Cycling Glossary


1000m – See kilometer.

200m – Track sprint time trial with a flying start used to seed riders for the match sprint.

26 inch – The most common mountain bike wheel size on. When used on road bikes, it is known as 650c.

27 inch – A wheel size seen primarily on older, cheaper road bikes. Not usually used on modern bike models. See 700c.

3000m – Distance of women’s and junior’s pursuit on the track.

3-cross – The most common spoke lacing pattern. Refers to the number of times each spoke crosses over the other spokes in the wheel.

40 Km – Common time trial distance. Typically run on an out and back course.

4000m – The distance of the men’s individual pursuit and team pursuit events on the track. See pursuit.

4-Cross – A mountain bike gravity event where four riders start at the same time and race on a course with banked turns, jumps and other obstacles. See mountain cross.

500m – A track time trial from a standing start that covers 500 meters. The women’s equivalent of the kilometer.

650c – Wheel size commonly used on a small bicycle (particularly women’s bikes). Same size as typical 26 inch mountain bike wheel.

700c – Standard wheel size for road bikes.


Accordion – The accordion happens when a large field enters a tight turn. By the time the lead riders have passed through, the end of the field has just slowed down. The riders at the back then have to rapidly accelerate to catch back up, hence the accordion effect.

Aero bars – Forward extensions with elbow pads that allow a rider to ride with elbows on the bars and hands forward over the front wheel. Allow the rider to adopt a more aerodynamic position, like a downhill skier’s tuck.

Aero brake levers – Brake levers that minimize aerodynamic drag. Used in time trials attached to the ends of a base bar.

Aerobic – Metabolic system in the body that relies principally on oxygen to metabolize both fats and sugar both stored (liver and muscles) and free (in the bloodstream) to produce energy. Mostly used during endurance events and longer duration exercise.

Aerodynamic drag – The slowing effect created as a rider and bicycle move through the air. See time trial.

Allen key or wrench – Hexagonal shaped wrenches that range from 1.5 mm to 10 mm. A certain sized allen key secures most bolts on a bicycle. See hex wrench.

Americaine – French term for the Madison.

Anaerobic – The metabolic system that produces energy principally without oxygen, using sugar as fuel. Involved mostly in short, high intensity efforts.

Anaerobic threshold – Originally used to describe the transition point from sustainable to unsustainable exercise when the body is moving from aerobic to anaerobic systems. The preferred term in cycling is now functional threshold.

Anodized – A finish for metals that deposits a thin layer of another compound on the surface to strengthen and protect it from oxidation and add color.

Arm warmers – Removable fabric sleeves that allow a rider to easily cover up or strip down if weather changes.

Attack – A sudden acceleration in a race meant to separate a rider from the peloton. It also refers to the resulting rider or group of riders that succeed in distancing themselves. A rider is said to be “on the attack” or in the “attack”. See breakaway.

Au bloc – French term for riding at the limit of one’s abilities. See on the rivet.


Bar end shifters – Shifters designed to fit into the ends of handlebars or aero bars. Allows riders to shift directly from the end of the bars without removing their hands.

Bar ends – Extensions for mountain bike handlebars that mount on the ends of the bars and provide an additional handhold perpendicular to the standard flat bar.

Barrel adjuster – A device that screws into the cable stop of a bicycle frame or derailleur that allows a rider to adjust cable tension, thereby adjusting the shifting performance.

Barriers – Obstacles in a cyclocross race that force riders to dismount and jump over them while carrying their bikes.

Base bars – A type of handlebar used only in time trial events with forward facing handholds perpendicular to the bar itself and spaces for mounting and aero bars.

Base miles/training – A conditioning period used to develop a rider’s basic aerobic fitness. Typically the off season is used for base training.

Bead – The edge of a clincher tire that secures the tire to the flange or hook on a clincher rim. The bead is typically made of rigid wire or a strong, foldable plastic called Kevlar.

Bib shorts – Cycling shorts that have lightweight fabric suspenders sewn into them.

Bidon – French term for a water bottle.

Big gear – A large gear ratio, typically a large chainring and small cog. A big gear makes it harder to pedal. For example, 53×12. See high gear and upshift.

Big ring – The largest chainring; e.g. a rider big rings a hill by climbing while in the largest chainring.

Bike handling – The aggregation of skills that enables a bicycle rider to navigate successfully through the various technical challenges posed by the sport.

Blocking – The process of slowing the chase of a breakaway. Unlike blocking in football, no physical contact is involved.

Blow up – When you can’t keep up your effort and have to slow down significantly. For example, when trying to bridge to a breakaway, you would blow up if you started off too hard. Also shortened to just “blow”: “He totally blew on that climb.” See popped.

Bolt circle diameter – The diameter of the circle formed by the chainring bolts. Varies depending upon the cranks’ intended application. The standard road bolt circle diameter is 130mm (135mm for Campy) and 144mm for track.

Bonk – To exhaust the body’s supply of carbohydrate, resulting in a sudden and dramatic reduction in performance.

Boot – Something strong and thin inserted into a tire to prevent the inner tube from bulging through a hole in the tire. A typical boot is a dollar bill or an energy bar wrapper.

Booties – Shoe covers that act like gloves for the feet in cold or wet weather, usually made of neoprene. See shoe covers.

Bosses – The threaded mounts on the frame for water bottle cages, shifter guides, racks or fenders.

Bottom bracket – The bearings that the crankset spindle runs through. Also, the part of a bicycle frame (known as the bottom bracket shell) that holds the bottom bracket bearings.

Bottom pull – A type of front derailleur activated from the underside for a bicycle with cables routed under the bottom bracket.

Box section rim – A standard rim with a box shaped cross section. Typically not more than 20mm deep.

Brake pads – Small rubber blocks inserted into brakes that create friction when the brakes are squeezed against the rim. For disc brakes, the pads are typically metal inserts that contact the disc rotor.

Brake/shift levers – Brake levers that have an integrated gear shifting mechanism.

Braze-ons – Term for any extra accessory added on a frame, even if not technically “brazed”. Examples include water bottle bosses or the front derailleur hanger.

Brazing – Joining a tube and a lug by melting another metal (usually silver or brass) that has a lower melting point into the junction.

Breakaway – Synonym for attack. Also the group of riders that have successfully ridden away from the peloton.

Bridge the gap – To ride across the distance between groups. Also referred to simply as bridging.

Broom wagon – The last vehicle in a race caravan that sweeps the course and picks up dropped riders.

B-tension screw – A screw on the backside of most rear derailleurs that controls how far away the derailleur sits from the cassette.

Bullhorn bars – See base bars.

Bunch – See peloton.

Bunch sprint – The sprint for the finish line from a large group. Can be the main peloton sprinting for the win or the remaining riders in the peloton sprinting after a breakaway already crossed the line. See field sprint.

Butting – Frame tubes where the tubes are thicker at high stress points (such as at a weld) and thinner at lower stress points (as in the middle of the tube).


C02 cartridge – Steel cylinders filled with pressurized carbon dioxide that can be screw onto a tube’s valve allowing for quick inflation of a repaired flat tire.

Cable routing – The parts of a frame that directs the cables and housing from the brake or shift levers to brakes or derailleurs. Can be external or internal.

Cable stop – Slotted channels where cable housing ends in a ferrule and is secured on the frame.

Cables – The connection between brake levers and shifters and the brakes and derailleurs. Typically made of braided stainless steel with a small bit of metal molded into the end where the cable connects to the brake or shifter.

Cadence – How fast you are pedaling, described as the number of crank revolutions per minute (RPM).

Car back – Expression used on group rides to indicate that a car is approaching from behind.

Car up – Expression used on group rides to indicate that a car is approaching from ahead.

Caravan – Vehicles that follow behind a race, including team cars, neutral support vehicles, race officials, the broom wagon, etc.

Cassette – An integrated collection of sequentially increasing cogs designed to slip easily onto a freehub where it is secured by a lockring. See freewheel.

Cat up – To upgrade racing category.

Category – Amateur racing classification based on experience that defines a rider’s racing group. Ranges from beginner racers at category 5 to national level at category 1.

Center line rule – When a race is held on an open road, riders have to stay on the proper side of the road. Anyone crossing the center line of the road is typically relegated or disqualified.

Chain – Connects the chainring to the cog and allows the rider to drive the rear wheel by pedaling. Composed of many free moving links pinned together.

Chain stays – Part of a frame that extends from the bottom bracket to the rear dropouts.

Chain suck – When the chain sticks to the chainring and is “sucked” between the chain stay, bottom bracket and chainring.

Chain tool – A device used for removing and installing the pins that hold a chain together.

Chainring – One of the two or three large, circular, toothed metal gears attached to a crankset. Chainrings direct the pedaling force from the crankset through the chain and into the rear wheel via the cogs.

Chainring tattoo – The grease mark left on a rider’s calf from touching the big chainring.

Chamois – A pad sewn into cycling shorts designed to both cushion and reduce friction. A chamois was traditionally made of soft leather, but is now synthetic.

Chase – When the peloton attempts to close down the gap to a breakaway.

Chase group – A group of riders pursuing a breakaway.

Chaser – A member of a chase group.

Chop – To cut-off another rider in a turn by riding a different line.

Circuit race – A road race on a loop course of at least five kilometers in length.

Classics – Any of the traditional one-day monuments of bicycle racing, such as Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix.

Clavicle – See collarbone.

Clean – To ride through a technical section without touching the ground or crashing.

Cleat – Metal or plastic piece fixed to a cycling shoe that snaps into a clipless pedal.

Clincher – Generic term for a tire that mounts on a clincher rim.

Clipless pedals – Pedals that snap onto a cleat mounted on a cycling shoe. Allows the rider to stay connected to the bicycle for more efficient pedaling and greater safety. As opposed to the clips and straps formerly used to secure riders’ feet.

Clipped in – When a rider’s feet are secured in the pedals.

Clips and straps – Leather or synthetic straps combined with metal or plastic cages attached to pedals. Once the rider’s feet have been inserted, the straps are cinched down and the feet are secure.

Cluster – See cassette.

Cobbled classic – Any of the traditional classics run over cobbled roads.

Cobbles – Primitive paving stones. Several classic races in the spring are run over roads paved with cobbles, most notably the Paris-Roubaix.

Cog – Any of the 8 to 11 gears mounted on the rear wheel. Freewheels and cassettes are both composed of cogs.

Cold forged – Forming a metal part by pressing the raw material into a form (as opposed to melt or hot forged).

Collarbone – The short bone that connects the arm to upper body. It is commonly broken in cycling accidents when riders brace against a fall using an outstretched hand, which then transmits the force of the fall directly into the collarbone.

Compact cranks – Crankset with a smaller bolt circle diameter (no more than 110 mm) that allows for smaller chainrings. Typically set up with 50 – 34 tooth rings.

Compact frame – A road frame with a top tube that slopes from front to back and originally based on mountain bike frames. In contrast to a standard frame with a level top tube.

Component – Any of the parts attached to a bicycle frame that makes it rideable.

Cone wrench – A very thin wrench used for holding the cone, or outer bearing surface, against the bearings while tightening the locknut with another wrench.

Corncob – See straight block. Called a corncob because the cogs are so close in size that the cassette resembles the gradual concentric size increase of a corncob. More specifically, a “corncob” is a straight block with the smallest possible cogs, further contributing to he cob-like appearance.

Corner – The ability of a bicycle rider to smoothly carry speed through turns.

Cowhorn bars – See base bars.

Crank – See crankset.

Crank arm – The lever arm of a crankset.

Crankset – Lever arms attached to the bottom bracket via an axle. The pedal is attached at one end and the chainrings at the other via a spider.

Criterium – A road race run using a lot laps on a very short loop course (from 800m to 5km).

Cross country – A mountain bike discipline where racers ride up as well as down hills. Climbing ability, endurance and aerobic fitness are important. As opposed to gravity events.

Cyclocross – A winter cycling discipline where riders compete on modified road bikes over a mostly off – road course that requires occasional dismounts and running.


Deep section rims – A rim that is deeper than a standard box section rim and ranges from 27mm to 100mm deep. Increases a wheel’s aerodynamics.

Derailleur – The mechanism that moves the chain from one cog or chainring to another.

Derny – A small, motor-powered bicycle or scooter used in motor-paced track races to allow bicycle riders, drafting behind, to ride faster than without the motorized draft.

Devil take the hindmost – See miss and out.

DFL – Dead F*g Last or Doing it For Love.

Directeur sportif – An on-the-road manager for a bicycle race team who will typically drive the support car. From the French term for sporting director.

Disc brakes – Brakes that use cable or hydraulically activated clamps to squeeze onto a metal disc.

Disc rotor – A metal (or less commonly carbon fiber) disc bolted onto a special mount on the hub. Disc brakes clamp onto this rotor to stop the bike.

Disc wheel – A solid wheel made of carbon fiber with substantial aerodynamic advantage over standard rim and spoke wheels. Typically used in time trials.

Dish – The amount that a wheel’s rim is off center from the hub. A front wheel has zero dish, while a rear wheel is dished to make room for the cassette.

DNF – Did Not Finish.

DNP – Did Not Place.

DNS – Did Not Start.

Domestique – French term for the member of a bicycle team whose role is to support the team leader.

Double butted – Type of butting where the butt at the tube end is one step down in thickness from the thinner section in the middle. Also refers to spokes with a similar two-step thinning.

Down tube – The tube on a frame that extends from the headtube to the junction with the bottom bracket shell.

Downhill racing – A mountain bike gravity discipline where riders race one at a time. The one to reach the bottom in the shortest amount of time wins.

Downshift – To shift into a smaller, and thereby easier, gear ratio; e.g. from the big ring to the small ring or from a smaller cog to a bigger cog.

Drafting – To ride behind another rider in the slipstream in order to conserve energy. At race speeds, a drafting rider uses 1/3 less power to move at the same tempo.

Drive side – The side of the bicycle that has the chain, chainrings, cogs, and derailleurs. Standing over the bicycle looking toward the front wheel, the drive side is the right-hand side.

Drop – To leave another rider behind. The rider left behind is said to have been “dropped.”

Drop anchor – See blow up.

Dropouts – The slots in a frame that are used to secure a bicycle wheel.

Drops – The curved bottom section of standard road handlebars.

Dual compound – In tires, when the tread has a harder central compound with a softer compound on the sides.

Dual pivot brakes – Brakes with two pivots, each offset from the center line of the wheel to increase leverage.

Dual slalom – Gravity event where riders race two at a time on parallel downhill tracks. The first rider to the bottom wins the heat, with the riders switching sides after the first run. The winner is the rider with the greatest time differential.


Echelon – An angled paceline meant to provide a draft in a crosswind. Because of the angle, the number of riders is limited, so the rest of the field must either form a second echelon or ride in the gutter.

Effective top tube length – What a level top tube would measure. Applied to frames with sloping top tubes.

Elite – Commonly a cyclist racing at the highest amateur level. In USA Cycling parlance, an adult cyclist between the ages of 23 and 30. See junior and master.

Embrocation – Strongly scented oil or lotion applied to the legs to provide a feeling of warmth, particularly on cold days.

End cap – The plug inserted into the end of a handlebar. Also, the little metal caps that can be crimped over the end of a cable to prevent fraying.

Endurance event – Mountain bike events where the emphasis is on aerobic fitness in addition to technical ability.

Escape – See breakaway.

Eyelets – Reinforced area around the spoke hole on a rim.


Fast twitch – Muscle fiber characterized by its ability to contract faster and with greater force. Good sprinters tend to have more fast-twitch than slow-twitch fibers.

Feed bag – See musette.

Feed zone – Designated portion of a road race where riders are allowed to take supplies from helpers on the side of the road.

Feeding – The practice of handing food or water to a rider, either in a feed zone or from a support car.

Fenders – Semi-circular covers for the wheels meant to shield the rider from road spray on wet days.

Ferrule – Metal caps that fit over the end of housing.

Field – The peloton or bunch.

Field sprint – See bunch sprint.

Float – When the clipless pedal system is designed to allow the heel to move in an arc, with the pedal as the center of the arc.

Floor pump – A tire pump with a flat plate on one end and a plunger pump handle and a hose attachment on the other to allow efficient tire inflation.

Flyer – Usually a late race attack during competition. An example would be “taking a flyer with 1km to go.”

Flying start – A race that starts with the rider already at top speed. See 200m.

Foldable tire – A clincher tire with a bead made of a strong, flexible plastic.

Force the pace – Pushing hard to raise the speed of the whole field while riding at the front of the peloton.

Fork – Holds the front wheel of a bicycle and permits steering. A fork consists of two fork legs, with dropouts at the tips and a crown that joins the legs to the steerer tube.

Fork crown – Connects a fork’s legs to the steerer tube.

Form – The period of time when an athlete is mentally and physically ready to race. One is said to be “in form” while showing fitness during certain key events.

Frame – The central structure of a bicycle and the base for all the bike’s different components and accessories.

Frame pump – A pump that can be inserted somewhere on the bicycle frame. Secured either by tension between tubes (e.g. along the top tube between the headtube and seat tube) or by some kind of mounting bracket (usually bolted to the water bottle bosses).

Freehub – The ratcheting mechanism on the rear hub where a cassette can be attached. Retracting teeth, or pawls, within the freehub allow it to engage when pedaled forward and to freewheel when pedaled backwards. There are splines, or raised ridges, on the exterior that integrate with channels in the cassette.

Freeride – An in-between classification for full-suspension mountain bikes. Not quite a downhill bike, still light enough to ride up some hills, but equipped with enough suspension travel to handle steeper, more technical terrain.

Freewheel – To coast without pedaling while disengaging the ratchet mechanism of the rear hub. Also a self-contained set of cogs—including a pawl drive engagement—that is threaded onto a special rear hub.

Friction shifting – A type of shifting that uses the friction of a screw to hold the lever in gear rather than mechanical indexing. See index shifting.

Full suspension – A bicycle with both front and rear wheel suspension.

Functional threshold – The pace a rider can maintain for roughly one hour. Corresponds well with the core aerobic metabolic process and training at this intensity stimulates key fitness adaptations. See lactate threshold.

Funny bike – A time-trial bicycle with a front wheel that is smaller than the rear wheel. It is now banned internationally by the UCI and all bikes are required to have front and rear wheels of the same size.


Gap – The distance between groups on the road.

Gapped – When a rider gets dropped or pops he has been “gapped off.”

GC – General Classification.

Gear – Any of the possible combinations of chainring and cog that a rider can choose from. It ranges from a single gear on a single speed to as many as 33 gears on certain road bicycles.

Gear ratio – Number corresponding to the effective wheel size of a given combination of chainring, cog and wheels. For example, a big gear is a big gear ratio and thus harder to pedal. See big gear.

General classification – The main competition in a stage race where the riders race for the lowest overall time.

Geometry – The various angles and lengths of a bicycle frame (e.g. head-tube angle or top-tube length) that together create a safe handling machine properly fitted to the rider’s physical dimensions and technical ability.

Glycogen – Source of sugar used for quick energy, stored in the liver and muscles. Consuming carbohydrate before, during and after workouts helps prime, preserve and restore glycogen. See aerobic and anaerobic.

Grand tours – The three, three-week long national stage races of Italy, France and Spain: the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana.

Granny ring – Usually the smallest chainring on a triple crankset. For example on a 22 – 32 – 44, the 22 is the granny ring.

Gravity check – Falling down or crashing, thereby confirming that, indeed, gravity is still in effect.

Gravity event – A mountain bike race where the competitors start at the top of a hill and race to the bottom. It includes downhill, dual slalom, 4-cross or mountain cross, and Super D. These races require bike handling, strength, technique and steely nerves more than aerobic fitness and endurance.

Green jersey – The jersey awarded to the leader and eventual winner of the points competition at the Tour de France.

Grupetto – In a stage race, a group that bands together to ride just fast enough to make the time cut. Composed of riders not in contention for the general classification.

Gruppo – The collection of many of the components traditionally used to build a bicycle. It includes all drive train parts, brakes, brake/shift levers, hubs, headset, and bottom bracket and sometimes a seatpost. Also, Italian for peloton.

Gutter – The far edge of the road. Also the place where you are forced to ride because of crosswinds and echelons. Riding “in the gutter” means that you are clinging to the back of the pack at a high rate of speed, at maximal effort and with minimal draft. You can also “put” or “slam” the race “into the gutter” in a crosswind by riding into the gutter on the side of the road with no protection from the wind.

Gutterball – Intentionally riding in the gutter in a crosswind to force other riders to either form echelons or ride in wind.


Half wheel – If you are riding with someone else, but always a half wheel ahead no matter how fast you are going, then you are “half wheeling.” Fantastically annoying, half wheeling occurs when the rider in front insists on staying in front by raising the pace. The result is an easy training ride turned into a hammer-fest.

Hammering – Going hard.

Handlebar – The metal or composite tube that a rider holds onto to control the bicycle.

Handling – A description of the overall impression that a bicycle gives the rider, based on the combination of all frame geometry and components.

Head tube – The very front tube of a bicycle frame that is attached to the top tube and downtube. The headtube holds the fork in place via the steerer tube.

Headset – Bearings which secure the fork, via the steerer tube, into the headtube.

Heart rate – As a cyclist pedals harder, the heart starts to pump faster to get more blood, and therefore more oxygen, to working muscles. Thus heart rate, the number of beats per minute (BPM) rises and provides an indirect measure of cycling performance. See power.

Hex wrench – See allen key or wrench.

High gear – A gear combination with a larger gear ratio. Subjectively, a high gear is harder to pedal allowing the rider to continue pedaling at higher speeds. See upshift.

Hill climb – A race to the top of one particular hill.

Hoods – The upper portion of road bike brake levers that provides an additional hand hold. Typically has a rubber cover.

Hook – To hit the front wheel of a rider behind with your rear wheel.

Hour record – The farthest distance covered in one hour in a velodrome.

Housing – The sheath that protects a shift or brake cable and allows it to move smoothly.

Hub – The center of a wheel with flanges that connect to spokes and bearings to allow an axle to spin freely.


In the drops – To ride with your hands grasping the drops. A position used at high speed for aerodynamics.

Index shifting – Shifters with mechanical levers that direct each shift onto a particular gear.

Individual pursuit – See pursuit.

Integrated headset – Frame with cups built directly in which allows bearings to set in the frame instead of in separate cups.

Integrated seat tube – A seat tube that extends beyond the junction with the top-tube and seat-stays to form a sort of seat post. Usually requires cutting to broadly adjust the height, with smaller adjustments available through a moveable clamp.

Intermediate sprint – A sprint line before the finish that is usually part of a points competition during a stage race.

Intervals – In training, efforts over set durations designed to train one component of fitness. Usually done in groups with set rest periods; e.g. 2×20 would be two 20-minute intervals.


Jersey – A shirt designed for cycling, made of breathable material such as polyester (with some lycra for stretch) and with pockets in the back for holding food and other roadside essentials.

JRA – Just Riding Around.

Jump – To make a sudden acceleration, whether to initiate an attack or a burst for the finish line.

Junior – A rider 18 years old or younger.


Keirin – A sprint race on the track where a group of riders—typically six—start out paced by a derny. The derny gradually increases the speed until leaving the track with about 3 laps to go, leaving the rides to battle it out.

Kick – A sudden burst of speed at the end of a race.

Kilojoules – A measure of the total work done during a ride, as measured by a power meter. Roughly translates into calories burned.

Kilometer – A velodrome event, also known as the kilometer time trial, ridden from a standing start where the rider is held by a mechanical starting machine or volunteer. See red kite.

Kit – The collection of clothing that a cyclist wears to ride.

KJ – See kilojoules.

Knee warmers – Removable knee covers that turn normal shorts into knickers.


Lacing pattern – The organization of spokes on a wheel. For example, 3-cross lacing has each of the spokes cross the other three times.

Lactate – After the body breaks down glucose to produce energy, the resulting lactic acid quickly releases hydrogen ions and recombines with potassium and sodium to form a new compound called lactate. Higher levels of lactate are associated with decreased ability to sustain exercise. Once viewed as a waste product, experts now agree that lactate actually plays a complex role in facilitating energy production and that it is not, of itself, responsible for fatigue. See lactate threshold and lactate tolerance.

Lactate threshold – Point where the body produces more lactate than can be cleared, meaning that exercise beyond this point is unsustainable. See functional threshold.

Lactate tolerance – Traditionally considered the ability to tolerate higher levels of lactate and thus to continue at high-intensity efforts for a longer period of time. The idea was that repeated efforts causing an accumulation of lactate would allow the body to adapt to that higher level. With the role that lactate plays in energy production evolving, however, it is unlikely that lactate is actually causes this discomfort. Instead, it is likely that the correlation with higher lactate levels is merely a coincidence. Instead, it is likely that the release of hydrogen ions raises blood acidity, and not the lactate itself, that limits exercise and it is tolerance of this higher acidity that we are really training. See lactate.

Lactic acid – When the body breaks down glucose for energy, lactic acid is produced. See lactate.

Lanterne Rouge – “Red lantern” in French, refers to the last rider in the general classification of a stage race. The phrase is derived from the red lantern that would hang from the last car of a train.

Lead out – The last rider, usually a teammate, in front of a sprinter before the finish. The lead out sprints to take the lead rider to roughly 200m to go.

Lead-out train – The teammate or team that precedes a designated sprinter in the run to the finish.

Leg warmers – Full-length removable leggings that turn cycling shorts into tights. Allow a rider to adjust warmth depending on changing conditions. See knee warmers, arm warmers.

Line – The path a rider takes through a turn. In general, the best line is the straightest path through the turn, resulting in the smallest amount of speed loss. See corner.

Long steady distance – Rides done over longer durations (usually more than two hours) at a hard but sustainable pace.

Low gear – A gear combination with a smaller gear ratio that allows a rider to pedal easier. On a climb, a low gear allows a rider to pedal at a higher cadence. See downshift.

LSD – Long Steady Distance.

Lugs – Collars of metal or carbon that a tube is inserted into before being brazed or glued into place. Lugs are typically the headtube, bottom bracket, and seat cluster.

Lycra – Stretchy fabric included in most cycling clothing.


Madison – A team points race on the track. Teammates ride one at a time, taking turns as needed to sling each other into and out of the action. Named after Madison Square Gardens, where the races were first held. See Americaine.

Marathon – A mountain bike race between 60 and 100 km.

Mash – Turning a gear slowly and awkwardly. As opposed to spinning.

Mass start – Track or road race where all participants start as one unified field.

Master – A racer over 30 years old.

Match sprint – Track sprint between two riders over three laps.

Mechanical – Term for any problem with the bicycle in a race.

Miss and out – A mass start track race where the field starts together, then the last rider on each lap is pulled out until three remain to sprint out the victory.

Motor pacing – Training behind a motorized vehicle.

Mountain bike – A bicycle designed to perform optimally on dirt roads and trails. Manufacturers have created a broad range of subtypes intended for different disciplines: cross country, downhill, dual slalom, freeride, all-mountain, single speed, etc.

Mountain cross – See 4-cross.

Mountains classification – Competition in a stage race that awards points to the riders who perform the best over the various mountain stages.


Neo-pro – A first-year pro rider.

Neutral support – Technical assistance during a race that is available to any rider regardless of team.

Neutral wheels – When the support vehicle in a race will provide a wheel to any rider with a flat. See wheels-in-wheels-out.

Nipples – Aluminum or brass nuts that secure a threaded spoke to a rim.

No one else in the photo – The best way to win a race — alone off the front with no one else behind you. Refers to the fact that a finish photo would show no other riders in the background since you are so far off the front.

Non-drive side – The side of the bike without the drivetrain. The left side when standing over the bike looking toward the front wheel.

Noodle – To ride easy without working too hard. Noodling typically happens on a recovery ride.


Off season – The training or rest period in between race seasons.

Offset – The distance a fork holds the front wheel away from a line drawn through the steerer tube.

Olympic sprint – A track sprint race of three laps with three riders starting together. Each rider pulls for one lap then pulls off, leaving the last rider to sprint for the line.

Omnium – A stage race or series of races scored on points rather than overall time. Unlike a stage race, omniums often allow riders to pick and choose the races they want to enter.

On the rivet – Riding at the limit of one’s ability. Refers to riding on the tip of the saddle, where there was traditionally a rivet securing the leather cover.

OTB – Off The Back.

Overall – See general classification.


Paceline – A group of riders working together to take advantage of the draft.

Pack – See peloton.

Pack fodder – Riders in a race that are just filling out the field with no real hope of winning. Also called “pack fill.”

Palmarès – French term for the list of a racer’s best results, a sort of racing resume.

Paris-Roubaix – Classic race run from north of Paris to Roubaix, near the Belgian border. Characterized by numerous sections of very rough cobblestones.

Pave – French word for cobblestone.

Pedaling squares – Pedaling with a sloppy and inefficient looking style, as opposed to a more fluid and circular style. When a rider is tired and looking ragged on the bike, she is said to be “pedaling squares.”

Peloton – The group of riders that form the race. All actions in a race are defined by their relation to the peloton, whether riding ahead of or falling behind.

Pinch flat – When an inner tube is squeezed between the rim and the tire, resulting in two holes that resemble a snakebite.

Play – Unwanted movement in a bearing assembly. If unchecked, it can cause a loss of power and eventually damage to the whole system.

Poach – General term for riding where you are not supposed to be. Could be jumping into an organized ride without registering or riding on trails closed to bikes.

Points classification – A competition within a stage race based on points earned at intermediate sprints and the finishes.

Points race – A race where periodic sprints award points to the top finishers. The final winner is the rider that accumulated the most points.

Polka-dot jersey – The jersey awarded to the leader and eventually to the winner of the mountains classification at the Tour de France.

Popped – See blow up.

Presta valve – The most common valve stem on racing bicycles. Unlike Schrader valves, a Presta valve is narrow and tapers to a small, threaded locknut on the tip.

Prime – A mid-race sprint. Usually in a criterium, where the first rider across the line wins a prize.

Prologue – A short time trial held at as the first stage of a stage race.

Pull – To make an effort at the front of a group of riders.

Pull off – To move off the front of a group of riders after pulling. See pull through.

Pull through – Pulling off in a paceline. The through refers to continuing your progress up the line towards and off the front.

Pulley – Small wheels on rear derailleurs that allow the chain to move freely.

Pursuit – A track time trial from a standing start where two riders race against each other, starting on opposite sides of the track. See 4000m, 3000m.


Quick release – Skewer used to secure a wheel to a frame with a clasping lever.


Radial lacing – A type of wheel built with spokes that run directly from the hub to the rim without crossing.

Rainbow jersey – A white jersey with rainbow bands running horizontally around the chest. It is awarded to the world champion in each cycling discipline and type of competition—from road race and time trial to mountain bike cross country and downhill.

Rake – See offset.

Rate of perceived exertion – Using subjective perception to measure effort (versus a heart rate monitor or power meter).

Red kite – A red flag that marks the last kilometer of a road race.

Retro grouch – A cyclist who prefers older and, usually, simpler components such as friction shifters.

Rim – The circular piece of aluminum or carbon fiber forming the outer circumference of a wheel that is attached to a hub with spokes and that a tire is attached to. A rim will be either clincher or tubular, and its depth can vary dramatically.

Road race – A mass start race that is ridden on the open roads.

Road rash – An abrasion to the skin that results from sliding on the road after a crash.

Rollers – A stationary bicycle trainer with three aluminum or plastic drums mounted—two in back and one in front—on a frame. It is all connected with a large rubber band via the front and middle drums.

Rolling resistance – The energy needed to deform a tire when it contacts the ground.

RPE – Rate of Perceived Exertion.


Saddle – A bicycle seat.

Saddle bag – A bag that mounts underneath a bicycle seat allowing a rider to carry tools, spare tubes, and other ride essentials.

Schrader valve – A valve identical to those used on car tires. Used mostly on mountain bikes.

Scratch race – A track race run over a fixed number of laps. The first rider across the line wins.

Season – The competitive racing portion of the year. Specifics vary depending on the region or discipline, but a typical season will start in February and extend into early October.

Seat cluster – The junction on the frame of the seat tube, seat stays and top tube.

Seat collar – The circular clamp (or integrated part of the seat tube) that secures the seatpost to the frame.

Seat post – Tube inserted into the seat tube that holds the saddle in place.

Seat stays – Tubes that extend from the seat cluster to the rear dropouts.

Seat tube – The tube on a frame that extends from the bottom bracket to the seat cluster.

Sew ups – See tubular tires.

Shifter – Mechanism on a bicycle for changing the gear ratio. Used for alternating between gears.

Shoe covers – Lycra covers for shoes meant to increase aerodynamics.

Short track – A mountain bike cross country race run on a very short course and usually lasting less than a half hour.

Single speed – Any bicycle, though most typically a mountain bike, with a single gear (one front chainring and one cog) and thus no shifters.

Sitting in or sitting on – Riding in another rider’s draft without pulling through.

Skewers – Metal rods that clamp a wheel onto a bicycle using a lever or nuts. See quick release skewer.

Skinsuit – Combined shorts and jersey that closely hug the rider’s body and make the rider more aerodynamic.

Sling – To help another rider and transfer momentum by literally grabbing hands and swinging. Used in the Madison when riders exchange places.

Slingshot – See accordion.

Slinky – See slingshot.

Slipstream – See draft.

Sloping top tube – Top tube that slopes from the headtube down to the seat tube.

Slow twitch – Muscle fiber that is characterized by its ability to contract slower and for long periods of time. Uses primarily fat for fuel. Good endurance athletes tend to have more slow-twitch muscle fiber than fast-twitch. See fast twitch.

Small gear – A gear combination that results in a lower gear ratio. See low gear.

Small ring – The smallest chainring.

Snakebite – See pinch flat.

Soft pedal – To pedal without much effort or coast.

Soigneur – Helper on a cycling team that handles massage, prepares race food, and generally takes care of the riders needs.

Speed – See gear.

Spider – The five or four armed star-shaped extensions at the end of a crankset that make it possible to mount chainrings.

Spin – Pedaling quickly and smoothly, as opposed to mashing.

Spin out – To be moving so quickly that no matter how fast you pedal, your gear just isn’t big enough. At that point, you are “spun out” and either need to shift or coast.

Spindle – The axle that the crankset is attached to. The spindle passes through and is supported by the bottom bracket bearings.

Spokes – Pieces of wire specially designed to connect the hub to the rim.

Sprint classification – See points classification.

Sprocket – See cog.

Squirrel – A rider who moves erratically without holding a line in the peloton.

Stage race – A series of races (each race is called a stage) run over sequential days. The winner of the entire race is the rider with the lowest total time.

Stagiaire – A young rider given the chance to try out with a professional team for a few months at the end of a season.

Standing start – A race where the rider starts from a standstill. See flying start.

Steerer tube – Part of a fork that inserts into a frame’s headtube where it is held in place by the headset bearings.

Stem – The component that connects the fork’s steerer tube to the handlebars and allows the rider to steer the bicycle.

Straight block – A cassette where each cog increases by only one tooth. For example, a straight block 12-21 would be 12 – 13 – 14 – 15 – 16 – 17 – 18 – 19 – 20 – 21.

Super D – A hybrid mountain bike gravity event that adds distance and a bit of climbing (though still a net loss of elevation) in addition to the typical features of a downhill or dual slalom.

Surf – A rider surfs the peloton by moving throughout the field without hitting the wind and thus doing minimal work. Surfing implies the rider is navigating through the pack with the ease and grace of a surfer on wave.

Suspension – A mechanism used to absorb and decrease the impact on either the front or rear wheel of a bicycle.


Tail gunning – Riding as the last rider in the peloton. Usually intentional, a rider with good bike handling skills and fitness can get away with tail gunning early in race knowing that she can move up later. But could also refer to the misery of barely hanging on at the back all race.

Take a flyer – See flyer.

Take a pull – See pull.

Tandem – A bicycle built for two.

Team pursuit – Pursuit contested by teams working together in a paceline. Similar to a team time trial.

Team sprint – See Olympic sprint.

Team time trial – A time trial where two or more riders work together in a paceline.

Technical – A description of a road or trail meaning that navigating through requires adept bike handling skills.

Tempo – Riding at a steady pace or effort.

Threshold – See functional threshold.

Through-and-off – Type of paceline where each rider pulls off as soon as they reach the front.

Time cut – In a stage race, riders with a time that is a certain percent greater than the winning time are eliminated from the race.

Time trial – A race where riders individually ride the same set distance and drafting is illegal. The rider with the fastest time wins. Specialized aerodynamic bicycles and equipment are common.

Timing line – The line on a track where timing begins for flying start events.

Tire lever – A plastic lever used to pry a clincher tire off of the bead.

Tooth – The protrusion on a cog or chainring that engages with the chain; e.g. 53 tooth chainring or 12 tooth cog.

Top pull front derailleur – The front derailleur activated by a cable that runs across the top tube and pulls from above.

Top tube – The tube connecting the head tube to the seat cluster.

Tops – The flat part on a drop handlebar, where the stem attaches. Riding on “the tops” means riding with your hands on this flat section.

Track – See velodrome.

Track stand – To balance on the bicycle without moving.

Trainer – A portable stationary training device that clamps onto and raises the rear wheel to provide resistance, allowing a rider to pedal in place.

Travel – The amount of movement within a suspension system, in inches or millimeters.

Trials – A cycling competition where riders navigate an unrideable obstacle course. Also known as observed trials.

Triple crank – A crankset with three chainrings that is most common on mountain bikes.

Tubeless tires – Clincher tires that mount onto special rims without using tubes.

Tubular cement – Cement used to glue tubular tires to the rim.

Tubular tires – Tire with extended casings that wrap around the tube. The casing is then sewn shut, creating a self-contained unit that is glued to special rims. See sew up.

Twitchy – When a bicycle responds very rapidly to the rider because of a number of possible design features.


U-23 – A rider older than 19 but younger than 23.

UCI – Union Cyclist Internationale. The cycling governing body recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

Upgrade – To move to a higher racing category (e.g. from 3 to 2.).

Upshift – To move the chain into an easier gear ratio. See small gear.

USAC – USA Cycling.


V02 max – An athlete’s maximum aerobic capacity, defined by the maximum amount of oxygen that can be utilized by a body. A high VO2max usually indicates greater performance potential. Though V02max can be increased with training, it does have an upper genetic limit. Expressed as an absolute in liters or relative to body mass (in kilograms) as milliliters per kilogram. For example, an athlete that weighs 77 kilograms could have an absolute V02max of 5.1 liters and a relative V02max of 66.23 ml/kg.

Valves – Connected to an inner tube. Protrudes through the rim and permits inflation. Either presta or schrader.

Velodrome – A banked oval made of wood or concrete and designed specifically for bicycle racing.


Warm up – The process of gradually increasing exercise intensity to raise the temperature and blood flow in the muscles to encourage optimal performance.

Wheel sucker – A rider that stays in the draft without pulling through.

Wheels-in-wheels-out – When riders are limited to the wheels they put into the support car. If you flat you only get a new wheel if you put one in the car.

Work – To take a turn riding in the wind at the front of a peloton, paceline or breakaway. If a rider does no work then he is a wheel sucker.


Yard sale – A crash where you end up strewing all your belongings all over the road. Literally in that bottles, tubes, food, glasses, etc., end up everywhere. Metaphorically in that your crash was so emphatic that you might as well have strewn it all about.

Yellow jersey – The jersey worn by the general classification leader at the Tour de France.

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