The Road Cycling Dictionary – How To Talk Cyclist

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It’s hard to spend time with your cycling friends without hearing a few of these words being thrown about. You might know some of them, or you could be completely clueless. We’ve compiled a list of cycling words we often hear that you might not entirely know the meaning to.

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Aero – Short for aerodynamic, getting “aero” is making yourself as small as possible and creating minimum drag. Often used by timetrialists or triathletes when they get towards races. It is often used to describe kit with minimal wind resistance.

Bibs – This is a reference to your bib shorts, they look a bit like overalls with elasticated straps that come up over your shoulders to hold them in place.

Bonk – In sports like running this is known as hitting the wall. When your body runs out of energy and you can’t go any further. It’s due to a glycogen depletion and can be avoided with good nutrition out on the ride.

Cadence – Cadence is the rate at which you pedal while cycling. Measured in RPM, revolution per minute this is often linked to your power output. There’s forever an ongoing argument as to whether low or high cadences are more efficient.

Chammy/Chamois – Pronounced “shammy”, this is the padding in your cycling shorts that looks after your lower areas. It wicks away sweat and is often anti-bacterial to keep everything healthy. Designed to be worn without underwear and help reduce chaffing.

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Clincher – A type of wheel/tyre construnction, clincher is the most commonly found road wheel type. It is where the tyre hooks to the rim and you have an inner tube inside. This is more common on road bikes as many mountain bikes are now tubeless.

Crit – Short for criterium, a crit is a type of road race that takes place on a short circuit. It could be a track or closed road circuit and will typically be over in under an hour.

Cyclocross – Cyclocross is a strange hybrid of racing, typically an off-road race done with obstacles. Or an off road ride. Though often completed on bikes very similar to road bikes with much thicker tyres. It’s a nice mix of road and mountain bike riding.

Drafting – Cycling closely behind another rider giving you an advantage as they block the wind for you. This is most effective on the flat into a headwind. Drafting behind a cyclist can save up to 40% of your energy.

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Echelon – similar to drafting, often when there’s large cross winds, a group of cyclists will form an echelon. These are long lines that stretch out sideways and protect riders from the wind.

Fenders – just like a mudguard, a fender is a small piece of material attached to the frame or the back of the bike. Hovering just about the wheel, they stop some of the spray coming up and ruining your new kit.

Grupetto – Translated from Italian as “little group”, the french refer to the Grupetto as the “Autobus”. The last group of riders in a grand tour that just try and make to the finish within the cut off. Usually made up or sprinters and lead out men trying to get round the mountains in one piece.

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Half Wheel – when a rider “half wheels” another rider, they constantly ride side by side but with half a wheel ahead of the other cyclist. This encourages the group to pick up the pace and ride more aggressively than many would like.

KoM or QoM –  A product of the Strava community. Strava offers king and queen of the mountains for being the fastest rider over a “segment”. A segment is stretch of varying distances made by other strava users to race and test each other over their designed route. In grand tour races the KoM is awarded to the rider with the most points. Points are awarded to the first few riders over the summit of categorized climbs.

LBS – Local bike shop.

Lead out – The lead out will use a number of riders to accelerate and then peel off, so that the last man in the line can be towed to maximum speed. Often seen at the end of sprint stages, the lead out is imperative for a good sprint. Can be very difficult to time and execute.

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Pannier – A pannier is a bag that straps to a rack on the bike to carry extra supplies, clothes or gear. The panniers hang each side of the wheel to keep balanced. This is especially popular in bikepacking or long distance riding where you may be out riding for long periods of time.

Peloton – Made up of the majority of riders in a race, the peloton can reach incredible speeds. Often up to 200 riders, the peloton group can pull back breakaways very easily.

Presta – Presta is a type of valve found on the end of inner tubes or fitted with tubeless tyres. More common in the road cycling world, it’s the narrow eurpoean-style valve. A small metal cap on the end can be twisted to open and close the valve.

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QR – Quick release skewers go through the wheel to allow you to get them on/off quickly and easily. Unhinge and twist the bolt and cam lever system to open when needed.

Road Rash – Road rash often occurs if you have a crash or a slide at high speed. It’s the name for the scrapes and burns you get from crashing on the road.

RPM – Linked to cadence, described previously, a riders RPM number of revolutions per minute that the pedals. Used to describe the rate of pedalling.

Saddle Sore – Uncomfortable areas that come from spending too much time in the saddle or having a bike that doesnt quite fit. Caused by friction on the saddle, saddle sores can be either missing skin or boil like lumps that can become abscesses if not dealt with properly. Applying plenty of chamois cream and wearing clean kit before riding can help minimise these issues.

Schrader – The other type of valve found on most tyres. This type can often be found on cars or mountain bikes.

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TT – Time trial, used to describe a specific type of bike, often used in time trials. A time trial is a race of a set course where riders compete one by one against the clock. Often set of in 1 minute intervals.

Tubeless – A wheel system where a clincher tyre is mounted to the rim of the wheel so that inner tubes aren’t needed. By using liquid sealant inside the wheel, this wheel system is much more puncture resistant that other types. You can also run low pressures without pinch flatting.

Tubular – The final wheel system where the tyre has a tube sewn inside and is glued or taped to the rim. Often used in races where a support crew are on hand to change any flat tyres, though described as the best racing wheel system.

Watt – A watt is the unit used to measure power or the rate at which energy is used over time. The harder you’re pressed into the pedals, the more watts you’re delivering whilst cycling.

We hope you find some of the answers in these terms, or some new lingo that you can sue when you’re next out on the club ride.