|(Original glossary courtesy of Larry
Every wondered what "big ringing it" means? Or "he rode in with
the 'laughing group'"? Well, here is where you will find answers to many of
your questions. You won't find extremely technical terms here, like every
bike part, or gearing ratios, but you will find the more general terms you
will hear or read about in bike racing. If you think of a term that is
missing, please send the term and
a succinct definition to
Click on a letter set below to go to that section.
11: A number (could be 12, 13, etc.) used to
describe the gear used. "On the 11," for instance.
Abandon: When a rider quits during a race.
Arrivee: Finish line. French.
ATB: All-terrain bicycle. A mountain bike.
Attack: A sudden acceleration to move ahead of another rider or
group of riders.
Autobus: In the big tour mountain stages, the group of poor
climbers stick together and help each other finish inside the time limit.
Also called the "gruppetto" or the "laughing group".
Azurri: Members of the Italian national squad.
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Base work: Describes training where you do a lot of miles in
preparing to do more intense training later. Usually done in
Baroudeur-rouleur: Rouleur is a common word used to describe
riders who can ride all day over rolling parcours. French for wheeler.
Baroudeur is French for fighter, means one who makes a valiant last stand -
so a baroudeur-rouleur is a rider brave enough to go on a suicidal solo
BCF: British Cycling Federation.
Bell: The bell, last lap. A bell is rung to signify the last lap.
Big ringing it: The chain on the big chain ring, going for it.
Block: In road racing, an attempt to disrupt a chase by slowing
down a paceline, using your bike to interfere with another's progress. Also
used to describe the cassette on the back wheel with the sprockets.
BMX: Bicycle Moto Cross; stunt racing on a closed dirt track over
Bonk: Total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient food during a
long race or ride.
Bottom bracket: A hole in the base of a bike frame where the axle
unit is attached.
Boxed in: Trapped in a group of riders and unable to go forward,
back or sideways. Boxed in!
Boxing match: When two riders exchange blows.
Break/breakaway: A rider or group of riders that has left the main
Bridge: To leave one group of riders and join another one that is
Breathe your ears: Be breathing so hard you feel like you’re
breathing your ears!
Broom Wagon: The race vehicle that follows the last rider, to pick
up any riders who have abandoned. In French, "voiture balai."
Bunny-hop: To jump the bike, without dismounting, over an
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Cadence: Pedaling rate, in revolutions per minute of one of the
Caliper brakes: A brake consisting of two brake blocks which are
drawn towards each other through a central pivot and which grip the rim of
Campag, Campy: Short for Campagnolo, an Italian bike manufacturer.
Caravan, Race Caravan: The official and support vehicles in a
Cat, Category: Rider competition levels in USCF races. Cat 5:
Beginner, Cat 4: Novice, Cat 3: Sport, Cat 2: Expert, Cat 1: Elite.
Century, Metric Century: A hundred mile bike race, or a 100km bike
Chain gang: Group of riders that go out and can ride hard. Club
Chainring: A large toothed ring (part of the chainset) that drives
the chain via the pedals and cranks.
Chainset: The setup comprising the chainwheels, chain and rear
Chainstay: The two horizontal parts of the bike frame that join
the bottom bracket to the rear wheel.
Chase, chasers: Riders trying to catch a breakaway group or rider.
Classic, Classics: One day races, usually taking place in the
spring or the fall. Paris-Roubaix is a Classic.
Clipless: A type of pedal and matching shoe in which the shoes
lock into the pedal. The clips cannot be seen when clipped in, hence "clipless."
Cobblestone, cobble, pave: A type of street paving in which smooth
or rounded stones make up the street or road surface.
Col: Mountain pass, hill or climb. French.
Cooked: Tired, very. Also; wasted, knackered.
Contre la montre, CLM: Against the clock; French.. See Time Trial.
Contra el reloj: Against the clock; Spanish. See Time Trial.
Cranks: The arms which drive the chainwheels. Cranks are bolted to
Creeping: Not going very well...
Crosswind: Wind that comes from the side. Bad news for riders!
Cyclocross: A type of off-road racing over a very rugged course.
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Dance, danseuse, a la danseuse: To ride out of
the saddle, usually on an incline. French: Dancer, like a dancer.
Derailleur: The mechanism which moves the chain from one chainring
or sprocket to another.
Deep Section: Describes a type of aerodynamic rim.
Digging a pedal: A pedal hitting the ground while the rider is
leaning into a turn.
Directeur Sportif, Director Sportif: The team coach.
Disk wheel: A solid wheel, without spokes used in primarily in
time trials for its aerodynamic qualities.
Doping: Using chemicals or substances to boost performance -
usually refers to the use of substances that have been banned by the UCI.
DNF: Did not finish a race.
Domestique: A team rider who will sacrifice his/her individual
performance to help a designated teammate. Duties can include giving up
one's bike for another rider, supplying refreshments to teammates, catching
breakaway riders. French for "servant."
Draft: To ride closely behind a competitor, saving energy by using
that racer as a wind break. Riding in front is very strenuous but affords a
great energy-saving advantage to the rider behind.
Drop, dropped: When a rider has been passed by another.
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Echelon: A staggered line of riders, each downwind of the rider
ahead, allowing them to move considerably faster than a solo rider or small
group of riders. In windy sections where there are crosswinds, a large
peloton will form into echelons. The most beautiful sight when seen from the
Etape: A race stage; French.
Face plant: Hit the ground face first.
Fat boy: A rider with a spare tyre or two around the waist.
Feeding station/zone: The areas where riders in road races can
pick up both food and liquid refreshments.
Field sprint: A sprint at the finish among the main group of
riders in a road race.
Final: The last part of a race.
Flamme rouge: Red flag, red pennant. A flag used to mark the final
kilometer of a stage in certain races, most notably the Tour de France.
Usually now replaced by an advertising porch to mark the 'kilometer to
go" mark. French.
Force the pace: To increase speed to make the group to go faster.
Foxing: Not showing all the cards. Saving themselves.
Flyer: A surprise attack, usually by a solo rider. Also a rider
who gains speed within the peloton attempting to reach the front.
Fried: Stuffed. No energy or strength.
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Gap: The amount of time or distance between a
rider or group of riders and another rider or group of riders.
Gear: The mechanism on a bike that changes its rate of motion; low
gears make it easier to pedal while high gears make it harder.
General Classification, GC: The overall time rankings in a race.
The rider with the lowest time is number one on the GC.
Glass cranking: Putting little pressure on the cranks, taking it
easy, not trying.
Granny gear: The smallest chainring on a bike, combined with the
biggest sprocket to make the lowest gear.
Grimpeur: A rider with good climbing abilities. French; climber.
Gruppetto: In the big tour mountain stages like the Tour de
France, a group of poor climbers stick together and help each other finish
inside the time limit. Also called the "autobus" or the "laughing group".
Usually controlled by a senior rider to ensure they finish inside the time
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Hammer: To ride hard. Also, to "put the hammer down."
Hitter: Good rider. A better rider than you!
Handsling: In the Madison track event, the way in which team-mates
exchange positions by one gripping the hand of the other and then propelling
Hook: To suddenly move ones back wheel to the side, forcing the
following rider to slow down to avoid running into it.
Hunger knock: To be hungry and run out of energy.
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Individual pursuit race: A track race in which two competitors
starting at opposite sides of the track try to catch the other or finish in
the fastest time.
Interval: What you do in training to simulate racing conditions in
small doses. Has also been described as what you do when a dog is chasing
ITT: Individual time trial
Jersey: A bicycling shirt often with team and sponsors' logos,
also usually with pockets in the back. Colored jerseys in races, such as the
Tour de France, denote the leader in a certain category.
JML: Jean Marie LeBlanc, director of the Tour de France.
Jump: A quick acceleration which usually develops into a sprint.
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Keirin: A track race in which riders compete in
a sprint after completing a certain number of laps behind a motorcycle pacer
Kick: A burst of acceleration for the final sprint.
Kicking: Getting a kicking. Being made to suffer by a better
Kermesse: Belgium for criterium or circuit race (laps around a set
KOM: King of the Mountains. Award for the Best Climber.
Lactic, lactic acid: Describes the byproduct in the muscles that
causes the pain after heavy physical exertion.
Lapped: A rider who has fallen behind another rider by one lap of
the track, course or circuit is said to have been lapped.
Lanterne rouge: "Red light" in French, a designation for the last
rider in the GC of a race.
Laughing Group: Group of riders not contesting the front of a race
but trying to stay inside the time limit or just finish the race. Used like
"came in with the laughing group".
Lead out: To intentionally sacrifice one's chances in order to
create a windbreak and creating an opening for a rider behind. A racing
tactic whereby one rider races at high speed to give a head start to the
rider on his/her wheel.
Lined out: A group of riders in a long line one behind the other
as the pace at the front causes them all to struggle.
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Madison: A track race over a distance of 60km in which teams of
two riders accumulate points in intermediate sprints. Named for Madison
Square Garden in New York, where this type of race originated.
Maillot: Jersey. French. Maillot Jaune - Yellow Jersey, worn by
Tour de France leader.
Mass start: A race start in which all racers start at the same
Mechanical: Slang for a mechanical problem with the bicycle. "He
had a mechanical."
Minute man: Rider (man or woman) who starts a minute in front of
you in a time trial.
Moto: Motor Official; a race referee or official on a motorcycle
during the bicycle race event. Also a motorcycle ridden by an official or
other personnel in a race.
Motor: A time trialist.
Mountain bike, Mountain biking: See MTB.
MTB: Mountain biking, or mountain bike. A heavy-duty, higher
clearance bike used for riding mountain trail races. A type of racing over
such courses. Also called Fat Tire.
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Natural break: When a rider relieves himself
while riding. Also called au naturel.
Neutralisation: In the event of a danger on the track, officials
will tell all riders to go to the top of the track, ride at a steady pace
and maintain their relative position. The start of road races can also have
a have neutralised section.
Neutral support: The support given to a rider by a neutral party,
i.e. a mechanic in a follow vehicle.
NORBA: National Off-Road Bicycle Association. The licensing body
responsible for United States mountain bike racing.
Off-camber: A curve in a road that throws riders to the outside of
Off the back: When a rider or riders cannot keep pace with the
main group and lag behind.
Off the front: When a rider takes part in a breakaway.
On the rivet: Riding really hard. Max. (Old leather saddles had
rivets on the front, which is where you would be sitting working this hard.)
On the tops: Riding with the hands on the top of the handlebars
like the brake leavers.
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Paceline: A string of riders that moves at high speed with each
individual taking turns setting the pace and riding in the draft of the
others. See also Train.
Palmares: A rider's racing accomplishments.
Parcours: The race course. French.
Pave: See Cobblestone.
Pedal clearance, cornering clearance: The amount of lean angle a
bicycle can have without digging a pedal; also known as "cornering
clearance" or "road clearance."
Pedaling squares: Pedaling so slowing (like riding a much to big a
gear up hill) its as if the cranks are going around a square - think about
Peloton: The main group of riders; also called the pack, bunch or
Popped: Blown. Had it. Knackered. Stuffed. Lots of words to
describe the legs just going all weak. Loss of power.
Points race: A race in which riders are awarded points according
to their finishing position in intermediate sprints.
Pole line: The innermost line on the velodrome surface, used to
measure the length of the track; also called the measuring line.
Prime: An award given for the rider to reach a certain point
mid-race in a sprint. Pronounced "preem." French.
Prologue: A short race or time trial that is held on the beginning
day of a stage race, such as in the Tour de France.
Pull: To take a turn at the front of the group, maintaining the
same speed of the group.
Pull off: To relinquish one's position in the lead or after a pull
so another rider can take over.
Puncture: Flat tire.
Punter: Ordinary rider...
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Rail it: To ride fast and cleanly through a
Rainbow Jersey: Rainbow-striped jersey awarded to world champions
in each of cycling's disciplines.
Repechage: A round (usually in sprint competitions) in which
losers of previous heats race against each other to gain re-entry into the
Road rash: Skin abrasions resulting from a fall or crash onto the
Rouleur: Used to describe riders who can ride all day over
Rotating: The action of each rider going to the front of a group
and riding at the front to keep the pace high.
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Saddle: The bike seat.
Shelled: Out the back, Being dropped, left behind.
Sitting in, sit on a wheel, sitting on: Drafting, or riding
closely behind the rider immediately in front to save energy. Also known as
wheelsucking. See wheelsucking.
Sitting up: When the rider is no longer tucked, or riding in the
most aerodynamic fashion.
Slipstream: The area of least wind resistance behind a rider. Also
Soigneur: A member of the team staff who cares for the riders,
including physical therapy, food preparation, transport, etc. In French,
Spokes: The arms inside a wheel rim that connect tim to hub.
Sprint: 1. A high-speed race, usually over a short distance. 2.
The final high-speed dash for the finish line in race of any distance.
Sprinters lane: The inner area on a cycling track bounded by the
pole line and the sprinters line which marks the territory within which
cyclists must obey certain rules while sprinting for the finish.
Sprinters line: A red line which marks the outside edge of the
Sprocket: The rear cog, normally a smaller toothed ring, which
fits onto the rear wheel; also called a cog or cogwheel. The sprockets fit
onto a cassette which is called a "block" by riders. Most common is a 9
Stage race: A bike race held over successive days, with a
different course each day. Stage races often feature a combination of long
road races, a criterium and a time trial. The rider with the lowest total
time (or accumulated points) after completion of all the stages wins the
Switching: Happens in attacks and sprints when a riders "cuts" you
up, dives at your front wheel if you like.
Stand still: A sprint manoeuvre in which neither rider wishes to
lead, resulting in both remaining motionless and balancing on the track for
a maximum of three minutes; also called a standstill.
Sweeper: A wide turn.
Switchback: A tight, zigzag turn on the face of a mountain, either
uphill or downhill.
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Team captain: The member of the team directing
the riders' strategy during a race. Usually the most seasoned rider in the
Team leader: The rider for whom the team rides in order for the
leader to win a stage or race.
Team pursuit: A track race in which two teams of four riders each
start on opposite sides of the track and try to catch one another or finish
in the fastest time.
Tempo: Brisk cadence.
Tester: A time trialist who doesn’t ride the road (road race).
Time trial: A race in which riders start individually and race
against the clock. The fastest over a set distance is the winner.
Toe strap, Toe clip: A strap on a pedal which holds a foot in
Track bike: A bike with a ‘fixed’ single-speed gear and no brakes.
Train: A fast moving paceline of riders.
TTT: Team Time Trial.
Tuck, tucked, full tuck: A riding position with the head and torso
low, back flat, and arms close in for best aerodynamics and maximum speed.
Also see Sitting Up.
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U - V
UCI: Union Cycliste Internationale, the International Governing
Body of cycling.
Velodrome: A banked bicycle racing track. Can be indoors or
outdoors, made out of wood, bitumen or wood (pine).
Wheel sucker, wheelsucking: Someone who sticks to rear wheel and
refuses to go to the front, or the practice of wheelsucking. (Shadowing)
M23: A mens race
U23: A mens race for men 19 to 22 years of age
MEL: Mens elite above 23 years old
MJU: Mens juniors
WEL womens elite
WJU: Womens juniors
Coupe de Monde: World Cup
HC: Hors Classe: outside or beyond classification (of a race or a
HEC: Hommes elite coupe (Men's Elite Cup)
CDM: Championnat du Monde (Championship of the World)
USA Cycling: America's national cycling governing. USA Cycling
supervises the activities of the USCF (US Cycling Federation, NORBA and
USPRO (US Pro Cycling), and establishes criteria for the US Olympic Cycling
Velo: Bike. French.
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