How To: Talk like a cyclist – round two

by Verita Stewart


A few months back, I wrote a piece about cycling lingo in which I introduced you to the terms that I’ve become acquainted with since my entry into the sport. I’m back with round two – having taken inspiration from the great reader comments on the first piece and a few more from recent conversations I’ve had with friends in the coffee shop.

My favorite term of the moment is grovelling. Happens quite often after I’ve ridden out to the Dandenongs, done my various efforts up the 1:20 and then ride home. The last 10 kilometre or so is generally when the grovelling begins for me.

N.B. Some of the terms suggested by readers I never heard of until I ‘googled’ them, so if I’ve made an incorrect definition or still left one off, let me know in the comments below!

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Bidon. Another name for a water bottle, drink bottle, or bottle.

Bunch. A term that refers to the group or people that you are riding or racing with. Generally three or more riders.

Century. In Australia it refers to a 100km bike ride (or 100 miles for those in the States or the UK). Use it like this: I completed my first century today (said with much excitement!).

Chain ring tattoo. Or Hubbard mark. The greasy jagged tattoo left by your chainring when it presses against your leg. The mark is generally printed on your right calf or shin. Chain ring tattoos must always be removed immediately.

Drops. The section of your road bike handlebars that are dropped or curved downwards. Most often used for sprints and descents.

Fishtail. When the rear wheel on your bike locks up and your bike skids or slides sideways. This happens when you use your rear brake too hard.

Floating. When you are riding so well you look effortless and can do no wrong in a ride or race.

Fred. A term that is similar to Hubbard – previously defined in my original piece as a rider identified by an unmatched and or baggy kit, no knowledge about cycling, no bike handling skills, unshaven legs and an awkward presence on the bike.


Gravel rash. When you take skin off in a fall or crash onto the road.

Grovelling. A verb used when you’re hurting, at your threshold, sucking wheel and generally just hanging in there. It may be a result of a fast speed or just that you are fatigued. You can say: I grovelled all the way home today. The bunch was really fast.

Gumby. A term of endearment used when someone is new to cycling and just getting the hang of things, like cleats. Used this way: I feel like a gumby whilst getting used to cleats. I am still a gumby at a few things.

Hitter. Someone who is riding well, rides well all the time, is generally just a great bike rider and person at the same time. You might say: Did you hear Gracie Elvin just scored her first UCI win? She is such a hitter.

Hit the wall. Can be used in two ways: 1. When a road looks like it goes straight up – like a wall (generally for gradient of 10 percent or more). 2. Used in reference to you having a hunger flat or loss of energy. With the second, you could say: I hit the wall today because I didn’t eat enough.

Hurt box or ‘in the box’. The place you go when you are suffering physically on the bike and riding at your maximum. For example: I was in the hurt box all day today or That was a hard ride. I was in the box.

Out the back or OTB. Generally happens when you are dropped from the group or bunch. Used like this: I was thrown out the back today! Also known as Outthebackistan, which is a place you don’t want to stay for long and a place you don’t want to revisit!

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On the Rivet. Similar to In The Box. Refers to riding at your maximum ability. Apparently refers to when saddles had rivets on them and riders would slide their position forward and sit on the rivet when riding as hard as they could.

Over the bars. Where you fall off your bike by going over the handlebars. This generally occurs when you either hit something, lock your front brakes up or a stick goes through your front wheel.

Lid. Another term for helmet. The stylish piece of protective gear that protects your head from serious injury.

Polishing the lever. Applies mostly when you are riding up a steep or long climb in your easiest gear, yet you repeatedly keep shifting your lever to see if another gear has magically appeared to assist you.

Popped. Where you lose all your energy and can’t maintain the same exertion. You might say: I popped today and rode home solo from the bunch or I went hard up the climb until halfway when I popped.

Pro Hubbard. A hubbard with all the gear and no idea.

Rolling. A term generally yelled when a group is approaching an intersection displaying a green light, that suddenly turns amber. Rolling is yelled to inform riders following that you aren’t going to brake suddenly and stop, that you are “rolling” through. The term rolling is never used if the light will turn red. Road rules always apply.

Ripping your legs off. I’m sure you have all experienced the feeling. Generally happens when you are following a wheel of someone who is fast. Example: I had my legs ripped off today on the climb because Loren Rowney was riding so fast!

Segment. A term most relevant to Strava users. A segment is a feature on Strava that compares rider times over a particular route or section of road. Segments compare climbs, descents, loops or routes with other Strava users in order to get a QOM or KOM. You will often hear people getting very competitive over a segment. Use it like this: Tiffany Cromwell stole my segment QOM today, I’ll have to give it another go to get it back!

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Steed. Like a horse, steed refers to your bike, your humble steed.

Snivelling. An action where a rider does not participate in pulling turns, moving from wheel to wheel in a group and/or generally sucking wheel, all whilst having ‘good’ legs. This is an attempt to save ‘good’ legs for the finish or end of the ride.

About the author

The tagline to Verita Stewart’s personal blog reads: “Not a professional cyclist, yet” and it’s the “yet” that’s most telling. Verita is a Melbourne-based cyclist riding for Specialized Securitor. New to the sport, she’s quickly made the jump from commuting to recreational riding to racing.

She now juggles full-time work with full-time NRS racing and hopes to make the leap to the big-leagues sometime soon. Verita is full of stories and smiles and snark – and will bring all three to you on Ella. Follow Verita on twitter and instagram and strava.

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