Cycling Arsenal

Newbies Guide to Cycling Lingo – Aero to Zirbel

Aero – Short for aerodynamic. A term used excessively by cyclists. (But not as much as triathletes.)

Attack – or Launching an Attack – Accelerating off the front of a group in hopes of creating a breakaway, bridging to a breakaway, or just for the fun of hurting your fellow riders. Attacks are like sprints without the finish line.

Blowing Up – Pushing yourself to exhaustion, resulting in an imaginary fireworks show while the group flies by you.

Bonk – Not to be confused with blowing up. A bonk is severe fatigue that results from poor nutrition or hydration.

Bottom Bracket – The part of the bike that the crankset is inserted through. The bottom bracket contains bearings that help the crank turn smoothly. A bottom bracket should be cleaned regularly, especially after riding in the rain.

Bridge – or Bridge Up – The act of riding across a gap to another rider or group of riders. Bridging can be done solo or with another small group of riders.

Cat 5 – The beginner category of mens competitive road cyclists as recognized by USA Cycling. Women start as Cat 4s. Both men and women progress to a Cat 1 before entering the pro ranks.

Cassette – Not talking the thing you use to rewind with a pencil. It’s the thing attached to your rear wheel that hosts all of your gears, or cogs.

Car up or Car Back – Used to let other riders know that a car is either ahead coming at you from the front (“Up”) or from behind (“Back.”)

Chain Ring – The larger spiky things (cogs) attached to your crank arms.

Champs-Elysees – The final stage of the Tour de France, and the landmark in France where the finish line is placed. This stage is usually more of a parade for the winner, but often one last chance for the sprinters to take a stage victory.

Crankset – The entire front unit of gears and crank arms that your pedals attach to and your legs use to move the bike forward.

Crit or Criterium – A form of road bike race performed on a 1k or shorter loop for a specific amount of time plus a number of laps. It has been called the NASCAR of cycling. It is known for high speeds and lots of action.

Cogs – The individual pieces of a cassette. Each cog represents a different gear. The larger the cog, the easier the gear. The smaller the cog, the bigger your quads get….because it’s harder.

Derailleur – The mechanism on a bike that moves the chain to shift the front and rear gears.

Drops – The lowest section of road handlebars. Or, “that curvey part” on the bottom of the bars.

Echelon – A staggered group formation where each successive rider will be to the right or left of the person in front of them based on what direction the wind is coming from. This is only useful in a crosswind. The benefits of an echelon run out when there is no more room on the road to get to the correct side of the rider in front of you.

False Flat – A section of road that appears to be flat, but is actually a slight uphill.

First (or second and so on) Wheel – Refers to your position in a group of riders. First wheel means you are at the front of the group. Second means you are second, and so on.

Flyer – Similar to an attack, but normally constitutes an all or nothing chance at winning a race. A flyer is usually executed on the last few laps of a criterium or the last few kilometers of a road race.

Functional Threshold (Heart Rate or Power) – FTP/FTHR – A measure of your maximal average power or hearth rate over a 60 minute effort. FTP/FTHR can also be estimated off a 20 minute effort, also known as the dreaded FTP test. Testing threshold hurts like the dickens, but makes you much more mentally tough when done on a regular basis.

Gap – The time or distance between you and the rider or riders ahead of you. This is often used to describe the time between groups in a race.

Glycogen – Glycogen is the primary fuel your muscles use for energy production. Every person can store a limited amount of glycogen in their muscles which makes it important to train the body to preserve these limited stores. This same fact is why the traditional form of “carbo loading” is a funny joke.

Going Blocks – Going hard from the start of a race. Often times resulting in blowing up.

Guttered – When a rider on the front rides to the far left or right of the road in an attempt to take away any ability for the rest of the group to set up an echelon. This is a very useful tactic in a race, but an A-hole move when you are riding with your buddies.

Half Wheeling – When you or the person riding beside you is always half a wheel distance in front of you, thus making the person behind work harder to match the speed of the person in front. This results in a drag race that you didn’t know you were a part of. Half wheeling is frowned upon in most group ride settings. And it makes people want to wreck you.

Hammerfest – A very hard group ride. Can also be used to describe a ride or race. i.e. “That was a hammerfest!”

Hoods – A lycra clad cycling gang that terrorizes the Eastern seaboard. Not really. It’s just the top section of your handlebars where you have easiest access to your brakes and shifters.

KOM or QOM – King or Queen of the Mountain – A term use to describe the first rider to the top of a long climb. Often times, this person accrues points for the King of the Mountain Competition within grand tour stage races. KOM is also the person at the top of a Strava segment leaderboard.

Leadout or Leadout Train – A tactic used at the end of a race, sprint point, beer prime, Strava KOM, or city limit sign, where one or more riders work hard on the front of the group to make sure their sprinter has an easier ride to the end point, while everyone else struggles to stay on the group. This makes sprints safer, saves the sprinter’s legs, but also allows the sprinter to choose when and where they want to start their sprint.

Maillot Jaune – The French term for the yellow jersey, or the present leader of the Tour de France.

Omnium – A multi day, multi event, bike race where the winner is determined based on points accrued in each event. This is the most typical format in amateur racing.

On the Rivet – Describes the time right before one blows sky high, or thinks they might. Synonymous with “in a spot of bother.” The term came about because older saddles use to have a rivet right in the nose so when the riders were going hard, they would be riding the rivet.

Paceline – A basic formation in group riding where everyone shares time on the front of the group. This can be a single paceline, double paceline, or rotating paceline.

Pathlete – Someone who rides bike paths in aero position on a TT bike at 25 mph. Don’t be one of these people.

Pedaling Squares – The point where severe fatigue sets in and you are doing everything you can just to turn over the crank arms. Many times resultant of a bonk or blowing up.

Prime – A prize awarded during a criterium race to the leader of a specific (random) lap. These prizes usually consist of socks, beer, chain lube, and sometimes cash. Some riders are known as prime hunters because they seem to rather get some new socks than win the race.

Pull or Taking a Pull – This refers to a rider taking a turn riding on the front of the group while everyone else drafts behind them in the lap of luxury.

Sketch – A term used to describe a person’s riding ability. You know, the guy or gal who is all over the road, can’t hold a straight line, and looks like they might wreck the group if they go for a drink? Ya, you avoid those people. If you are one of those people, or notice people avoid you on group rides, try out Bunny Hop Before Beast Mode in The Arsenal.

Stage Race – A multi day, multi event, bike race where the winner is determined by their cumulative finishing time in all events. This is the format of all the grand tour professional races such as the Tour de France and Giro de Italia.

Time Trial – TT – ITT – The Race of Truth – A type of bike race where he or she who suffers the most usually wins. It is a race against the clock over a set distance. Time trials can also be done in a team format.

USAC – USA Cycling – The National Governing Body of cycling in the United States.

USADA – US Anti Doping Agency – A non-profit organization leading the charge for those who believe in clean sport. They perform thousands of [performance enhancing] drug tests each year and have been increasing testing on amateur athletes.

Zirbel – Tom Zirbel is an American road racer from Clear Lake, Iowa. He is a time trial specialist and an alleged (ya we said alleged) doper. He accepted a 2 year ban after a previous urine test tested positive for DHEA, which he denies using. He served 18 months of his ban and now races for Rally Cycling. He most recently won the time trial at the Tour of the Gila.

Is there a funky term that isn’t listed? Let us know on the CA Facebook Page.