Cycling lingo 101

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Cyclists are a subset of society all on their own. They have their own look, their own habits and yes, their own lingo. In a group ride, you may be able to let your legs do the talking but if you’ve found yourself a little lost in the post-ride coffee shop talk, fear not. Here’s a quick guide to talking like a cyclist.

Aero. Short for aerodynamic. A phrase often used to describe your riding position, bike set up or equipment that reduces wind resistance.
Example.: In time trialing, riders ride aero bikes and wear aero helmets. 

Back on. A term used to describe when a rider has lost contact with the peloton or group and then manages to reconnect.
Example: “Let’s keep going, we’re all back on”

Bibs (or bib knicks). Bibs are cycling bottoms that are held up by a bib – or suspenders –  instead of shorts with a regular elastic waistband.

Bidon. Another name for a water bottle.

Blowing up. Similar to bonking, but generally applies after you have done a huge effort.
Example: “I totally blew up after chasing John up that hill.”

Bonking. When you effectively lose all energy in your body and feel like you are riding backwards. This is common when riders do not eat enough during a race. Used in the phrase, I’m bonking or I bonked.

Breakaway or the break. A break forms when a solo rider or group of riders attacks the bunch. They form a group (or solo move) that rides ahead of the rest. They have broken away from the peloton.

Bridge or bridging. To catch the rider/s in front who have a gap. Used in the phrase “he bridged over to the break” or “I bridged the gap”.

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

Century. Refers to a 100 km or 100 mile bike ride (depending on whether your country uses metric or imperial system).

Chain ring tattoo. A.k.a Hubbard mark (in Australian) or Cat 5 Tattoo (in American). The grease mark that’s left on your calf after accidentally leaning your bike against your leg.  It’s often seen as a sign of being a newbie.

Chasing. When a rider or riders chase a group or rider in front. Chasing also occurs if a rider attacks and riders chase them down so that a breakaway does not establish.

Chammy. Also known as Chamois. Refers to the padding in your cycling shorts/bibs.
Example: “After you’re done riding, don’t hang around in your chammies”

Chewing the handlebars. A term use to describe the feeling when you are suffering, leaning over and focusing on your Garmin, stem, ground or in the general direction of your handlebars.

Chopping wheels. When a rider cuts sharply in front of your wheel. This can cause crashed. It can happen when a rider tries to push in to a spot or to fill a gap too quickly.
Example: “I crashed after he chopped my wheel”

Cooked. When you are exhausted after a big day on the bike.
Example: “I rode 100kms today into a headwind, I’m cooked.”

DFL. When you’re the very last person to finish a race or ride. Stands for “Dead F$%&ing Last”. Not to be mistaken with “DNF” –Did Not Finish or DNS – Did Not Start.

Drafting. The art of sitting behind someone’s wheel. Riding behind someone is the most aerodynamic and efficient place to be. By drafting you expend less energy than if you were riding in the wind.

Drops. The curved part of road bike handlebars. You want to place your hands in ‘the drops’ for descents and when sprinting.

Echelon. Generally described as a long string or line of riders that are in a formation that shelters them from the wind. The front rider will pull off the front, towards the direction of the wind and make their way to the back of the line.

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.
Example: “He was floating through the pack”

Fred (or ‘Hubbard’).  A rider, usually new to cycling, identified by an unmatched and or baggy kit, hairy legs, and poor bike handling skills.

Getting dropped (or popped). The moment when you lose touch with the group you were riding with and end up riding on your own.

Grupetto. The last group to make time cut in a race. The group ride together to make time cut. Also known as the laughing bunch or riding the bus.

Granny gears. The lowest and easiest gear ratio on your bike, often used when climbing.

Hammer. Generally refers to when someone rides away from a group, starts riding faster than everyone else or attacks. Used in the phrases: ‘”hey dropped the hammer” or “he was hammering at the front all day”.

Half-wheeling. When your riding partner rides half a wheel ahead of yours. This is considered bad practice as it makes it hard to talk and forces the person behind to constantly pick up their pace.

Hitter (or baller). A strong rider.

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 max. Another word for ‘redlining’.
Example: “I was in the hurt box all day today” or “She really put me in the box to day”

KOM or QOM. Stands for King or Queen Of the Mountain. This is an award given in bike races to the person who summits a climb first. On the popular cycling app, Strava, users compete for KOMs or QOMs for bragging rights.

Leading out. This is a tactic used by teams or individuals to set up a sprint. Riders line up and drive the pace, putting out a sustained effort before peeling off until the last rider is left to sprint for the win. This is an effective way of driving the pace in the build-up to a sprint.

Motor-pacing. A method of training that competitive cyclists use in which they draft behind a  car or motorbike at increased speed.

On the Rivet. Similar to ‘In The Box ‘or ‘redlining’. 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.

Off the back (or OTB). Similar term to that of getting dropped. When a rider loses touch with the peloton and is effectively off the back.

Peloton or pelo. The main group of riders racing or riding in a group or bunch.

Pile up. When riders crash in a pile on the road.

Pulling turns. When you are on the front (driving the pace) and pull off to let someone else continue the work. The cycle continues as each rider pulls off after pulling her turn. This enables a faster speed to be maintained as each rider puts in a hard short effort.

Responding. This happens the moment after someone in the peloton attacks. The rider responds by chasing.

Rolling. A term generally yelled when a group is approaching an intersection and it’s save to ‘roll’ through.

Ripping your legs off. When someone is riding very strongly and making you work very hard.

Segment. A term most relevant to Strava users. A segment is a feature on the Strava cycling app that compares rider times over a particular route or section of road. The person completing that section the fastest is awarded the KOM or QOM.
Example: “I’m going to go hard on that hill because it’s a segment and John stole my KOM last week and I want it back.”

Sitting in. The art of using the peloton or bunch to conserve your energy. Sitting in the middle of the bunch means that you are protected, out of the wind and using less energy than everyone else.
Example: “He sat in all day and then sprinted for the win.”

Stomping. A rider who is riding and performing well on the bike. This may also refer to a rider always riding in a very big gear.

Stealing a wheel. When someone is following the wheel you want in the peloton, you move to steal it from them. Use it like: she stole my wheel or I stole her wheel.


Tempo. Riding at a fast to moderate cadence or effort.

The washing machine. What happens to your position within the bunch when trying to maintain a position towards the front. You are churned around like a washing machine – one moment at the front, one moment at the side, one moment at the back.

The wheel. A term to describe a rider in front of you.
Example: I trust Mike. He’s a good wheel.

Up the road. A term that refers to riders, generally in a break, that have left the peloton and are riding further up the road than the main bunch.

Up up up. A method of alerting the peloton to an attack.

Wheel sucking. When you follow the rider in front of you, drafting, and sucking their wheel as if your life depended on it. On a windy day, you will realise how important this ability is.

Watts. Measurement of power produced through your pedals. Measured by a power meter.

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