The A to Z of Road Cycling - Total Women's Cycling

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Road Cycling

The A to Z of Road Cycling

Road Cycling jargon, demystified!

Wizard’s hat by Andrew Fortnum and Spanner by Ed Harrison, both from Noun Project
We cyclists have our own special language – and sometimes our non-cycling mates meet our tales of weekend antics with blank expressions.

There are a great many cycling terms, but here’s the A to Z of some of the best used so you can pick up a few new ones, or share them with your non-biking-buddies so they’ll know what you mean..


To quickly accelerate, either to get away from other riders, or to tire them out with the intention of dropping them eventually


Running out of energy on a ride – “I just bonked and couldn’t go any further”. Best cured by coffee and cake.


When riders who don’t want other team members to get past sit at the front of a peloton.


When one, or a group of cyclists, get away from the chasing bunch, creating a gap.


When a female cyclist overtakes a male cyclist – usually in a race environment: “He got chicked”. According to our ‘ask the expert’ many men aren’t bothered.


A race on a closed road circuit, consisting of multiple laps, usually hard and fast, and lasts about an hour.

Director Sportif

The manager of a cycling team.


A rider who is there to support team mates – fetching drinks and food, or providing a draft for potential winners.


To save energy by riding in someone else’s slipstream (here’s everything you need to know about drafting).


To lose another rider by going so fast they can’t keep up – mwhahaha!


A form of drafting, when riders create a diagonal line, protecting team mates from cross winds.


To stop pedalling, usually going downhill, or when sitting behind a rider working hard in a headwind. Freewheeling whilst drafting doesn’t always go down well with the draftee.


General Classification – the leaderboard during a stage race. Someone aiming to win is ‘Riding for GC’.

Granny Gear

The smallest available gear – used when a hill is very steep or the rider is very tired


Overlapping the wheel in front when drafting – very dangerous and to be avoided at all costs.

Individual Time Trial 

A race ridden alone, with riders setting off at 1 minute intervals – Emma Pooley (now retired) was a sensational time trialist, Dame Sarah Storey is also an expert.

Interval training

Short efforts interspersed with easy spinning – designed to make you faster.

Kevlar Belt or Breaker

Features in good quality winter tyres, a tough fabric used to prevent punctures.


Local bike shop, should be run by friendly staff keen to encourage cycling.


A rider who drafts, but never sits on the front – very rude behaviour.

Magic Spanner

Also known as Sticky Bottle, a Magic Spanner is when a rider holds onto an object being passed out of a team car. The car then speeds up and they get a catapult of speed to help them get back to the peloton.


Something we should do regularly – cleaning drivetrain, lubing chain, replacing cables.

Neutralized zone

A time in a race where riders have to keep the pace steady, and no one is allowed to overtake the lead car, usually in the first few miles.


When a rider attacks and leaves the rest in their dust (the opposite being “off-the-back” – to fail to keep up with the peloton.


When riders stay in a line, the front rider peels off, and joins the back, this revolving pattern means riders get a break before taking the front, keeping the pace high.

Pedalling Squares

When a rider becomes so tired they start to pedal badly, or very slowly.


Intermediate sprints within a race where riders can get extra points.


Another name for a ‘QOM’ – taking the first spot on a Strava Queen of the Mountain leaderboard.


The act of eating the entire contents one ones fridge after a tough ride (or getting a good balance of protein and carbohydrate of you’re being disciplined).


A rider who is strong on undulating roads, delivering plenty of power, often experts at the Spring Classics.


A person who plays a support role to a cycling team.


A rider who is a little bit addicted to logging their miles on Strava.

Tea stop

The part of the ride where everyone has a cup of tea (or coffee) and a flapjack – often the best bit.


Union Cycliste International – the European Group who head up professional cycling. Brian Cookson is the president.


Short for the ‘Velocipede’ – a term used to describe early bicycles.


The ‘Rules’ listed by the ‘Keepers of the Cog’ – guidelines for cyclists that are mainly tongue in cheek but often taken too seriously.

Weight Weenie

Someone who is obsessed with the weight of their bike and components, as they try to improve their power to weight ratio.

Wheel sucker

That rider who, without being invited and without acknowledgment, chooses to sit on your wheel to save themselves the extra effort.


We’re cheating, we know, but CX is short for Cyclocross, which is a form of off-road racing, on drop bar bikes – races last around 1 hour and are held over multiple laps of a short course.

Yellow Jersey

Worn by the leader of the General Classification during the Tour de France.

Zip tie

Small plastic strip excellent for attaching bike lights, race numbers, keeping cables from rubbing – a genius invention with unlimited uses – no cyclist should be without

We’re sure you’ve got more to add – put them in the comments, we’d love to hear them!


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