Cycling FAQs

In these cycling FAQs, I answer 35 biking-related questions to deepen your understanding of this exciting sport. In case there’s a cycling question you’d have loved for me to answer and I didn’t, mention it in the comments section below. Also read:

Best Cycling Shoes for Wide Feet

How to Clean a Bike

How to Clean a Cycling Helmet

How to Maintain a Bike

How to Repair Scuffed Cycling Shoes

Now, let’s cycle through the list below (pun intended).

1.How Many Cyclists are in the U.S.?

In 2019, the U.S. had 39.69 million cyclists compare to 39.69 million back in 2006, a 23 percent growth over that period. And in 2020 when Covid-19 showed up and turned the world upside down, the U.S. saw a bike boom. In fact, 2020 was America’s best bicycling year since 1973 according to BBC! A recent poll covering 1,000 people revealed that half of America is planning on biking more post-pandemic.

2.How Many Bicycles Are there in the World?

Currently, there are at least two billion bicycles in the world. The number of bicycles is expected to hit five billion by 2050. Compared to the anticipated growth in human population, the world is expected to have 9.7 billion by 2050. That means bike ownership will grow at a faster rate than human population.

3.Is Cycling a Real Sport?

Yes, cycling is a real sport. Most amateur racing and professional racing competitions are held in Asia, Europe, and the United States. And yes, cycling is an Olympic sport. A sport that is extremely popular.

4.Is Bicycling the Most Dangerous Sport?

No, cycling isn’t the most dangerous sport in the world — base jumping is. That said, cycling has its share of injuries and deaths. Recent findings in the U.K. reveal that one is 17 times more likely to get killed on a bike than in a car. And can you believe the same study found that cyclists are up to 23 times more likely to crash than motorcycle riders.

But while there’s danger in cycling, the sport isn’t as dangerous as it’s made out to be. It’s hard to believe but it’s a fact: you’re more likely to die swimming than cycling. The probability of dying while swimming is 1/56,587 vs. 1/92,325. Interesting, huh?

5.What’s Bicycle Racing Called?

Bike racing embraces multiple cycling sports. These cycle sports include time trialling, mountain bike racing, track cycling, cycle speedway, Bicycle Motorcross (BMX), and cyclo-cross.

6.What Are the Major Cycling Races?

Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España are the biggest cycling races in the world. The best-known among the three is Tour de France.

7.What’s the Most Famous Cycling Race in the World?

Tour de France is definitely the most famous cycling race worldwide. Tour de France also happens to be the most prestigious cycling race globally. Not surprisingly, the finest riders on Earth desire to participate in this race.

8.What’s the Hardest Cycling Race?

Tour de France is no doubt the hardest bike riding race in the world.

9.What’s the Longest Cycling Race?

The Trans-Siberian Extreme is the longest bicycling race in the world. Tour de France may be the hardest biking competition, but the Trans-Siberian Extreme wins distance-wise.

10. Why Do Cyclists Ride in a Peloton?

A peloton is a group of riders. The main reason cyclists ride in a peloton is to save energy through slipstreaming, aka drafting. When cyclists slipstream, they create a pocket of air behind and around themselves. And that air pocket offers a certain amount of aerodynamic value.

The space behind the rider in front (pacemaker/lead rider) becomes a low-pressure area. And the low pressure pushes the following rider forward. The farther back you’re in the group, the easier your ride gets.

The following riders can save up to 33 percent of their energy while the pacemaker (lead rider) saves about five percent. The pacemaker saves energy because the following rider makes the air to close in from behind.

11.How Does Tour de France Team Work?

Tour de France consists of 21 stages. Of these 21 stages, 9 are flat, 7 go through mountainous terrain, and 3 have the cyclists riding through hills. The remaining 2 stages feature individual time trials after which the cyclists have a 2-day rest.

There’s a winner for each of these stages. To win the overall title, you must be the ride that took the least amount of time to complete the majority of the stages.

12.How Many Riders Are There in a Cycling Team?

Typically, a professional bicycling team comprises 10 to 20 bike riders.

13.What Does Domestique Mean in Cycling?

A domestique is a French term used in competitive road cycling referring to a cyclist who mostly plays supportive roles. In fact, the word domestique means servant. For example, the domestique of a given team may protect their team leader or pacemaker from the wind.

Also, the domestique stays with their team leader to make sure they have food, water, extra clothing, and whatnot. If the leader falls or has a problem with their bike, the domistique is always there to help.

And if the team leader isn’t very tactically aware, the domestique stays close so the leader doesn’t make mistakes. Perhaps the most important role the domestique plays is race positioning. Race positioning means getting the leader in the right position just before a critical part of the race.

14.What’s a Soigneur in Cycling?

Soigneur is a French word meaning caretaker. Just like a domestiques, a soigneur exists to support the team. But unlike domestiques who focus on the team leader, soigneurs (also called swannies) take  care of the whole team.

When riders jet in, swannies organize transportation to the hotel and get them back there after the race. Also, these caretakers prep drinks, snacks, and meals for the team. And if someone needs to rush to the grocery for whatever, swannies do it.

Another crucial role soigneurs play is providing massage therapy to riders days. While being a certified massage therapist certainly helps, you can be a soigneur without being a certified therapist.

15.What’s a Stagiaire in Cycling?

A stagiaire in cycling is someone who rides for a professional team temporarily. By the way, stagiaire is pronounced as staajh.

16.What Does Etape Mean in Cycling?

In cycling, etape (also étape) simply means a stage or leg in a race. Etape may also be used when talking about either of two cyclosprotive events. These events are Etape du Dales and L’Étape du Tour.

17.What Does Grippy Mean in Biking?

When a cyclist says grippy, they mean they’re riding over a slow road. Slow because the road is bad or the terrain challenging. Sometimes, though, it’s the rider and not the road that is slow.

18.In Which Country is Cycling Most Popular?

The Netherlands has the most bicycles per person. That makes the Netherlands the country where cycling is most popular worldwide. In fact, there are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands. Other European countries where people bike a lot include Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.

The United States is another geo where folks ride their bike a lot. And 50 percent of Americans in a recent poll said they planned on riding more after the pandemic. Who knows, the U.S. might soon overtake the Netherlands.

19.How Fast Can You Go on a Racing Bike?

If you’re a beginner cyclist who’s a bit of an endurance athlete, you can average 15mph to 18mph on flat ground. The typical absolute beginner, however, rides at an average bike speed of 12mph. As for professional cycling racers, they can comfortably squeeze 25-30 mph out of their bike on flat surfaces. You need to start training hard and regularly to attain pro-level cycling speeds.

20.What’s the Fastest Speed You Can Reach on a Bike?

Currently, the fastest cycling speed on record is 144.18 km/h or 89.59 mph. Todd Reichert achieved that incredible feat in 2016. And no’s broken the record, yet.  This professional rider hit this insanely high speed riding his Eta Speedbike. The Eta Speedbike is a recumbent bike with a highly streamlined design. Reinchert rode it on level ground and the winds stayed calm. While this sounds exciting and all that, it’s probably not something you should try to do!

21.What Does Pedaling Squares Mean?

When you bonk, cyclists say you’re pedaling squares. You’re really struggling riding your bike. Your legs don’t feel like your legs anymore; they’re lazy. You’ve run out of glycogen, and each pedal stroke transfers zero motion to your wheels. You should keep going, though, for there’s never been a good bike trip without challenges.

22.What’s Pedaling in Circles?

Pedaling in circles means applying tons of pressure to each pedal stroke at every point of the rotation. When pedaling in circles, you apply pressure while pushing on the down stroke and while pulling on your way up.

Most cyclists apply pressure to their pedal when going down and relax when going up. Pedaling in circles is the best way to “pedal hard” as Fausto Coppi would say. One reason to use toeclips and clipless pedals is that they enable you to pedal through the full 360-degree rotation.

23.What’s a Sag Stop in Cycling?

A sag stop is basically a rest area chosen in advance in an organized bike ride. During a sag stop, riders usually eat and enjoy drinks as they recharge for the rest of the tour. This is the best time to handle any mechanical problems you may have or even swallow some pain-killing meds. It’s also when swannies kick into action, supporting the team in various ways including feeding the members.

24.What Are No Drop Rides in Cycling?

A no drop ride is one where cyclists are in a group and no one ever gets left behind. The other riders won’t leave you in case you have a flat tire or your two-wheeled human-powered contraption. If you want to learn riding safely in a group, be in a no drop race.

25. Who’s a Wheelsucker?

A wheelsucker is a cyclist in a race who’s resolved to ride in other riders’ slipstream without wanting to help others. It’s a rider that wants to leverage other cyclists” effort without givingany support back. Being a great sprinter who shoots to the front of the peleton during the final section of the race is OK. What’s not considered cool in the biking world is wheelsucking every day on your communte.

26. What’s to Halfwheel?

Halfwheeling in a biking race is when you’re an extremely eager rider that compels the other riders to bike faster. You suddenly start pedaling harder, forcing all the other riders on your team to work harder to keep up.

27.What’s the Correct Posture for Cycling?

Assume a neutral position where you relax your shoulders and bend your elbows without bending your wrists. Also, lower your head away from your ears. Lowering your dome frees it so you can turn without difficulty while staying alert for traffic.

Also, maintain a neutral spine. Maintaining a neutral spine means engaging your core and keeping your back relaxed. It’s the opposite of adopting a slouched riding position. Keep your shoulders and hips in a straight line.

And when riding your road bike, make sure your knees don’t bow out to the side. Bowing out your knees to the side looks a little awkward while causing pain and reducing your efficiency.

Riding a road bike in the correct posture can save you a lot of neck pain after the ride. The correct posture when riding a road bike has you assuming a relaxed body position. Both beginner riders and more experienced cyclists struggle in easing themselves into the right posture. So, keep trying.

28.What’s a Good Distance for a Beginner Cyclist?

As a beginner cyclist riding at about 12 mph, start with short distances, as short as 2 miles. As you get comfortable riding a certain distance each week, increase the distance and ride time. After about 2 months, you shouldn’t struggle cycling 10 miles in a single trip.

29.How Are Cyclists Categorized?

Cyclists are categorized on the basis of age and skill level. Based on age, you can belong in one of the following categories: Pre-J, Junior, Senior Racing, and Master racing groups. And based on your riding skill, you can be a Cat 5, Cat 4, Cat 3, Cat 2, Cat 1, or a Pro. By the way, Cat is an acronym for category.

Pre-J cyclists belong in the age range 6-8 years. Entry is free, and it’s a non-competitive event. But while there are no placements and riders aren’t scored, there are awards for participants. The Juniors event has cyclists in the age range 10-18 years vs. 19-34 years for the Senior Racing event.

As for the Master racing age group, it’s for cyclists aged 35-plus years. Then there’s Elite Races which is pretty much an open-age group. That is, Junior riders and Under 23 riders are allowed to enter an Elite Race, and the same goes for Master riders.

A Cat 5 cyclist is an entry-level racer boasting an experience of less than 10 mass start biking races. Cat 4 riders are local-level racers while Cat 3 regional-level racers. A Cat 2 rider participates in national level racing. As for Pros, these are Cat 1 racers riding under a contract with a registered Pro team.

Note: Combining your age group and category determines what races you can enter.  You never want to enter a race your license isn’t eligible for. If you don’t everyone to think you’re a complete moron, be extra careful when registering.

30. What’s a Cycling Marathon Called?

A cycling marathon is a mountain bike race usually called a cross-country marathon (XCM). In this type of bike racing, riders have to conquer at least 25 miles of mountainous terrain. And how long does a cycling marathon take? Typically 90 minutes.

31.Is Cycling Better than Running?

As far as burning calories, nothing comes close to good old running, not even cycling. Running puts more of your body’s muscles to work than does cycling, which is why it’s the better workout here. However, cycling is less demanding of your body and gets you to your destination faster than walking. Have a consult with your doctor to devise a custom strategy that’s best suited to your personal health goals.

32.Marathon vs Century, Which is Harder?

In general, a marathon is tougher on your body than a century. So, how do I know that the marathon is harder than a century ride? Consider this: Elite riders do a century or even more each day for an entire week. But pretty much no one runs the marathon daily for a week.

33. What’s a Century Cycling Race?

A century ride is a 100-km race (62 mph) sponsored mostly by local cycling clubs. But the vast majority of century races are shorter than 100 miles to suit cyclist of varying abilities. There’s the quarter century (25km) and half century (50 km). As for the double century, it’s a 200-km race, and it’s not a piece of cake.

34. How Long Does it Takes to Complete a Century?

It takes the average cyclist riding at 15 mph roughly 61/2 to 7 hours to complete a 100-mile century. But it all depends on your skill level and how long you’re off your bike during the race.

35. Can You Lose Weight Cycling?

Yes, you can lose weight biking. Even riding a stationary bike (treadmill) helps burn fat. According to Harvard University, a 125-pound person biking at 14-15.9mph for 30 minutes burns up to 300 calories. And if the same person moderately rides a stationary bike, they’ll burn about 210 calories. Evidently, riding a bike is a healthy way to live.