Cycling Terminology

Ever wondered what those skinny lycra-clad whippets are banging on about in the cafe? I’ve made a table of cycling terminology to help enlighten you.

29erA mountain bike with 29 inch wheels (700C).
650BA mountain bike with 27.5 inch wheels.
aeroAbbreviation for aerodynamic.
attackA quick acceleration away from another rider or a group of riders.
barsAbbreviation for handlebars.
beaterA bike that you ride a lot, don’t take care of and generally, abuse.
bermA banked section of mountain bike trail which enables the riders to take the corner faster.
bidonA cyclist’s water bottle.
bonkA term to describe the moment a cyclist has run out of glycogen stores. Runners know this as ‘hitting the wall’.
braze-onsAttachments to a bike frame that enable other components to be fitted (derailleurs, mudguards etc.). Referred to as braze-ons regardless of whether they have been brazed, welded, or glued on to the frame.
breakawayA group of riders riding ahead of the main peloton.
brommieA folding bicycle made by Brompton.
broom wagonThe support vehicle at the back of a bike race. Picks up riders who cannot continue.
bunchAnother word for the peloton.
bunny hopThe act of lifting both wheels off the ground, a trick often deployed to jump over an obstacle. Many roadies struggle with this.
cadenceThe speed of pedal revolution. The SI Unit is Revolutions Per Minute (RPM)
campagShort for component manufacturer Campagnolo.
cassetteThe group of cogs attached to the rear wheel freehub (only with derailleur gears).
chain gangA tough group training ride, at pace.
chapeauFrench word meaning ‘hat’. A term often used by cyclists to show respect for another rider’s efforts.
classicA prestigious one-day professional bike race.
cleatAn attachment to the sole of a cycling shoe that enables the shoe and pedal to fit together for ease of pedalling.
climberA rider who is proficient at cycling up hills.
clincherA tyre that attaches to a wheel rim via a thick bead on either side. When the tyre is inflated, the bead is forced against the rim ensuring it stays in position.
clip outThe act of disengaging the pedal and cleat. Should be completed BEFORE the rider comes to a stop.
cross chainingThis occurs when the chain is on the big ring at the front and the big cog at the back, or the small ring at the front and small cog at the back. Results in the line of the chain being ‘crossed’ from one side to the other. 
cyclocrossAlso known as CX or cross. A racing disipline where a short, off road circuit is completed in laps, and is usually under an hour in duration. Often incorporates obstacles where the rider may need to dismount in order to clear.
draftingCycling close behind another rider in order to benefit from their slipstream. This reduces the energy required to maintain that speed by approximately 30%.
derailleurName given to a drivetrain component that moves the chain across the cogs on a cassette.
domestiqueA french word for a rider whose job in the team is to work for others in the group.
drivetrainThe general term for the group of components that the chain is in contact with, including the chain itself.
dropsThe bottom portion of a road bike’s handlebars.
droppedIf you are dropped you are left behind by another cyclist or a group. Getting dropped is part of cycling and happens to us all.
echelonThe formation of single file cyclists diagonally across the road. Strong crosswinds are the cause of this effect.
flatA flat tyre.
fieldUsually describing the main group of riders in a race.
fillet brazingAn elegant method of making a bike frame. Bronze or silver based brazing rods are melted into the joint between tubes or ‘braze-ons’ to fuse them together. 
finishing kitA collective term used for the handlebar, stem and seatpost. Some people consider the saddle to be part of the finishing kit. I don’t.
fixieA bike with a fixed wheel gear (no freewheel).
flamme rougeThe flag placed at the point 1km from the end of a race or stage.
freehubA rear wheel component which enables the rider to coast.
freewheelThe act of coasting i.e. not pedalling.
full susserA full suspension bike. A bike with suspension of both the front and rear wheels.
G.C. Abbr. General Classification. The name given to the competition in a stage race that is dependent on overall time in the race. The rider with the shortest time is the winner. 
gear clusterThe cogs at the back of the bike. See cassette.
granny gearThe easiest gear on the bike, usually on a triple chainring bike. 
groupsetThe set of components relating to the drivetrain or braking of the bicycle. i.e. cranks, cassette, chain, derailleurs, bottom bracket, shifters, brake levers, cables, brake calipers etc.
hackA bike that is used and abused. Lots of use and not taken care of.
half-wheelingWhen a rider alongside you moves their wheel half a wheel length ahead of yours. When you move up to draw level, they do it again. Very annoying. Don’t be that person.
hand cycleA bicycle which is pedalled with the hands.
hammerTo ride hard. 
hardtailA bike with front suspension but no rear suspension.
hillclimbA short race uphill. Usually in a time trial format.
hoodsThe brake hoods on a road bike (usually the default position for the hands).
hooksThe middle portion (the bit furthest forward) of a road bike’s handlebars. In between the hoods and the drops.
hybridA bike that is a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike.
Intermediate sprintA point in a race or stage where points and/or other prizes are awarded to the first riders across the line.
LBSAcronym for ‘local bike shop’.
lidA helmet.
lubeA lubricant. In cycling this usually refers to the lubricant applied to the chain.
n + 1Equation to determine how many bikes one should own. In this equation n is defined as the number of bikes one currently owns.
n – 1Equation to determine how many bikes one should own. In this equation n is defined as the number of bikes that if owned, would result in divorce or separation from one’s partner.
pantographingThe practice of engraving or drilling components to make them lighter or more decorative.
pelotonThe largest group of riders in a bike race.
pinch flatA type of puncture caused by damage to the inner tube by ‘pinching’ between the wheel rim and a hard object (e.g. a curb).
prestaA valve often found on road bikes. There is an exposed knurled nut at the tip which must be undone to enable inflation of the tyre.
prologueA very short time trial stage used as the first stage of a stage race. 
pullA period of time on the front. Usually a harder effort than a turn.
pump trackA section of undulating mountain bike or BMX track where the rider generates and maintains speed by ‘pumping’ the bike into the dips.
puncheurA rider who specialises in short but steep climbs. Powerful sprinters for slower (uphill) sprints.
QRQuick Release. A skewer and cam lever type release mechanism for wheels and seat posts.
queen stageThe most prestigious stage of a multi-stage race.
recumbentA non-traditional bicycle where the rider is in a reclined position, with their feet in front of their body.
rigA bicycle. Only mountain bikers use this term. Only usually used to refer to mountain bikes.
rigidA mountain bike with no suspension.
road captainThe rider who is in charge of their team members in the race. This experienced person makes tactical decisions and issues instructions to other team members.
road furnitureAnything built in the road which causes an obstacle to a cyclist. E.g. traffic islands or road bumps.
road raceA race which takes place on the public highway and is usually longer than 1 hour.
roadieA cyclist whose prefers road cycling.
rock gardenA section of very rocky mountain bike trail.
rollersTraining equipment with rotating cylinders upon which the bike can be ridden. The front wheel also rotates meaning the rider must balance the bike, unlike with a turbo-trainer.
rouleurA rider who is strong on undulating roads or challenging conditions.
RPMRevolutions Per Minute. The unit of measurement of cadence.
schraederA ‘car type’ valve sometimes found on mountain bikes. There is a pin inside which must be depressed to enable inflation of the tyre.
shifterThe component which the rider uses to ‘shift’ from one gear to another.
singlespeedA bike with one gear and a freehub
singletrackA mountain bike trail wide enough for one rider only.
sit on/inA tactic for saving energy by riding in the slipstream of other riders.
soigneurFrench word for ‘healer’. A member of the team support crew responsible for various support tasks such as preparing race food, bottles and massages etc.
SPDShimano Pedal Dynamics. A type of pedal/cleat combination favoured by mountain bikers and cyclocross riders. The cleat can be recessed into the shoe which makes walking or running easier.
slipstreamThe wind-free pocket behind a rider when in motion. Wind resistance in this region is greatly reduced.
sprinterA rider who specialises in sprinting.
stageOne part of a multi-stage race.
steedA bicycle.
sticky bottleA racing technique where a rider returns to a team car to collect a bottle. Whilst being handed the bottle the rider keeps hold of it, and is dragged along by the car. Sometimes punished by race commissaires if the rider holds on for more than a couple of seconds.
stokerThe rider at the rear of a tandem bicycle.
tempoA pace of riding that is reasonably hard but consistent, at around 80% of max heart rate. The actual speed of tempo differs dependent on a rider’s ability.
tifosiItalian cycling fans.
time trialA bicycle race against the clock. Often referred to as  ‘the race of truth’.
topsThe top part of a road bikes handlebars. Caution advised – usually you cannot reach the brakes from this position.
track standThe impressive art of balancing a stationary bike.
tubelessTubeless tyres mount tightly to the wheel rim with no inner tube. The cavity has some gunky stuff added which not only seals the tyre on the rim, but will prevent the tyre from becoming flat if your tyre is punctured.
tubularTubular tyres are sealed tubes which are glued onto the rim. They are not easy to repair by the roadside so only generally used for racing.
turbo-trainerTraining equipment where the bikes back wheel spins a rotor providing resistance. The front wheel remains still and the bike is held in position meaning the rider does not have to balance.
turnA turn is a short period of work on the front of a group.
velodromeAn oval or circular purpose-built cycling track.
weight weenieA cyclist who is obsessed with the weight of their bike and components.
wheelsuckingThe act of sitting in the slipstream of others, or not contributing on the front the group.
workWork is riding at the front of a group of cyclists, so that they can benefit from your slipstream.

If you encounter anything missing from the cycling terminology table, please do get in touch. And if I don’t know I will find out! You can reach me at