you will contribute towards club activities in the course of each year; 

  8. That in some circumstances, significant out of pocket mileage expenses incurred for official club activities, can be claimed by individuals with the agreement off the Club Officer responsible for the activity.

  9. That we will collect and use personal information, including contact information and use this for the purposes of administrating the clubs activities. That the club will do this to the best of its ability in accordance with its Privacy Statement, respecting data protection requirements and will not unnecessarily disclose membership data;

  10. That in the event of a riding incident the committee and its officers reserve the right to investigate the incident, take action as required and disclose member information as it deems appropriate e.g. third party insurance, contact details etc.


VCC requires that you have Third Party Liability insurance when riding with the club.

What is Third Party Liability cover?

It is not bike insurance! Third Party Liability (also known as public or personal Liability) protects you as an individual against third party claims for personal injury or damage to property. 

Typically, it will cover

  • Incidents in which you are involved using your bike and which are alleged to have been your fault
  • Physical injury to third parties caused by your actions e.g. injury to a pedestrian or fellow cyclist
  • Damage to third party property caused by you e.g. damage to a parked car or another bike
  • Legal costs incurred in forming your defence.
  • Damages awarded against you following a successful claim by a third party.

The limits of indemnity will vary (£1M to £10M per incident) and just like Third Party motor insurance, it is a legal liability / negligence based policy and fault will need to be established for cover to apply.

Who provides it?

Cover can be purchased either from a specialist cycle insurance provider (through the various usual distribution channels) or via a cycling association such as British Cycling, where the third party insurance policy is provided as a benefit of membership. 

Why does the club insist on it?

Accidents happen, and in an increasingly litigious society it is essential for VCC members to purchase individual insurance protection for your cycling activities with the club.

Do the policies differ in extent of cover?


As with all insurance policies the extent of cover varies greatly and is subject to policy terms conditions and exceptions.

You should consider what type of cycling you are intending to do. Are you only attending club runs or do you participate in time trials and racing? Outside of the Club do you commute to work or attend mass participation events, sportives and triathlons? 

What the insurers are prepared to cover differs and you should ensure that all your activities are covered by the insurer you select.

You must check the exclusions too, for example 

  • British Cycling has a member to member exclusion which excludes the cover for timed events (including sportives and racing) when both parties to an accident are British Cycling members
  • LVRC excludes use for commuting to and from work.

Also, check whether an excess applies. Most policies have a nil excess but others will have an excess for Third Party Property Damage (damage to a parked car or another bike). For Velosure it is £500 and for the British Triathlon association it is £250.

This PDF provides a comparison of a selection of insurance providers and associations.

We hope you find this useful background information.

Can I rely on my household insurance?

A home policy has limitations; the cover might not include Third Party liability especially whilst racing. The home underwriter usually does not ask specific questions on the use of your bike and problems may arise in the event of a claim. The VCC recommends  that members arrange a specialist cycling Third Party Liability policy. 

Is wider cover available?

Yes. Most providers will also cover bike insurance and travel insurance too.

What should I buy?

It is up to you to arrange cover that meets your particular cycling needs. VCC is not able to advise or recommend any insurance policy.

Do I need to confirm I have placed or renewed cover?

As with any personal insurance it is your responsibility to arrange and maintain the appropriate cover. However, we do ask you to confirm who you have third party insurance cover with when you first join and on renewal each year.

Thank you, all received safe and sound.  

Please get in touch if you have any questions.