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Cycling terms every newbie should know

16 November 2016

Cycling terms every newbie should know

Being a new cyclist can be an exciting, life-changing experience for those who get the bug. But there’s more to the sport than just riding; there’s a whole community of like minded people to get know, and even our own unique lingo to explore.

Some say that cycling can be an all-consuming sport. An addiction of the healthy kind; an obsession that transforms your body and mind in ways you could never have imagined. It’s an incredible hobby, and for those that are good enough to turn pro, it can even earn you fortunes. Cycling has given birth to an entire subculture of enthusiasts who love everything about being a cyclist, including the food and nutrition, the friendship and community, as well as the amazing opportunities to travel and see the world.

So it’s no wonder that we even have our own language. If you’re a newbie cyclist, we wholeheartedly welcome you to our clan. The best thing about our bunch is that we’re inclusive… of everyone. You don’t have to be a great cyclist, you just need to have a passion for this ride.

However, to get started, there are a few words and phrases you’ll have to brush up on if you want to keep up. ;)

Here are some cycling terms every newbie should know:

A Beasting : When your cycling colleagues make you work extra hard just to stay with them or keep pace.

Abandon: To quit in the middle of a race or competition.

Attack: A sudden acceleration to move ahead of the group, usually done by a solo cyclist.

Big Ringing it: Staying in the large ring on the front chainring and simply ‘going for it’. Normally a strong rider can do this.

Block: A tactical move where the rider(s) slow down at the front to cause other riders to slow down.

Bonk: Also known as ‘hitting the wall’. To suffer from exhaustion due to glycogen depletion, which can happen when cyclists don’t receive the right nutrition.

Broom Wagon: The official race vehicle that follows the last rider(s) to pick up any rider who has abandoned the race.

Breakaway: A rider(s) who left the group behind and is cycling ahead.

Cadence: This is the pedalling rate / number of revolutions per minute, otherwise known as RPM. Experienced or stronger riders will have a higher cadence than newbies.

Century: A hundred mile or km bike race - 100 miles is further than 100km!

Classics: One day race, normally taking place in spring or autumn such as Milan-San Remo, Gent, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Liege – Bastogne – Liege, Milano – Torino, Giro di Lombardia. Normally these races are extremely hard and long and riders need to be both physically and mentally strong.

Chaser: A rider attempting to catch up with a breakaway.

Dancing on the Pedals: To ride out of the saddle, usually on an incline.

DNF: Did Not Finish – says it all. Possible causes include a technical / mechanical fault or medical issue or just being knackered! Just a bad day in the office.

Domestique: A team rider who sacrifices his/her own performance to help another teammate.

Draft: To ride closely and directly behind your competitor, using them as a windbreak in order to conserve your own energy.

Drop: A rider who tails off at the back of a group of riders as they are no longer able to continue at the same level, or due to injury.

Echelon: A staggered rider formation to handle strong crosswinds, with cyclists positioned downwind for a diagonal effect.

Face Plant: To hit the ground face first – a loss of teeth may result in this action!

Full Gas: To go full gas: to go all out effort 100% - more of a continental phrase.

Gap: To put in some time or distance between a rider(s) and other riders/group.

Granny Gear: The lowest gear ratio possible, but often necessary for steep climbs.

Hammer: Hammering or ‘big ringing it’ is to pedal hard in big gears for a serious workout. A ‘hammerfest’ is when you’re doing this for an extended period of time.

Half Wheel: Dangerous and not recommended! When you’re riding behind someone and you let your front wheel creep up on the back wheel of their bike.

KOM: King of the Mountain – award for the ‘Best Climber’.

Lactic ‘Lactic Acid’: This is the burning sensation you feel in your legs, caused by heavy and prolonged exertion

Lapped: A rider who has fallen behind by one lap of a track, course etc and is caught.

LBS: Abbreviation for ‘Local Bike Shop’.

Off the Back: To be ‘blown off the back’ of the group is were a rider(s) can not keep pace with the main group. We’ve been there many a time!

Over Cook It: To go out too fast and get tired or totally wasted prior to the end. Also applies to taking a corner too quickly and coming off badly. Usually too much enthusiasm is the cause of this!

Pedalling Squares: When your legs are totally tired and instead of the smooth circular motion when pedalling it feels like you’re ‘pedalling squares’ to keep going.

Peloton: A large pack of riders in a road race. The benefits of cycling together include taking advantage of drafting to save energy.

Pinch Flat: When a puncture is caused by the tube inside the tyre getting stuck between tyre and the metal rim.

Prologue: Individual time trial before a stage race, used to sort out the wheat from the chaff and determine which rider wears the leaders jersey on the first stage.

PSI: Abbreviation for ‘Pounds Per Inch’, meaning the amount of air pressure in your tyre. How much depends on your body weight, tyre size and the type of terrain.

Pull: To ‘take the pull’ means you’re at the front of the group or peloton, and you will be working the hardest.

QOM: Queen of the Mountain – award for the ‘Best Climber’.

Road Rash: Post falling off your stead at any speed, you may have experienced Road Rash. This painful burn or skin abrasion is the result of friction between your epidermis and the road. Cleansing and treating with antiseptic is normally needed for this – ohhhh and it hurts like hell!

Rouleur: A rider who is normally smooth and can ride well on both flats and hills; they just roll on and on and on – basically, a good rider. We all know one of these riders in the group!

Slammed the Floor: Falling off your bike hard! Usually involving lots of pain and possibly ‘Road Rash’ (see Road Rash)

Slip Stream: This is the air behind another cyclist that breaks wind resistance when drafting.

Switchback: A tight, zigzag turn on the face of a mountain going either up or down hill – see our Sa Calobra Video for Mallorca.

The Hurt: Also known as ‘Bringing the Hurt’; a favourite of colleagues who are fitter than you and simply pile on the speed and pressure until your legs burn with lactic!

The Pain Cave: A gruelling physical workout intended to make you a better athlete. Usually done at home or the gym, and we call that place the "pain cave."

"If I want to get faster on the bike, I've gotta do my workout, so I am headed to the pain cave."

The Pain Train: Similar to ‘The Hurt’ and the ‘Pull’, but brought on by a group; a peloton who simply ratchet up the pace over time and distance until everyone is hurting and start to drop by the wayside.

The Nod: Riding towards or passing another cyclist and acknowledging them with a gentle nod of the head. Even better – say ‘Morning, Afternoon, Evening’ – it’s good to be nice!

To get the ‘Jump’: A quick acceleration that normally drops some riders and then develops into a sprint.

Wheel Sucker / Drafting: Someone who sits behind your wheel and drafts, thus saving their energy, but does not take their turn at the front to pack / peloton.


Now you’re in the know, keep this list handy – if nothing else, you can impress the rest of your cycling buddies when you stop pedalling long enough for a beer or two!

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