Cycling Terms & Slang

Cycling Terms & Slang


ABA: The American Bicycle Association, US based BMX sports governing body. It is the largest sanctioning body in the United States concerning BMX.

adventure race: A multi-discipline team race that varies in length and distance from a few hours to several days. Involves multiple sports such as cycling, running, orienteering, boating, rappelling, etc.

aero: (Say: air - o) - Slang for aerodynamic, streamlined. Anything that helps a cyclist cheat his main opponent, the wind. Aero devices include handlebars, bullet-shaped helmets, even windshields.

aero handlebars: Handlebars or bolt-on (often called "clip-on") bars made for road riding that put you in a streamlined position for more speed with the same effort. These usually include elbow pads, which support your weight. The bars place your hands in front of the body, where they poke a hole in the air, which decreases wind resistance. Using aero bars and finding an aerodynamically optimum riding position are the best ways to reduce your time in time trials, triathlons, even centuries.

aero helmet: A special helmet with a streamlined shape to reduce wind drag and offer an advantage in races against the clock.

aerobic: (say: air - o - bick) - Cycling or exercising at a pace that allows breathing comfortably because you're getting enough oxygen. Think of it as a "conversational" pace. This intensity can be sustained for an extended period of time.

aerodynamic: Cycling equipment designed for or a riding position that reduces wind resistance; aero for short.

air: If you like to leap over obstacles or fly off ramps, this is what you're trying to put beneath your wheels, as in, "I got big air." Also, it's what you put in your tires and some suspension forks and shocks so you have nice, soft landings.

air shock: A suspension that uses air pressure as its spring medium.

all mountain: As in all-mountain bicycle, this means a bike or ride that encompasses all types of off-road terrain, climbs, descents, technical and jumping.

Allen wrench: A hexagonally shaped tool for turning the recessed bolts found on bicycles. There are L-shaped Allen wrenches, ones with screwdriver handles and ones with ball-ends so that you can turn bolts in tight spaces. Get a set for your toolbox and on-the-road/trail kit that includes at least 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm wrenches, and you'll be prepared to fix most things.

alloy: A blend of metals. Also slang for "aluminum."

Alpe d'Huez: A legendary Tour de France climb to the French ski station of the same name, Alpe d'Huez is renowned for its brutal steepness and 21 switchbacks, each bearing the name of a past Tour stage winner. The Alpe became the Tour’s first mountaintop finish when the then-unpaved climb was used in 1952. Fausto Coppi won the first stage to use the 8.6-mile, 7.9%-grade climb with a time of 45 minutes and 22 seconds. Now paved, debate remains as to who holds the record for the fastest ascent of the climber’s crown jewel. Marco Pantani is generally acknowledged to be the fastest at 37’35” with Lance Armstrong a close second at 37’36”.

aluminum: (Say: aloo - min - um) - A super-light, durable and affordable material that's widely used for bicycle frames and components.

anaerobic: (Say: an - air - o - bick) - Cycling or exercising at a pace that causes labored breathing because you're struggling to get enough oxygen. Obviously, you can't keep at it for long.

anatomic seat: Seats scientifically shaped to accommodate the body. There are models for women and men.

anchor bolt: The bolt on brakes and derailleurs that is tightened to hold the cable in place.

anodized: A finishing treatment for hardening and coloring aluminum.

anti-zipper ripple: Jerseys featuring the anti-zipper ripple technology will have a shorter cut front, allowing for a skintight fit in the riding position. Not only does the design prevents excess fabric bulging, and thereby reduce discomfort and chafing, it dramatically increases aerodynamics.

apex: The shortest distance through a turn.

apron: A bicycle track term that refers to the transition area just beneath the racing/riding surface of the track. Also referred to as the "cote d'azur" due to its blue color, it usually represents about 10% of the track's surface. It's not illegal to ride on the blue band but if you use it to get around another rider you'll be disqualified. Plus, it's dangerous to ride there as you're more likely to strike your pedal in the corners.

arm warmers: Sleeves for keeping your arms warm. They're easy to put on and remove and they easily fit in a jersey pocket.

Ashtabula crank: (Say: ash - ta - beau - la) - one-piece crank -- the crank arm starts on one side of the bike, bends to go through the bottom bracket, and bends again on the other side to go down to the other pedal. Typically heavy, cheap, and robust.

ATB: (Say: A - T - B) - For All Terrain Bike (another term for a mountain bike).

Attack: Trying to get away from the group in a race by accelerating hard.

audax: A cycling sport in which  a group of participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit, at a steady pace set by a road captain. Typically the group aims to cycle at 22.5 km/h.

auger: Or "auger in," this is slang for crashing, usually head- or shoulder-first.

autobus: This stage racing term (the Tour de France is the most famous stage race) is used for the group of racers riding near the back who work together to finish the stage just before the time limit expires.

Axle: The shaft that a wheel, pedal or crankset revolves on.



baby head: In mountain biking, this is a section of trail with loose rocks about the size of a baby's head.

bacon: Slang for scabs, cuts, scars and other scrapes and abrasions from crashing.

bail: To ditch (toss away) your bike before a crash, oftentimes done mid-flight during a jump. Or to give up on a ride because of bad weather coming in. (from climbing)

balaclava: A thin hood that covers the head and neck with an opening for the face. It’s worn under the helmet to prevent heat loss in cold or wet conditions.

balloon tire: A 26 x 2.125-inch tire with a tread pattern designed for road use. For example, the tires on most cruisers.

banana seat: a narrow, elongated bicycle seat that curves up toward the rear.

bank: a sloping hill, generally of grass or cement, that can be used to aid in the performance of tricks.

bar end shifters: A friction shifter (often referred to as downtube orbarend shifter) is a lever that moves up and down, pulling a gear cable and in effect changing your gears. There is nothing complex about frictionshifters.

bar ends: are extensions typically fitted to the ends of straight handlebars. They extend away from the handlebars and allow the rider to vary the type of grip and posture that they use during a ride. They are especially effective when climbing out of the saddle, because they increase leverage. Bar ends can also improve comfort for the rider due to the neutral position of the hands (palms inward) which places marginally less stress upon the musculature, and by providing more than one place to rest hands on a long journey.

bar plugs: Little caps that are pressed into/onto the ends of handlebars to seal them and for protection from puncture wounds should you crash and land on the bars.

bar(s): Short for handlebar(s).

bashguard: a device used on bicycles to protect components, usually the drivetrain, from damage in the case of a strike with an object, whether intentional or in a crash. There are two types, bashrings and bashplates.

bead(s): The edge inside a tire along each side’s inner circumference that fits into the rim.

bearings: Usually comprised of hardened-steel balls in some type of holder, these fit inside the hubs, pedals, bottom bracket, headset, sometimes derailleur pulleys, and often suspension frames to ensure parts turn with as little friction as possible.

beat: to ride with reckless disregard to one's equipment, well-being, and/or the ecology of the trail.

beater bike: a bike of such little value as to be able to beat on, or a bike that has suffered prolonged beating.

beef-it: When attempting to perform a critical task, one overdoes things and fails miserably but also humorously.

bell lap: In races with laps, like criteriums which typically race around city blocks, or cyclocross, which follows a fixed route, the bell lap is when the official at the starting line rings a bell. This is done either to signal a one-lap race within the race to contest a mid-race prime (the winner of that lap gets a prize), or as a signal that you're on the final lap and it's time to do your best to win.

berm: A small or large raised embankment that enables a corner to be taken at an exaggerated angle and therefore at higher speeds.

bibs: Also called bib shorts, they are cycling shorts with suspenders designed of Lycra or mesh to be lightweight, breathable and easy on your shoulders. They are the choice of professional cyclists because of their exceptional comfort.

biff: Slang for crash.

bike hooks: These inexpensive bike-storage devices are shaped like question marks with threaded ends and they're rubber coated. Screw one into a stud in the wall and hang your bike by the wheel to get it off the floor and keep it from falling over. Bike hooks make it easy and affordable to store several bicycles neatly in a tight space.

bike walk: A super-easy ride used to recover the day(s) after a hard race/event.

binder bolt: Another name for a pinch bolt, usually used to refer to the seat-post bolt. Bolt used to fasten a stem inside a steerer tube or a seat post inside a seat tube or a handlebar inside a stem.

bladder: The part of a hydration system that holds liquid. Bladders are made from polyurethane or similar materials, are often antimicrobial to fight germs and bacteria, and come in various sizes up to 100 fluid ounces.

blades: Also called "legs," these are the two parallel tubes that make up the lower part of the fork (the topmost tube is called the "steerer").

blocking: Legally impeding the progress of opposing riders to allow teammates a better chance of success.

blow up: To suddenly be unable to continue at the required pace due to overexertion.

BMX: Bicycle Moto Cross. A popular type of racing, trick riding and jumping usually done on 20-inch-wheel one-speed bikes.

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.

boot: A tire patch. A small piece of material used inside a tire to cover a cut in the tread or sidewall. Without it, the tube will push through and blow out. Almost anything can be used as a boot, even paper money and roadside trash.

bottom bracket: The part of the frame where the crankset is installed. Also, the axle, cups and bearings of a traditional crankset, or the axle, retainer rings and bearing cartridges of a sealed crankset.

box jump: A common feature found in skateparks, stunt demos and competitions. It consists of two ramps separated by a 10-foot "deck" (flat section) in the middle (top).

BPM: Beats Per Minute, as in how many times your heart beats in a minute. It's the basic measurement used in training with a heart-rate monitor.

brain bucket: Helmet.

brake booster: A horseshoe-shaped add-on sometimes used on older mountain-bike rim brakes to increase braking power by eliminating flex from the brake posts (what the brakes mount to).

brake bosses: Also called "brake posts," these are the studs on the frame that bicycle brakes mount to.

brake bridge: The small diameter tube on the frame that runs between the two seatstays and on road bikes, where a rear sidepull brake is mounted.

brake fade: Usually caused by wear or improper adjustment, this is when the brakes lose power while you're braking. Bad brake fade can be scary and dangerous.

brake pad: The piece of rubber inside the brake shoe that provides the stopping power when the brake is applied.

brake posts: Also called "brake bosses," these are the posts on the frame that bicycle brakes mount to.

brake shoe: This includes the brake pad and its holder and sometimes the hardware to hold it on the brake.

brakeset: A complete brake system; levers, calipers, cables.

braze-ons: Small fittings (also called "bosses") that are usually brazed on (a type of welding) to frames for holding parts of the bicycle such as the water bottle cages, pump, rack and fenders.

breakaway: A rider or group of riders that has escaped the pack.

brevet: (Say: bruh-vay) -  it is a long-distance event used to qualify riders for major randomness (see below) such as Paris-Brest-Paris. The typical brevet series has rides of 200, 300, 400 and 600 km.

bridge: To catch a rider or group that has broken away or opened a lead.

brifters: Slang for dual-function road bike levers that both brake and shift. Comprised of the "br" from brake and "ifters" from shifters.

brinelling: When a bike mechanic says a part is brinelled, it refers to components with bearings inside, like headsets or hubs. If they are brinelled, they've worn out over time and there's a pattern of dents in the bearing track.

broom wagon: The last vehicle in a race caravan, that "sweeps" the course and picks up crashed, broken-down and off-the-back riders who can't continue.

bunch: Or "the bunch," this is used to refer to the main group of riders sticking together in an event or race.

bunny-hop: A way to ride over obstacles such as rocks or potholes in which both wheels leave the ground.

bushing: A type of bearing that's essentially a sleeve (often made of nylon). They’re commonly used in telescopic suspension forks between the inner and outer legs to provide smooth fork action.

butted tubing: Bicycle frame tubes with variable wall thicknesses. Typically, the ends of the tubes, where stress is greatest, are thicker. This design saves weight while ensuring strength at the key stress points and weld (joint) zones. Butted frames usually offer a livelier ride, too.



cable cutter: A special tool for cutting brake and derailleur cables. A handy tool to have because bicycle cables have a nasty habit of fraying if you try to cut them with ordinary hand tools.

cable end: Also called a "cable cap," this is a small aluminum cap that's crimped onto the ends of cables to prevent the cable from fraying.

cadence: the number of times during one minute that a pedal stroke is completed. Also called pedal rpm.

cage: The part of the front derailleur the chain passes through. Also, that thing that holds your water bottle (or bidon in the UK), which is called a bottle cage.

calipers: That part of sidepull, centerpull and disc brakes that attaches to the frame and holds the brake shoes.

Campagnolo: A revered Italian manufacturer of road components and wheelsets. Founded by Tullio Campagnolo in 1933.

Campy: Slang for Campagnolo.

cantilever brakes: A type of brake comprised of two arms that bolt to posts attached to the frame and fork with a crossover cable that connect the two. Common on mountain and touring bikes.

captain: What the front person on a tandem (a bicycle built for two) is called.

caravan: The motorized "circus" that accompanies most major professional stage races and even some amateur events, the caravan is composed of officials' vehicles, motorcycle police, team cars, medical vans and photographers hanging precariously off the back of even more motorcycles.

cargo loading: A popular energy-boosting practice for the days before a race or event, where the cyclist consumes as many carbohydrates as possible to store fuel for the race. Most riders' favorite part of training.

carbon fiber: One of the lightest frame and component materials, carbon fiber (also called just carbon) is unique in that it's a fabric, not a metal. This allows gossamer weights, incredible strength and impressive frame/fork compliance (vibration damping) because the fibers can be oriented in myriad ways.

cartridge bearings: A bicycle-component bearing that is self contained and pressed in place. It's designed to be easier to replace when worn out. Sealed cartridge bearings have covers to keep dirt and grit from getting inside and contaminating the bearings and grease inside.

case: Not jumping the total distance of an obstacle and coming up short causing the rear wheel to tag the landing in an awkward, un-smooth style possibly resulting in a crash.

casing: The material that makes up tire sidewalls.

cassette: The cluster of gears on the rear wheel of a bicycle. A cassette differs from a freewheel (which is also a cluster of gears on the rear wheel) in that it fits onto a splined interface on the hub. Freewheels are screwed onto threaded hubs.

cassette hub: A hub on which the freewheeling (coasting) mechanism is built into the hub as contrasted with freewheel hubs on which the mechanism screws onto the hub.

Categories I, II, III, IV and V: Or Cat 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, these are designations used by the governing body of USA Cycling to rate racers' abilities and determine in which group they race. Cat I is the fastest ("Cat" is short for "Category"). Cat V is the entry level. You graduate to the next category by earning upgrade points racing in enough events, and/or placing in and winning races.

catch air: When both wheels leave the ground, usually because of a rise or dip in the riding surface.

century: Any 100-mile ride.

chain: Connects the crank and rear wheel so the bike goes when you pedal.

chain guide: An accessory usually on a bicycle with one chainring and derailleur gears, that is mounted over the chainring to keep the chain from dropping off. Often found on downhill bikes.

chain keeper: A small device that's usually attached to the frame to keep the chain from falling off the small front chainring when you shift onto it. This is sometimes an issue with compact cranksets that have a bigger difference in the chainring sizes.

chain slap: The tendency of the chain to move up and down and strike ("slap") the chainstay when you're riding over bumps.

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.

chain tensioner: A device that keeps the chain tight on singlespeed and one-speed bicycles that weren't specifically designed for a given chain length (those bikes don't require tensioners). There are many types. The most common ones are mounted at the rear axle or on the derailleur hanger. Axle-mounted tensioners typically use bolts to pull the rear wheel back and tension the chain, while derailleur-hanger tensioners use a sprung arm with a pulley.

chain tool: Also called a "rivet extractor," and a "chain breaker," this special tool drives pins in and out of the chain. It's used for installing, removing and repairing chains, and is a good tool to carry on long rides.

chain whip: This tool is a metal bar with a section of chain attached to the end. It’s used for removing cassettes and cogs.

chainring: Also called a "chainwheel," this is the sprocket(s) attached to the crank. Multiply the number of chainrings by the number of cogs (on the rear wheel) to determine the total number of gears on a bike. For example, some modern road bikes have 3 chainrings and 11 cogs for a total of 33 gears!

chainstay bridge: The short small-diameter frame tube that runs between and connects the chainstays.

chainstay guard: Anything applied to, or wrapped around the right chainstay to protect it from the chain, which has a tendency to strike that chainstay (and can ding the finish) when you ride over bumps.

chainstays: The twin smaller-diameter tubes on a bicycle frame that run from the bottom bracket to the rear axle. They’re called chainstays because they’re close to the chain.

chamois: The pad found inside most cycling shorts that cushions, wicks and breathes to ensure top comfort and protection. It also reduces friction and is seam-free to eliminate pressure points and chafing. Interestingly, the chamois was originally made of a thin leather just like the chamois you might use to dry your car. Today there are still leather ones but most are made of synthetic material, which often even includes antibacterial properties for additional protection and comfort.

chasers: Those who are trying to catch a group or a lead rider.

chunder: Loose trail debris, rocks, roots, etc.

circuit race: Usually a multi-lap road race around a course that exceeds one mile.

classic: Traditionally, a single-day European road race on the professional calendar. Examples include Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San-Remo and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

cleaned: Or "clean," this is slang for making it through a tricky section of trail without putting a foot down as in, "I cleaned Slickrock trail today."

cleats: The parts that are attached to the soles of cycling shoes that connect the shoes to the pedals for more efficient pedaling.

climb categories: Climb categories are used in the Tour de France to rate difficulty. Climbs are ranked on a scale of 1 to 3, with Category 1 being the most severe. Riders are awarded points toward the King of the Mountains competition based on two things: their order over the top and the climb's difficulty. The harder the climb, the more points are available. There is also a "beyond category" climb called the Hors Categorie (HC). Its extreme difficulty makes it a big factor in stage races because better climbers can pick up more points here and make up time on their rivals.

clincher tire: Tires that are held on rims by a mechanical fit between the edges of the tire and the edges of the rim. It’s the common tire found today on most mountain and road bikes.

clip-in, clip-out: (Or "click-in," "click-out") - To get in and out of clipless pedals.

clipless pedals: A popular way to attach your feet to the pedals for efficient pedaling is adding toe clips and straps, basically bolt-on cages and straps that form a harness to hold the feet. Another option is clipless pedals. Two parts make up the typical system, the pedal and the cleat. The pedal attaches to the crankarm, the cleat attaches to the shoe sole. Then, much like using ski bindings, you simply step on the pedals to click in and ride. To exit, you twist your heels sideways, which causes the pedals to release the cleats. Practice getting in and out before hitting the road or trail because it takes a little learning to get used to clipless pedals.

clydesdale: A large rider.

CO2 pump: The smallest bicycle pumps (they easily fit in a pocket), CO2s use pressurized cartridges to fill tires quickly. It's almost like having a compressor with you.

coaster brake: Also called a "foot brake," this brake is found on many children's bikes and one-speed cruisers. It's built into the rear hub and applied by backpedaling.

cockpit: An airplane or automobile term that is now sometimes (and confusingly) used for the parts making up the rider "compartment" on the bicycle, like the seat, seatpost, handlebars, stem and levers.

cog: Any sprocket on the rear hub.

coil-over shock: A type of shock on suspension bikes that's based on a coil spring.

comfort bike: A popular type of bicycle built mostly for recreational use and designed for optimum rider comfort with features such as soft seats, suspension seatposts, upright riding position and easy gearing.

compact crankset: A double-chainring crankset designed to provide easier gearing by using smaller chainrings than found on standard cranksets. These typically feature 39- and 53-tooth rings, while compacts usually have 34- and 50-tooth rings.

compact frame: Standard bicycle frames usually have top tubes that are parallel with the ground. Compact frames have sloping top tubes (lower at the seat tube). This can reduce frame weight, increase pedaling efficiency and speed handling. Compact and standard frames may fit riders differently.

components: The individual parts on your bike such as the derailleurs, brakes, crankset, pedals, seatpost, handlebars, etc.

composite: A frame tube or component comprised of more than one material. For example, a carbon composite includes carbon, aluminum and other elements.

compression: The part of suspension travel that loads the system such as striking a hole or when landing a jump.

computer: Also called a "cyclo-computer" or a "brain," this is a small handlebar-mounted device that measures current, average, maximum and top speed. Plus, trip distance, total distance and often other things (depending on the model) such as cadence, temperature, elevation, even heart rate.

cone: The piece that rests on the bearings in any component that includes bearings such as the headset, hub, pedals, bottom bracket and cassette. Usually this part is cone shaped, hence the name cone.

contact patch: The portion of a tire in touch with the ground.

coping: The top portion of the lip on a ramp or obstacle that is usually made of metal tubing, PVC pipe or rounded-off cement.

corncob: Also known as a "straight block," this is a cassette or freewheel on which every cog is one tooth larger than the preceding one (as you shift up the cassette to larger sprockets).

cotterless crank: All quality bikes today have cotterless cranks. The word cotterless comes from the word cotter, which is a type of pin that used to be the common way to attach the crankarms to the axle. Cotterless cranks in comparison have a tapered or splined hole in them that fits over a similarly shaped axle. There is no cotter, so these cranks are called "cotterless."

crankarm: There are two crankarms in a crankset. Pedals attach to the crankarms and chainrings are affixed to the right arm. Crankarms are available in lengths from about 165 to 180 mm (measured center-to-center from the pedal hole to the bottom bracket axle) to accommodate different-size riders. Bicycles typically are equipped with crankarms sized to match the person who fits that frame size.

crankarm bolt: The two bolts used to attach the crankarms to the bottom bracket axle. There are standard and Allen bolts.

crankset: Also called "cranks," this is the unit comprised of the crankarms, chainrings and chainring bolts.

criterium: Also called a "crit," this is a type of multi-lap road race held on a relatively short course often around a city block. It's an exciting venue because spectators can watch the riders come around lap after lap and get up close and personal on the difficult sections of the course such as the climbs and tight corners.

critical mass: This controversial, loosely organized monthly group ride takes place in large cities around the world, often during peak commuting hours. It's designed to promote cycling by reminding motorists that there are viable alternatives to driving.

cross training: Participating in other sports for training besides cycling, such as running, hiking, swimming, etc.

cross-country bike: An off-road bike designed to be ridden and/or raced over a mountainous course. Common features include low gearing, durable components, suspension and great handling.

cross-three spoking: A spoke pattern on which each spoke crosses three others, or two, or four.

crown: The part of a fork that the legs and steerer attach to.

cruiser: 1. A bicycle made for casual riding. Features include a large, comfy saddle, wide handlebars and fat tires for a soft, flat-free ride. 2. A BMX bike with 24- and sometimes 26-inch wheels, often preferred by taller riders or adjusts returning to the sport. Cruisers race in their own separate class.

cruiser seat: A wide, thickly padded seat, such as the type usually found on cruisers.

curb racing: Or "curb riding," this is a tactic used when there's a crosswind.

cyclo-computer : Also called a "computer" or "brain," this is a small handlebar-mounted device that measures current, average, maximum and top speed. Plus, trip distance, total distance and often other things (depending on the model) such as cadence, temperature, elevation, even heart rate.

cyclocross: A type of off-season bicycle racing (usually held October through January) around a loop course, which includes natural and man-made obstacles that force dismounting and running while carrying the bike.

cyclocross bike: A bicycle designed for the rigors of cyclocross racing with a light, responsive and rugged frame, fork and wheels, plus wide gearing, grippy tires and ample mud clearance. Cyclocross bicycles can be used for commuting, training, off-roading and training, too.



dab: Touching a foot to the ground to hold yourself up.

damping: How suspensions are controlled to get them to react to impacts the way you want. An un-damped suspension might provide too much springiness or too rapid action turning the bicycle into a dangerous bucking bronco. Damped correctly, a suspension will absorb the bumps predictably providing control and boosting your confidence.

dance: Standing and finding a nice rhythm on a climb.

death march: A ride that turns bad making it very difficult to finish.

degreaser: Also called "solvent," this is a spray or drip liquid that penetrates and cuts built-up grime and grease. It's great for cleaning drivetrain components.

derailleur: Also called a "shifter" or in England, a "mech," a derailleur is a mechanism that literally derails the chain moving it to another cog or chainring. There are rear and front derailleurs. The rear shifts the chain across the cogs. The front moves the chain between the chainrings. You must be pedaling to shift and it's best to use light pedal pressure when shifting.

derailleur hanger: Also called a dropout hanger, this is the tab beneath the right rear dropout (not all bikes have these), which the rear derailleur is screwed into.

derailleur pulleys: The small toothed wheels on the rear derailleur that carry the chain. The top one is called the "jockey pulley." It's responsible for moving the chain during shifting. The bottom pulley is called the "tension pulley." It creates tension on the chain to keep it taut during shifting.

detangler: Also called a "rotor," this is a component found on the front end of many BMX bikes and some freestyle mountain bikes that prevents the rear brake cable from tangling so that you can do easy bar spins and tailwhips (spinning the bars or bike 360 degrees). It splits the brake cable into two segments, which are joined at a rotor installed above, or attached to, the bike’s head tube. As the bars rotate, the top segment spins while the bottom stays stationary and full braking power is available at every point of the rotation.

dial or dial-in: To fine-tune your bike or components so everything works just right.

diamond frame: The name for conventional bicycle frames because they're shaped like a diamond when viewed from the side.

directeur sportif: French for "sport director," the directeur sportif is responsible for managing almost all logistical concerns of the racing team he/she is in charge of. At the highest levels of cycling, during races, the directeur sportif drives behind the peloton watching live race coverage on a dashboard-mounted TV and informs his team on proper race strategy via radio. He may also pass out drinks and help with medical or mechanical issues.

directional tires: Tires that feature tread patterns designed specifically for front or rear use. Usually, there are arrows on the sidewalls showing how to properly mount the tire. And most are front or rear specific.

direct-pull brake: Also called a "linear-pull brake," these are the most powerful type of rim brake. They feature long parallel arms (greater leverage), inflexible brake-pad mounts and short cable paths. They are common on mountain bikes.

dirt-jumping bike: Also called a "dirt-jumper," a type of BMX or mountain bike built tough for jumping and stunt riding.

disc brake: A type of brake system that uses discs (called rotors) that are attached to the wheel hubs and calipers attached to the frame that grip the rotors when the levers are squeezed. Discs provide maximum speed control and stopping power even in wet and muddy conditions. Plus, wheel damage won’t compromise braking the way it can with rim brakes since the rims are not relied upon for braking.

disc wheel: Used for an aerodynamic edge, mostly in individual races against the clock, like time trials and triathlons, these high-tech wheels feature closed construction making them disc-like and super slippery so they slice through the wind for free speed.

dish: This is a term that describes a condition found on rear wheels equipped with cogs. Because these take room on the hub's right side, the rim must be centered over the axle instead of the hub. This requires tightening the right-side spokes more than the lefts. If you look closely, you can see that the spokes on the right side are more perpendicular to the hub than the lefts, too. This is called "dish."

DNF: What you don't want to see next to your name after an event. It stands for Did Not Finish.

DNR: Short for Did Not Race. If you register for a bicycle race or a century ride and then for some reason can't be there to ride it, the officials will usually put DNR next to your name. DNS is also used, for Did Not Start.

DNS: Short for Did Not Start. If you register for a bicycle race or a century ride and then for some reason can't be there to ride it, the officials will usually put DNS next to your name. DNR is also used, for Did Not Race.

domestique: A racer who sacrifices his own chance of victory to help a teammate win. Tasks of a domestique may include: carrying extra bottles and food for fellow riders, chasing breakaway groups, and even giving their bikes to the designated team leader should he have a mechanical problem.

double: 1. Short for a double-chainring crankset. 2. A jump with a gap between the take-off and landing. 3. Short for double century (a 200-mile ride).

double century: A 200-mile road ride, usually completed in a day.

double-crown fork: A suspension fork that features two crowns, one above and one below the head tube. Usually, it's a long-travel fork and the additional crown reinforces the fork legs to improve suspension, control and handling at speed.

doubletrack: A dirt road overgrown with weeds, etc. so that there are two parallel tracks.

down tube: The frame tube that runs from the head tube to the bottom of the seat tube.

downhill bike: An off-road bike designed primarily for downhill use. Features include: long-travel suspension, rugged components and wheels and a long wheelbase for stability at speed.

downshift: To shift to a lower “easier” gear, i.e. a larger cog or smaller chainring.

down-tube shifters: Shift levers that attach to the bicycle frame down tube. Once standard on bikes, they're now rare.

drafting: To ride closely behind one or more fellow riders so that you are shielded from the wind (slipstream), thereby saving considerable energy. You use about 20-30 percent less energy Also called sitting in or wheelsucking.

drag: Aerodynamic forces that make you have to work harder and slow you down. In cycling, drag is the result of a number of things, including the wind speed and direction, plus the bicycle, equipment and clothing that all catch the air to some degree.

drivetrain: The components directly involved with making the rear wheel turn, i.e. the chain, crankset and cassette. Also called the power train.

drop-off: A ledge that forces you to either dismount and walk or sail off the lip.

dropout: On a bike frame, the slots into which the front and rear wheel axles fit. The usually crescent-shaped frame ends that the wheels fit into. Rear dropouts hold the rear wheel and front dropouts, found on the fork, hold the front wheel.

dropout hanger: Also called a derailleur hanger, this is the tab beneath the right rear dropout (not all bikes have these), which the rear derailleur is screwed into.

dropped: When you're not fit enough to ride with the group, you risk getting left behind, or "dropped."

dropped handlebars: Racing/touring style handlebars that feature compound bends and provide several comfortable hand positions. Also called "drop" handlebars.

dropper seatpost: A spring-loaded mountain-bike seatpost that can be lowered or raised while riding so that you can dial-in the perfect seat height for a given section of trail without having to stop and get off the bike.

drops: The lower part of a down-turned handlebar typically found on a road bike. The curved portions are called the hooks.

dry lube: Chain lubricants that don't attract grit and grime and are best suited to dry riding conditions. They often include paraffin.

dual slalom: An exciting mountain biking event where two racers compete on side-by-side downhill slalom courses.

dualie: Slang for a bicycle with dual suspension. Also called a "full suspension."

dual-suspension bike: A bicycle (usually designed for off-road use) with front and rear suspension.

duathlon: Also called "biathlon," this race is comprised of a cycling and running leg.

dustcap: The cover on components containing bearings. It keeps dirt and grit out so it can't contaminate the bearings. Dustcaps are found on hubs, pedals and sometimes crankarms.

dynamo: Another word for "generator," a dynamo is a device that produces electricity as you pedal to power your bicycle lights. Usually they are either attached to the bicycle frame and rub on the tire or they are incorporated into the front or rear hub and built into a wheel. As the wheel turns, electricity is generated.



eat it: Slang for crash.

e-bike: Short for "electric bike," these bicycles includes battery-powered electric motors. The more you pedal, the longer the battery lasts.

echelon: An echelon is a riding formation used by a group of cyclists when there's an oncoming side wind. Riders stagger themselves forming a diagonal line across the road to best find shelter from the wind, save energy and maintain their pace. Riding in this formation is called "echeloning."

elastomer: A compressible, rubber-like material used to absorb shock in some suspension systems.

endo: Slang for flipping over the handlebars and crashing.

energy bar: A nutritious bar eaten before, during and after riding to keep your energy up and speed recovery.

energy drink: Any liquid designed specifically for cycling. It should include the sugars and minerals needed to replace what's lost through exercise.

energy gel: A food carried and eaten on rides for energy. It's the consistency of pudding and tastes like cake frosting. It's more quickly metabolized by the body than bars because you don't have to chew it.

epic ride: Also "epic," this is any ride that turns into a memorable adventure, or one you'd like to forget!

ergometer: A stationary, bicycle-like device with adjustable pedal resistance used in physiological testing or for indoor training.



50-50: Coming up short on a landing of a jump so that the rider essentially lands on their bottom bracket. This is unsightly, uncomfortable and can ruin the landing.

faceplant: Slang for a bicycle accident that results in your face hitting the pavement.

fakie: Riding backwards.

false flat: 1. A surprisingly difficult section of road that looks flat but is actually slightly uphill. Usually, no matter how hard you pedal you go way slower than you think you should be going. 2. A stretch on a long hill that looks flat and tricks you into thinking you've reached the top when there's still more climbing to come.

fan: As in "fan the pedals," this term describes a rapid pedal cadence (your pedaling speed).

fat bike: Not to be confused with "fat-tire bikes," which is a moniker for mountain bikes, fat bikes are a new type of all-terrain bicycle that feature super-wide frames, wheels and tires (often over 4 inches wide), that make it possible to ride over snow and sand with ease.

feed zone: A designated area on a racecourse where managers hand food to their racers as they pass.

fenders: Also called "mudguards," these mount over the wheels to keep water and muck from spraying all over you while you're riding on rainy days or on muddy trails.

ferrules: Metal or plastic caps that fit on the ends of cable housing. There are several types. Some are used to provide a perfect fit between the housing and stops the housing fit into on the frame. Others customize the end of the housing to fit in the brake and shift levers (but ferrules aren't used on certain components so always read the directions to be sure).

field: Or "the field," this is used to refer to the main group of riders sticking together in an event or race.

field sprint: The dash for the finish line by the main group of riders.

fireroad: A dirt road; called a "fireroad" because it's used by the fire department to reach wilderness fires.

fishtail: when the rear end locks and slides about behind you. Occurs during strong braking on loose terrain.

fixed gear: A one-speed bicycle (usually used on the track or road) that has no provision for coasting. You must keep pedaling when the bicycle is moving and your feet are on the pedals.

fixie: Although there are different designs, most fixie bicycles are among the simplest two-wheelers on the road and trail. They're usually comprised of a frame, wheels, bars, stem, seat, seatpost, crankset, pedals and chain. There are no derailleurs and often no visible brakes (you slow/stop by holding back on the pedals).

flair: A back flip combined with a 180-degree spin in which the rider lands riding forward going back in the direction from which he came, often done in a half-pipe or on a tall vert lip.

flange: What the spokes fit into on hubs.

flat bar: A handlebar that does not have any rise or drop. Flat bars are typically found on mountain bikes designed for cross-country riding and road-style hybrid bicycles.

flex: Often used in describing the feel of a bicycle frame. Ideally, frames will flex just enough to provide some comfort but not so much you lose pedaling efficiency.

floor pump: A bicycle inflator for home use (versus the one you carry on your bicycle). The best floor pumps have built-in gauges making it easy to check tire pressure.

fluid trainer: A device for riding indoors comprised of a stand that holds the bicycle upright, which includes a resistance unit that simulates the feel of outdoor riding. It's called a "fluid" trainer because the resistance unit uses a fan immersed in fluid (usually oil) to create the drag.

folding bike: A bicycle with a folding frame and components that make it easy to collapse the bike into a tiny package for storage and portability.

folding tire: These tires feature beads made of Kevlar, a flexible fabric, which allows folding the tire flat for easy storage and portability. It also makes the tire lighter for better acceleration and handling.

foot brake: Another name for a "coaster brake," a type of bicycle brake that's built into the rear wheel of children's bikes and cruisers and actuated by pushing backwards on a pedal.

forcing the pace: Riding faster that your cycling companions want to.

fork: The part of the frame that holds the front wheel and that is turned to steer.

fork block: A device that can be attached to the bed or liner of a pick-up or van (many other places, too) for transporting your bike. It consists of a T-shaped block with a quick-release skewer running through it. You remove your bike's front wheel and clamp the fork into the fork block to mount your bike in the pick-up. Fork blocks can also be used for indoor bicycle storage.

fork crown: The part of a fork that the legs and steerer attach to.

frame: The frame is what the bicycle parts attach to. It does not include a fork.

frame-fit pump: A type of pump that's held onto the bicycle without clips or straps. Spring pressure holds it in place beside a frame tube.

frameset: The foundation of every bicycle, it's comprised of a complete frame and fork.

freehub: The barrel-shaped and splined part found on the drive side of a rear-wheel cassette hub. The freehub contains the mechanism that drives the bicycle when you pedal. The cassette (cluster of gears) slides onto and is attached to the freehub so you can't see the freehub until the gears are removed.

freeride bike: An off-road bike designed for technical trail riding, downhilling and general all-around use. Features include: long-travel dual suspension, beefy components, easy gearing and great brakes.

freestyle bike: A type of BMX bicycle designed for stunt riding on the street.

freewheel: A cluster of cogs that's screwed onto the rear wheel. It includes the bearings and drive mechanism. "Freewheel" also means to "coast." Note that a "cassette" is also a cluster of gears on the rear wheel. But a cassette slips onto the splines on a cassette hub and does not include the bearings and drive mechanism (they're part of the cassette hub in a piece called the "freehub").

front triangle: Also called the "main triangle," this is the part of the frame made up of the top tube, head tube, down  tube and seat tube.

full-face helmet: A skid lid that offers more head protection than conventional bicycle helmets by including a reinforcing piece(s) that covers your lower face. It provides additional protection and is often used for downhill runs and extreme riding.

fun box: A four-sided box jump with a ramp on every side. A common feature in skateparks.



gap: 1. The distance between groups of riders or a breakaway and the pack in a race. 2. The space between jumps or ramps, often where riders throw tricks while airborne.

gear: The chain/sprocket mechanism that makes the bicycle go when you pedal. Also, commonly used to mean "equipment”.

gear ratio: This is used to compare gearing. For example, on a road bike with 18 gears, there are 2 chainrings and 9 cogs. To check the gearing, count the teeth on the cogs and chainrings and create a chart with the rings on top and the cogs on the side. Then, to calculate each gear ratio, divide the chainring by the cog and multiply by 27 (rear wheel diameter). Put the numbers in the chart so you can compare and understand. The larger the number, the harder it is to pedal the gear. By comparing the numbers, it's possible to find overlapping gears and gaps that you might want to change to improve the gear ratios.

gearing: The range of gears on a multi-speed bicycle.

gel: A pressure-eliminating anti-friction material found inside seats (sometimes found in handlebar grips and cycling shorts, too) to cushion and protect your body.

General Classification: General Classification (or GC), is used in stage racing for the current overall rider standings. Since stage races are comprised of multiple races, there are results for each race and also results for each rider's cumulative time for all stages. The person with the lowest time overall after all the races is first on GC and the winner of the race.

generator: A device that usually attaches to the bicycle frame and rubs against the tire to produce electricity to illuminate your lighting system via pedal power rather than batteries.

geometry: Geometry is the key technical description of a bicycle frame that helps you understand how the frame will fit and ride. Usually it's provided on a chart with an illustration making it easy to understand which measurement is which. Common geometry measurements include: seat-, top-tube, chainstay and wheelbase lengths; head- and seat-tube angles; fork rake and trail measurements; bottom-bracket height; and often more.

glueless patches: A type of patch that includes a sticky adhesive so it's unnecessary to apply glue to the tube (required with other patch kits).

granny gear: A small chainring on the inside of a triple crankset. It's called a "granny" because it provides a gear easy enough for Granny to pedal up steep hills.

grease: A bicycle lubricant that's used for components, which include ball bearings, such as the hubs, bottom bracket, headset and pedals. Grease is the consistency of pudding, so it stays put and lasts a while.

grind: A BMX term for sliding along the edge of an object such as a handrail with only the axle pegs in contact.

grips: The rubber or vinyl "covers" placed on the ends of upright handlebars. Besides making it more comfortable to hold onto the bars, they cover the ends, which prevents puncture wounds should you fall and land on the bar end.

grom: Short for "grommet," and used in other sports too, a "grom" is any young, up-and-coming rider, usually under 15 years-old, who may already possess considerable skill.

group: 1. Or "the group," this is used to refer to the main group of riders sticking together in an event or race. 2. Sometimes called "groupo," this is a complete set of bicycle components. A group usually includes: hubs, crankset, bottom bracket, derailleurs, shift levers, brakes, headset and sometimes the seatpost. Wheels are sold separately.

group ride: Rides with more than one person, usually a lot more. Before joining an established group ride find out what type it is so you go on one that you'll like. Some are conversational and fun, others are hard-core training rides designed to simulate tough, race conditions.

Gyro: An ingenious inline brake-cable device, usually installed on the headset (steering mechanism) of freestyle BMX bikes, that makes it possible to spin the handlebars and front wheel 360 degrees without tangling the cables.


half-wheel: Riding so that about half of your front wheel remains ahead of your friend's. Every time he tries to pull up next to you, you inch slightly ahead again.

hammer: To push the pace, ride hard. To ride strongly in big gears.

hand cycle: A bicycle or tricycle that's pedaled by hand, usually with a special crankset/pedal arrangement located in front of the rider.

handlebar-end shifters: Shift levers that attach to the ends of the handlebars.

hanging in: This is what you do when you're tired on a group ride, but keep trying and manage to stick to the back of the group.

hardpack: A hard-packed trail.

hardtail: A mountain bike that has a rigid frame equipped with a front suspension.

headset: The bearing mechanism attached to the head tube and fork that makes it possible to steer. It's comprised of a fork race that's pressed onto the fork crown, two cups that press into the head tube, bearings and a top cone, spacers and a top nut, clamp or stem (the stem locks the adjustment on threadless headsets).

head tube: The frame tube that the fork fits into.

hitch rack: Also called a "receiver rack," this is a rack for carrying bicycles that mounts to a trailer hitch on the vehicle.

holeshot: First used in motorcycling and then BMX, "getting the holeshot," is when you get a great start in a race and are the first person through the first turn.

honk: 1) to vomit due to cycling exertion. 2) to grab hard on the bar ends while climbing to increase torque and traction on the rear wheel.

hooks: The side curved parts of dropped handlebars where you rest your hands to be in an aerodynamic body position while being able to easily reach the levers.

horizontal dropouts: A dropout is the part of the frame that holds the wheel. Horizontal dropouts are rear dropouts long enough and oriented to allow some fore/aft adjustment of the rear wheel.

housing: What the brake and derailleur cables pass through on their way to the brakes and derailleurs.

hub: The centermost part of a wheel. The part the spokes attach to and the part that includes the axle or quick release, which attach the wheel to the bicycle.

hub gears: Also called "hub gearing," or "internally geared hubs" these rear hubs (the centermost part of the wheel) have the gearing system inside. Small "planetary gears" hidden inside the hub change position as you operate the control lever to shift and this makes it easier or harder to pedal.

huck: To attempt a jump with little forethought or concern about the outcome.

hybrid: A bike that combines features of road and mountain bikes. Also called a cross bike.

hydration system: A pack or container worn on the back or waist (or attached to the bike) that carries liquid and features a hose that makes sipping easy.

hydraulic brake: A brake system that utilizes liquid instead of cables for actuation.



IMBA: International Mountain Bicycling Association

in-mold construction: Found in helmets, this means that the hard-plastic cover (the painted part) is actually molded to the helmet's liner, not simply taped in place. It's a more durable form of helmet construction.

internally geared hub: Also called "hub gearing" or "hub gears," these rear hubs (the centermost part of the wheel) have the gearing system inside.

interval training: An intense type of workout excellent for building strength, where you go hard for a set distance, pedal easily to recover, and then repeat the hard/easy efforts a number of times.



jam: To push the pace. A period of hard, fast riding.

jersey: A shirt made for cycling. Jerseys are often brightly colored for visibility when riding. And they're made of fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin to keep you dry and comfortable while pedaling. Usually they have rear pockets for carrying energy food, tools and clothing you might need or have removed. And, they often have long zippers, which are great for cooling off on hot days.

jockey pulley: The topmost small toothed wheel on the rear derailleur. It's responsible for moving the chain during shifting. The bottom pulley is called the "tension pulley." It creates tension on the chain to keep it taut during shifting.

jump: A quick, hard acceleration.



Keirin: Keirin is a mass-start track race which originated in Japan as a betting event (sort of like horse racing with humans) and is now also an Olympic event. In traditional Keirin lots are drawn to determine starting positions and 6 to 9 sprinters compete after a paced start. The pacer starts at a slow 15 mph and riders are required to remain behind him. The pacer gradually increases speed and leaves the track approximately 600 to 700 meters before the end letting the racers sprint to the line. The first person across wins.

Kevlar beads: Kevlar is a tough DuPont fabric. Beads are what's on the edges of bicycle tires and clings to the rim and keeps the tire on when it's inflated. Kevlar is used for the beads of most high quality bicycle tires (instead of wire) to save weight, improve ride quality and make it easy to fold the tires for portability. Tires with Kevlar beads are called "folding" tires.

Kevlar belt: Kevlar is a tough DuPont fabric. It's sometimes used beneath a tire's tread to create a nearly impenetrable Kevlar belt that prevents flat tires.

kicker: a steep section of road or trail.

kickstand: A device attached to the bicycle that supports it for parking. It's called a "kickstand" because you put it up and down by kicking it with your foot.

kit: A cycling jersey and shorts, typically with matching artwork, is called a kit.

kitty litter: Small pebbles and loose debris over a hardpack trail.

knee warmers: Sleeves worn over your knees and lower legs to keep the all-important leg muscles, tendons and ligaments warm. Knee warmers are easier to take off and tuck in a jersey pocket than tights are, which is why they're favored by many riders.

knobby tires: Tires with a tread pattern comprised of blocks that provide excellent traction.



LAB: League of American Bicyclists

ladies' frame: A frame with a sloping top tube that makes it easier to mount and dismount.

lanterne rouge: This is the competitor in last place in a cycling race such as the Tour de France. The phrase comes from the French “Red Lantern” and refers to the red lantern hung on the caboose of a railway train, which conductors would look for in order to make sure none of the couplings had become disconnected.

LBS: Local Bike Shop.

leadout: A race tactic in which a rider accelerates to his maximum speed for the benefit of a teammate in tow. The second rider then leaves the draft and sprints past at even greater speed near the finish line.

LeMond, Greg: The first American to win the Tour de France. He won it 3 times: 1986, 1989 and 1990.

lid: Slang for helmet.

line: Or, "the line," "the good line," this is the best path through a technical section. "The line," also means "the finish line."

linear-pull brake: Also called a "direct-pull brake," these are the most powerful type of rim brake. They feature long parallel arms (greater leverage), inflexible brake-pad mounts and short cable paths. They are common on mountain bikes.

lip: The take-off point of a jump and the top edge portion of a halfpipe wall.

loaded tourer: A bicycle made to carry a lot of gear for distance riding. Usually, it includes such features as sturdy racks, a long wheelbase, great stability and strength, robust wheels, additional wheel clearance and wide-range gearing.

loamy: A trail that's not quite muddy and not quite dry, but moss-like.

loop out: When a rider flips over backwards often due to pulling back and/or pedaling too hard while doing a wheelie or a manual.

lug: Sleeves used to join frame tubes. The tubes fit inside the lugs and are brazed  (sometimes bonded) in place. Lugs reinforce joints and also make it relatively easy to disassemble the joint should a tube need replacing after a crash.

Lycra: A fabric made by DuPont 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.



mag trainer: A device for riding indoors comprised of a stand that holds the bicycle upright, which includes a resistance unit that simulates the feel of outdoor riding. It's called a "mag" trainer because the resistance unit uses a magnet to create the drag.

maglia rosa: Italian for "pink jersey," the maglia rosa is the jersey worn by the current race leader in the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy), which is the second most important professional stage race after the Tour de France. "Maglia rosa" is also used to refer to the race leader himself. TV commentators might say, “The Maglia Rosa is riding well today.” The jersey's color comes from the Italian sports tabloid and race sponsor, La Gazzetta dello Sport, which is printed on pink paper.

maillot jaune: French for yellow jersey, what the leader and winner of the Tour de France wears.

mash: Pushing hard on the pedals.

mass start: Events such as road races, cross-country races and criteriums in which all contestants leave the starting line at the same time.

mechanic: Bike-repair expert.

Merckx, Eddie: One of the greatest road racers in cycling history, dubbed the "Cannibal" for how he devoured opponents often riding off the front seemingly effortlessly. "Eddie" as he is commonly called, won the Tour de France 5 times.

messenger bag: A type of pack favored by bicycle messengers (because they can get into it without removing it), that's slung over the head and shoulder bandolier style.

metric century: A 62.5-mile ride. Metric centuries are often offered along with the standard 100-mile century on organized group rides.

mini-pump: A small pump that's easily carried on the bike or in a pack for on-the-road/trail flat-tire repair.

mini-tool: A small all-in-one tool that fits in your pocket or seat bag and includes the essentials for on-the-road/trail repairs, such as Allen wrenches, screwdrivers and a chain tool.

Miss and Out: An elimination-style track race where the last rider across the line after each, or certain laps, is knocked out of the race. When the remaining riders reaches a certain number, they sprint for the finish to decide the winner. This race is also called "Devil Take the Hindmost."

mixte frame: A women's frame that features two small-diameter sloping top tubes. These make mounting and dismounting easier. And, because there are two tubes, lateral frame stiffness is not compromised the way it is with basic ladies' frames, which feature single down tubes.

monocoque: A structure on which the "skin" provides the support. Carbon-monocoque frames are hollow but plenty strong.

moto: 1. A single heat in a BMX race. 2. Slang for off-road riding.

motorpace: A training technique involving riding behind a car or motorcycle to develop the ability to ride at higher speeds. Note: Don't try this behind the family car. For safety, special roller devices are used on the backs of real motorpacing vehicles.

mountain bike: A bike designed for off-road use. Common features include: knobby tires, sturdy wheels, low gearing, great brakes, upright riding position with easily reached controls and suspension.

mudguards: Fenders.

musette: Also called a musette bag, this pouch with shoulder strap is stuffed with food and handed to racers as they pass through the feed zone.



neutral support: At a ride or race, neutral support means if you have a mechanical there is assistance on the course available to all riders (versus in racing where team riders receive support from their own mechanics who will not help other riders).

neutral zone: Usually reserved for racing, a neutral zone is a section of the course where you're not allowed to race and have to remain behind the lead vehicle(s). For example there might be a neutral zone for a few miles to allow the race vehicles and competitors to get across a strip of highway before getting onto the official racecourse. Once on the course, the lead vehicles will typically signal the field to start racing and then speed up the road.

Nipple: Also called a "spoke nipple," this is an oddly shaped nut that attaches to the end of the spoke, usually found at the rim. You turn nipples with a spoke wrench to true the wheel.

noodle: 1. The small tube the cable runs through right beside the brake arm on some linear-pull brakes. 2. To ride really easily, to just "noodle along."

NORBA: National Off Road Bicycle Association

nose case: Misjudging the landing of a jump and coming up short so that the front wheel of the bike tags the top or front of the landing. This often leads to the rider needing to bail out from the bike.


off-the-back: Describes one or more riders who have failed to keep pace with the main group. Also referred to as OTB.

off-the-front: Rolling away from the group on a training ride or race. Considered rude if it's an easy day or friendly spin and apt to turn any group ride into a race. It also means being well ahead of the pack in a race. So, if you attacked and no one stayed with you, you'd be off the front.

Omnium: A track racing event in which riders compete against each other in five different disciplines including the 200-meter flying-start time trial, the 5-kilometer scratch race, the 3-kilometer individual pursuit, the 15-kilometer points race and the 1-kilometer time trial.

organ donor: Cycling slang for one who rides without a helmet.

OTB: 1. Short for, "over the bars," as in crashing in such a way that you go flying over the handlebars Superman-style. 2. And, also short for, "off the back," which means being dropped by the group.

overgeared: Using a gear ratio too big for the terrain or level of fitness.

overlap wheels: The dangerous practice of positioning yourself on a group ride so that your front wheel overlaps someone's rear wheel. Problem is, if that person swerves, their wheel will tag yours, probably knocking you off your bike.


paceline: A line of riders (all it takes is two, yet the more there are, the better it works) traveling closely together and taking turns in the lead in order to save energy, share the work and travel more quickly than possible riding alone. There are many types of pacelines, such as single and double ones, but the goal is always the same, to cover the distance more efficiently by riding closely together, sharing the work of riding in front and breaking the wind, while your riding partners rest and get ready for their "pull" at the front when the time comes. In racing, there are paceline tactics that come into play too.

pack: Or "the pack," this is used to refer to the main group of riders sticking together in an event or race.

pack fodder: Negative term used by more aggressive riders about those riding with the group who never take a pull at the front.

palmarès: A bicycle racer's list of achievements, accomplishments or wins.

panniers: Also called "saddlebags," these are bags that mount to front and/or rear racks for carrying gear.

Paris-Brest-Paris: Or "PBP," Paris-Brest-Paris is an historic, and today the most important randonneuring event. It travels from Paris to Brest and back to Paris, a distance of 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) that must be completed in 90 hours. While food and rest stops are allowed, riders must be self-supported carrying the spares and all equipment needed such as lighting, fenders, rain gear, etc. PBP goes back to 1891 and takes place every four years in August. To qualify you must complete a series of rides called "brevets," 200, 300, 400 and 600K in length. Riders who manage to qualify and finish PBP within the time limit get their names entered in the official records of the Audax Club Parisien, and have the satisfaction of knowing they conquered one of the toughest events in all of cycling.

patch kit: A kit for repairing flat tubes. It usually comes in a small plastic box and includes patches, glue and sandpaper.

pea gravel: Pea-size rocks all over the trail or road making it very hard to ride over/through.

Pegs: Found on some BMX bikes, pegs (or axle pegs) are heavy-duty, short tubular extensions that screw onto the axles making it possible to do tricks like grinding.

peloton: The main body or group of riders. Also called the "pack," "field" and "group."

pin: Or "pin it," this is to tackle a tough section of trail fast and clean. As in, "I pinned it down that rock garden!"

pinch flat: A flat tire caused by riding over a rock or pothole and bottoming out the tire and pinching and puncturing the tube against the rim. Also called a "snakebite" because it causes side-by-side cuts in the tube that resemble a snakebite. A common cause is riding with too little air pressure.

plain-gauge tubing: Frame tubing that has a constant wall thickness. Usually on the heavy side.

platform damping: A feature found on many mountain bike shocks and some suspension forks. Platform damping stiffens the suspension for efficient pedaling, while allowing the shock to stay active to absorb larger bumps on the trail.

pogo: Taken from the action of a pogo stick, this describes how a poorly adjusted suspension bounces up and down (usually due to insufficient damping). This leads to loss of control and should be adjusted.

portage: To carry your bike.

Pound: It means to ride hard.

preload: A suspension adjustment that's needed before your first ride to ensure that the suspension is set correctly for your weight. Because suspension designs vary, you should follow the directions in your owner's manual. Usually, preload is accomplished by setting the shock air pressure or spring tension or by replacing its elastomers with stiffer or softer ones.

Presta valve: Also called a "needle" or "French" valve, Prestas are the narrower of the two valve types (Schrader is the other valve type and it's the same as a car tire valve). Prestas also have a threaded tip that must be unscrewed before you can add or release air from the valve.

pretzled wheel: A badly bent wheel.

psi: Abbreviation for pounds per square inch. The unit of measure for tire inflation and air pressure in some suspensions.

pull: "Taking a pull," is riding at the front of a group or paceline and breaking the wind to give the riders behind you a rest. Riders will say, "take a pull," or "that was a great pull."

pull through: Riding to the front of the pack on a group ride. You might hear a rider behind you say, "pull through," which means he wants you to keep going all the way to the front so he can follow you up there. "Pulling through" can also mean pulling off and letting someone else lead.

pulleys: The small toothed wheels on the rear derailleur that carry the chain. The top one is called the "jockey pulley." It's responsible for moving the chain during shifting. The bottom pulley is called the "tension pulley." It creates tension on the chain to keep it taut during shifting.

pump: An inflator used to add air to bicycle tires. Also, what you do to inflate a tire.

pump head: Also called a "chuck," this is the part of the pump that fits on the tube's valve for inflation.

pursuit: A track cycling event where riders start on opposite sides of the track and race over a set distance (4K for men, 3K for women). The racer who finishes the distance the quickest wins. It's an exciting event to watch as you can see who is ahead and a rider might even catch his opponent.



quick release: A clamping mechanism used to hold on wheels and sometimes used to secure seatposts in the frame. Quick releases make it easy to remove wheels for storage or flat-tire repair. You'll also find quick releases on seatposts and sometimes other parts such as handlebars on some folding bicycles.

quick‑release skewer: The part of the quick-release mechanism that passes through the part it secures. Also called the quick-release "rod."



RAAM: The Race Across America, contested from the west coast to the east every year since 1982.

race of truth: Used to refer to time trials where it's the cyclist against the clock, no drafting allowed.

races: Also called "ball races," this is where the ball bearings rest inside bicycle components that contain bearings, such as the hubs, headset, pedals and bottom bracket. There are two ball races, one on either side of the component.

rack trunk: A bag for carrying your gear that fits on top of a rear rack. Easy access.

radial spoking: This is a spoke pattern on which the spokes run directly from the hub to the rim without crossing other spokes.

rail bike: A special bicycle that's designed to be ridden on abandoned railroad tracks.

rails: The rods beneath the seat that make up its frame and support the top. Also, the parts of the seat held by the seatpost clamp.

rainbow jersey: The jersey earned and worn by the world road-race champion. It sports the rainbow stripes (green, yellow, black, red and blue).

rainbow stripes: Symbol of the world road-race champion and often used to decorate components and clothing associated with the title. The stripes are green, yellow, black, red and blue.

rake: Rake is also called "fork rake" and "fork offset." It's the distance the wheel axle is ahead of the steering axis of the bicycle.

rally: 1. To go fast. 2. A meeting or start time.

randonneur: A cyclist who does long-distance endurance riding with no outside support, typically not for competition but to complete the course within a certain time limit. According to Randonneurs USA "friendly camaraderie, not competition, is the hallmark of randonneuring." Randonneuring goes back to the beginnings of cycling. The most famous event is Paris-Brest-Paris, a 746-mile test that has to be completed within 90 hours. Begun in 1891, it is still held every four years in August.

ratchet: To rotate your crankset halfway to avoid striking your pedal on a rock, log, etc.

reach: The combined length of a bike’s top tube and stem, which determines the rider’s distance to the handlebar.

rear triangle: That part of a bicycle frame comprised of the seat tube, chainstays and seatstays. It's called a "rear triangle" because it's behind the frame's "main triangle," which is made up of the seat tube, top tube, down tube and head tube.

rebound: The part of suspension travel during which the shock returns to its starting position.

receiver rack: Also called a "hitch rack," this is a rack for carrying bicycles that mounts to a trailer hitch on the vehicle.

recovery bar: An energy food that's eaten after rides to recover more quickly.

recovery drink: An energy drink for after rides to recover more quickly.

recumbent: Bicycles designed around a reclined instead of an upright body position. On recumbents you sit in a seat that resembles a lawn chair (complete with backrest) and pedal with your legs out in front of your body. These unique bicycles come in a variety of configurations but all offer great comfort because they support more body weight and eliminate pressure on the hands, arms, neck, etc.

repair stand: Also called a "workstand," this is a support that holds your bicycle in the air to make maintenance and repair easy (and save your lower back).

rhythm section: A back-to-back series of jumps or rollers on a dirt track or trail.

rigid bike: A bike without suspension.

rim: The outermost part of the wheel. The tire mounts to the rim. On bicycles with caliper hand brakes (not disc brakes), the rim is part of the braking system.

rim cement: Also called "glue", this is the adhesive that's applied to rims to mount sew-up (also called "tubular") tires.

rim strip: The cloth or rubber strip inside a wheel that keeps the spoke holes/nipples from poking holes in the tube.

riser handlebars: Also called simply "risers," these handlebars are higher at the grips than in the center to provide a more upright riding position.

road rash: Also called a "raspberry" or "strawberry," this is the painful scrape(s) suffered from crashing and sliding down the road.

roadie: Someone who favors road riding.

road race: A mass-start race on pavement that goes from point to point, covers one large loop or is held on a circuit longer than those used for criteriums.

rock garden: A section of trail with so many large, immovable rocks, it takes skill to ride through it without putting your foot down or walking.

rollers: 1. A series of small hills on a track or trail that are typically rolled (coasted) or manualed over (extended wheelie), not jumped. 2. An indoor training device comprised of a frame holding 3 or 4 rollers on which you place your bike to pedal in place. The rollers let you pedal in place and steer as you would riding outdoors. Unlike on stationary trainers, you must balance to ride rollers (unless yours are equipped with a bicycle support).

roof rack: A rack for carrying bicycles that mounts to the roof of your car. Watch those low overhangs!

rotor: The “disc” part of disc brakes, rotors are the thin, flat circular metal plates that attach to the hubs and are what the brake calipers grip to slow and stop your bike when you squeeze the brake levers

route sheet: A type of map handed out at the beginning of organized rides that simply lists every turn on the course and the distance to it. Much easier to follow while riding than using a map. Sometimes called a “turn sheet.”

RPM: For Revolutions Per Minute, this is how you calculate your "cadence," or pedaling speed. Simply count the number of complete pedal revolutions (one side) you do in 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to determine how fast you're spinning. A good target for fitness riders is to maintain 70 to 90 RPM.



650c: A designation for the wheel size found on many triathlon bicycles. 650c wheels are slightly smaller diameter than 700c wheels. Tires and tubes are not interchangeable.

700c: A designation for the wheel size found on most road bicycles.

saddle: Also called a "seat," this all-important device supports you and has a lot to do with how comfortable you are when riding.

sag wagon: Also called "SAG," this is the vehicle that follows riders on a group ride and carries supplies and food. If you crash or run out of energy, you can sometimes get a ride back to the start in the sag wagon.

Schrader valve: This is a type of valve found on bicycle tubes that's identical to those found on car tires.

scratch race: A track racing term for a race over a given distance or a race in which all riders start on equal terms (from scratch).

scream: To ride really fast.

scuffing: Using your feet on the tires to scrub speed, maintain speed, or lockup the tire to cause the bike to stall.

sealant: A usually latex-based liquid with some type of small particle mixed in, that's put inside tubes and tubeless tires to fix flats before they can happen. The sealant particles seal the hole almost immediately so you can keep right on riding.

sealed bearings: This type of bicycle bearing is protected from water, sand and dirt with some type of shield, which means the bearing runs longer and requires maintenance less often. Many high quality bicycle bottom brackets, headsets and hubs feature sealed bearings.

seat: This is a term used when installing bicycle tires (car tires too). To "seat" a tire, or "seating" tires means getting the tire beads (the edges of the tire) sitting just right on the rim. When you spin the wheel and watch the bead lines on both sides, they should sit just above the rim all around the wheel. If they dip or bulge anywhere, let the air out of the tire and try again or the tire might come off.

seat bag: Also called a "seat pack," this is a bag that attaches beneath the seat for carrying essentials.

seat tube: The frame tube that the seatpost fits into.

seatpost: The component that the saddle attaches to.

seatstays: The twin small-diameter frame tubes that straddle the rear wheel and run from the seat tube to the rear axle.

semi-slick tire: An off-road tire with such a low-profile tread pattern, it appears almost bald. Popular with cross-country racers with great bike handling skills.

sew-up glue: The adhesive applied to the rim and tire to mount a sew-up tire (also called a "tubular tire").

sew-up tire: Also called a "tubular tire," (because the tire is shaped like a tube), this is a type of tire that's glued onto the rim and features a casing that's sewn around the tube. Professional road racers favor tubulars because the tires are extremely lightweight and have a round cross-section, which improves ride quality.

Shimano: The Japanese company that's the worldwide leading manufacturer of bicycle components. Founded by Shozaburo Shimano in 1922.

shimmy: A dangerous side-to-side front-end oscillation while riding caused by a damaged or in-need-of-repair bicycle, or road/trail conditions. It starts off slowly and gets worse and can easily lead to losing control and crashing. To stop a shimmy, clamp your knees against the top tube and slow down. If it happens often have your bicycle checked for problems. Also called “speed wobble.”

shock fork: Another name for a suspension fork.

shock pump: A special inflator for air shocks. These are needed because air shocks often require more pressure than standard bicycle pumps can supply.

sidepull brake: A lightweight brake design that's found on most road bikes. It's called a "sidepull" because the cable path runs down the side of the brake.

Sidewalls: The sides of tires. Look closely. Sometimes the recommended pressure is written on the sidewall.

singlespeed: An off-road bike with one gear. Some races have singlespeed cross-country events. Singlespeeders like the simplicity of the bikes and the demands of racing without gears (if a hill's too steep, they walk).

singletrack: A trail so narrow that two cyclists can’t easily ride side by side, which makes passing difficult or impossible.

sit in: Riding at the back of a group of cyclists to stick with them without doing any work so you can rest.

skewer: Short for quick-release skewer, the clamping device that allows you to remove and install wheels without tools. To be technically accurate, the quick release is the entire clamping device and a skewer is the rod-like part of the quick release that passes through the wheel's axle.

skid-lid: Slang for helmet.

skipping: This is a symptom of a worn drivetrain. When a cog (or chainring) gets worn enough, it can't carry the chain properly. So, if you pedal hard when the chain is on that cog, you may experience a sudden and disconcerting lurch in the pedal stroke accompanied by a strange popping sound. What's you're experiencing is the chain riding up and over the teeth on the cog and slamming back down again. Skipping can also be caused by a stiff link that binds when it reaches the derailleur or doesn't seat on the cog. Either way, it's something to have repaired ASAP.

slickrock: 1. Large smooth swaths of rock, usually sandstone and great for mountain biking due to the excellent traction. 2. Slickrock is also the name of a famous trail in the riding mecca of Moab, Utah.

slicks: Tires with so little tread that they appear bald. Very fast and grippy.

slingshot: To ride up behind another rider with help from his draft, then use the momentum to sprint past.

slipstream: The pocket of calmer air behind a moving rider. Also called the draft.

snakebite: Also called a "pinch flat," this is a flat tire caused by riding over a pothole or rock, which pinches the tube between the tire and rim creating side-by-side cuts in the tube that resemble a snakebite. The most common cause is riding with insufficient tire pressure.

snap: The ability to rev the pedals to accelerate quickly.

soft pedal: To pedal easily. To rotate the pedals without actually applying power.

softtail: A full-suspension mountain bicycle.

solvent: Also called "degreaser," this is a spray or drip liquid that penetrates and cuts built-up grime and grease. It's great for cleaning drivetrain components

specs: Short for specifications and used to refer to the list of bicycle components or features found in catalogs and online.

speed wobble: Also called "shimmy," this is a dangerous side-to-side front-end oscillation while riding caused by a damaged or in-need-of-repair bicycle, or road/trail conditions. It starts off slowly and gets worse and can easily lead to losing control and crashing. To stop a speed wobble, clamp your knees against the top tube and slow down. If it happens often have your bicycle checked for problems.

spider: The part of the right crankarm to which the chainrings are attached. Some spiders are integral and others can be removed.

spin: To pedal at high cadence, fluidly and seemingly effortlessly.

spindle: Another term for axle.

spine ramp: An obstacle made up of two symmetrical lips placed back-to-back or coping-to-coping.

spinner: A rider who pedals in a moderate gear at a relatively fast cadence, relying on pedal rpm for speed.

spoke wrench: A small tool used for loosening and tightening spokes to true wheels. Not to be used carelessly!

spokes: The usually metal rods that run between the wheel hubs and rims. Spokes come in different shapes, materials, thicknesses and lengths.

sports tourer: A type of bicycle with a lively ride and load-carrying capacity. Sports tourers are ideal for "credit card touring" (traveling at a good clip with a light load and spending nights in hotels). They often include wide-range gears for easy hill climbing, too.

sprint: 1. An all-out sharp burst of speed (usually covering no more than about 200 yards) at the end of a race to go for the win. 2. In track cycling, a sprint is a type of race in which two riders compete one-on-one. Unlike pursuits, the riders start next to each other in a sprint race.

sprocket: The parts that the chain rests on. There are front and rear sprockets, called respectively "chainrings" and "cogs."

squirrel: Slang for a dangerous cyclist; a rider who doesn't ride a straight line, doesn't point out obstacles and does just about everything wrong. A nervous or unstable rider who can’t be trusted to maintain a steady line.

stage: One of the individual daily races that make up a stage race. For example, the most famous stage race, the Tour de France, is usually made up of about 21 days of racing, each one a separate stage.

stage race: Any race comprised of multiple races (stages). Usually won by the person who completes the entire event in the least amount of time. The Tour de France is the most famous stage race.

stem: The part that holds the handlebars. Sometimes called a "gooseneck," or "tiller."

stick it: Or "stick," this is to land a jump or drop-off: stick the landing.

stiction: A term that describes friction in a suspension that prevents it from operating smoothly. Ideally, suspension should be stiction free.

stiff link: A chain link that binds and stops flexing as it should. Stiff links are usually caused by corrosion due to insufficient lubrication. Repair stiff links immediately because they compromise shifting, pedaling and can cause a nasty accident if they slip, jam or break when you're pedaling hard. To fix, pedal backwards to spot the bad link (it'll hang up as it passes over the rear derailleur pulleys), then grab the chain at the stiff link and flex it laterally to free it. If that doesn't work, replace the chain and make the old one into bicycle jewelry.

stoker: The rear cyclist on a tandem.

straight block: Also known as a "corncob," this is a cassette or freewheel on which every cog is one tooth larger than the preceding one (as you shift up the cassette to larger sprockets).

straights: A track term for the longer straightaway sections on either side of the velodrome that lead into the corners. This is where riders enter and leave the track.

Superman: Slang for crashing in such a way that you go flying over the handlebars Superman-style.

survival mode: When you're so tired, you have to settle into a slow, determined pace to make it home.

suspension: A device that insulates the rider from rough terrain by absorbing impacts. Bicycle tires provide a degree of suspension because they're full of air, which cushions bumps. Many bicycles today include mechanical suspensions that provide incredible insulation from impacts and bumps and add great control.

swingarm: On a suspension bicycle, this is the part of the frame connected to the shock. It moves up and down when you hit bumps.

swingoff: Abruptly disengaging from a formation to move from the wind-battered lead position to sheltered rear when your stint at the front is over.

switch: Riding with your non-dominant foot forward or trying a trick in the opposite direction.



29er: A mountain bike or off-road bicycle with 29-inch wheels.

taco'd: A term used to describe a seriously damaged wheel that appears folded over like a taco.

take a flyer: To suddenly sprint away from a group.

taking a pull: Going to the front of the group and staying there for a while to give followers a rest.

tandem: A bicycle built for two.

tapered steerer: A modern fork design where the base of the fork steerer tube is larger diameter than the top. This stiffens the front end without adding weight and improves handling and sprinting. Typically, tapered steerers measure 1 1/8 inch at the top and 1 1/2 at the bottom, but other sizes are available.

team time trial: Also called "TTT," a team time trial is a race where all the rules of the individual time trial apply, yet instead of riding alone, racers compete as teams. To optimize speed, teams ride as units, trading positions at the front of their small group so no one rider has to break the wind by himself for very long.

technical: Something challenging to ride. In mountain biking, it's a trail that's full of roots, rocks, turns, varying angles and/or other obstacles. On the road it could be a twisty descent with off-camber turns and/or rough, potholed pavement.

tempo: 1. A steady, hard, but not too hard pace, set at the front of a group of riders. Sometimes a faster tempo will be set for the peloton to make up time. 2. A cycling workout effort level, tempo is below time-trial effort, but above aerobic pace. It's often the pace you can hold for an hour or so. 3. Tempo is also a type of track race where two points are awarded to the first person to cross the line each lap, and one point to the second-place rider. The rider with the most points at the end of the race wins.

tension pulley: The bottom small toothed wheel on the rear derailleur. It creates tension on the chain to keep it taut during shifting. The top pulley is called the "jockey pulley," and It's responsible for moving the chain during shifting.

thorn-proof tube: Also called a “thorn-resistant tube”, this tire inner tube is built extra thick on top to prevent thorns and other sharp objects from popping it.

thrash: 1) To beat on your bike or equipment by slamming it around and riding hard. 2) Sloppy or poor riding skills.

threadless headset: A type of steering mechanism (called a "headset") that's compatible with a fork that has a steerer (the topmost tube) that's unthreaded. These are common on most mountain and road bikes.

three-hour tour: A ride that looks like a piece of cake at the outset but turns out to be a death march. Derived from the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island.”

throw the bike: A racing technique in which a rider thrusts the bike ahead of his or her body at the finish line, gaining several inches in hopes of winning a close sprint.

thumb shifters: Shift levers that attach to the handlebars and are operated by pushing with your thumbs.

time limit: Also called "time cut," this is a way to eliminate or penalize the slowest riders in a race or event. After every stage in a stage race, a time cut is established by taking the winner's time and adding 10 to 20%. Riders who finish in excess of this buffer zone are not allowed to start the next day. Time limits are common in road stage races, randonneuring and sometimes in other rides like centuries, usually as a way to ensure safety.

time trial: Also called a "TT," bicycle race event in which individuals or small teams of riders ride the same route and distance separately for elapsed time. Time trials are generally started at preset intervals and held on an out-and-back or circuit course, and are generally 15 or 40 km, but dozens of lengths are sanctioned.

tire levers: Tools (they usually come in a set of 3) used to pry tires off rims to make repairs or replacements.

tire liner: A protective plastic strip that's placed between the tire and tube to stop glass, thorns and debris from popping the tube.

tire sealant: A usually latex-based liquid with some type of small particle mixed in, that's put inside tubes and tubeless tires to fix flats before they can happen. The sealant particles seal the hole almost immediately so you can keep right on riding.

toe clips and straps: These devices bolt to the pedals to prevent your feet from slipping off and to hold your feet in the correct position for riding (the balls of the feet should rest over the centers of the pedals).

top tube: The part of the frame that attaches the head tube to the seat tube

tops: The part of a drop handlebar between the stem and the brake levers.

tornado: To balance on your front wheel while turning your back wheel 90-180 degrees in either direction.

Tour de France: Held since 1903, this is the most important road race in cycling. It covers approximately 3,000-miles (mostly in France) in 3 weeks (the route changes yearly) and is considered one of toughest contests in sport.

tourist: A cyclist who rides to enjoy the outdoors and see the sights versus hammering for time or competition.

track: Also called a "velodrome," this is an indoor or outdoor oval track for bicycle racing.

track bike: A bicycle made for track (also called "velodrome") racing. These bikes resemble road-racing models but have only one gear and no brakes. The gear is "fixed," which means you can't coast. You control speed by holding back on the pedals.

Track Left!: A signal to gape at the passing rider on your left, generally accompanied with a sharp movement to veer right into his path.

Track Right!: A signal to the slowpoke ahead to look around for a hidden turnoff to the left, so he’ll get the hell out of your way because there isn’t any room to pass on singletrack anyway.

trackstand: Balancing in place. Highly useful at stoplights.

track wobble: When the rider stops the bike and attempts to remain standing, but can’t do it very well. Characterised by rolling forward, violent movements of the front wheel, and a distressed expression on the rider’s face. See track stand, above.

trail: The distance between a line drawn straight up from the center of the bottom bracket to the nose of your saddle, generally 30 to 50 mm. The seat tube angle determines this, being less for sprinting frames, more for touring frames.

trailer bike: A device (basically, the back half of a bike) that attaches behind a regular bicycle to allow a child to ride along while the adult steers and controls the pace.

trailhead: The start of the trail. Common meeting point for ride starts.

trail swag: Equipment or accessories dropped by other bikers and found on the trail.

training wheels: Devices for children's bikes that keep the bicycle upright so Junior can learn to ride safely.

transition: 1. The point at which the lip/landing of a jump changes from a vertical to a horizontal surface. 2. In the sports of triathlon and duathlon, the transition comes between each racing leg, such as after the swim and before the bike leg. How quickly you "transition" (changing into your cycling clothes and mounting your bike and/or getting into your running gear) affects your time and result.

transverse cable: Also called a "crossover cable," this is the cable on cantilever brakes that runs over the top of the tire.

trials: A technical off-road riding where gravity-defying daredevils "ride" over natural and man-made obstacles such as log piles and automobiles, all the while trying not to touch the ground with their feet (called a "dab").  Not to be confused with Time Trials, which is just the opposite.

triathlon: A race comprised of a swimming, cycling and running leg.

trick: 1) A bicycle stunt. 2) Something high-tech or custom.

triple: 1. Short for triple chainring. 2. A bicycle built for 3 people, also called a "triplet."

truing stand: An apparatus that holds a wheel and features indicators that make it easy for a mechanic to remove wheel wobbles and hops. It's also used for truing and tensioning new wheels.

trunk rack: A rack for carrying bicycles that mounts to the trunk of your vehicle.

TT: See "time trial," above.

TTT: Seeteam time trial," above.

tubeless tire: A new type of off-road tire that doesn't require an inner tube. This allows riding super-low tires pressures with no risk of puncturing (because there's no tube). And softer tires provide more traction and comfort.

tubular glue: The adhesive applied to the rim and tire to mount a tubular tire (also called a "sew-up tire").

tubular tire: Also called a "sew-up," (because the tire is actually sewn together around the tube), this is a type of tire that's glued onto the rim. Professional road racers favor tubulars because these tires are extremely lightweight and have a round cross-section, which improves ride quality.

tuck: A riding position, generally a contorted one with the head and torso low, back flat, and arms close in for aerodynamics.

turndown: Where a rider turns the handlebars and his body down toward the ground while the rest of the bike stays facing straight up.

turkey: An unskilled cyclist.

turnaround: The point where the riders reverse direction on an out-and-back time trial course.

twist shifter: These shifters are twisted (like you twist a motorcycle throttle) to change gears.


UCI: Union Cycliste Internationale: A European group that oversees professional cycling.

U-lock: A popular bicycle-security device that's named after its shape. In some parts of the world, it's called a "D-lock." Used correctly (you must lock the frame and wheels to an immovable object)

ultra cycling: Used to describe the side of the sport involving the longest endurance events. Also calledultramarathon.

Ultramarathon Cycling Association: The event-sanctioning, record-keeping and informational organization for ultra riders.

unicrown: A type of fork on which the blades are attached to the steerer. They differ from other forks in that there's no fork crown.

unicycle: A one-wheeler. Surprisingly, they can be ridden on and off road, for short and long distance.

unweight: The act of momentarily lightening the bike through a combination of body movement and position. It’s integral to jumping over things such as potholes or railroad tracks.

uppers: The top parts of shoes. Where you find the straps/laces and toe.

upshift: This is a term that describes shifting, however, some riders use it to describe shifting into harder-to-pedal gears, while others use it to describe the opposite (shifting "up" the cassette onto larger cogs). We'll let you make up your own mind.

USA Cycling: The umbrella organization for American. bicycle racing. Affiliated with the UCI.

USCF: U.S. Cycling Federation, the organization that governs amateur road, cyclocross, and track racing in America. A division of USA Cycling.

USPRO: U.S. Professional Racing Organization, the organization in charge of professional bicycle racing in America. A division of USA Cycling.



valgus: Outward angulation of the foot, similar to supination. One of the things fitters look for in cycling shoes and cleat fine tuning.

valve cap: Plastic screw-on caps that fit on top of valve stems.

valve core: The mechanism inside the valve stem that lets air in and keeps it from leaking out. All Schrader valves, but only some Prestas, have replaceable cores.

valve nut: The knurled ring or nut that comes on fully-threaded valve stems.

valve stem: The part of the tube used for putting air in and letting it out.

varus: Inward angulation of the foot, similar to pronation. One of the things fitters look for in cycling shoes and cleat fine tuning.

velo: Slang for bicycle from the early French term "velocipede."

velodrome: An indoor or outdoor oval track for bicycle racing.

VeloNews: An American cycling magazine focused on on- and off-road bicycle racing.

vertical dropouts: A dropout is the part of the frame that holds the wheel. Vertical dropouts are rear dropouts designed for easy wheel removal and installation because they face downward and offer usually one wheel position (for easy alignment).


A protrusion attached to the front of a helmet to protect the eyes from debris and glare. Usually adjustable. Often removable.

VO: The maximum amount of oxygen that can be consumed during all-out exertion. This is a key indicator of a person’s potential in cycling and other aerobic sports. It’s largely genetically determined but can be improved somewhat by training.

VO2 Max: A measurement long used to determine a cyclist’s maximum potential, VO2 Max measures the maximum amount of oxygen uptake during exercise per kilogram of body weight. An average healthy, untrained male will uptake approximately 3.5 liters/minute or 45 ml/kg/min. An average healthy, untrained female will uptake approximately 2.0 liters/minute or 38 ml/kg/min. Tour de France winning cyclists have some of the highest VO2 Max scores on record with Greg LeMond scoring a reported 92.5 ml/kg/min and Lance Armstrong scoring a reported 83.8 ml/kg/min.

Vuelta a España: In English, the Tour of Spain, this is the country's grand tour, and one of the most important stage races on the professional calendar after the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.

vultures: Spectators who line up at dangerous obstacles in hopes of seeing blood.



wall: 1. A road that looks like it goes straight up, because it practically does. Generally used for grades steeper than 10%, depending on region. 2. The point in a tough event where you quit.

wash out: To have the front tire lose traction, especially while going around a corner or when inadvertently locked. Generally results in the wheel ending up somewhere other than under the rider.

washboard: A section of road or trail with closely spaced bumps that, if you ride over at speed, about jars the fillings in your teeth loose.

wax lube: A chain lube designed for dry conditions, which includes paraffin as one of its main ingredients.

weight-weenie: A bike owner (not even necessarily a rider) who is more concerned with how many milligrams a certain component saves off the bike’s total weight than with how to be a better rider.

wheelbase: The distance from the front to rear axle.

wheel-retention device

Nubs or recesses on forks that keep the wheel from falling out should the quick release or axle nuts come loose.

wheelset: A pair of wheels.

wheelsucker: That guy that tucks in behind you on a ride and never comes to the front to help break the wind.

whitewall: Usually a "balloon" tire (wide 26- or 24-inch size) that has white sidewalls. Somewhat common on beach cruiser bicycles.

whiteknuckle: To rapidly descend on a trail that’s sheer gonzo when you were expecting a cake walk.

wick: Or "wicking," this is a feature of all good bicycle clothing. The fabric absorbs moisture and moves it away from the skin keeping you dry and comfortable.

wild pigs: Poorly adjusted brake pads that squeal in use.

wind trainer: A device for riding indoors comprised of a stand that holds the bicycle upright, which includes a resistance unit that simulates the feel of outdoor riding. It's called a "wind" trainer because the resistance unit uses a fan to create the drag.

Windchill: The effect of air moving across the skin, making the temperature seem colder than it actually is. A cyclist creates a windchill even on a calm day, a situation that must be considered when dressing for winter rides.

wind up: Steady acceleration to an all-out effort.

winky: A reflector.

wire beads: Bicycle beads that have wire inside. Wire is used because it's reliable, holds the tire on securely and doesn't cost very much, which keeps the tire price down. Wire-bead tires are heavier than folding tires (which feature Kevlar beads) and can't be folded as small (it's possible to fold wire-bead tires, but not fully.)

WOMBATS: Women's Mountain Bike And Tea Society. This is a cycling club for new women riders founded by mountain-bike champion and cycling writer Jacquie Phelan.

wonky: Slang for when your bike's not working right.

working together: An important tactic in cycling, working together means riding with at least one other person and sharing turns in front blocking the wind so you can both rest regularly and maintain a better speed than you could riding alone.

workstand: Also called a "repair stand," this is a support that holds your bicycle in the air to make maintenance and repair easy.

wrench: a bike mechanic, especially at a professional bike race in the US.



XC: Short for cross country.

x-country: Short for cross country.

X-Games: The "Olympics" of alternative and extreme sports, this festival of fearlessness features phenomenal bicycle freeriding and ramp riding that has to be seen to be believed.



yard sale: A horrendous crash that leaves all your various “wares” — water bottles, pump, tool bag, etc. — scattered as if on display for sale.

Y wrench: A small Y-shaped bicycle tool usually with 8, 9 and 10mm sockets or 4, 5 and 6mm Allen wrenches.

yellow jersey: What the leader and winner of the Tour de France wears. Also, The Yellow Jersey is a great novel about the Tour by Ralph Hurne.

yellow line rule: In many cycling races and events this safety rule is intended to keep riders from crossing the yellow centerline on the road. Punishment for breaking this rule may include a time penalty, being relegated to the back of the pack or even disqualification.



zip tie: An inexpensive plastic type of clamp that wraps around things and cinches in place without tools, and holds fast. Excellent for attaching race numbers, holding cables in place and all kinds of other applications.

zone out: A state of mind where you think you’ve reached The Zone, but you really just stopped paying attention to what you’re doing. Usually used as an excuse for a particularly embarrassing biff.

zone, the: A state of mind experienced while riding. You don’t think, you just do. A truly Zen experience that can’t be fully explained, but when you get there you’ll know it and strive to reach it again.

zonk: Same as bonk.

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