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hɛərpɪn bɛnd


A sharp bend in the road with an acute angle

Example usage: We had to take a hairpin bend on the way to the top of the hill.

Most used in: Mountainous regions where sharp turns are common.

Most used by: Cyclists and hikers who traverse these areas.

Popularity: 8

Comedy Value: 6

Also see: hairpin turn, switchback, hairpin corner, hairpin bend,


What is a Hairpin Bend in Cycling?

A hairpin bend is a sharp U-turn in a road or trail that is commonly found in cycling. It is so named because of its resemblance to a hairpin, which is an instrument used to hold hair in place. Hairpin bends require cyclists to slow down significantly in order to make the turn, and are often found on mountain paths, especially those with a steep gradient.

Hairpin bends are a popular feature of cycling routes, as they provide an extra challenge for more experienced cyclists. The sharpness and steepness of the turn can vary, and the difficulty of a hairpin bend can be increased by the presence of obstacles such as loose gravel or stones. These bends are also often used to create a more interesting route, as they provide cyclists with the opportunity to take in views that they would otherwise miss.

Hairpin bends can be found in many areas of the world, with the most famous example being the 21 hairpin bends of the Alpe d’Huez climb in the French Alps. This 8.6km climb has become legendary among cyclists, and is often used as part of the Tour de France route. Other notable examples include the hairpin bends of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road in Austria, and the Col de la Bonette in the French Alps.

The Origin of the Term 'Hairpin Bend' in Cycling

The term 'hairpin bend' (or 'hairpin turn') is used to describe a tight, U-shaped bend in a road, often found in mountain passes. It is believed the term originated in the late 19th century in Europe, when the bends in roads resembling a hairpin were first encountered by cyclists.

The earliest known use of the term 'hairpin bend' in relation to cycling was in the 1895 book The Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes: Cycling, which described hairpin bends as 'a very sharp bend in the road, resembling a hairpin in shape.' The term was later used in the British publication The Cyclist's Road Book in 1904, which stated that 'the hairpin bend is the bane of the cyclist's life.'

In the modern era, the term 'hairpin bend' is commonly used by cyclists across the world to refer to tight bends in the road. It is believed to have originated from the roads in the European Alps, where cyclists first encountered tight, U-shaped bends.

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