Cycling has a unique language and terminology that can be confusing for new cyclists. So we’ve created a list of cycling terms from A–Z to help clear things up. Learning cycling lingo will help you communicate better with fellow cyclists on the road or in conversation. Our list of terms covers everything from bike components and riding techniques to ride signals and equipment. If you’re looking to expand your cycling vocabulary, this guide is your go-to resource. With it, you’ll speak fluent cycling lingo in no time.
Cycling terms and lingo
A, B, and C cycling groups
👉 Group designations for scheduled cycling club rides divided by average speed.
Group A averages 19-20 mph, group B averages 17-18 mph, and group C averages 15-16 mph. Average speed is calculated based on “rolling terrain,” which includes hills and flat stretches. When a group ride is listed with just one pace, it’s understood you should be a stronger rider (a B+ rider minimum).
👉 The shortened form of “aerodynamic,” used to describe a cycling position or gear feature that minimizes wind resistance and maximizes speed.
An aerodynamic or aggressive cycling position is crouched low, close to the handlebars.
👉 a call by the sweeper indicating that the group is back together after stopping.
👉 A sudden acceleration or burst of speed by a cyclist to gain an advantage and break away from other riders.
👉 A thin, snug cycling shirt worn under the jersey, typically made of moisture-wicking materials, such as polyester or merino wool.
The cycling baselayer is a foundational garment in a cycling kit, providing insulation and regulating body temperature by wicking sweat away from the skin to keep the rider dry and comfortable. It is designed to be lightweight, breathable, and form-fitting, allowing it to be worn underneath the jersey.
Learn more: How to Size and Style Your Cycling Baselayer
Shop Hincapie baselayers.
👉 Cycling shorts or tights with built-in shoulder straps or braces that provide support and comfort.
Cyclists have two choices–bib shorts or bike shorts. The first has straps but the other doesn’t. There are pros and cons to both choices and which option is better is debated but ultimately up to personal preference.
👉 Socks designed specifically for cycling to wick away sweat and promote airflow in cycling shoes.
Bike socks are essential but often underappreciated. They’re made from technical materials that provide comfort, moisture management, and compression. They’re also thin because they don’t require cushioning for impact and must be worn with snug cycling shoes.
Learn more: The Ultimate Guide to Bike Socks
Shop Hincapie bike socks.
👉 A strategy in competitive cycling where a rider intentionally obstructs other riders at the front of the group to slow them down and protect a teammate or allow a chase group to advance.
BOA Fit System
👉 A closure system commonly used in cycling shoes and helmets, featuring a dial and wire mechanism for precise fit adjustment.
👉 When a cyclist reaches a state of extreme exhaustion from depleted energy stores, resulting in a sudden drop in performance ability.
👉 When one or more cyclists separate from the main group or peloton to form a smaller group that takes the lead.
👉 The rate at which a cyclist pedals, typically measured in revolutions per minute (RPM).
👉 Phrases shouted by cyclists to communicate the presence and movement of cars on the road during group rides or races.
These phrases include:
- “Car up” or “car back”– used to alert cyclists that there is a car approaching from the front or behind the group
- “Car left” or “car right”– used when there is a car approaching from either the left or the right side of the road
- “Car passing”– used when a car is in the process of overtaking the group
👉 The cluster of sprockets on the rear wheel that the chain rotates on so a cyclist can change gears.
👉 A long-distance ride or race spanning 100 miles (160 kilometers). In the UK, a metric century is 100 kilometers (62 miles).
👉 The padded insert or cushioning in cycling bibs or shorts that provides comfort and reduces friction between the cyclist and the saddle.
Chamois is pronounced, “sha-mee.” Whether or not you choose shorts with a chamois will make or break the comfort of your ride. The chamois absorbs shock to relieve pressure on the pudendal nerve.
Learn more: The Ultimate Guide to Cycling Chamois
👉 The toothed metal rings attached to the front crankset near the front wheel that rotate the chain to transfer power from the rider’s legs to the drivetrain.
A bike can have up to three chainrings. Road bikes typically have two–the back chainring is called the “cassette.”
👉 A group of riders attempting to catch up to the leading rider(s) or breakaway.
👉 A call or signal used in a group ride to indicate a changing traffic light and to prepare cyclists to stop or start pedaling again.
👉 The categorization or ranking of cyclists based on their performance in a race or tour, most notably the Tour de France.
- General classification– Awarded to the rider with the fastest time overall. The winner wears a yellow jersey.
- Points classification– Awarded to the ride with the most points for performance in specific stages or sprints during a race. The winner wears a green jersey.
- King of the Mountain classification– Awarded to the rider who accumulates the most points during climbing stages. The winner wears a red and white polka-dot jersey.
- Best young rider classification– Awarded to the rider under a certain age (25 in the Tour de France) with the lowest cumulative time. The winner wears a white jersey.
- Best team classification– Awarded to the best-performing team. The winning team wears yellow helmets.
- Most combative classification– Awarded to the rider who has displayed the most aggressive spirit during a race. The most combative rider wears a red number on his jersey.
Learn more: Tour de France Stages & Classifications
👉 A phrase or signal used to remind riders to be watchful when entering a location with vehicle or pedestrian traffic.
👉 The attachments on the bottom of cycling shoes that engage with the pedals so the cyclist can transfer power efficiently.
👉 A type of pedal that locks into the cleats of cycling shoes for optimal power transfer when pedaling.
This term can be confusing because clipless shoes do clip (or lock) into the pedal. In the past, cyclists used toe clips (little cages that go over your toes), so when the first pedal that didn’t use toe clips was invented, they were referred to as “clipless.”
👉 Also known as a gear, a cog is one of the rings on the rear cassette. The entire cluster of gears on the rear wheel is sometimes called a cogset.
👉 A bicycle designed or used specifically for commuting or transportation purposes.
👉 The arm-like component of the bicycle’s drivetrain attached to the pedal that rotates the chainrings.
👉 The combination of the crank and chainrings that transfers power from the cyclist’s legs to the drivetrain.
👉 A short bike race (usually a mile or less) of multiple laps around a closed circuit or looped course, typically in an urban area.
👉 A cycling discipline that involves off-road racing on a mixed terrain course, including grass, mud, obstacles, and sections where riders dismount and carry their bikes.
👉 The mechanism that moves the chain between different chainrings on the front chainrings and rear cassette to shift gears.
👉 A braking system with disc rotors in the center of the wheels and calipers that squeeze the rotors to stop the bike.
👉 A support rider on a cycling team who aids and protects the team leader by employing tactics to get the leader ahead, pace-setting, and even fetching supplies.
👉 Riding closely behind another cyclist to take advantage of reduced wind resistance and conserve energy.
👉 All components of a bicycle that transmit power from the rider’s legs to the wheels, including the chain, chainrings, cassette, cranks, and derailleurs.
👉 Curved handlebars that allow the rider to adopt a lower and more aerodynamic riding position.
👉 A diagonal line formed by a group of riders in crosswind conditions to reduce the impact of wind resistance.
👉 Expanded Polystyrene foam used in bicycle helmets to absorb impact.
Learn more: The Ultimate Guide to Bike Helmets
👉 A designated area in a race where riders can receive food, drinks, and supplies from their team support staff.
👉 Refers to the horizontal positioning of a rider’s saddle and handlebars in relation to the bottom bracket, affecting weight distribution and bike fit.
👉 The front part of the bicycle frame that holds the front wheel and enables steering.
👉 The main structural component of a bicycle consisting of tubes that hold all other parts together.
Learn more: How to Find the Right Size Road Bike
👉 Functional Threshold Power, a measure of the highest average power output a cyclist can sustain for one hour.
Learn more: The Best Ways to Increase Your Cycling Power
👉 A call used to indicate to the ride leader that a gap has formed in a group of cyclists and slower cyclists have dropped.
👉 A “big ride” in Italian that refers to a long-distance cycling event open to recreational cyclists, with a challenging route and timed sections.
Learn more: Top Gran Fondos in the USA
👉 Refers to three prestigious multi-stage professional road races–the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España.
👉 A type of bicycle designed for riding on unpaved or gravel roads, featuring wider tires, stable geometry, and often additional clearance for mud and debris.
Learn more: Gravel Bike vs. Road Bikes
👉 A phrase used in group rides to indicate a green traffic light and signal the group to go.
👉 A cyclist who excels at climbing in a race.
👉 The collection of components that make up a bicycle’s drivetrain, brakes, derailleurs, cassette, chain, and crankset.
👉 The process of adapting to cycling in hot and humid conditions through gradual exposure and physical adaptation.
Learn more: 8 Essential Tips for Cycling in Hot Weather
“Hold your line”
👉 A phrase used to remind cyclists to stay straight to avoid collisions.
👉 A term called out, along with “left,” “right,” or “center,” to alert fellow riders about a pothole or other road hazard.
👉 A versatile bicycle that combines features of road bikes and mountain bikes, designed for general-purpose or recreational riding.
👉 A cycling jersey is a lightweight, fitted shirt made from breathable, moisture-wicking materials, designed for maximum comfort while cycling.
Learn more: How to Size and Style a Cycling Jersey
Shop Hincapie cycling jerseys.
King/Queen of the Mountain (KOM or QOM)
👉 A classification or award given to the rider who performs the best on mountain climbs in a race or tour.
👉 The pieces of a cyclist’s clothing and gear, including jersey, shorts, socks, and accessories.
👉 The last-placed cyclist or the rider at the back of the race standings, named for the “red lantern” indicating the end of a railway train.
👉 A cyclist who helps position a sprinter for the final sprint in a race by creating a slipstream to protect the sprinter from wind and set a fast pace.
👉 A term used to indicate to a group of riders that someone has a mechanical issue with a bike, such as a flat tire or malfunctioning component.
👉 Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, a technology used in helmet construction to provide additional protection against rotational forces during impact.
Learn more: What is MIPs and How Does It Work?
👉 A bicycle specifically designed for off-road riding on mountainous and rough terrains, featuring knobby tires, suspension, and sturdy frame construction.
👉 Protective fenders attached to the frame or forks of a bicycle to prevent mud and water from splashing onto the bike frame and rider.
👉 A type of ride where riders meet at predetermined stopping points to let the group catch up so no one is left behind.
👉 The main group of riders in a race or group ride who ride closely together to reduce wind resistance.
👉 A stationary exercise bike designed by Peloton that allows subscribers to participate in virtual cycling or spin workouts.
👉 A device with a sensor that measures a cyclist’s power output in watts and provides data on effort and performance.
👉 To take a turn at the front of a group or peloton and set the pace, usually followed by rotating to the back and allowing another rider to take their turn.
👉 The horizontal distance from the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube, measure to determine a bike’s length and a rider’s reach to the handlebars.
“Rider coming back”
👉 A phrase used to alert fellow riders that a cyclist is moving (“left” or “right”) to the back of the group after a turn pulling.
👉 A phrase used to signal the leader to stop and wait when part of the group gets left behind.
👉 A type of braking system that uses brake pads to grip the wheel rims to slow down or stop the bike.
👉 A lightweight bicycle designed for riding on paved roads, featuring drop handlebars and a more aggressive riding position.
Learn more: Everything You Need to Know to Buy a Road Bike
👉 A name for a road cycling devotee.
👉 Skin injuries caused by falling or sliding on the road surface during a bike crash.
Learn more: What to Do After a Cycling Accident
👉 A well-rounded type of cyclist known for their ability to maintain a strong and steady pace on flat or rolling terrain.
RPM (repetitions per minute)
👉 Revolutions Per Minute, a measurement of how fast the pedals rotate or the cyclist’s cadence.
👉 The seat of a bicycle.
Choosing the right type of saddle for you choose makes all the difference for a comfortable ride. You’ll need to know your sit bone measurement to size your saddle appropriately. And remember, cushy doesn’t mean comfy.
Learn more: How to Find the Best Road Bike Saddle
👉 A sore caused by prolonged pressure or friction on the skin against the saddle or from moisture that traps bacteria during cycling.
👉 A support vehicle that follows a group ride or race to provide mechanical assistance or transportation for fatigued or injured riders.
👉 The vertical tube of a bicycle frame that holds the saddle and connects it to the bottom bracket.
👉 A ride with no SAG wagon, so the cyclist is responsible to bring nutrition, fluids, and bike repair tools.
👉 The area of reduced wind resistance behind a moving cyclist that is used strategically to conserve energy while drafting.
👉 Phrases used to communicate a reduction in speed or the intention to come to a complete stop during a group ride.
👉 A cyclist specializing in short, high-speed bursts of power and acceleration, often competing in sprint finishes.
👉 A formation or sequence of riders from the same team working together to lead out a sprinter and provide a draft for maximum speed in the final sprint.
👉 A rider who remains at the back of the peloton to make sure no rider gets left behind and to assist with navigation or support.
Time trial (TT)
👉 A road race where cyclists compete individually against the clock, aiming to complete a set distance in the fastest time.
👉 The space available within the frame and fork of a bicycle to accommodate wider tires, which are important for off-road or gravel riding.
👉 Long-distance, self-supported cycling journeys that can span multiple days or weeks.
Tour de France
👉 A prestigious, multi-stage bicycle race held annually in France. The race features professional cyclists from around the world who compete in stages over various terrains for three weeks.
Learn more: The Complete Guide to the Tour de France
👉 Tires that do not require inner tubes but rely on an airtight seal between the tire and rim to hold air pressure instead.
👉 A stationary indoor bike mount that provides resistance and simulates outdoor riding conditions.
👉 A specially designed oval-shaped cycling track with steep banked turns, primarily used for track events.
👉 Zwift is an online cycling platform that allows users to ride in virtual worlds, interact with other participants, and track their performance on smart turbo trainers.
Learn more: Zwift vs. Peloton–How to Choose
Now that you can speak like a seasoned cyclist, it’s time to ramp up your cycling with our Beginner Cycling Training Plan and cycling nutrition and hydration guides. Then, gear up and get cycling! Below are some of our favorite bike trails in the Southeast.
- Best Cycling Trails in South Carolina
- Best Cycling Trails in North Carolina
- Best Cycling Trails in Georgia
When you’re ready to take cycling to next level, register for a Gran Fondo Hincapie near you.
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