Bicycling terminology guide
This is a glossary of terms and jargon used in cycling, mountain biking, and cycle sport.
For parts of a bicycle, see List of bicycle parts.
- (French: danser – to dance) Riding out of the saddle, standing up, usually in a taller gear than normal, and rocking side to side for leverage. The phrase dancing on the pedals is related.
- A device used to change gears, activated by shifters.
- A cyclist who excels at fast descents, often using them to break away from a group, or bridge a gap.: 66
- Colloquial name for an elimination race, an endurance track event where the last rider across the finish line is eliminated every two laps (from the phrase "the Devil takes the hindmost").
- A rider who has an even energy output, without any bursts of speed, is said to be a diesel or diesel engine.
- Directeur sportif
- Team manager.
- A rider whose job is to support and work for other riders in their team (literally "servant" in French). Today the term has lost its negative connotations and serves as an acknowledgement of the true nature of racing tactics. See also water carrier.
- Door prize
- A collision with the door of a parked car, typically opened suddenly in the cyclist's path.
- Race number attached to the back of a competitor's jersey.
- To ride closely behind another rider to make maximum use of their slipstream, reducing wind resistance and effort required to ride at the same speed.
A drop on a downhill section of a race course
- (or drop-off) A steep section, or sudden drop on a mountain bike trail.
- To be dropped is to be left behind a breakaway or the peloton for whatever reason, usually because the rider cannot sustain the tempo required to stay with the group. To drop someone is to accelerate strongly with the intent of causing following riders to no longer gain the benefit of drafting.: 238
- (or "Drops") The lower part of the handlebars on a road bike; they run parallel with the top-tube.
- The slot, of various sizes and orientations, in the frame that the axles of the wheels attach to.
- A ride in the randonneuring discipline of cycling, usually 200–600 km long. Also known as a brevet.
- A long-distance discipline of cycling where riders attempt courses from 200 to over 1200 km, collecting stamps at controls with the clock running constantly. Every participant finishing within minimum and maximum time limits is considered a winner regardless of finishing order. Riders may ride in a group or solo as they please, and are expected to be self-sufficient between controls. Randonneuring is not regulated by UCI.
- A bicycle or tricycle where the rider is placed in a laid-back position, feet first and sitting in a seat instead of on a saddle. Usually used for ergonomics or aerodynamics. All world land speed records are held by (enclosed) recumbent bicycles, but these bikes are not allowed in races governed by the UCI.
- To ride fast.
- A bicycle without any suspension system.
- Road captain
- An experienced rider who organizes a team's riders in a road race, including making tactical decisions and improvising new tactics when pre-race plans are overtaken by events on the road. They are the key link between the directeur sportif and the rest of the team. Road captains are normally selected on a race-by-race basis depending on the demands of the event and their relationship with the team leader. Notable road captains in recent years include Bernhard Eisel, Luca Paolini, Mick Rogers and David Millar.
A rock garden on a singletrack trail
- Road race
- A race on pavement. Longer in distance than criteriums.
- Road rash
- Severe skin abrasions caused from sliding on the asphalt in a crash.
- Rock garden
- A section found on some mountain biking trails with numerous rocks, designed to challenge a mountain biker's ability to ride over it skillfully.
- A type of trainer composed of rolling cylinders under the rear wheel linked to a single rolling cylinder under the front wheel which allow the rider to practice balance while training indoors.
- Rotating weight
- Mass that is rotating while the bike is moving, which is a form of inertia. A bicycle wheel can be approximated as a hollow cylinder with most of its mass near the rim. The rotation of the cranks, hubs, and other parts are less significant because both their radius and rotational speed are smaller. Reducing the rotating weight with lighter wheels and tires will permit faster acceleration and braking (or the same acceleration and braking with less energy).
- A rider who is strong on flat and undulating roads. The rider is well suited for races such as Paris–Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara are examples of this.
- Bike seat.
- How much a bike sinks into its travel just by having body weight on it.
- Sag wagon
- A broom wagon. Probably from the word "sag", i.e. droop, but sometimes explained as an acronym for "support and gear" or "support and grub".; can also come from the French: "soutien au groupe".
- Service course
- A command center where bicycles are maintained between races in preparation for the next race. A service course car is a car that carries spare bicycles or wheels in a race should the competing cyclist require a replacement.
A mountain biker on singletrack
A skinny (low to the ground) from rider's point of view
A skinny (high from the ground), between ramps
- A component used by the rider to control the gearing mechanisms and select the desired gear ratio. It is usually connected to the derailleur by a mechanical actuation cable. Electronic shifting systems also exist.
- Australian English for tubular tyres.
- A mountain bike trail designed for a single line of riders.
- Sit-on and Sit-in
- To ride behind another rider without taking a turn on the front (thus tiring the lead rider), often in preparation for an attack or sprint finish. "Sitting in the wheels" is to take an easy ride drafted by the peloton or gruppetto. Often a strategic decision to save energy in races.
- A narrow beam to be ridden over lengthwise, as a test of a rider's skill. A skinny can be of various widths (almost as narrow as a bike tire, and up to 20 cm wide) and various lengths (from one to several meters). Some may also "neck-down" to successively thinner widths, and may also have steps, and be on an incline (up or down). They may be close to the ground, or in some cases dangerously high, and even span small creeks or other obstacles.
- French for "healer". A non-riding member of a team whose role is to provide support for the riders, possibly including transportation and organization of supplies, preparation of the team's food, post-ride massages and personal encouragement.
- Sportive bicycle
- Also known as comfort or endurance bicycle. A type of racing bicycle intended for less competitive cyclosportive and long-distance riding. Typically features more upright riding geometry, higher handlebar position, longer wheelbase, and disk brakes.
- Rider with the ability to generate very high power over short periods (a few seconds to a minute) allowing for great finishing speeds, but usually unable to sustain sufficiently high power over long periods to be a good time triallist. Sprinters are usually too big to have a high enough power-to-weight ratio to be good climbers.
- A cyclist who has a tendency to swerve unexpectedly and maintain inconsistent speed. Considered dangerous to follow at close range for the purpose of drafting.
- One part of a multi-day race, such as the Tour de France.
- An amateur rider, who is taken in by a professional team during the season. This lets the rider get some experience at riding a few pro races, and the team gets a chance to assess the abilities of the rider.
- Colloquial name for a bicycle.
- Steerer tube
- The part of the fork that is inserted into the head tube of the frame, and is used to attach the fork to the frame using a headset.
- The component that attaches the handlebars to the steer tube of the bicycle. They come in two major types, quill and threadless. The angle and length plays a major part in how the bicycle fits the rider.
- Sticky bottle
- A technique often used by the rider who takes food and water from the team car during a race. The car occupant continues to hold the bottle after handing it to the rider, effectively dragging the athlete. This concerted act gives the cyclist a moment to relax. Usually tolerated by the race commissaire if the bottle is held for 1–2 seconds, but may result in a sanction (such as disqualification) if abused.
- The rider on a tandem bike not steering.
- Summit finish
- A race that ends at the top of a mountain climb. Such stages favour the climbers and are normally decisive in major stage races like the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France.
- Taking both feet off the pedals and extending them outwards to resemble Superman in flight.
- Swing off
- A cyclist fending the air in front of a group of riders, then leaving the front after making their effort by steering their bike to the side is said to "swing off". Example: "Ivan Basso swings off to let Peter Sagan go!"
- Short wheel base, a recumbent bicycle geometry where the crank is in front of the front wheel. Comes in many shapes, like highracers and lowracers.
- A bicycle built for two. Strictly only a bike where the riders are positioned in-line, otherwise it is a sociable.
- A group of cyclists working together as part of a competition.
- Team time trial
- Riders start in groups or teams, usually of a fixed size. The time of the nth rider of a team counts for the classification for each team member. In the 2009 edition of Tour de France, riders who are dropped from their team's group would be scored with their own time, instead of the team time.
- A description of a trail or trail feature requiring "technical" skill to ride well. A technical climb, for example, may have an uneven surface and tight turns making the ascent challenging without well developed mountain biking skills.
- Technical Assistance Zone
- A designated section along the course of a mountain bike or cyclocross race along which riders are allowed to accept technical assistance (tools, spare parts, or mechanical work) from another person. In cyclocross racing the technical assistance zone is called the "pit". Not all mountain bike races contain a technical assistance zone, instead requiring riders to carry whatever tools and spare parts they may need. A rider accepting technical assistance outside of the designated zone risks disqualification.
A TTF consisting of a wood drop followed quickly by a banked berm
- Technical Trail Feature, a feature often found on mountain biking trails designed as a challenge or test of a rider's skill. It can include log piles, log rides, wall rides, jumps, skinnies, and so forth. Difficult TTFs may have an optional bypass.
- Steady pace at the front of a group of riders. A relatively fast tempo can be used by a group or team to control the peloton, often to make up time to a break. The group will ride at the head of the bunch and set a fast enough pace to stretch the peloton out (also known as stringing out) and discourage other riders from attacking. Setting a slower tempo can be done for the purpose of blocking. A tempo is also a type of track race where two points are awarded to the first person to cross the line each lap, and one point is awarded to the second person to cross the line each lap.
- Tempo pace
- A level of exertion just below the rider's anaerobic threshold. Used as a reference point in training, this is the highest level of exertion that a given rider can sustain.
- Tête de la course
- From French, literally "head of the race". The leading cyclist or group of cyclists, when separated from (in front of) the peloton. See Cabeza de carrera.
- The word commonly refers to fans along the roadside at professional road cycling races in Italy such as Tirreno–Adriatico, Milan–San Remo, the Giro d'Italia, and the Giro di Lombardia.
- Time trial
- A race against the clock where riders are started separately (ranging from 30 seconds to 5 minutes apart). The winner of the race is determined by the fastest person across the course. No drafting may be employed in a time trial as it is a solo race event.
- Time trialist
- A rider that can generate relatively high power over long periods of time (5 minutes to an hour or more) in a race against the clock.
- To Stick The Knife In
- To finish off a group of riders who are about to crack. The perpetrator knows (or guesses) they have better overall energy than their competitors, presumably after making them suffer with numerous accelerations. The ensuing violent acceleration, which results in dropped competitors, is referred to as "sticking the knife in".
- An oval cycling track for races, banked at up to 50 degrees. Cycling tracks are usually indoors. Bicycling or cycle tracks are also called velodromes. An Olympic track is generally 250m long.
- A method in stage races to get a sprinter to the front of a bunch sprint and launched. The sprinter's team riders will form a line, usually within 5k of the finish, and take turns to build up speed. The last rider in the train will be protected (drafting) until a short distance from the finish. Perfected by HTC and Mark Cavendish.
- A piece of equipment that a bicycle stands on so that the rear wheel can spin while the bicycle is stationary, allowing stationary riding. These are usually used when the conditions outside are bad.
- Like a bicycle but with three wheels. Comes in both upright and recumbent versions.
- See tricycle.
- True sprinter
- Also known as an old-school sprinter. A rider who excels primarily in sprint finishes on flat to mildly uphill terrain. Often too heavy to compete in longer or steeper uphill courses.
- Tubular tyres
- Tubular tyres have the inner tube permanently stitched inside the casing. They are held in place using glue or glue-tape, and are affixed to rims which lack the sidewalls characteristic of a hook-bead rim. Tubulars take very high pressure which reduces their rolling resistance, and can result in wheelsets that are lower in overall weight than comparable clincher wheels. They can also be ridden at lower pressures than clinchers without the risk of pinch flats, because of the shape of the rim. This makes them well-suited to cyclo-cross, especially in muddy conditions where low tire pressures are used. Also called sew-ups, tubies, or tub.
- A trainer that provided resistance when peddling a bike, fixed in place. Often resistance is provided by a fan assembly or a magnet. See Bicycle trainer.
- A turn is a rider sharing the workload on a pace line. In a breakaway, the riders expect to share the work equally in "turns". A rider who does not take their turn is said to be "sitting on".
- Yellow Jersey
- Worn by the rider who is leading in the general classification in the Tour de France; also referred to as the maillot jaune.
Derived from Royal Marines slang describing a long-distance loaded march carrying full kit, Yomp is often used in Northern England to describe rides at your own (marching) pace into the Yorkshire Hills.