As someone who has only recently joined the Rehook team without much knowledge of bikes, I’ve been trying to familiarise myself with the world of cycling, from competitive racing to time trials and even BMX. There is a lot to learn and it can seem a bit daunting at first, but over the past week I decided to focus on learning some of the important cycling terms that may not make sense to you unless you’re an experienced cyclist.
I decided to turn this research into a useful guide that I hope anyone can follow to get caught up on all the most important cycling lingo. There are many more terms than just these, but I decided to focus on what I felt were the most important and commonly used terms when it comes to cycling as well as some I found entertaining. Whether you’re a serious or casual cyclist, I’m sure this guide will help you pick up a few useful terms.
Pretty simple one that is short for "Aerodynamic". In general when you want to cycle faster you need to make sure you have an "Aero" setup in terms of your equipment and cycling position.
A catch-all racing term used to describe breaking away from a rider or group of riders by rapidly accelerating. There are many different methods you can use to do so, and if you want to become a time trialist or racer it is quite important to pick up a few tactics to use depending on the race/current situation you find yourself in.
A term for a cheap/old bike that still functions fine, similar to the term “Jalopy” for cars. A beater isn’t a fancy bike with high performance, but it gets you where you need to go, which is the main thing.
Something you definitely want to avoid, biff is a catch-all general term for a crash.
Abbreviation for bicycle motocross, a highly popular sport that involves using compact specialised bikes to do tricks, usually on dirt tracks.
The cycling equivalent for the running term of "hitting the wall", bonking is when you feel like you're completely out of energy. Make sure to eat plenty and hydrate to avoid this, as cycling takes up a lot of energy.
Your helmet, also commonly referred to as a lid, without a doubt the most important tool that no cyclist of any type should ever be without. Make sure to invest in a sturdy helmet that fits snugly and fits your style of cycling.
The term for a simple trick where the rider does a small jump, gripping the bike with their arms and legs so it does a hop. Useful for hopping up onto a curb or clearing small obstacles.
Quite an important term for those focused on speed, “Cadence” is the term used to describe the rate at which you can pedal. Usually measured in RPM (Revolutions per minute), a cyclist’s cadence is a good measure of efficiency, speed and overall fitness. Your cadence will likely fluctuate quite a bit depending on your own individual cycling style, but it is a good idea to track yourself and see where you could improve it to cut down your times.
The practice of riding directly behind someone else to avoid wind resistance and expend less energy. Common practice in races where energy management is very important and you have to pace yourself properly.
When used to describe bikes, a hybrid is a bike with the proper gears and controls of a mountain bike, making it good for uphill climbs, while also having the wheels of an off-road bike. This makes a hybrid bike an excellent choice if you want a lot of flexibility when it comes to handling different types of terrain.
Individual Time Trial
Often shortened to ITT or just TT, a type of race that has certainly become popular under the current circumstances, an individual time trial is where multiple riders are given a set amount of distance to cover, and time themselves. The individual times are then all compared and the winner is the rider with the shortest time. While not as immediately exciting as a regular road race, time trials allow riders to really push themselves without worrying about other riders getting in their way, and can be intensely competitive.
An extremely common term that most people should know if they have watched any full road races, the term “Peloton” (Taken from the French word meaning “ball”) describes the main group of riders in a race, that ride close together in order to conserve energy by reducing drag. As the races are often very long and energy conservation is a crucial tactic, this is an extremely important tactic in making it through. Of course the riders eventually have to separate out to get ahead, which is where the previously mentioned term of “Attack” comes into play. Not to be confused with the brand of indoor training bikes!
Standing for pounds per square inch, PSI refers to the amount of air pressure in the tires of your bike. Depending on the kind of terrain you plan on cycling over, the amount of PSI you want in your tires may differ. You generally want less for rough terrain and more for smooth to increase efficiency, as firmer tires will be faster on smooth terrain such as roads and softer ones will be able to more easily navigate rugged terrain without bursting.
When riding in a peloton or drafting, the term “taking a pull” is used to refer to the rider in front, taking the full force of the wind while everyone else enjoys the easier wind resistance. Since cycling is as much a cooperative sport as it is a competitive one, cyclists have a system where the rider currently “taking a pull” simply drifts to the side and rejoins the pack once their turn is over.
Something you definitely want to avoid, road rash is the term for the collected cuts, scrapes and bruises a cyclist is likely to accrue from skidding out or crashing on pavement.
Used typically to describe changing gears in order to maintain your cadence when the course changes in terms of incline, resistance or any other obstacles. Most bikes have a shifter for the rear gears on the right handlebar, and one for the front gears on the left. Learning how to fine tune the gears by shifting is something that can seriously improve your speed and efficiency as it helps you deal with changes much better.
A term for riders who are particularly panicky and unstable on their bikes. If you suspect a fellow rider is a squirrel, best to keep your distance to avoid getting in a crash/biff.
Similar to squirrels, Turkey is a term for a new or just generally inexperienced cyclist. Hopefully this glossary of terms helps you avoid ever being called this by your fellow riders.
What are your strangest or most important cycling terms? Let me know in the comments below...
About the author:
Oliver Laws - Cycling Blogger
Oliver joined the Rehook team in 2021, and has been recording his journey into the world of cycling through his blog. In his free time Oliver enjoys writing fantasy and sci-fi stories, with the hope of one day publishing a book.
Sign up to our newsletter to follow Oliver's journey.