Glossary: Demystifying cycling terms for beginners

Cycling comes with its own unique language, filled with terms that can be confusing to newcomers. Whether you're just starting out on your cycling journey or looking to deepen your understanding of the sport, this glossary will help you navigate the world of cycling with confidence. 

From basic bike components to advanced racing tactics, we'll break down key terms to ensure you're speaking the language of cyclists in no time. 


Aerodynamic: Refers to cycling equipment designed to reduce wind resistance, aiding speed. While not essential for casual cyclists, it's crucial for elite races like the Tour de France.

Attack: A sudden acceleration to break away from other riders, often seen in competitive cycling.

Autobus: Also known as 'gruppetto', it's a group of cyclists in mountain stages aiming to meet the time cut for the next day's ride.


Bead: The wire in a tire holding it onto the rim. High-performance bikes use Kevlar beads, while standard ones use steel.

Block: Cycling tactic where a rider controls the speed of the chasing pack, often to assist a teammate's breakaway.

Blowing up: When a cyclist's body runs out of energy, usually due to overexertion.

Breakaway: When one or a group of cyclists escape the main group, creating a gap.


Cadence: The rate at which a cyclist pedals, measured in RPM. It reflects efficiency and fitness.

Cassette: Set of sprockets on the rear wheel of a bike.

Chain suck: When the bike's chain fails to detach from the chainring, usually due to dirt or wear.

Chamois: The cushioning in bike shorts for comfort and moisture-wicking.

Chasers: Riders attempting to catch the leaders.

Climb: Ascending a hill or mountain, indoors or outdoors.

Clincher: Common tyre type with a U-shaped rim and bead for attachment.


Derailleur: Mechanism moving the chain between sprockets.

Disc brakes: Braking system located at the wheel's centre.

Domestique: Rider supporting the team rather than aiming for personal victory.

Drafting: Riding closely behind another rider to reduce wind resistance.

Drivetrain: Components converting pedalling power into motion.

Drops: Lower part of a road bike's handlebar for better grip and aerodynamics.


Echelon: Diagonal paceline used in crosswinds for efficiency.

Endo: Either a trick involving lifting the back wheel or flipping over the handlebars.


Field sprint: Sprint towards the finish line from a large group of riders.

Fishtail: When the rear wheel skids or slides sideways.

Fixie: Informal term for a fixed-gear bike.

Flamme rouge: Red flag indicating 1km to the finish line.

Fork: Part of the bike holding the front wheel.


General Classification: Overall standings in a multi-stage race.

Granny Gear: Lowest gear ratio, used for steep hills.


Headset: Bearings connecting the fork to the frame.

Head tube: Part of the frame holding the headset.

Hybrid: Bike with mountain bike gears and controls and road bike wheels.


Individual Time Trial: A race ridden alone against the clock.

Intervals: Structured training method involving alternating hard efforts and recovery periods.


Jockey wheels: Small plastic wheels in the rear derailleur.

Jump: Aggressive acceleration to start a sprint.


Kick: Final sprint attack.

King of the Mountain: Title for the best climber in a race, usually awarded a polka dot jersey.


Lanterne rouge: Last-placed cyclist in a race.

Leadout: Setting up a teammate for a sprint.


Maglia rosa: Pink jersey for the leader of the Giro d'Italia.

Magic spanner: Mechanic-assisted push to help a rider catch up.

Metric century: A 100-kilometer bike ride.

Motorpace: Drafting behind a car or motorcycle for speed.

Mudguards: Shields against wheel spray in wet conditions.


Neo-pro: Cyclist in the first two years of their professional contract.


Off the back: Falling behind the main group of riders.


Paceline: Group of riders drafting off each other for efficiency.

Peloton: Main group of riders in a road race.

Presta: Thin valve found on road and high-end mountain bikes.

Prime: Intermediate sprint with a prize.

Pull: Riding at the front of a group or paceline.


Q-Factor: Width between a cyclist's feet on the pedals.

Quick release: Device for easy wheel removal without tools.


Randonnée: Long-distance cross-country event with checkpoints.

Road rash: Abrasions from a cycling fall or crash.

Roller: Indoor training device for balance and skill improvement.

Rouleur: Rider specialising in flat and rolling terrain.

RPM: Revolutions Per Minute, the speed at which a cyclist pedals.


SAG wagon: Support vehicle assisting struggling cyclists.

Schrader: Type of valve used on bike tubes.

Soigneur: Support staff providing services like massage to cyclists.

SPD: Shimano Pedaling Dynamics, clipless pedal system.

Spokes: Metal rods connecting the wheel hub to the rim.

Stem: Part connecting handlebars to the fork.


Tubular: Lightweight, racing-specific tyres glued to the rim.


Vélo: French for bike.

We hope you now feel more confident and knowledgeable about the language of cycling. Whether you're gearing up for your first ride or aiming to take your cycling skills to the next level, understanding these terms will undoubtedly enhance your cycling experience. 

Remember, learning is a continuous process, and the more you immerse yourself in the cycling community, the more fluent you'll become in its language. 

If you’re looking for expert advice, or fancy finding your cycling community, take a look at our coaching options.

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