Road Cycling Lingo

Mountain bikers speak their own distinct language as do road cycling enthusiasts. If you’re new to road biking, you won’t understand a thing members of your bunch say to one another or to you. In this road cycling lingo guide, I’ll share a few common words and phrases roadies use in their day-to-day conversations. My goal here is to help you ease into the world of road cycling fast.

Related: How to Get Into Mountain Biking

To help you get through this guide quickly in an organized way, I’ve lumped together all the terms and phrases in alphabetical order. Let’s roll!

A Road Cycling Words

Aero: Short for aerodynamic. To overcome wind resistance, you need an aero bike. Your protective gear such as your helmet should also be aero.

All show and no go: When you have the best road bike ever made plus the finest gear but still aren’t a great rider.

You: Tom ordered a $5k road bike plus a helmet I can’t afford even if I depleted my savings.

Me: That’s great, but he’s all show and no go.

Amateur mark: A grease mark you get on your leg because you leaned your bike on it. This tattoo is usually seen on those new to road cycling or cycling in general. In the U.S., you’re more likely to hear Cat. 5 tattoo or a sprocket bite.

Audax: A non-competitive cycling sport where cyclists typically ride long distances, typically over 200 km (124 miles) but sometimes shorter distances. The principal thing in an audax cycling race is to complete, to enjoy the ride. That said, cyclists strive to finish the race within a pre-determined time limit.

Apex: Also referred to as the clipping point, an apex is a pre-determined point, usually around the middle of a turn, where the bike rides closest to the inside of the turn.

Hitting the apex is a road cycling skill or technique you need to learn. If you’re good at this skill, you’ll always clock an impressively fast time around the track. What’s more, mastering this technique increases your safety on the road.

Athena: A female road biker belonging in a weight class weighing 165+ pounds. Triathlon is where you’re likely to spot this rider. But they also participate in mountain biking races as well as running races.

Attack: Happens a lot in road racing. An attack is when you suddenly ride fast in an attempt to get ahead of the pack or another rider. It has the same meaning as a breakaway.

Auld wart: Some old dude that’s tough AF, especially one that rides nearly 150 mph each day. You know, the kind that reminds you that you’re not unleashing all your potential ha.

Autobus (also Gruppetto): Often seen riding together up a hill, helping each other finish within the set time limit. They’re pretty poor climbers, though.

B Road Cycling Words

Back to basics: When a roadie says they’re back to basics, they mean they’re riding without a computer or heart rate monitor.

Bagwell: The debris-covered area where two roads intersect. If you see a Fred (an inexperienced cyclist) scratching this area frantically as chickens do, don’t laugh. Please understand they’re looking for small important stuff such as quarters, bolts, nuts, and other small bike parts haha.

Balaclava: When it’s cold or wet outside and you want to enjoy a ride on your whip, wear a balaclava. It’s a hood (not very thick) that insulates your head and neck against chilly winds. But there’s an opening on the front that offers a window through which you can see the road ahead.

Baked: When you’re overtrained, you’re baked.

Ball tearer: An insanely steep but short hill. It’s an incline that’ll tear your balls off if they’re not tough enough for such a challenge.

Bang!: What you yell when you’re about to attack or to attempt some other quick action. This exclamation is heard a lot in the road cycling world. Usually spoken rather than written.

Base mileage: When you’ve not biked much over a period of time, we say you rode base mileage. “I rode mileage last week” likely means the speaker didn’t ride more than 50 miles.

Don’t forget that the area’s auld wart still managed to ride his weekly mileage of 1,000 miles at a constant 8mph!

Battle scars: Whoever heard of an experienced roadie that didn’t have their fair share of road rash souvenirs? Me neither.

Bed stick: Bed stick is what happens to you the morning after a crash.

Bed suck: When you don’t show up for training on any day, you can always blame your bed. I mean, your bed pulled you under, and for that reason, you couldn’t get up to ride. Stop sweating the small stuff, dude — we kind of get it.

Bead: The portion of your bike tire’s inner circumference that you fit into the rim.

Bibs: Bibs are cycling shorts without an elastic waistband. Instead, these bike shorts have overall-like suspenders, that is, they have a bib.

Biff: A crash. I rode like a devil outta hell on that day, and I biffed.

Bikepack: When you bikepack, you plan on a long road tour and pack all sorts of supplies in your bike bags. You pack food, snacks, tools, chain links, a tire repair kit, spare tubes, water, and whatnot.

Billy goat: Do you see that extremely good climber? He’s a billy goat.

Bloater: A roadie with more muscle than your accumulated training has given you. Another word for a bloater is a fat boy. Absolutely nothing wrong with being fat in road biking, huh? Every fattie outside of road cycling should seriously consider becoming a roadie.

Blocking: When you attempt to slow the progress of the opposing team (legally) giving your teammates a decent chance at winning, you’re blocking the other team.

Blow snot: When you blow snot, you place a finger on your nose, turn your head, and blow. Well, this happens in traditional societies, at least some of the time with some of the people.

I thought it was uncool when I first saw it happen for the first time when touring a certain continent. But it also happens in road biking, not that I like it any better.

Blow up: When you blow up, you bonk. You’re tired and out of energy at once. Time for a bite, dude.

Bombing: When you’re bombing, everything is going really well in your day. You’re riding super smoothly and enjoying the heck out of your life.

Example sentence: “I was bombing it the entire trip”

Bonk: To bonk is to run out of gas, out of energy. Completely.

I’d been riding at a steady cadence the whole 3 hours, even when climbing, and I bonked.

Boot: A small but useful piece of material that you use to prevent a tire from blowing out. You put this piece inside the tire, positioning it with precision so that it covers a cut in the sidewall or tread. Without a boot, the inner tube often pushes through and the next thing you hear is a mighty blast.

Bottom bracket: A bike part at the bottom of the front triangle to which the crankset attaches. Inside the bottom bracket are bearings that rotate a spindle that then turns the crankarms.

Related: Names of Parts of a Bike

Box another rider in: When you box another rider in, you make sideways movement calculated to prevent them from passing. This is a completely legal winning tactic that roadies use a lot in sprints.

BPM: Abbreviation for beats per minute. Roadies are health-conscious folks that obsess over their heart rate, you know. That’s why “I’m back to basics” isn’t an expression you hear very often.

Brain bucket: A proper cycling helmet.

Brick: A roadie that shines on descents and sucks at climbing.

Brakes: The mechanism on a road bike that helps you to stop. Don’t confuse brakes with brake levers. Brake levers are the ergonomic levers on the handlebars that you pull to cause the brakes to move toward the rim (in the case of rim brakes) or toward the disc around the wheel hub (in the case of disc brakes).

Disc brakes are the best road bike brakes there is — no debate. Why else do you think road bikes with disc brakes cost prohibitively more than road bikes with rim brakes?

Important braking rule#: Never pull the front brake levers when speeding. Because that’s the best way to flip over the handlebars. You won’t find this road cycling rule in the Velominati, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Heck, this simple rule can even save your life, beginner roadie.

Breakaway or break: When you attack the peloton and ride ahead of the pack, you’ve broken away. What you’ve done is referred to as a break or a breakaway.

If you’re wondering what’s the point of a breakaway, it’s all sorts of reasons.

First off, the peloton might let you have a breakaway as you approach your hometown, as long as you’re not a threat. And if you’re a big-name cyclist sponsored by the biggest consumer brand on Earth, you’ve got to highlight that brand, right?

Cyclists also attack the bunch to win. That’s exactly what well-known cyclist Chris Fromme did in 2018’s Giro d’Italia. He rode 49.7 miles solo to win Stage 19 of the tour.

Brevet: Here’s how you pronounce brevet: brevay. A brevet is a long-distance cycling event typically having 200km, 300km, 400km, and 600km segments. This race qualifies cyclists for major randonnees. The Boston-Montrea-Boston is an example of a major randonnee.

Bridge a gap: When you bridge a gap in road cycling, you catch a rider or a group of cyclists that broke away from the peloton.

Bubba: Sadly, there’s no way to avoid bubbas because bubbas are pretty much everywhere. A bubba is a rude driver on the road, and they’re almost always driving a borrowed $40,000 pickup truck. I don’t like them one bit, but I smile politely every time I encounter them…because I’m a well-behaved roadie.

Bunch: A cluster of roadies riding together mainly to benefit from slipstreaming and save energy. Also called the peloton, group, or pack.

Burning matches: When you burn a match in road cycling, you put lots of effort into a race or a segment of it. When burning a match, you push yourself to the max. Professional road cyclists are careful not to burn all their matches in one race when they have two or more to burn matches for.

Example sentence: Ryan burned all his matches at the beginning of the race and blew up toward the end of the contest. 

Bunter/Billy bunter: Mr. Billy Bunter is always trying to outrace serious roadies like you even though they’ve never won a race. It gets even worse. Mr. Bunter has never competed in any road race where he wasn’t dropped. But it’s life; it happens.

Burger: To burger in road cycling means to crash.

Example sentence: I burgered hard, but my brain bucket saved my brain. I can still think. 

Bushed: If you’re bushed, you’re extremely tired or bonked.

I’ve been riding for hours. I’m bushed. 

Bus stop flop: A humbling experience that happens exactly where it shouldn’t: at a stop sign. It usually happens when you’re unable to stop fast enough at an intersection or a stop sign. And that causes you to flop on the side. It can happen even to the best roadies out there. So, don’t fret too much if you experience a bus stop flop.

Bust a gut: Busting a gut means pedaling hard in an attempt to catch some hammerhead.

I bust a gut trying to keep up, but what a hammerhead that dude is! 

C Road Cycling Words and Phrases

Cadence: Your cycling rhythm or the number of pedal revolutions you make in 60 seconds (RPM). Without a good cadence, you’ll never be a superstar cyclist.

Captain: The rider at the front of a tandem bike. Also called the pilot or steersman, the captain controls, steers, balances, and calls out bumps. This cyclist needs to be a strong, experienced cyclist. If the captain doesn’t inspire enough confidence in their stoke, that tandem team won’t be riding together for long.

Carpet fiber: A bike made of carbon fiber

Cat. 5 Tattoo: Chainring tattoo, a mark left when you accidentally lean the chainring on your calf. Usually a newbie thing.

Cat. 7: See the definition of Fred. Same meaning. An experienced cyclist.

Cat. 7 Move: The dumbest move anyone can make in road cycling. Even someone that joined road biking today can’t make a Cat. 7 move!

Caveman: A roadie that’s going really well.

Cavemanned it: If you rode super hard, you cavemanned it.

Cassette: Bike hardware that is a part of the drivetrain. This bike part looks like a stack of cogs or sprockets. It’s found on the rear wheel. Cogs or sprockets are metal wheels with teeth, and they drive the chain.

Catch air: When there’s a dip or a rise on the road and your wheels are off of the ground for a moment, you’re catching air.

Categories: A category is a division of cyclists having similar cycling ability or experience. Age is also a category “selection” factor. You can belong in several cycling categories and can enter a race in each. Entering a road race you’re not eligible for is frowned upon in the road cycling universe. Remember that, starting roadie.

Chain suck: Chain suck is a situation where the chain for some reason fails to disengage from a chainring’s tooth or teeth. This scenario mostly occurs when you change gears (shifting). Meanwhile, the chainring continues to turn round, but the chain remains stuck on the tooth or teeth. As a result, the chain wraps back up and around the chainring.

Chainring: A cog or sprocket on the crankset. Most cranksets feature 1,2, or 3 chainrings.

Chainring tattoo:(Cat 5 Tattoo in U.S. English): The greasy mark or stain you get when you accidentally lean your road bike on your leg. If it happens to you, you’re likely new to biking.

Chainstay: The two parallel tubes that run from the bottom bracket to either side of the rear hub. The rear wheel attaches to the end of these tubes through a Quick Release mechanism (QR).

Chamois: The padded shorts you wear to prevent saddle sore, especially when biking long distances. Strictly, though, chamois refers to the padding itself rather than the shorts.

Charcoal: A carbon bike frame. Dude, that’s quite some charcoal you got there! 

Chasers: Chasers or a chase group are riders that pedal harder in an attempt to catch up with a lead cyclist.

Century: A 100-mile road race. There are also 100-km centuries (62 miles). Such a century is called a metric century.

Chondromalacia: A kind of knee injury. If you have this condition, you’ll experience knee pain. And when bending your knees, you’ll feel an unpleasant crunching sensation. That’s when to see your doctor or chiropractor.

Circuit: A course that cyclists ride at least two times to compose a race.

Circuit training: A kind of training that focuses on multiple muscles at once. In this training, you move quickly from one type of exercise to the next with little to no rest in between.

Cleat: A durable plastic or metal component found on the soles of road cycling shoes. This feature clips into the pedals, keeping you secure as you ride.

Cleats don’t feel comfortable, at first. But you never want to ride unclipped once you get comfortable riding clipless/clipped in. I know it sounds confusing, but to ride clipless is to actually ride clipped in.

Cleat surfing: When you almost fall off your bike because you got your feet off your cleats.

Climb: When road biking outdoors, a climb is a hill or a mountain. In indoor cycling, a climb is when you increase resistance to make it more difficult to pedal.

Clincher: A standard road cycling tire with a tube inside. When inflated, the lip of this tire clinches super snugly into the rim.

Clipless: If you ride clipless, you clip your cycling shoes into your bike’s pedals.

Clydesdale: A large rider

Cog: A sprocket or even chainring.

College boy: Someone that works less than 40 hours each week.

Compound disappearing hill: A hill that plays tricks on you. You push extremely hard up the hill, but there’s always 50% of the damned climb to ride at any time!

Computer geek: If you obtained your cycling computer at a price point anywhere above $30, you’re a computer geek.

Cooked: To have run out of energy out riding.

Example: I’m completely cooked.

Commuter: Typically a city bike or urban bike. It’s a stylish bike that easily gets you from one point to the other in a city or town.

Related: Different Types of Bikes

Cornblock (straight block): A cassette where each sprocket is only a tooth larger than the previous cog.

Cornering: Steering a road bike around a turn by leaning into the turn.

Contact patch: The part of the tire that’s in contact with the ground as you ride.

Crayon: A crash on a road bike that causes major road rash.

Creamed: When you’re creamed, you’re knackered or exhausted.

Creeping: When a roadie is creeping (can’t be an experienced one, huh?), they’re moving bad.

Criterium: A kind of short (about 5km) mass-start race on city streets. Mass start= everyone starts at the same time.

Crit twit: Someone that aces a criterium.

Cross chaining: When you’ve shifted incorrectly and the chain sits on the biggest front chainring and the biggest rear sprocket. It also happens when the chain shifts to the smallest rear cog and the smallest front cog/chainring. In some cases, you’ll hear a distinct noise that tells you to correct the issue.

Cycling shoes: Specialized road cycling shoes. 

Cyclocross: A type of fall or winter bike race that both roadies and mountain bikers participate in. A cyclocross course has all sorts of surfaces ranging from pavement, trails, uphill, downhill, and technical features (obstacles). In some cases, the rider gets off the bike and carries it around or over the obstacle or whatever.

Cyclometer: A cycling computer.

D Road Cycling Words and Expressions

Derailleur: A metal component that processes the instruction from the shifter on the handlebars to shift to a lower or higher gear. Some road bikes have no derailleur. But the better bikes typically have one or two derailleurs, one in the rear and the other near the crankset.

Domestique: A domestique serves multiple roles. But the main job is to help the team’s leader during a competitive road race. The domestique may, for example, serve as a pacesetter that sets the correct pace. Or, they may let the team leader draft or slipstream behind them.

Downshift: To change to a lower gear.

Drafting: When you ride behind another cyclist to save energy (usually as much as 30 percent), you’re drafting.

Drivetrain: The whole system that propels a road bike forward. It consists of several essential parts/components. These parts include the chain, cassette, derailleur, and crankset. If there’s one part of your road bike that needs regular maintenance, it’s the drivetrain. This is essentially the bike’s engine.

Dropout: The ends of the chainstay or fork usually with a U-shaped opening to where the wheel attaches.

Drops: The lower portion of a road bike’s curved handlebars. The curved portions of the bars are referred to as hooks.

E Road Cycling Words and Expressions

Eat straw: When you lose the line in a tight turn, you eat straw.

I ate straw on that turn. 

Echelon: A kind of paceline especially in a crosswind where road cyclists angle off to the side intelligently to maximize slipstream or draft.

Electrolytes: You need electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, and potassium in the correct amounts to support muscle contraction and maintain proper fluid levels.

Endo: When you flip over the handlebars because you or another rider did something dumb, you endo. The long form for endo is end over end. 

Ergometer: A stationary pedaling machine that makes you think you’re riding a real road bike. You’re spinning the crankarms the whole time yet stay at the exact same spot. But this form of indoor cycling has been proved to be super effective in burning calories.

Erwin: Usually used in the expression doing an Erwin. When you do an Erwin, you crank away to the front of the peloton and try to make the entire pack ride at a pace or tempo they don’t want to move in.

EWD: Abbreviation for Extreme Wiener Discomfort. When you experience EWD, your wobbly warhead feels numb probably because you’ve been riding since forever.

Eyeballs out: When you’re planning on breaking away from the bunch, you go hard, eyeballs out. 

Example sentence: When Chris Fromme broke away from the Peloton in 2018, he raced 80 kilometers eyeballs out because he wanted to win stage 19.

F Road Cycling Words

Fat boy: A cyclist with more muscle than you have.

FDGB: Abbreviation for Fall Down, Go Boom. This typically happens with a tandem team. And when it does, the captain gets a nasty look from their stoke. They get a look that clearly says, “I’ve lost every ounce of confidence I had in you.”

Feed zone: An area on a course where road bikers can take meals and drinks.

February legs: When your thighs feel stone-heavy.

Feel the chain: To have a good pull or a good burn.

I was really feeling the chain after that pull. 

Fender: A removable guard attached to the frame that comes in handy when riding on a wet or rainy day. The fender prevents mud or water from reaching you.

Field sprint: When the main group of roadies rolls insanely fast for the finish line, that’s a field sprint.

Fixie: A fixie is a bike with only one gear (with a fixed gear), that is, a single-speed road bike. But not all SS bikes are fixies. One distinct aspect that sets a fixie apart from every other bike type is that it doesn’t pedal backward. With a fixie, the only time you roll forward is when you’re pedaling. You can’t coast on a fixie.

Flat: A flat happens when you pop a tire. But carrying a CO2 canister and a tube repair kit saves the day.

Oh no, not another flat! 

Flat liner: A cyclist that rodes good on level surfaces but sucks at climbs.

Fred (also Cat. 7): Generally an inexperienced road cyclist. Usually, a Fred has more bike than bike handling skills. They’re often seen riding a sinfully expensive bike plus cycling gear, more stuff than they can efficiently use.

Experienced roadies know Mr. Fred will never ride at a level befitting of their cycling equipment. And that’s sad.

Freida: The female version of Fred.

Freight train: Large riders that seem to take forever to get up to speed but manage a super fast front pull when the rest of the team are barely surviving on flats.

Fridge magnet: This rider gets zero work done when at the front of the pack.

Fried: Overtrained.

Fork: Part of a bike to which the front wheel attaches.

Full tuck: The position to assume if you want to post impressive speed on descents. Full tuck is a super crouched riding position that drastically cuts wind resistance.

Example: I rode full tuck on that descent. 

Funmeter: A heart rate monitor.

Furry frisbee: Flattened fauna (animals/wildlife) on the road. Also called road pizza or road kill.

G Road Cycling Terms

Ginchy: A new bike component that’s pretty cool, too.

What I found in the package was a nice ginchy saddle. It’s comfortable, too.  

Glass cranker:

General classification (Usually GC): The overall performance scores/standings in a stage race.

Glutes: Bum muscles that contribute heavily to your overall pedaling power.

Glycogen: When you ride your bike for 3 hours non-stop, you’ll run out of glycogen and bonk.

Glycogen window: When you bikepack and run out of glycogen mid-trip, the best hour to replenish the depleted glycogen reserves is the glycogen hour.

The glycogen hour is the first 60 minutes immediately after 2-3 hours of serious riding. During this period, your muscles are in a state that enables them to absorb the resources they need excellently. Be sure to eat food and drinks that are rich in carbohydrate.

Gone (Usually he/she’s gone): To be gone is when you fail to show up for a ride on a Sunday morning because your wife wants you to spend some quality time with your family.

Roadie A: Does anyone know where Richie is? We need to get going already.

Roadie B: He’s gone!

Gorp: The high-energy stuff you nimble away at as you ride. Think nuts of all kinds, seeds, granola, and suchlike.

Goosed: When you’re knocked off your bike or somehow caused to lose your balance, you’re goosed.

Granny gear: The easiest gear on a road bike. The gear your grandma shifts to because, well, she knows better than everyone else.

Granny ring: If your crankset features three chainrings, the smallest of them is a granny ring.

Grand tour: There are three main road races that collectively are known as the grand tours. The Tour de France is the most famous of the three grand tours.

The Giro d’Italia is the second best-known grand tour. And the Vuelta a España, while not well-known outside of the cycling world, is the third most famous grand tour.

Each grand tour covers over 2,000 miles. Cyclists spend multiple back-to-back days in the saddle.

Part of a grand tour involves individual time trials, but there are also team time trials. Then there are sprints as well as challenging mountain climbs.

Every roadie’s secret and sometimes not-so-secret dream is to race in the grand tour of all grand tours, the Tour De France.

Gravity tattoo: A permanent scar you have that’ll always remind you of a bad crash you experienced.

Example: This gravity tattoo will remain a constant reminder of all the battles I’ve fought, some of which I terribly lost.

Greased out: If you greased out, you biffed/crashed.

Granade: When you blow up, you grenade. Also, when any of your bike’s components’ grenade, they fail spectacularly.

Grid: A road bike.

Grind: When you grind, you pedal slowly but surely in a big gear.

Grovel: If a hill is a grovel, it’s steep and you have to shift to your lowest gear to climb it.

Example: I had to downshift to my lowest gear because that climb was such a grovel.

Gut spray (Also gopher juice): A mixture of raw bush meat and all the protoplasm that goes with it. Gut spray gets on your legs or other parts of the body when a heavy vehicle rolls over some furry frisbee/road kill/road pizza.

Example: My drivetrain was wonky from the get-go, but it granaded on me after an hour out riding.

Gruppetto: Also called the laughing group or autobus. A group of cooperative cyclists that happen to be poor climbers and stick together so they that can support one another finish within the time limit.

H Road Cycling Words and Phrases

4-H Training: When you endure all 4 Hs at once: headwinds, hills, heat, and humidity.

Half wheeler: The kind of rider that makes for a terrible conversationalist. They’re always half a wheel in front of you as you ride, and that makes it difficult to talk. This not-so-pleasant situation forces you to keep up the entire ride.

Half-wheel hell: When a hammerhead is a half wheel ahead of you, you know keeping up with them will be a half-wheel hell.

Hard training session: The excuse roadies often hide behind each time a mountain biker rips past them.

Example: Oh, I’m almost ending a hard training session.

Hammer: When you hammer, you ride strongly and in big gears.

Hammerhead: A hammerhead is any road cyclist that struggles to ride easy.

Hammerfest: If a road race is insanely fast, it’s no longer a contest. It is a hammerfest.

Hamstrings: Muscles found on the back of the thighs. Biking works these muscles a bit. But you can’t solely rely on cycling to develop your hamstrings.

Hanging in: When you hanging in, you’re almost getting dropped by the pack.

Headset: The ball bearings and a couple of circular parts found on the top and bottom of the head tube.

The stem of the handlebars sinks into the top of the head tube. And that portion is encircled by these components. And the same goes for the fork, which fits into the lower end of the head tube.

Hill: If you have to downshift, it’s a hill.

Hill, big: And if you have to downshift more than one gear, that’s a hill, big.

Hit list: A real list containing names of every rider that attacked and dropped you when you had a bad knee or whatever. When you’re back in good riding form, you intend to show these riders what you’re made of.

Example: That pri*k is on my hit list for when I get back in form. 

Hit the wall: When you hit the wall, you bonk. Typically, cyclists are unable to sustain an endurance pace because they didn’t fuel up adequately before the ride.

Horse: bike. See steed.

Hub: The horizontal tubular component at the center of each wheel. The hub is designed to enable the wheel to rotate around a pre-defined point precisely.  

Hunger knock/Hunger flat: If you have a hunger knock or a hunger flat, you bonk.

Hybrid (Also cross bike): A hybrid bike results when a bike maker marries a mountain bike with a road bike.

Road Cycling Terminology (I)

I’m at the end of a hard training session: A classic phrase road cyclists use to hide their embarrassment when demon-fast MTB riders rip past them on a flat or a hill. Everyone hates losing, but roadies hate it even more.

In the chop: Well, this isn’t entirely a legal thing, but in places such as Down Under where everyone is OK with it, it seems fine.

To be in the chop is to have some informal agreement to work together as a team and share the prize money you win. Aussie roadies are a smart bunch, huh?

Invisible hill: A cool way to refer to a headwind.

Interval: A training method when cyclists ride hard for a brief period and then go easy for a while to recover lost energy.

Iron: A steel bicycle. Also ironclad.

J Road Cycling Terms

Jam: To maintain or sustain a pretty fast pace.

Jersey: Road cyclists wear a zip-up jersey when out on the road. This jersey wicks away sweat while also providing storage for items such as keys or even a phone. Well, that’s probably not the safest way to carry a $2K iPhone. But the pockets on the back of a cycling jersey sure help.

But in important races such as the Tour de France, a jersey isn’t just a jersey. The yellow jersey is worn by the race leader, the overall winner. The KOM (King of the Mountain), the best overall climber gets the polka dot jersey.

The cyclist having the highest number of sprinting stage points wears a green jersey. And the best racer aged under 25 years sports a white jersey. As for the reigning world champion, the rainbow jersey is theirs until the cycling world gets a new champion.

JRA: Just riding around. As in I was JRA.

Jump: When you accelerate hard and fast, that’s a jump. Jumping in road cycling is completely different than it is in mountain biking. Mountain bikers perform actual jumps while roadies just ride harder.

Related: How to Get Over Logs on a Mountain Bike

K Road Cycling Terms

Kick down: When you kick down on a race or ride, you ride it super fast.

I kicked down on my ride yesterday. 

Kite: A rider with god-like climbing powers but sucks at descents. A kite is the exact opposite of a brick.

Knackered: You’re knackered when you’re running out of gas/energy mid-ride.

Example: I fueled up right before this ride, but I’m knackered. 

Knock (Usually get the knock): When you get the knock, you run out of energy during a ride. You bonk.

Knocking and pinging: If you’re knocking and pinging, you’re doing a climb and are running out of energy.

Example: Didn’t know this climb would be this tough. I’m knocking and pinging. 

L Road Cycling Terms

Lantern rouge: Red light in French. What you get if you’re the last rider in. The award usually goes to a rider in the laughing group.

Light at the end of the tunnel: If you’re DFL (Dead Friggin Last), there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Typically, the light is the lantern rouge.

Lactate: This compound causes you to experience muscle fatigue and even pain. Lactate happens during anaerobic metabolism when glucose doesn’t completely break down.

LBS: Abbreviation for Local Bike Shop

Leadout: A winning tactic where one rider expends a bust of pedal power while letting another rider draft behind them. Then, the rider in the rear sprints at an even faster pace, ripping past the cyclist in front to reach the finish line.

LSD: Abbreviation for long, steady, distance. A form of training that needs you to keep a solid aerobic pace for at least 2 hours.

Lunch: When you break any of your equipment, you lunch it.

Example: That gravel road was awful. I lunched my tires. 

M Road Cycling Terms

Mass start: In some races, all contestants leave the starting line at exactly the same time. Mass starts happen in criteriums, cyclocross, and road races. It’s the opposite of an individual time trial where you start at your own set time and race against the clock.

Metric Century: A 100km century.

Minuteman: The cyclist that sits one place ahead of you in the starting order of a timed race (Time Trial). Normally, riders in a TT start the race in one-minute intervals.

Mission: A ride.

Example: That place is a long, long mission from here. 

Mobile: Bike.

Someone stole my mobile. 

Moocher: If never ever bring your bike tools, you’re a moocher.

Example: I use a checklist of sorts when packing for a long road trip because I’d really hate being the moocher. 

Motorpace: When you motorpace, you draft behind a motorbike or other vehicle so they can endure wind resistance for you.

More yammerin than hammerin: A really easy ride. A ride where you’re chatting more than you’re pedaling.

Example: I enjoyed the ride, but I admit it was more yammerin than hammerin. 

Mudguard: Fender. Mudguard is more common in the U.K. while fender is more common in the U.S.

O Road Cycling Words and Phrases

Off the Back (OTB): When you’re off the back, you no longer keep pace with the rest of the pack. It could be just you or a group of riders. OTB means over the bars in mountain biking.

Off from the blocks: When you attack immediately you get the nod to attack.

On the gear (Also on the juice): A rider that’s on the juice or on the gear likely has certain substances accounting for their never-seen-before hammering capacity.

Organ donor: An unhelmeted road cyclist.

Overgear: You’re overgearing when you shift to a gear ratio that’s overkill for the terrain you’re riding or your riding ability.

Overtraining: When you train at a pace whose intensity you can’t sustain, you’re overtraining. Overtraining often fatigues you mentally and physically.

Oxygen debt: The volume of oxygen a cyclist must consume to replenish what their anaerobic work used.

P Road Cycling Words

Paceline: A formation that has riders breaking the wind in turns. Those at the rear ride the draft of the wind-breaking bunch. There’s no room for surfing in this kind of riding formation.

Pack: Synonymous with the peloton, group, or bunch. The main group of road cyclists in a major race.

Pagoda dragon: As each rider tries to ride the draft of the one ahead, they form a long snaking formation called a pagoda dragon.

Parade: A pretty slow section of a race.

Palmarès: Your palmarès represent your main achievements, wins, or accomplishments as a road bike racer. It’s a sort of prize list, a resume of sorts.

Panache: If you’re a rider with panache, you attack a bunch while displaying courage and flair at once.

Pannier: A pannier is a large bike bag that usually attaches to the rack and hangs on the side of the rear wheel. When backpacking, you likely will carry two panniers, each on each side of the rear wheel.

Pea: The pea is the rider chosen by a cycling team to sprint for them when the time comes.

Peg the funmeter: To hit maximum heart rate on a particularly tough ride.

Perf: A flat.

Permafour: If you’re a permafour, the odds are you’ll never outgrow category 4 for the rest of your life.

Peak: A peak is that brief duration when you enjoy the thrill of maximum performance on your bike.

Peloton: The main group of riders in a big road race or event. Also referred to as the pack, bunch, or group.

Periodization: When you periodize your training, you organize the training so that different parts happen in phases. A phase could be a week, a month, or whatever.

Pinch flat: A puncture, usually two small holes that happen when you ride into something that’s really hard. As a result, the inner tube gets pinched between the rim and the sidewall. The small holes created look like a real snakebite. That’s why a pinch flat is also called a snakebike.

Piano: To ride piano is to ride a portion of the race considerably slowly.

Example: We rode piano for the first 25 miles. 

Play speed bump: Means to crash/biff at the front of the bunch.

He pulled through for the team only to play speed bump shortly after. 

Poacher: If you’re a poacher, you decide to take part in a charity event but fail to pay the required entrance fees.

Podium pose: The brand that’s sponsored you certainly wants you to highlight them at some point. And that is when you do the podium pose.

Popped: Blown.

I popped the front tire. 

Poser exposer: A tough hill that when ridden at speed have some cyclists dropped and, well, exposed.

Potty stop: A short break during which you pass water.

Power: Speed + strength=power

Pray the rosary: The natural thing you do when you suddenly realize your line runs straight into a car or other massive obstacle.

Presta: A narrow and long valve with a cap that must be removed/unscrewed when inflating the tire. Air once pumped in stays shut in as long as the cap remains intact. Generally, road bikes use the Presta valve while MTBs use the Schrader valve.

PSI: Abbreviation for Pounds per square inch. Road bikes typically use tires inflated to a higher air pressure than mountain bike tires. A road bike tire needs to be hard enough to cut rolling resistance and reduce traction.

Pull through (also pull): When you pull or pull through in a racing event, you spend some of your saddle time at the front letting the others ride your draft.

Pull off: When you pull off, you pave way for another cyclist or other riders and occupy a rear position that lets you wheel suck for a while.

Pumping the big meat: Pushing a big gear.

Pusher: A cyclist that shifts to a big gear and pedals at a noticeably low cadence. The rider counts on the gear size’s potency for speed.

Q Road Cycling Terms

Quadriceps/Quads: Front thigh muscle. This muscle determines your overall pedaling ability.

Quadess: A female rider in the upper category. This rider boasts gigantic quads, god-like quads.

Quad-God: The male version of a quadess.

R Road Cycling Terminology

RAAM: Abbreviation for Race Across America. RAAM has been held each year since 1982, and the race starts on the West Coast and finishes on the East Coast of the U.S.

Ramp: Some really good hill.

Randonnee: A long-distance road racing event where cyclists ride a predetermined course. Riders must pass through several intermediate checkpoints within the set time limits.

Randonneur: A randonnee rider or participant.

Randonneeurs USA: The Randonneers USA is the organization that governs randonnee in all respects. The entity sanctions and controls the randonnee and also maintains the race’s records.

Example: I shine when it comes to riding ramps but suck at descents. 

Real cyclist: If you own more bike and bike equipment than automobile, you’re a real cyclist.

Example: Yea, this carbon fiber road bike cost me an arm and a leg, but I’ve yet to become a real cyclist. 

Retro-grouch: A roadie owning a friction iron/ironclad, one that doesn’t have an ounce of titanium anywhere.

Example: He worships iron, a dyed-in-the-wool retro-grouch. 

Reach: When you add the length of a road bike’s top tube to its stem length, you get the reach. The reach is how far you are from the handlebars.

Recovery ride: It’s always a recovery ride when a mountain biker attacks and drops you.

Resistance trainer: A device that clamps a bike and has a mechanism for increasing rear wheel resistance when you pedal. And that simulates real-world biking. A resistance trainer is also called a wind, fluid, mag, or indoor trainer.

Rig: Bike.

If you got the rig, you ran out of energy in a sprint.

Example: I got the rig on that sprint. 

Ring sting: A sprocket bite.

Right: Means rear.

Rim: The hoop part of a wheel where the lip of the tire fits. The part you focus on when truing the wheel.

Rivet (Usually put to the rivet/on the rivet): When the pace gets too fast, you’re put to the rivet. You’re forced to ride at your full capacity.

Road pizza: Flattened fauna on the road/road kill/furry frisbees.

Road rash (also crash rash): When you crash into the pavement and slide on its surface, you get road rash.

Roadie: Slang for a committed road cyclist.

Roadie mate: Every roadie needs a roadie mate for who knows when you’ll crash bad and need someone to call your wife or girlfriend?

Road bike: A bike built mainly to shred the hardest surfaces ever created. This bike offers additional gear combinations and features hard-inflated skinny tires that have little traction. One thing that differentiates a road bike from a mountain bike is its drop handlebars with hooks. It’s a lightweight bike built for speed rather than tricks.

Road tires: Thin tires without much tread that are aired up to pretty high pressure to minimize rolling resistance. The opposite of the knobby, wide tires found a mountain bike.

Road race: A point-to-point mass-start race. The race includes at least one long loop, a portion of the race that starts and ends at the same place.

RPM: Revolutions per minute. See cadence.

Rough stuff: gravel.

Example: I rode some really rough stuff for hours and lunched my tires. 

Rubberband: This is when you have a failed breakaway and the bunch not only catches you but also spits you out the back. It shouldn’t happen too often, or your self-esteem will nosedive.

Run it out: A common indoor cycling classes phrase that means to rise out of your saddle and assume position 2. Position 2 in cycling classes simulates running in place.

Ripping your legs: If someone rides super hard forcing to work extremely hard, they’re ripping your legs.

S Road Cycling Words and Phrases

Saddle: bike seat

Saddle sore: What you get after you’ve been in the saddle for hours.

Saddle time: The amount of time you spend riding your bike a time. Generally, more saddle time means better riding in the long run.

Sag wagon (Also broom wagon): A vehicle carrying equipment and follows road cyclists offering help where needed.

Salad plate: The smallest chainring.

Sawed off: When a portion of the team breaks away and you’re left with the group that’s dropped, you’re sawed off.

Seat stay: Parallel tubes linking the seat tube to the chainstay.

Schrader: A type of valve found on car tires and bike tires, especially MTB tires.

Sitting in: Drafting the entire day behind the pack.

Example: The pro cyclist sat in the entire day but sprinted like a bat outta hell near the finish. 

Sitting on the sofa: Same as sitting in.

Sit on a wheel: To ride behind another rider for drafting benefits.

Shifting: Changing gears.

Shat out: If you’re shat out, you’re dropped.

Example: I develop knee pain and I was shat out. 

Shelled out the back: To be dropped violently.

Shoot the gap: When you attempt to reach a pack that broke away, you’re shooting the gap.

Singlespeed: One-speed bike. A fixie is an example of a one-speed bike. But unlike a fixie, a true single-speed bike allows you to coast on it. 

Single: A tubular tire.

Slingshot: To gain momentum through drafting behind another rider and then use that advantage to sprint past that rider.

Singled out: If the pack is now a single pace line, it’s singled out.

Sit ‘n spin: Practice sprints in 42-19.

Sit on: To ride behind a rider or a group of riders mainly to save energy.

Sitting on a sofa: Hiding in a pack to avoid taking a turn at the front and actually working.

Sketchy: A sketchy rider rides dangerously. And a sketchy riding style is a dangerous riding style.

Skirt ride (also wearin the skirt): A ride your girlfriend dominates, kicking everyone’s a** on every ramp/hill. It’s like you’re wearing the skirt and she’s wearing the pants. You gotta ditch the skirt, dude.

Also means feeling extremely fatigued.

Sled: bike

Skid lid: Bike helmet

Slipstream: Synonym of drafting. A pocket of calm air surrounding a cyclist or motor vehicle you’re drafting.

Smash: To outrace someone, to work them over bad.

Snake: A rider that’s mastered coming out of the pack and winning a field sprint.

Snakebite: See pinch flat.

Snap: To accelerate real quick.

Snork: See blow snot.

Softpedal: To rotate the pedals without powering them at all.

Spent: Cooked, bonked.

Speed: To accelerate to and keep a high cadence for short durations.

Speedwork: Generally high-speed training especially intervals such as sprints and time trials.

Spin: To pedal at a high RPM or cadence.

Spinner: A rider that rides in a moderate gear but keeps a  high cadence for speed.

Spin and grin: To shift to a low gear and just enjoy the ride.

Spit: If you get spit, you get dropped (left behind).

Spins (Usually Hyper-spins or spun out): Downhill rides in the spring.

Squirrel: A squirrel rides in a nervous, unstable rider that rides in a dangerously unpredictable style.

Stage race: A road race that takes place over several days. The cyclist with the fastest combined time for all stages wins. The Tour De France is a stage race. 

Straight block: A cassette having sprockets or cogs where the size difference between any two neighboring cogs is one tooth. Also called a britzkrieger.

SPD style pedals: 

Spokes: Rods that radiate from the hub and whose main job is to support the rim.

Steed: Bike.

Steal a wheel: To make a move that helps you get behind a wheel you’ve been eyeing in the peloton before someone else does.

Example: I stole Brian’s wheel. 

Stem: The bike part connecting the handlebars to the steerer tube.

Stomping: If you’re stomping, you’re riding very well, most likely in a big gear.

Suck wheel: To draft.

Surf: Synonym of sit on the sofa. If you surf, you hide in the bunch and generally avoid work, probably because the race isn’t super important to you.

Surf cam: To be on surf cam is to have curious eyes straining to see what the heck you’re doing staying so close to their bus’ rear. You’re surfing for good reason, and the bus’ passengers are gawking.

Dude, we’re on surf cam again.

Surfing: Using slipstream around trucks for brief periods of time to reduce effort and save energy while going faster.

Souplesse: When you have highly conditioned muscles in your legs, and these muscles support a high cadence that is also smooth and powerful.

Swinger: A master when it comes to leading out the pea at the finish line while obstructing the rest of the field.

Swingin’: Riding with a pack of hammerheads and feeling like all you’re doing is trying to survive the brutal ride.

I broke away alongside those hammerheads and I was soon swingin’ at the back.

T Road Cycling Terms

Tacoed: How you describe your wheel after a yard sale that’s bent its shape so that it now looks like a taco shell.

Example: I crashed, and my front wheel got tacoed.  

Tail ender: The last friggin’ rider as far as scores in the overall standing of all stages in a race.

Tailgunning: Riding behind the peloton but injecting pedal power into your pace whenever the pack slows. You aim to catch them each time they slow the pace.

Example: Tailgunning the pack is a learned skill, you know. 

Target: A commuter cyclist, especially one without biking shorts and rides at half your pace.

Taste lung: When you taste lung, you really hammer.

Dude, I really tasted lung on that segment. 

Tater: Tatering a wheel means riding into something that causes the wheel to be bent into a shape that resembles that of a potato chip.

Example: If you keep hammering like that on this crappy road, you’ll tater your wheels in the end. 

Taking a flyer: Suddenly and quickly sprinting away from the pack.

Tea party: When you’re yammering (chatting) the whole time, that’s a tea party.

Technicolor yawn: To have a technicolor yawn means to barf or throw up.

Tempo: The intensity of a typical brisk pace line, pack ride, or individual recreational ride.

The Washing machine: Maintaining tenancy at the front often feels like being in a washing machine. Because someone is always trying to steal a wheel. As that happens, you find yourself all over the bunch. Sometimes at the front, other times on the side, and the rest of the time at the rear.

Throw the bike: When you throw the bike, you thrust it forward using some technique around the finish line to gain a couple of inches over other cyclists.

Throw down the hammer: A strong rider sometimes decides you should know they’re many times stronger than you. So, they throw down the hammer.

Time trial: Racing to beat the clock. There are individual time trials and team time trials (TTT).

Ti: Short for titanium.

Tin can: Any kind of aluminum frame.

Toasted: Being overtrained.

Tow in: If your riding dude blows up, definitely tow them in. So, slow down a bit and throw them a nice tea party.

Tops: The bike part sitting between your bike’s stem and brake levers.

Training effect: If your training works for you, others can notice its effects on your body.

Trailer: The guy riding at the back of a breakaway because they can’t ride any faster.

Tri-head/Tri-geek/Tri-sport: A triathlete.

Truck boost: The benefits you suck out of a truck’s slipstream.

Tubie: A tubular tire. Also sew-up. A kind of lightweight tire that comes with the inner tube sewn right inside the casing.

Tubeless: A tire setup without the inner tube. Instead, a tube sealant is used to seal things up and trap the air inside the tire. Tubeless tires don’t get pinch flats or snakebites.

Turkey: An inexperienced cyclist.

Turkey tracks: A nice greasy mark the chainring leaves on your right calf because you accidentally leaned the bike on it.

Turnaround: A point on a time trial course where riders turn and start riding in the initial direction.

U Road Cycling Words

Ugly: If it’s going to be ugly, you’re planning on putting a hurting on the dudes you’re racing. And if it was ugly, the guy you rode with put a hurting on you.

Ultra cycling (Also Ultramarathon): Any kind of bike race or part of a bike race that’s significantly longer than a century (100 miles). Some ultra-cycling races can be as long as 200 miles (double century) while others may be shorter at 120 miles.

Note: If a 2000-mile race features several stages but none of the stages are longer than 100 miles, that race isn’t a ultra-cycling event.

Ultramarathon Cycling Association: The entity that controls ultracycling riders and keeps the records as well.

Unobtainium: The most recent release of the priciest alloy.

Unweight: When you unweight, you temporarily shift your weight from one portion of the bike to another. Like from the front area toward the rear when you want to jump over obstacles such as rail tracks or even potholes.

USA Cycling: Affiliated with the Union Cycliste Internationale, the USA Cycling is the entity that organizes American bike racing.

Used and Abused: When you get jumped in the breakaway, you’ve been used and abused.

UCI: Abbreviation for Union Cycliste Internationale. The Geneva-headquartered body that governs bike racing globally.

Upshift: Moving to a bigger/higher gear. For example, moving the chain onto the smallest cog/sprocket or onto the largest front cog/chainring.

Up the road: When a cyclist says up the road, they’re referring to the breakaway that’s hammering farther up the road.

Up up up: How a cycling team announces that an attack is about to happen.

USCF: Abbreviation for US Cycling Federation. A division of USA Cycling, the USCF organizes and governs amateur track racing, cyclocross racing, and road racing competitions.

USPRO: What U.S. Professional Racing Organization abbreviates to. A division of USA Cycling, USPRO manages professional bike racing in the U.S.

V Road Cycling Phrases and Words

Velominati: Road cycling’s got rules, and you’ll want to learn these rules and practice them. There’s no organized community without rules, written or otherwise. I encourage you to visit the Velominati website and read all the road cycling rules the Keepers of the Cog have published on that site.

Velodrome: A track designed for cycling. Velodromes these days feature steeply banked oval tracks.

VO: Your VO is the volume of oxygen you can consume when exerting yourself to the max. While VO is for the most part a genetic aspect, training can help somewhat improve it. If your VO is at a bad place, you definitely won’t become the next Chris Fromme.

Vulture: When you’re such a hammer that you summit before everyone else and spend the wait time riding the top in circles.

W Road Cycling Terms

Wack: When you wack, you run out of energy while biking.

Exampe: Dude, I’m wacking.

Watts: A measurement of the amount of force you’re transferring to the pedals.

Weekend warrior: Synonymous with bunter. This warrior tries to outrun you as they ride home from their work. But they can’t remember a ride where they weren’t dropped.

Whack your bean: To hit your noggin as you crash. Always helmet up, OK?

Wheelie: Roadies don’t pop wheelies much. But it’s possible to lift the front wheel of a road bike off of the ground as you ride. But this can only happen when you’re rolling really fast.

Wheel sucker:This rider rides behind others to save energy and never takes a pull.

Wheel kiss: When the wheel sucker behind you gets too close until their front tire kisses your rear tire producing a weird sound from rubbing.

Wheel fuck: When the spokes on the wheel of a wheel sucker suddenly attach to yours.

Windchill: Even on a windless day, a road cyclist somehow manages to create a windchill. As they ride, a stream of cool air breezes over the cyclist’s skin, making it feel cooler than it actually is. When layering up for winter riding, consider windchill.

Wind up: When you build up speed to an all-out effort on a segment.

Win hands down: To have an easy victory in a road race.

Wipe out big time: Crash while surfing (see surfing above).

Wipe out really big time: Crash into the rear of the truck or bus you’re surfing.

Example: Things were going well until I wiped out really big time. 

Y Road Cycling Words

Yammer/Yammering: To yammer is to chat as you ride with someone.

Jim and I yammered about the last cyclocross race we’d entered. 

Yard sale: When you crash and all the items in your backpack are strewn all over the crash area, that’s a yard sale. Yard sales may be more of a skiing thing, but they also happen in road cycling and MTB.

Z Road Cycling Terms

In the zone (Also Zoned): To be in the zone is to ride so fast and smoothly that everyone in the pack of hammerheads behind you wishes they were you.

Example: I was so in the zone/zoned that I didn’t hear the deafening blast when my rear tire bust. 

Road Cycling Speak Dictionary: Final Thoughts

I won’t pretend that this road cycling lingo guide is 100% complete. But I’ve tried my best to include the most common words, phrases, and expressions used in road biking.  You’ll hear most or all of this vocabulary when hanging out with road cyclists.

And if someone says something you seem to have forgotten, come to this glossary and search for it. I promise to update this resource from time to time as I bump into new phrases and words. Happy biking!