It’s OK to be clueless about what’s being said by mountain bikers when they talk, at first. But if it’s been weeks and you still need others to explain everything in plain English, this mountain bike slang guide got your back. It’s a detailed A to Z MTB lingo dictionary designed to initiate you into the amazing world of biking trails.
Related: Road Cycling Lingo
Just like surfers and skateboarders, mountain bikers have a dialect that leaves outsiders and MTB beginners confused. These cyclists are certainly conversing in English, but the words they speak sound pretty much like Greek.
To keep things neat and organized, I’ve presented the terms and phrases in alphabetical order. That should help you find the MTB slang term you need super fast.
Admittedly, this guide doesn’t cover every single phrase or saying in MTB lingo. But if you’re new to mountain biking or are getting back into the life after a hiatus, I believe you’ll find this resource helpful.
Cycling Lingo: A Words
A-frame: A man-made feature used to help mountain bike riders get over a gap or a large object such as a huge fallen tree. If you look at an A-frame from the side, it looks like the letter A.
All Mountain Bike: This is the bike type you need to ride the enduro mountain biking style. In terms of travel, it’s 140mm and above for enduro mountain bikes. It’s tougher and longer-lasting than an XC bike (described below). This bike devours steep hills and also performs really well on descents.
Alloy: An alloy bike is a bicycle with an aluminum alloy frame. To make an alloy frame, bike frame manufacturers mix aluminum with metals such as magnesium and zinc. Aluminum can also be mixed with silicon to create an alloy frame. Silicon isn’t a metal by the way; it’s a metalloid (a semi-metallic material). Alloy frames are heavier than carbon frames but lighter than steel. This frame is light and stiff, but it’s not the most durable.
AM: All Mountain. I’ve just ordered an AM bike.
Armor: Protective cycling gear. Your helmet, MTB pads, shin pads, elbow pads, and cycling gloves. E.g. I always wear my full armor when going downhill.
Second meaning: When you use materials such as bricks or stone to repair erosion or prevent future erosion, you’re armoring whatever it is you’re working on. One MTB trail feature that may need such maintenance is a creek crossing.
ATB: All Mountain Bicycle (dated). No one says ATB anymore, but mountain bikes can be ridden on all kinds of terrain. You can ride them on the road, but out on the trails is where these bikes shine.
Attack Position/Ready Position: A semi-standing riding position/posture used when navigating steep, rocky trails or when riding sketchy technical features. You get into the attack position when approaching a fallen log lying across the trail, for example.
In the attack position, your head stays up and focuses on the trail ahead. And you deeply bend your knees and elbows. You also push your hips back, keep your chest down, and your bum stays off the saddle (seat). Plus, you’re feathering the entire time. That is, your fingers (usually the pointing fingers) cover the brake levers so you can stop abruptly if necessary.
B Mountain Biking Expressions and Words
Baby head: a round-shaped rock standing on the trail. Called a baby head because it’s like a baby’s head size-wise. Be careful or you’ll crash into those baby heads.
Bail: Every good mountain biker knows how to fall safely, that is, to bail. You usually bail to avoid a crash on a mountain bike.
I had to bail, or I’d ram that big, old tree.
Baggies: Usually loose bike shorts. When riding your bike in the summer, you want to wear baggy MTB shorts rather than tights.
Bandit trail: An unsanctioned trail, often one passing through undeveloped private property. Sometimes MTBers discover bandit trails created by the locals for some reason. Other times, mountain bikers create these trails to lengthen a trail so they can enjoy more saddle time.
I rarely ride bandit trails because I hate courts and judges.
Bark Tattoo: When riding through a tree gate (between two trees) super fast and your hand gets scraped by the tree’s bark, you get a bark tattoo. Wearing forearm guards helps, though.
Berm: A common trail feature created by heaping soil around a flat corner to convert the bend into a more rideable trail section. You need great bike handling skills to ride berms at speed. And pulling your brake levers while riding a berm can easily throw you off your bike.
I keep washing out when riding that flat corner. They really should build a berm on that trail.
Biff: Crash, also called a wipeout
I was riding too fast, and I biffed.
Bikeoholic: A mountain biking addict/a cycling addict. I got into MTB last year, but I’ve become pretty much a bikeoholic.
Boardwalk: A man-made surface usually made of wood that extends a trail over or across a gap that’d be extremely challenging to get over, especially for a beginner.
A boardwalk can also be used to make an extremely off-camber trail section level. Other times a boardwalk can be used to introduce a little excitement into a boring section of the trail.
Bomb: When you bomb a descent, you ride it very fast. You’re not bothered too much about what might happen as a result. I enjoy bombing downhill trails, but I have a great bike setup and ride fully armored.
Booter: A huge jump. That booter terrified me as a mountain bike beginner.
Bonk: To deplete all your energy when riding. After riding non-stop for 3 hours, I bonked. Luckily I had packed a snack and enough water.
Bottom Bracket: A bike part at the bottom of a bike that contains ball bearings that rotate a spindle running through them. On the spindle attaches the crankset, and the crankset moves the wheel.
Related: Names of Parts of a Bike
Brap: Also Braap. It’s the sound knobby mountain bike tires make when you’re riding a trail aggressively.
Bridge: Also called a boardwalk. Usually a wooden structure laid across a gap such as a ditch or a stream. There was a bridge across the river, so we didn’t ford.
BSO: Abbreviation for Bike Shaped Object. A BSO isn’t a cheap MTB, the kind you see at Walmart, Target, and other big box stores. They’re usually low-quality bikes that suck at off-road cycling.
My first-ever MTB was a BSO. It fell apart on the first day on the trail.
Bunny Hop: A riding technique that helps you get over obstacles. You get both wheels off the ground, but not at the same time. Read: How to Bunny Hop Logs on a Mountain Bike
I bunny-hopped hard on the rattlesnake.
Burp: The burping sound produced when a tubeless tire suddenly loses much of its pressure. My front tire burped, and I had to bail.
C MTB Words and Terms
Cadence: Pedaling rhythm. How fast you rotate your pedals per minute. That is, the number of revolutions per minute (RPM). To get better at mountain biking, I realized I had to get my cadence to a really good place first.
Camber: A trail’s angle. That trail section was acutely off-camber. We had to build a boardwalk to level it out.
Carbon: Everyone craves a carbon fiber frame at some point. Carbon frames are the finest, strongest, and lightest bike frames out there, which is why they cost a small fortune. Mike told me that his shiny all-carbon MTB set him back five grand.
Chainring: Synonym for sproke. Usually the toothed wheel near the front wheel of a mountain bike. Also called a sprocket. The chainring pulls the chain round, causing forward motion. This part links the chain to the crankset.
Chainstretch: This is simply chain wear. If your chain starts rattling and grinding during rides, the likely cause is chainstretch.
Chainsuck: When you upshift or downshift and your chain fails to disengage correctly from the chainring you’re shifting from, we say you have a chainsuck. Nothing sucks like getting a chainsuck when you’re riding in the zone.
Chain Tattoo: When you brush your leg against your MTB’s chain, the greasy stain you get is called a chain tattoo. Beginner mountain bikers keep getting chain tattoos.
Chatter: A trail section with tons of loose rocks. Also, the sound your bike’s knobby tires make when rolling over chatter. See chunder below. Riding the treacherous chatter on that descent requires great bike handling skills.
Chainstay: The parallel tubes that connect the seat stays and the seat tube.
Chamois: Say it with me, shammy, not kamois. When someone says my chamois, they’re most likely talking about their bike shorts. But chamois strictly means the padded foam around the crotch area of biking shorts that helps minimize chafing and skin tear. For really long rides, you’ll want to apply some chamois cream on the most affected areas.
Chunder: Super rocky/technical terrain, especially one covered with rocks.
I ratcheted through the chunder, cleaning the trail section in less than an hour.
Clean: When you clean a trail or a section of a trail, you ride it without getting your feet off the pedals. You also don’t stop or wipe out.
I love how you’ve cleaned that crunchy trail section.
Clipless/Clipped in: When you ride clipless, you ride with your cycling shoes clipped into your bike’s pedals. I’m a complete MTB beginner, and riding clipless terrifies me.
I ride clipped in at all times.
CO2: A CO2 inflator used to pump air into a tire’s inner tube. Fortunately, one of my dudes loaned me their CO2 and I aired up the burped tire.
Cockpit: The handlebars and everything attached to or mounted onto them. The stem, the handlebars, brake levers, shifters, bell, Gopro, cyclocomputer, and whatnot. Pro mountain bike riders have their cockpit set up a certain way.
Cover: When you cover, you have your index finger (usually) on the brake levers throughout your ride.
Crankset: A component to which you attach the pedals on a bike. The crankset consists of three parts namely a spindle, crankarms, and a chainring/chainrings. Chainrings are also called sprockets. My crankset’s gotten all squeaky and I gotta replace it.
Creek Crossing: When a trail crosses a creek, that’s called a creek crossing. I’m looking for cycling shoes that’ll keep my feet dry when riding through muddy trails and wet creek crossings.
Related: How to Keep Feet Dry Mountain Biking
Cross Country: Popular MTB racing covering point-to-point trail sections the fastest you can. Cross-country races happen in all kinds of terrain: singletrack trails, descents, and climbs. Abbreviated to XC.
Crunchy: If a trail is covered with tons of loose rocks that make riding it pretty technical, it’s said to be crunchy. I ride clipped in whether biking tame trails or crunchy terrain.
Cutty: When you cutty on a mountain bike, you slide into a berm or other turn, kicking up a ton of dirt and dust as you try to catch the back wheel on the berm. I learned to cutty on a MTB last summer, and I can’t wait to enjoy it this year.
Cyclocross: A type of winter or fall bike racing that takes place over a course that features everything from singletrack trails, pavements, grass, and steep trails. There are also man-made obstacles on the course. The rider sometimes dismounts and gets back on their bike to sidestep an obstacle. Both mountain bikers and roadies (road bikers) compete in cyclocross.
Cycologist: A bike mechanic or someone that knows a whole lot about bike mechanical issues. My cycologist helped me choose a fitting frame for my bike and helped with setup.
D MTB Words and Expressions
Dab: When you dab, you lightly place a foot on the ground or just stick it out to prevent a crash or maintain your balance.
Riders that don’t dab when riding a berm keep flying over the top and crashing.
Danger noodle: Usually a venomous snake.
Depression: When all the trails where you’re at are closed for some reason (rona?) and you can’t ride, you get depressed.
Derailleur: The component on a bike that shifts the chain from one sprocket/cog to another. Most mountain bikes have a front derailleur and a rear derailleur.
My derailleur is wonky and I’ll have my cycologist tweak it a little before the next ride.
Derailleur Hanger: The rear derailleur attaches to the derailleur hanger. If you check around the rear dropout or axle, you should see this feature.
Dialed: When your ride is dialed, you clear a trail section super smoothly.
And when your MTB is dialed, you have a setup that works extremely well for you.
I’m from my LBS, and my cycologist got my bike properly dialed.
Dirt jump: When you dirt jump, you ride your MTB over heaps of firmed dirt or soil. The firmed heap itself is also called a dirt jump.
I dirt jump a whole lot, but I only wear gloves when doing really big jumps.
Ditch: When you ditch a bike, you dismount safely to avoid something.
I realized I couldn’t fit my wide-barred bike through the narrow tree gate, so I ditched it.
Dope: Dope in MTB is what it means everywhere else: really good or awesome.
These cycling kicks are dope! I gotta get a pair.
Double: A gap jump.
As a beginner, it’s safer to start off with tabletop jumps rather than doubles.
Doubletrack: A type of trail usually created by vehicles. A doubletrack lets two mountain bikers ride side by side.
Downhill Mountain Bike (DH): A bike built for riding downhill at very high speeds. Downhill MTB started in the 1970s in Marin County, California. The hippies in CA are probably the earliest known mountain bikers, at least in the United States.
DH is essentially Time Trial (racing against the clock) down the side of a mountain. It’s mountain biking in its purest form. But hey, no one’s saying this is the best mountain biking style ever invented.
A DH bike offers travel of as much as 200mm, and that’s huge.
Ryan is a DH rider, and he always wears a full-face cycling helmet during the descent on his steed (bike).
Downshift: When you downshift, you switch to a lower gear. See upshift.
Downside: A slope that faces downward, usually after a jump. Downsides help a lot in terms of building speed. Watch this Redbull video to see how freeriders leverage downsides to build supersonic speed going downhill.
Drop: You know you have a drop in front of you when your front tire can’t keep rolling as before because the elevation of the trail has changed drastically. You can only drop into the lower elevation from the upper elevation rather than rolling over it.
That drop was terrifying, but I still rode it.
Drivetrain: The mechanism that propels a bike forward. It comprises the derailleur, chain, cassette, crankset, and chainring(s).
My drivetrain has become noisy and the derailleur has trouble shifting. It definitely needs some attention.
Dropped: If you’re new to mountain biking and the other riders leave you behind some of the time forcing you to pedal harder (more efficiently), they’ve dropped you. But they shouldn’t drop you when your tire burps and loses all the air it had.
My dudes keep dropping me because they want me to work on my cadence and become a better mountain bike rider.
Dropper post: If you can increase or decrease the height of your saddle while riding by pressing a lever, your seat post is a dropper post.
I have a dropper post, so I can adjust saddle height to a comfortable position without getting off my bike.
Dropping in: When you say dropping in (yell is more like it), you’re letting your dudes know that you’re about to start riding an extremely steep trail section.
Dropouts: The ends of the chainstay or front fork into which fits the wheel’s axle. When you pair up dropouts with a Quick Release mechanism, you can remove the wheel very easily. You’re even able to take off the rear wheel without needing to derail the chain.
Dual Suspension: A mountain bike with both rear and front suspension.
Dual-suspension bikes are generally more expensive than hardtails.
Dude: An endearment term used among close riding buddies.
A rattlesnake struck at one of my dudes, but it ended up getting torn by the fast-spinning spokes.
MTB Terminology Starting with E
Elevated Tread Surface: A bridge or a boardwalk is an elevated tread surface.
Endo: When you endo, you go OTB (Over the Bar).
I almost always endo when riding that berm.
Enduro: A discipline of mountain biking that involves quite a bit of timed downhill rides and fewer cross country or uphill sections.
I ride DH some of the time, but I ride exclusively enduro the rest of the time.
F MTB Words and Phrases
Faceslappers: Faceslappers are branches and leaves that literally slap your face as you ride certain trails.
It was deep in the African jungle, and we had to endure the faceslappers that hang over every trail.
Fat Bike (Also Fattie): A trail bike with extremely fat tires (3 inches or wider) that help it float over all kinds of surfaces. It performs excellently when ridden through snow, wet sand, mud, roads, hard-packed trails, bike parks, and everything in between. Definitely the best MTB for winter riding or beachside cycling.
I am new to riding and someone recommended a fat bike for me.
Feathering: A bike part to which the front wheel attaches.
Fire road: A gravel road or dirt road that’s wide enough to fit an emergency vehicle. A doubletrack trail is almost always a fire road.
Fixie: A fixed gear bike (one gear) that only rolls when you’re pedaling.
You gotta keep pedaling or that fixie will stop dead.
Flat cornering: When you ride around a flat corner (one that’s not banked) at speed, that’s flat cornering. Be extra careful when riding flat corners especially if they’re covered with loose gravel. It’s extremely easy to wash out.
I washed out as I flat cornered that trail section.
Flow: When the baby heads, tree gates, rock gardens, downhill sections, and technical trail features work together perfectly, you don’t just ride super smoothly; you flow. And when you flow, you always get in the zone. (see in the zone below).
Fork: A bike part to which the front wheel attaches.
Freeride: A mountain biking style that combines aspects of downhill and dirt jumping. The rider goes downhill the whole time. They also navigate technical trail features while performing mind-blowing tricks. You need amazing bike handling skills, control, speed, and precision to win a freeride contest.
Front Triangle: Essentially the frame of a bike. It consists of the top tube, down tube, and seat tube. When these tubes meet, they form a triangle.
I have a water bottle on the front triangle.
Full Squish: A full/dual suspension bicycle.
It’s a full squish bike, and you didn’t expect it to be cheap, did you?
Full Suspension: A dual-suspension bike.
G Mountain Biking Terms
Gap Jump: A type of jump with a gap separating the takeoff and the landing. It takes speed and technique to get over a gap jump.
Part of overcoming the fear of gap jumping is telling yourself you can do it.
Gassed: When you’re gassed, you’re exhausted.
I’ve been shredding for hours. I’m gassed.
Geometry: The angles made when the top tube, down tube, and seat tube meet are collectively referred to as the bike’s geometry.
Gnar: Extremely rocky or rooty terrain. Also an overly challenging technical trail feature.
Always pad up and helmet up before going out to shred the gnar.
Gnarly: A fun-packed MTB ride that’s very challenging or filled with possible danger.
It was a pretty gnarly descent. Thank God I didn’t crash.
Granny Gear: The gear your grandma uses because who knows better than grandma? The easiest gear. The chain is shifted onto the smallest rear cog and the largest front cog.
Gravel grind: Usually a long ride that’s done using a gravel bike. In a gravel grind race, contestants ride all kinds of surfaces from gravel, asphalt, pavement, and dirt. But most of the ride is over gravel.
Greenway: An easy-to-ride path, one that’s pretty wide and lacks any kind of technical features or elevations.
I rode lots of greenways as a beginner before I started learning technical riding.
Grom: A young mountain bike rider, usually one under the age of 16.
Grunt: A super hard climb. To conquer a grunt, you need to shift to your bike’s easiest gear.
It was a long grunt, and I had to shift to the granny gear.
H Mountain Biking Terms
Hardtail: A bike with only the front suspension.
I own a hardtail bike and I use it for dirt jumping as well as casual street riding.
Head tube: A component that transmits steering movements from the handlebars to the fork.
Hero dirt: The kind of soil conditions you might expect when the trails reopen after a rainstorm. Hero dirt makes for super easy riding. It’s a really flowy ride, and it’s easy to believe you’ve suddenly morphed into a pro.
It was hero dirt from start to finish. The ride felt like a dream.
Hip jump: A non-straight-on jump, one that requires you to change your direction and orientation midair.
It was sick the way he did that hip jump.
Huck: When you huck, you do a huge scary jump without thinking about all the bad things that might happen.
The grom was unsurprisingly nimble, but when he hucked that 18 feet drop, I thought he’d crash. He didn’t.
I Mountain Biking Terms
IMBA: Abbreviation for the International Mountain Biking Association
Involuntary dismount: A crash, a wipeout
J Mountain Biking Terms
JRA: Abbreviation for just riding around
Jump: When you jump, both wheels of your bike get off the ground at once.
K MTB Words and Phrases
Klunker (beater): Do you have a mountain bike that’s remained in pretty good condition even though it’s old? Well, that’s a klunker.
I have some klunker in the basement, and I’ve been thinking about getting back into mountain biking after a 5-year hiatus.
Kicker: A super steep jump, one that amounts to lots of airtime or takes you to a greater elevation of the trail.
Kickout: A MTB technique that comes in handy when riding switchbacks and tight turns. You simply kick the rear of the bike out to the side as you turn.
KOM: Abbreviation for King of the Mountain. If you post the fastest time on Strava for a particular trail section, you become the KOM.
Knobby tires: Road bikes have almost smooth tires, and mountain bikes have high-traction, knobby tires designed for rough, off-road riding.
L MTB Words and Phrases
Ladder bridge: A ladder bridge is a technical trail feature that’s constructed to help MTBers to get over streams and other areas like that. If you’re looking to build a ladder bridge, don’t use a single block as that’ll mean pretty much zero traction.
Also, stay away from pine or hemlock as it rots insanely fast. Hand-ripped cedar is probably the best material there is for constructing ladder bridges. Some trail builders use pressure-treated cedar, but no ladder bridge gets that greasy when the wet seasons set in.
I shredded that ladder bridge like the pro I’m trying to be.
LBS: Abbreviation for Local Bike Shop.
My LBS carries every kind of supply I need.
Lid: A mountain bike helmet.
That lid is rad.
Line: A particular path through a trail section, especially one that the rider knows very well.
I can’t seem to choose the right line when clearing that gnarly trail section, and I keep going OTB.
Lip: A takeoff’s or landing’s edge.
Loam: You won’t find much loam in the U.S., but some places such as some parts of the U.K. are known to have loam pretty much throughout the year.
Mountain bikers love loamy trails because no other trails offer such a perfect balance between traction and balance. Loam is soft, moist, nearly powdery dirt. It’s like hero dirt in many ways.
Log ride: This is a trail feature where you roll over a fallen log, especially one whose top’s been flattened.
Log roll: A stack of logs that have been arranged in a way that lets you roll over them with both wheels.
Loop: A loop is a uni-direction route starting and ending at the same spot.
Loose: When you ride loose, you ride on the edge of control.
He rides pretty loose, and that scares me no end. I’m still a beginner, you know.
Loose may also refer to riding conditions where lots of loose gravel or rocks sit on a hard-packed surface. When tires roll over a loose trail section, they lose some of their traction. And you’re likely to wash out if riding at speed.
M MTB Words and Phrases
Mamil: Acronym for Middle Aged Man in Lycra. Mamils are fine folks, but they’ll talk your ear off about the goings-on in their mid-life crisis. These cyclists like riding in a pack, and they’re all about Strava. Don’t try to tell them to relax and enjoy this present moment.
He’s a mamil alright, but he’s full of raw MTB energy. He rides like the wind.
Manual: The non-American name for a wheelie.
Macleod: Also called a rakehoe. A double-sided blade with a long wooden handle used by trail builders to create nice trails. The tool got its name from its inventor, Malcolm McLeod.
MTB: Mountain Bike. Also means mountain biking.
I bought a new MTB last paycheck and it hands incredibly well.
N Mountain Biking Terms
N+1: If anyone visits with you and sees all your 10 bikes in the garage and wonders how many bikes you really need to feel satisfied, give them that answer. Say, “I need N+1 bikes.” They need to understand you’re a born cyclist and you’re always saving toward bike ownership, just one more.
Neutral Position: The riding position you assume when you’re riding a greenway. There are zero obstacles on the trail, and all you want to do is sit back, relax, and maintain your cadence.
Your knees and elbows stay bent slightly and your weight distributes evenly over the pedals. If you’re in this position and come across some fallen log lying across your trail, launching into the attack position is super easy.
No-drop: If someone says they ride in a no-drop group, they mean no one gets dropped (left behind). It’s the kind of pack you want to be in if you’re the type of rider that’s always having trail-side problems.
Nope rope: Remember danger noodle? Nope rope means exactly the same thing: a snake, usually a venomous one.
I live in CA, and there’s all sorts of nope ropes there. I wonder what others in this forum do to avoid getting bitten.
NOBRA: NOBRA is an acronym for National Off-road Bicycle Association. This used to be the U.S. MTB racing division in the 1980s and 1990s, but it’s no longer in existence.
Northshore: The Northshore area in Vancouver is the place where freeride mountain biking originated. There’s lots of skinnies and wet rocks and all sorts of uber technical features to ride over.
Northshore may also refer to raised wooden boardwalks, technical trail features. These features are also known as ladders or woodwork.
I have been riding for years, but I’ve yet to master northsore. Maybe I need a few MTB lessons to conquer northshore.
That northshore terrifies me.
Northshore Trail: The name of a 22.5-mile premier trail located on the northern shore of lake Grape Vine. Lake Grape Vine is found in Flower Mound, Texas. The Dallas Off-Road Bicycling Association maintains this well-known trail. By the way, the Northshore Trail is one of the most popular and longest trails in the northern region of Texas.
O Mountain Biking Terms
Off-camber: If a turn is off-camber, the outside edge is lower than the inner edge. And there’s a tendency for the bike to move toward the outer edge. If your bike handling and berm riding skills aren’t up to scratch, it’s easy to wash out.
Riding off-camber turns is for me one of the trickiest skills to master.
OTB: When you hear a mountain biker saying they went OTB, they mean they went over the bar. They flipped over their bike’s handlebars. If you’re not careful when going downhill through a rock garden, you’ll likely end up going OTB.
For the life of me, I can’t seem to clean that rock garden without going OTB. That sucks.
Overcook: Even the best chefs sometimes burn food, just like the best mountain bikers can overcook an obstacle or a turn. Usually, overcooking a turn or technical feature happens when you come in too fast.
I keep overcooking that berm, and whenever I do, I go OTB.
P Mountain Biking Words and Phrases
Pinch flat: You can never get a pinch flat with a tubeless setup. A pinch is a puncture that happens when a bike’s wheel and tire pinch the inner tube.
Sometimes the puncture consists of two small holes spaced close to each other, pretty much like a snakebite. When that’s the case, mountain bikers call that pinch flat a snake bite.
Tell me it’s not another pinch flat!
Pinned: If you pin it, you ride a trail section insanely fast.
I pinned it on that downhill section of the enduro race.
Pipe Crossing: Some trails have pipes that help control erosion. These pipes usually run across the trail, and it’s a good idea to bunny hop them to avoid damaging them.
Plus size: If a bike has plus-sized tires, it has tires measuring between 2.8″ and 3.25″ in width. All fat tires are plus-sized tires.
My trail bike has plus-sized tires that let me float over snowy trails.
Poach: When you ride in a race without paying, you’re poaching. Also, when you ride a private trail without the land manager knowing you’re having fun on their property without paying the entrance fee, that’s poaching. I bet you’re a decent mountain biker that wouldn’t want to race or ride a private trail for free.
Presta Valve: One of two main types of bike valves. The other type is the Schrader valve. The Presta valve is a bike-specific valve and is narrower and longer than the Schrader valve. What’s the difference between these two valves?
A Schrader valve features a check valve that prevents air to come out once it enters the tire or tube. As for a Presta valve, it seals depending on the amount of pressure inside the tube or tire. The Schrader valve lets you use the pump at a service station to air up your tires in case you forgot your pump or Co2 inflator.
The Presta valve is almost always the valve you see on tubless tire setups. This valve lacks a check valve. If it had a check valve, that valve would easily get clogged up by the tubeless sealant.
PSI: Abbreviation for Pressure Per Square Inch. The PSI of a tire is the amount of air you need to pump in to keep it sufficiently inflated. Generally, roadies inflate their tires harder than do mountain bikers. You know why? It’s because a tire with more air inside experiences less rolling resistance and less traction. Lower rolling resistance and less traction means faster speed.
If you have a tubeless setup, you can run your tires will less pressure than you’d need with tires having an inner tube.
Pump: When you pump, you make certain body movements that make your bike roll very fast without pedaling. Pumping requires great balance and bike handling skills. If you can pump, you’ll always have a slight advantage over bikers that can’t.
I pump berms, and that lets me exit the turn with more speed than I came in with.
Second meaning: A bike pump. You use a bike pump to air up your tires. Remember to pack a pump when planning on a biking tour.
Pump track: A pump track is a course that pump track riders use to demonstrate their biking skills. This is an off-road track with a series of banked turns forming a loop. Pump tracks have roller coaster-like features that make riding the course more exciting but also more challenging.
Q MTB Words and Phrases
QOM: Abbreviation for Queen of the mountain. If you’re a female mountain biker and pin it on a trail segment posting the fastest time on Strava, you get the QOM. QOM is the female version of KOM.
Quick Release: Seasoned mountain bikers simply say QR rather than a Quick Release Skewer. A QR is a mechanism used to attach a wheel or saddle to a bike’s frame. To release the wheel or saddle, all you have to do is press a lever. No tools needed.
A QR-operated saddle is great, but it makes it too easy for a thief to steal your saddle.
MTB Terminology Starting with R
Racing Stripe: When you ride through a muddy section of the trail and fling up tons of mud especially when riding fast, what you spew is a racing stripe.
But when what you spew is mostly water, that’s not a racing stripe. That’s a rooster tail. See my definition of rooster tail below and read the example sentence for a complete understanding of its meaning.
When riding wet, muddy trails, I’m always on a bike that slings racing stripes like there’s no tomorrow.
Rad: Short for radical. In mountain biking, if something such as a pair of bike shorts or a cycling jersey looks really cool, we don’t just say it’s awesome. We prefer saying it’s rad.
I’ve found that wearing my rad bike shorts makes me feel like there’s no technical trail feature I can’t conquer.
Rail: When you rail a berm or a turn, you enter and ride it super smoothly. One would think you were riding a set of perfectly aligned rails.
Dude, you railed that berm like nothing I’ve ever seen!
Ratchet: If you ratchet through a technical feature such as a rock garden, you weave your way through it without doing complete pedal strokes. Instead, you rely on short, controlled, partial strokes to clear the obstacles on the difficult trail section.
The only safe way to clear that rocket garden was to ratchet through it. My trackstanding skills also came in handy.
Reach: If you draw a vertical line running through the center of your bike’s bottom bracket and measure the distance between that line and the center of the head tube, that is your bike’s reach. See the image below to understand what the reach of a bike is.
I feel like my MTB’s reach is too long for me.
Rear Triangle: This is the triangular shape formed when the chainstay and the seat stays meet. In a full squish mountain bike (full suspension bike), the rear triangle and front triangle come as separate portions. FS bike manufacturers unite these two triangles through pivot bolts.
In a hardtail MTB (a bike with only the front suspension), the rear and front triangles exist as one unit. Bike makers weld these two frame parts into a complete bike frame.
Rigid: A bike that provides zero suspension. The opposite of a dual or full-suspension bike.
Mine is a rigid MTB. Not sure I can do any kind of jumps on it without breaking it.
Rock garden: A technical trail feature. More specifically, it’s a portion of a trail covered with rocks of all shapes and sizes.
Dude, you cleared that rock garden without unclipping! Looks like biking more is paying off big for you.
Rock roll: A technical trail feature. A rock roll is a massive boulder or a sloping rock face that you roll over with both wheels sitting solidly on the rock’s surface.
Drops terrify me. Perhaps riding a few rock rolls will help lessen my fear of drops.
Roller coaster: A man-made section of undulating boardwalk. The term also refers to any trail section characterized by a series of short ups and downs. Pump tracks feature roller coasters, and what a joy they’re to ride!
I cleared that roller coaster, and it felt like I was floating the whole time. I’ll have to session it a few more times to master it.
Roost: When you enter a banked turn or a berm at speed and your rear wheel kicks up tons of dirt and dust, you’ve roosted that berm or that corner. And what’s better than roosting forest trails? Nothing!
I gawked at you as you roosted that flat corner. Dude, that was sick!
You kicked up tons of roost as you navigated those twisty turns.
Of course, you wouldn’t be gawking if weren’t new to mountain biking. Instead, you would be riding the hell out of your bike.
Rooster tail: When you ride a wet trail section and water flies off your rear tire, that’s a rooster tail.
You’re not a real mountain biker if you don’t enjoy riding wet trails and spewing rooster tails.
S Mountain Biking Words and Phrases
Saddle: A bike seat. But while it’s alright to say seat, the proper word in the MTB world is saddle.
I’ve been in the saddle for hours and I have saddle sore. Looks like I wasted money on the chamois I bought.
Schrader valve: A car tire-like pressure valve mostly found on MTB tires with inner tubes.
Scrub: When you scrub, you stay low and fast when getting over a jump.
Did you see how Ryan scrubbed that massive jump? That was sick!
Seat stay: A part of a bike’s frame that links the seat tube to the chainstay.
Send it/Send ‘er: When you go for it or when you aggressively ride an extremely difficult trail section, you send it on that section.
Dude, you sent it on that drop.
Session: When you session a trail feature a difficult trail section, you ride it and ride it again until you master it.
Riding skinnies can be extremely challenging for a beginner. But the only way to master skinnies is to session the hell out of them.
Shred: When you ride a trail segment super fast, you shred it. Also, when you ride a section like a real pro, you shred it. But shred can also mean to just get outdoors on your bike and enjoy yourself.
One reason I shred with that dude is that he’s one hell of a cycologist.
Shralp: When you ride beyond shredding a trail, you shralp it.
Those mamils don’t just shred the local trails; they shralp the damned trails. I hear they’ve been riding for decades.
Sick: If something is really good, it is sick.
This rock garden is sick.
Those cycling kicks are sick.
Singlespeed: A one-geared MTB. A single-speed bike isn’t the same as a fixie, though. While you can’t pedal a fixie backward, you sure can backpedal a single-speed MTB because it features a free rear hub.
Singletrack: The most popular mountain bike trail type. Two riders can’t comfortably ride a singletrack head-to-head.
I mostly ride singletrack.
Sketchy: If a trail feature such as a wallride feels or looks rickety or unstable, it’s sketchy. Also used to describe a trail section that’s become extraordinarily difficult because of a condition that’s not the norm. For example, a flat corner may prove much harder and riskier to ride because it’s now extremely dry. Such a flat corner is now sketchy.
It’s been ages since I rode that wallride. It looks pretty sketchy now.
Skinny: A technical trail feature that seriously tests your bike handling skills and balance. Real skinnies aren’t wider than your MTB’s tires.
Trail builders make skinnies out of narrow logs or lumber, usually 2 x 4s. There are lots of wet skinnies in the Northshore area of Vancouver, Canada.
The thought of riding that skinny terrifies me.
Skarrt: A high-pitched sound mountain bikers make (at least some of the time) when riding a berm or tight turn. They yell skuurt!
Slack: When riding downhill, you need a bike that doesn’t steer very responsively but offers great handling. Such a bike is said to have slack head tube angles. The front fork of such a bike rakes outward/sticks outward and stays nearly parallel with the ground.
The slack angle hovers between 63 and 66 degrees. DH mountain bikes typically have this kind of head tube geometry. And that gives you tons of stability when you’re riding at speed.
Slop: When your chain has a slop, it’s worn down badly, to the extent it’s no longer shifting consistently. You should replace it.
I bet my bike’s chain slop accounts for the inconsistent shifting I’m experiencing.
Smeash: When you smeash a trail section, you smash it.
I was out with my dudes on a Saturday afternoon smeashing a really scary downhill when she called.
Snakebite: Pinch flat. Defined above.
SS: Short for singlespeed.
I own a ss bike.
Standover clearance/Standover Height
When standing with your feet astride your bike and without shoes, the distance between your crotch and the top tube is its standover height or standover clearance. Plain standover is also OK. No standover works equally well for everyone, but 2″-4″ works for most riders.
I’m shopping around for a MTB. Tell me MTBers, is standover clearance the most important factor as far as bike fitment?
Steel: A steel frame. Some mountain bikers rightly believe that steel frames are the sweetest spot between strength and weight. Steel is tougher than either carbon or alloy, and it tolerates more abuse. Plus, steel absorbs trail vibrations better than aluminum alloy.
I believe in steel, that’s why I don’t sink my dollars in either carbon or alloy.
Steezy: When you perform a difficult MTB trick in a way that makes it look easy and stylish, that’s steezy.
Look at how that freerider is flipping midair and maneuvering their MTB. That’s steezy!
A step-down is a technical feature on a trail where you jump from a higher elevation to a lower elevation.
Step-up: A technical feature. To ride a step-up, you jump from a lower elevation to a higher one.
Stoked: When you’re stoked about something, you’re excited.
I started mountain biking in the Rona year. Now, I can’t stop. I’m stoked.
Stoppie: A stoppie is a nose wheelie.
I’ve been sessioning a stoppie over the past 1 hour. I’m yet to get it down.
Strava: A GPS app that mountain bikers and roadies use mostly to track cycling speed. When you post the fastest time on a particular track or road segment, you get the coveted title: KOM or QOM (for male MTBers) (for female MTBers).
Unless Strava misbehaved for this segment, I’m officially the new KOM!
Stravasshole: Folks that don’t care about soft stuff such as empathy are in all kinds of workplaces. And it’s no different in mountain biking. But while those toads are called a**holes in all other places, we call them Stravassholes in MTB. This type of rider obsesses about Strava and getting the KOM or QOM.
If running over you is what they need to do to win, that’s what they’ll do. Think of Stravassholes as those stupid drivers that salute you with the middle finger on the morning commute. How do you recognize a Stravasshole? They’re always yelling “Strava” which is supposed to mean get the hell out of the way.
As a beginner MTBer, the worst mistake I made was to ride with a Stravasshole.
Switchback: If a steep hill features S-shaped turns that get you to the top, those turns are called switchbacks. Switchbacks are typically found on hills that are too steep that you can’t ride straight up the hill. Instead, you have to snake your way up.
I’ll session these switchback turns until I learn how to ride them as effortlessly as the pros do.
T MTB Words and Expressions
Tabletop: A jump having a flat area between the takeoff and landing. Generally, a tabletop jump is safer than a double. A double is a gap jump. In case your jump wasn’t powerful enough and you come short, there’s something solid to land on.
Taco (past tense tacoed): If a wheel is tacoed, it’s bent after impact and now looks like a taco shell.
I rode straight into a ditch and tacoed my front wheel beyond repair.
Tandem: Usually a bike built for two riders, but I’ve seen tandem bikes built for 3 or 4 riders. And these days you can even buy a tandem mountain bike if you like.
My SO and I started biking together on our family tandem MTB, and joy and excitement have spilled into every part of our lives.
Trail Bikes: Everyone’s mountain bike. A trail bike is basically a cross-country bike, only tougher and more durable. Its travel may be similar to a XC bike or bigger, up to 130mm. This bike is a great option for a MTB beginner.
TTF (Technical Trail Feature): Any feature, natural or man-made that requires really good bike handling skills to ride. For the most part, a trail with these technical features isn’t level. Examples of TTFs include wallrides, rock gardens, drops, and jumps.
Trackstand: When you trackstand, you stand on level pedals and balance your bike at the same spot. You don’t get your feet off the pedals, and there’s very little movement if any.
My trackstanding skills helped a lot when I was clearing that rock garden.
Traildog: Do you live in an area infested with skunks and snakes? You probably should start bringing your traildog along as you ride the trails.
Travel: Travel refers to how much the rear or front suspension can compress before it bottoms out. Generally, the bigger the travel, the more expensive the bike. Travel is expressed in millimeters.
I mostly ride downhill, which is why I bought a bike with such a large travel.
Tree gate: A tree gate means the available space between any two trees, especially when it’s a cluster of trees. It’s easy to glaze your arms against the bark of trees when passing through a tree gate and get a bark tattoo. So, wear forearm guards.
My MTB has pretty wide handlebars, and I had to dismount to pass through that narrow tree gate.
Tubeless: When you set up your MTB tires to run tubeless, you have the air you pump in sealed inside the tires rather than the inner tubes. So, you don’t need the inner tubes in this case. That means no annoying snakebites anymore.
U MTB Words
Unicycle: A one-wheeled MTB.
Have you ever seen anyone riding a unicycle without smiling? Me neither.
Upshift: When you shift to a higher gear on your bike, you’re upshifting. A little advice: avoid cross-chaining. Instead, try to align the rear cog closely with the front one.
It took me a while to learn to upshift and downshift correctly.
V MTB Words
Velominati: Accountants have GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) and roadies have Velominati, generally accepted cycling rules. Visit the Velominati website to read the rules. While these rules apply mainly to road cycling, quite a few of them apply to mountain biking. NTX Trails lists down 28 rules that mountain bikers should religiously follow.
Vintage Steel: An older steel MTB bike.
W MTB Words and Phrases
Wallride: A man-made technical trail feature. An extremely steep berm-like wooden structure that you ride at speed. Riding a wallride requires tons of bike handling skills. It’s very easy to spill.
I haven’t mastered regular berms let alone wallrides.
Wash out: When riding an extremely loose trail section or navigating a loose flat corner and your wheel or wheels slide from under you, that’s a wash out.
I entered the berm at speed and washed out. Fortunately, I didn’t damage my bike, nor did I break a bone.
Water bar: A way that’s been cut across a downhill trail to direct rainwater to the sides of the trails rather than the middle of it.
As a beginner DH rider, be on the lookout for water bars. It’s easy to hit them and lose bike control or even taco your wheels.
Weight-weenie: Usually a heavy mountain biker that obsesses over their bike’s weight rather than their own weight. They’re the sort of rider that’ll spend hundreds or even thousands on a bike component that promises to reduce their bike weight by an ounce instead of investing in getting leaner.
Jake bought a $3,000 bike frame yesterday just because someone he met on the trails said it’d make his bike lighter by a few ounces. I feel he needs to bike more and buy less stuff. But he’s a weight-weenie and I doubt he’d take my advice.
Wheelbase: If you measure the length between the center of the rear wheel and the center of the front wheel, the distance you get is your bike’s wheelbase. A bike’s wheelbase affects ride quality.
I’d like to have a setup that feels comfortable when pedaling long distances without being unstable or sluggish. I wonder what bike geometry particularly the wheelbase would work best for me.
Wheelie: To do a wheelie, you pedal some distance and then shift your weight backward to lift the front wheel off the ground.
Popping a wheelie is a great way to ride over small logs.
Whip: A whip is a stylish midair trick or maneuver where an experienced rider pushes their bike sideways and then gets the rear wheel back in line for a safe landing.
I’m a beginner, and you really shouldn’t expect me to whip like a pro.
Wipeout: A big crash on a MTB. See yard sale below.
Always gear up before a bike ride. You never know when you’ll have the next wipeout.
Wonky: If any component or system on your bike isn’t functioning right, it is wonky.
I haven’t given this beater any kind of maintenance for years, and I bet the drivetrain is a little wonky now.
X MTB Words
XC: Abbreviation for cross country. This bike is super light and stiff for agility and responsiveness in handling. A XC bike’s travel hovers around 100mm, and it’s built for speed across all kinds of terrains. It’s great for cycling uphill as well as downhill.
I’ve been a mountain biker for years, but I’ve yet to race XC. Or
XC racers prefer super-light, stiff bikes that ride like the wind, bikes that perform excellently on climbs as well as downhill.
Y MTB Words
When you fall or wipe out and your stuff such as water bottle, travel coffee mug, tools, packed lunch, and other things spill out onto the ground, you have a yard sale. The crash area looks like you’re holding a real yard sale.
That trail felt like heaven. I was in the zone after just 5 minutes of pedaling, but then I crashed. It was a spectacular yard sale.
Z MTB Words/Expressions
In the zone: When you have a really good day out on the trails and everything is flowing super smoothly, you’re in the zone.
The loam on the flowy singletrack trail I rode that day was amazing, and I soon got in the zone.
Mountain Biking Slang Dictionary: Final Thoughts
Is there a term you feel I left out of this guide to commonly used MTB words and phrases? I might have forgotten something, you know. I’m counting on you and everyone in the MTB community to share that term with the rest of us here at Skatingmagic.com. Thank you for reading this far. It’s such a long read.