Cycling 101 – Glossary
Attack - When a rider or riders decide to ride faster than the rest to ride away from the bunch, it is called an attack or ‘break-away’. Usually this is done with the intention of getting away from the bunch and riding to a placing at the finish. It is also a tactic used to split the field as it is beneficial for the bunch to go with the attack, but if they are tired, the bunch will get split up
Abandon – When a rider quits during a race.
Bidion- French for ‘water bottle’. Bidons are attached to the bike frame by way of a small metallic holder from which they are easily pulled out and replaced during the race.
Blocking - When one rider or a group of riders disrupts a chase by slowing down a paceline.
Bonk – Total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient food during a long race or ride.
Bonus Sprints – On each stage, race organizers designate several intermediate points along the route where bonus points are given to the first three riders that cross the line.
Break/Breakaway – A rider or group of riders that has left the main group behind.
Bridge/Bridge a Gap – To catch a rider or group that has opened a lead.
Bunch Sprint – These can be very spectacular and sometimes frightening. Bunch sprints occur when the bunch approaches the finish line as a whole and all have the same desire to win.
Cadence – The number of times during one minute that a pedal stroke is completed. Also called pedal rpm
Chamois - The soft, absorbent, and usually padded liner in the crotch of cycling shorts. Once made of real chamois leather, the term is still used for modern synthetics. Also called an insert or shammy.
Chasers - Riders who are trying to catch a breakaway group.
Circuit Race – A multi-lap event on a course usually two miles or more in length.
Classic Race – A one-day race in which the route travels between two separate points, instead of a circuitous route.
Criterium – A multi-lap, one-day race on a closed, short course, typically one mile or less.
DNF – Short for Did Not Finish.
Domestique – A team rider who will sacrifice his individual performance to help a designated teammate. Duties can include giving up one’s bike for another rider, supplying refreshments to teammates, and catching breakaway riders. French for “servant.”
Draft – To ride closely behind another racer, 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.
Drafting - riding closely behind another rider to take advantage of the windbreak (slipstream) and use about 20 percent less energy.
Dropped – This is what happens to riders that have not been able to keep up with the bunch or riders they are riding with. This is usually a result of exhaustion or mechanical failure. They fall behind the pace and can no longer keep up.
Echelon – A key tactic in cycle racing is to best avoid the wind. Cyclists ride close behind each other to benefit from the wind block from the rider in front. However, the wind blows at different angles so cyclists will place themselves to either side of the rear of the bike in front or directly behind if it is a direct head-wind. When a whole bunch of riders fall in behind each other in this way it is said that they have formed an echelon.
Feed Zone – A designated area along the route where riders can grab “musette bags” filled with food and drinks as they ride by. There is an unwritten rule in the peloton that riders should not attack the field while the riders are going through the feed zone.
Field Sprint – A mass sprint at the finish among the main group of riders in a road race.
Gap - The distance (usually measured in time) between individuals or groups.
General Classification (G.C.) – The overall leader board in the race, representing each rider’s total cumulative time in the race. The rider with the lowest time is number one on the G.C.
Grand Tour – Refers to three-week major cycling stage races: Tour de France, Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy), and Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain).
Gruppetto – A group of riders that form at the back of the field on mountain stages, who ride at a pace that allows them to finish just inside the time limit (see Time Cut). Usually the gruppetto is comprised of sprinters and other riders that are not climbing specialists or race leaders. Gruppetto is Italian for “a small group” and is also called an autobus (French).
Hammer – Riding hard, going all out.
Hammered - Exhausted, beaten to a pulp, wiped out.
Hanging On – Barely maintaining contact at the back of the pack.
Jump - A quick acceleration, which usually develops into a sprint.
KOM – King of the Mountain. Award for the Best Climber.
Lead Out – A cyclist sacrifices himself by riding fast in front of a team mate who sits in close behind to gain the advantage of the wind block. The front rider, usually a domestique, will ride as fast as possible toward the finish line with the other rider (usually the team leader or team sprinter) right behind. Just before the line the front rider will pull off to the side allowing the rider behind to race through to the finish.
Mass Start – Any race in which all the racers start at the same time.
Mechanical – Slang for a mechanical problem with the bicycle.
Mountain Climb Classification – Large mountain climbs are normally classified according to their difficulty. Category 4 is the easiest, followed by Categories 3, 2, 1, and the Hors-Categorie (French for above classification), which is the hardest. Mountain climbs are classified according to their length and the average gradient of the road’s incline.
Off the Back – Describes one or more riders who have failed to keep pace with the main group.
Off the Front – When a rider takes part in a breakaway, where one or more riders ride up ahead of the main peloton in a race.
Paceline – a group formation in which each rider takes a turn setting the pace at the front before pulling off, dropping to the rear position, and riding the others’ draft until at the front once again.
Peloton - The main field, or pack, of riders in the race. Peloton is French for a group moving forward. When the group is strung out long and thin, the peloton is traveling at a fairly high speed.
Picking a Line – Planning the path of the bike by anticipating approaching terrain.
Popped – Blown. Had it. Knackered. Stuffed. Lots of words to describe the legs just go all weak. Loss of power.
Prologue – One type of beginning for a stage race, which is a relatively short time trial.
Pull – To take a turn at the front of the group, maintaining the same speed of the group.
Puncture – Flat tire.
QOM - Queen of the Mountain. Award for the Best Climber (ladies racing only).
Rocket Fuel – The mandatory pre-ride coffee.
Saddle – The bike seat.
Sitting In – To be a lazy cyclist who doesn’t take their turn at the front of a paceline.
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.
Soigneur – These are team staff that is a combination of masseurs, medics and general aids to the cyclists. They are an integral part of the team support.
Stage Race – A bike race held over successive days, with a different course each day. Stage races can last anywhere from three to 25 days. The rider with the lowest total time (or accumulated points) after completion of all the stages wins the overall race.
Switchback: A tight, zigzag or hairpin turn on the face of a mountain. Can be negotiated either uphill or downhill.
Team Captain – The member of the team directing the riders’ strategy during a race. Usually the most seasoned rider in the team.
Team Car – This car follows the riders throughout the race and contains the team director, coach and mechanic. It is a back-up car for the team, holding spare wheels, spare bikes, food, drink and medical supplies.
Team Director/Directeur Sportif – This is the head of the team; the person who manages the racing tactics of the team and decides what will happen during each race, who will be the team leader and who will do what throughout the race.
Team Leader – The rider for whom the team rides in order for the leader to win a stage or race.
Tempo – Brisk cadence.
Time Cut – Mostly applicable to the Grand Tours. On each stage all riders must finish within a certain percentage of the winner’s time to remain in the race. Those who are unable to make the cut are disqualified from the race.
Time Trial – A race in which riders start individually and race against the clock. The fastest over a set distance is the winner. Riders can pass each other on the course but they are not allowed to draft off of each other. Also known as the “race of truth.”
Train – A fast moving paceline of riders.
UCI - Union Cycliste Internationale, the international governing body of cycling.
USA Cycling – America’s governing body of cycling. USA Cycling supervises the activities of all cycling disciplines (road, mountain, track, cyclo-cross), and establishes criteria for the US Olympic Cycling Team.
USPRO – U.S. Professional Cycling. The organization responsible for professional road and track racing in America; it functions under the umbrella of USA Cycling.
VELO- French for bike.
Wheel Sucker/Wheelsucking – Someone who sticks to a rear wheel ahead of him or her and refuses to go to the front.