Cycling, like every other sport, has its own jargon. Here are some of the terms you might hear at the races. These are extracted from a much larger glossary which can be found at Used with permission.


Abandon: When a rider quits during a race.

Attack: A sudden acceleration to move ahead of another rider or group of riders.

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Bell, Bell Lap: A bell is rung to signify the last lap before the finish or a prime.

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.

Bonk: Total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient food during a long race or ride.

Boxed in: Trapped in a group of riders and unable to go forward, back or sideways.

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.

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

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.

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.

Chase, Chasers: Riders trying to catch a breakaway group or rider.

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."

Cooked: Tired, very. Also; wasted, knackered.

Cranks: The arms which drive the chainwheels. Cranks are bolted to the crankshaft.

Crosswind: Wind that comes from the side. Bad news for riders!

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Derailleur: The mechanism which moves the chain from one chainring or sprocket to another.

Digging a pedal: A pedal hitting the ground while the rider is leaning into a turn.

Directeur Sportif, Director Sportif: The team coach.

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.

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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.

Force the pace: To increase speed to make the group to go faster.

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 harder to pedal while high gears make it easier.

General Classification, GC: The overall time rankings in a race. The rider with the lowest time is number one on the GC.

Granny gear: The smallest chainring on a bike, combined with the biggest sprocket to make the lowest gear.

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Hammer: To ride hard. Also, to "put the hammer down."

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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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.

Jump: A quick acceleration which usually develops into a sprint.

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Kick: A burst of acceleration for the final sprint.

KOM: King of the Mountains. Award for the Best Climber.

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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.

Lead out: To intentionally sacrifice one's chances in order to create a windbreak, thus 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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Mechanical: Slang for a mechanical problem with the bicycle. "He had a mechanical."

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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 neutralised section.

Neutral support: The support given to a rider by a neutral party, i.e. a mechanic in a follow vehicle.

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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.

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."

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.

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.

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Rail it: To ride fast and cleanly through a corner.

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

Rotating: The action of each rider going to the front of a group and riding at the front in turn 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. See 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.

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. Today these blocks usually contain 9 or 10 sprockets.

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 most accumulated points) after completion of all the stages wins the overall race.

Sweeper: A wide turn.

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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.

Tempo: Brisk cadence.

Time trial: A race in which riders start individually and race against the clock. The fastest over a set distance is the winner.

Train: A fast moving paceline of riders.

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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UCI: Union Cycliste Internationale, the International Governing Body of cycling.

USA Cycling: Cycling's national governing body in the U.S. 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.

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Velo: Bike. French.

Velodrome: A banked bicycle racing track. Can be indoors or outdoors, made out of wood (pine) or bitumen.

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Wheel sucker, Wheelsucking: Someone who sticks to somebody's rear wheel and refuses to go to the front, or the practice of wheelsucking. (Shadowing)

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Last Updated
11/25/2005 15:24 CST
The International Cycling Classic is organized by Breakaway Event Productions, LLC and Promoted under the Rules and Sanction of the UNITED STATES CYCLING FEDERATION.