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Cycling Glossary

(Original glossary courtesy of Larry Hickmott.)

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 info@dailypeloton.com!

Click on a letter set below to go to that section.

A - C D - F G - J K- M N - P R - S T - Z


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 December/January.

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 effort.

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 obstacles.

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 group behind.

Bridge: To leave one group of riders and join another one that is further ahead.

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 obstacle.

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Cadence: Pedaling rate, in revolutions per minute of one of the cyclist's feet.

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 the wheel.

Campag, Campy: Short for Campagnolo, an Italian bike manufacturer.

Caravan, Race Caravan: The official and support vehicles in a race.

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 race.

Chain gang: Group of riders that go out and can ride hard. Club rides.

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 sprocket.

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 the crankshaft.

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 air.

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 limit.

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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 him forward.

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 you.

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 (pronounced kay-rin).

Kick: A burst of acceleration for the final sprint.

Kicking: Getting a kicking. Being made to suffer by a better rider.

Kermesse: Belgium for criterium or circuit race (laps around a set course).

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 time.

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 the turn.

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 it...

Peloton: The main group of riders; also called the pack, bunch or field. French.

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 corner.

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 competition.

Road rash: Skin abrasions resulting from a fall or crash onto the road.

Rouleur:  Used to describe riders who can ride all day over rolling parcours.

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 called drafting.

Soigneur: A member of the team staff who cares for the riders, including physical therapy, food preparation, transport, etc. In French, "welfare man."

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 sprinters lane.

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 speed block.

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 overall race.

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.

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 place.

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)

UCI Terms

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 mountainous climb)

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 Team.

Velo: Bike. French.

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