Cycling vocabulary will certainly baffle a new rider, and being proficient in this language is part and parcel of becoming a more experienced cyclist. Here is a glossary of some of the most commonly overheard words that you can use on your next ride.

Aero

The adjective used to describe anything that makes you glide through the wind in a more aero-dynamic fashion. It could be a teardrop helmet, a full-tuck position or even shaving your legs to cut a sharper line!

Blowing

When every cell of your body is working hard to keep up with the pace whilst your heart rate is hitting the roof.

Bonking

Normally the stage after blowing when your body has shut down and you have nothing left to give on a ride. Can sometimes provoke throwing up.

Broom wagon

When the blowing and bonking get so bad that you have to get swept up by the support vehicle accompanied by an overwhelming sense of defeat.

Chapeau

The French for ‘hats off’ – a mark of respect not only for the fastest and the strongest but also for the rider that has put in a great deal of effort.

Chain-ring tattoo

The tell-tale sign mark of a cyclist that proudly walks with the oil imprint of a chain on their calf muscle.

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Dropped

To be dropped is to lose the pace of the bunch and enter a lonely state of constant pursuit to catch up whilst also battling the wind alone.

Fred

A snobby term for either a person who spends a lot of money on his bike and clothing, but still can’t ride or to describe an unfashionable rider that annoys ‘serious roadies’ when they overtake them on their non-carbon bikes.

Hitter

This is the rider that absolutely smashes their ride wearing the slickest kit and on an epic frame. This is the prom king or queen of the mountain.

Kicker

Those short steep climbs that sneak up on you and normally catch you out in the wrong gear causing a clunk of the chain.

Lid

Just another word for helmet if you fancy switching it up.

Marginal gains

Any measure, no matter how small, that will make you faster. Shaved legs, aero helmet, lighter jersey, tighter riding position – it all counts!

No-hands

As it sounds, riding your bike without your hands on the bars. This was once described in a 1936 cycling safety video as “about as clever as giving a balloon to a hedgehog”.

Pain cave

As a cyclist, you will likely visit the pain cave so many times you might want to hire an interior designer. This is the hurt-locker of cycling, a necessary hell you must endure.

Road-rash

The injury caused from falling off your bike and scraping your skin along the hard road. Known normally as grazing but usually more hardcore because you are in motion.

Pootle

A pootle is a more leisurely ride. The pace is relaxed, the conversation will be abundant and coffee and cake stops are plentiful.

Snake bite

A double puncture of an inner tube, also known as the worst luck ever.

Snot rocket

Beware the rider ahead that puts their finger to their nose and blows out the contents of their nostril upwind from you. The result is a snot rocket to the eye.

SULA

The acronym for ‘Sweaty Upper Lip’ and a common symptom of a hot-weather

Wheel-sucking

Sitting behind an exhausted cyclist, sheltered from the wind and not returning the favour is the faux-pas known as wheel-sucking.

(In the) zone

The ‘zone’ is a magical yet elusive state, not as commonly visited as the pain cave but appears when fitness, speed, focus all align to create the best ride ever that feels effortless and euphoric.


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