The Ultimate Cycling Lingo Guide
What’s one of the hardest things when it comes to cycling? Talking about it.
When you're cycling with other cyclists or watching an event on TV, it can be difficult to understand what people are saying, especially when some sentences can sound like a load of gibberish. But fear not. We’ve provided a glossary filled with cycling terminology you need to know, and after reading this, you’ll be an expert on all things cycling lingo.
Aerodynamic: a design of cycling equipment or a riding position that reduces wind resistance; aero for short.
Apex: the sharpest part of a turn where the transition from entering to exiting takes place.
Bibs: also called bib shorts, they are cycling shorts with suspenders designed using Lycra or mesh to be lightweight, breathable and comfortable on your shoulders. They are the choice of professional cyclists because of their exceptional comfort.
Bonk: a state of severe exhaustion caused mainly by the depletion of glycogen in the muscles because the rider has failed to eat or drink enough. Once it occurs, rest and high-carbohydrate foods are necessary for recovery.
Bpm: abbreviation for beats per minute in reference to heart rate.
Brakes: You know the things that make you stop? Well, there are a couple of variations you might need to know:
Rim brakes. These squeeze the rim of the wheel to slow.
Disc brakes. These sit at the centre of the wheel and stop the bike by squeezing a brake pad against a rotor mounted around the wheel hub. The left brake stops the front tire on the rim and the discs break, and the right brake stops the rear tire.
To stop, squeeze both brakes evenly. To slow, “feather” them by gently pulling and releasing repeatedly to “scrub” your speed. Never squeeze the left brake alone unless front flipping over the handlebars is your thing.
Bunny hop: a way to ride over obstacles such as rocks or logs in which both wheels leave the ground.
Cadence: the number of times during one minute that a pedal stroke is completed. Also called pedal rpm.
Cassette: Nope, it’s not a mixtape from the ’80s. The cassette is the set of sprockets (the pyramid-shaped set of gears) on the rear wheel. The chain moves up and down these gears to make riding easier or harder depending on your needs.
Catch air: when both wheels leave the ground, usually because of a rise or dip in the riding surface.
Chain: This is a loop of roller links that transfers power from the pedals to the rear wheel to propel the bike forward. If you drop your chain (i.e., if your chain slides off the gears), it’s easy to put back on, but be prepared to get your hands dirty. Chain lubricant will keep your chain in tip-top shape.
Chainrings: These circular metal discs with teeth are next to the pedals. Together they make up the crankset, which rotates the chain by the crank arms.
Chainring Tattoo: This refers to the grease mark some new cyclists get on their legs from accidentally bumping the chain. If you are not a fan of the temporary tattoo, some dish soap makeup remover can remove it.
Chain Suck: When the chain sticks to the chainring teeth during a downshift and gets drawn up and jammed between the small ring and the frame.
Chamois: pronounced like shammy, it's the pad found inside most cycling shorts that cushions, wicks and breathes to ensure comfort and protection. It also reduces friction and is seam-free to eliminate pressure points and chafing. Most are made of synthetic material, which often even includes antibacterial properties for additional protection and comfort.
Climb: Outdoors, this is an actual hill or mountain. Indoors, it’s when you crank up the resistance to simulate one.
Cog: A sprocket on the rear wheel’s cassette or freewheel.
Crank (or crankarm): This arm connects the pedals to the chainrings.
Drafting: This involves cycling behind another rider so they block the wind for you. Cyclists like to take advantage of this because it requires about 30 percent less energy. Drafting behind a vehicle is called “motorpacing.”
Derailleur: Pronounced ‘de-rail-yur’, this mechanism moves the chain from gear to gear whenever you shift. Depending on your bike, you may have zero, one, or two derailleurs. On most road bikes, there is a derailleur in front for the chainrings and one in the rear for the cassette.
Downshift: to shift to a lower gear, i.e. a larger cog or smaller chainring.
Endo: A crash that results in a rider going over the front handlebars.
Flat: This is a popped tire. But don’t fret: Flat tires happen to everyone, even world champions. This is why we recommend you carry a little bike repair kit, which includes a hand pump so you can inflate wherever you are.
Fork: Nope it’s not that one you use to eat with. It’s part of the frameset that holds the front wheel.
Frame: The frame is the bike’s backbone, connecting multiple parts of the bike. Often hollow and made of lightweight material, frames come in all different shapes and sizes. Your bike’s frame should fit you properly for efficient energy use, pedalling posture, and comfort.
Gears: Road bikes typically have two sets of these metal disks with teeth, one in the front (chainrings) and one in the back (cassette).
Hydrate: To drink. Do it often while cycling!
Jersey: A shirt made for cycling. Jerseys are often brightly coloured for visibility when riding. And they’re made of fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin to keep you dry and comfortable while pedalling. Usually, they have rear pockets for carrying energy snacks, tools and clothing you might need or have removed. And, they often have long zippers, which are great for cooling off on hot days.
The most well-known jerseys are from the Tour de France. The yellow jersey (for the overall race leader), the polka dot jersey (for the best climber), the green jersey (for the rider with the greatest number of stage points for sprinting), and the white jersey (for the best young rider under age 25).
And don’t forget about the rainbow jersey, worn by the reigning world champion.
Kit: A cycling jersey and shorts, typically with matching artwork, is called a kit.
LBS: A local bike shop.
Lid: Another word for ‘helmet’. It’s a cyclist’s most important piece of kit.
Lycra: A fabric that’s highly breathable, stretchy and comfortable. It’s widely used in cycling clothing because it fits so nicely and moves so well with the body when you’re riding. It’s also extremely durable.
Overtraining: deep-seated fatigue, both physical and mental, caused by training at an intensity or volume too great for adaptation.
Patch Kit: A kit for repairing punctures/flats. It usually comes in a small plastic box and includes patches, glue and sandpaper.
Pull Through: When a rider moves to the front of a paceline and takes his turn blocking the wind at the front
Pull Off: When a rider moves to one side of a paceline to allow another rider to pull through.
Rim: These are the hoop portion of the wheels that the tire fits onto, supported by the spokes. Historically made of wood, rims are now made of a variety of metals, alloys, or carbon fibre.
Road Rash: Also called a “raspberry,” “strawberry” or “bacon,” this is the painful scrape(s) suffered from crashing and sliding down the road.
Saddle: Also called a “seat,” this all-important device supports you and has a lot to do with how comfortable you are when riding.
Saddle Sores: Skin problems in the crotch area that develop from chafing caused by pedalling action. Believe us when we say saddle sores hurt!
Saddle Time: Time spent cycling.
Shifting: This is transitioning from one gear to another, allowing you to maintain a constant cadence despite changes in resistance or incline on the road or trail.
Singletrack: A narrow off-road trail that is only wide enough for bikes to ride in a single-file formation.
Skid-lid: Slang for a helmet.
Slipstream: The pocket of calmer air behind a moving rider. Also called drafting.
Soft-pedal: To rotate the pedals without actually applying power.
Spokes: These wire rods connect the centre of the wheel or hub to the outer edge or rim.
Switchback: A 90-degree or greater turn.
Tandem: A bicycle built for two riders.
Watt: A measurement of power produced. It tells how much force is applied to the pedals.