Cycling Glossary

Abandon – When a rider quits during a race

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

Big Ringing It –A “big” gear – when the rider has his chain on the larger of the two front chainrings – allows a rider to go for maximum speeds. This gearing is most often used on flat or rolling terrain.

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

Bonus Sprints – On each stage, race organizers designate several locations along the route where bonus points are given to the first three riders that cross the line.  These sprints create a “race within a race” during each stage

Break/Breakaway – A rider or group of riders that has left the main group behind

Caravan/Race Caravan – The official and team support vehicles in a race.  Each team has a car in the official race caravan.  The team cars follow the peloton and riders will often go back to their team car for food, extra clothing, or to speak to their team director

Circuit Race – A one-day race that does multiple laps around a long, circuitous route

Point to Point Road Race – A one-day race in which the route travels between two separate points.  The most prestigious of these races are known as “Classics”

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

Drop/Dropped – When a rider has been left behind by another rider or group of riders

Echelon – A staggered, long 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

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 amount of time or distance between a rider or group of riders and another rider or group of riders

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 forms at the back of the field on mountain stages and 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 who are not climbing specialists or race leaders. Gruppetto is Italian for “a small group”

Hammer – To ride hard.  Also, to “put the hammer down”

Jump – A quick acceleration, which usually develops into a sprint

KOM – King of the Mountain.  Award for the Best Climber

Lead Out – To intentionally sacrifice one’s chances of winning in order break the wind and creating an opening for a rider behind.  This is a racing tactic whereby one rider races at high speed to give a head start to the rider on his/her wheel.  This tactic is most often used in a field sprint

Mechanical – Slang for a problem with the bicycle.  “He had a mechanical.”

Mountain Climb Classifications – 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 (which is the hardest).  Mountain climbs are classified according to their length and the average gradient of the road’s incline

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

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

Peloton – The main field, or pack, of riders in the race.  French for “a group moving forward”

Prologue – One type of beginning for a stage race, which is a relatively short time trial

Popped – Blown; Had it; Knackered; Stuffed; Words used to describe the legs losing all power.

Puncture – Flat tire

Road Rash – Skin abrasions resulting from a fall or crash onto the road
Saddle – The bike seat

Sitting up – When the rider is no longer riding in the most aerodynamic fashion

Slipstream – The area of least wind resistance behind a rider

Stage Race – A bike race held over successive days, with a different course each day.  Stage races can last anywhere from three to 21 days.  The rider with the lowest total time (or accumulated points) after completion of all the stages wins the overall race

Team Leader – The rider for whom the team supports in order for the leader to win a stage or race

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

Wheel Sucker/Wheelsucking – Someone who sticks to a rear wheel ahead and refuses to go to the front of the pack

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 U.S. Olympic Cycling Team

Velo – French for “bicycle”

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*Thanks to Cyclingnews.com for contributing information to this document

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