Cycling Terminology

Have you started cycling and people are asking you things you have no idea what they mean or get confused with the terminology?  I know that was my experience when I first started and even four years on there are some things I am unsure of so you are not alone!

It is easy when you know this stuff not to think about it too much but there is so much to learn and understand, and it does come with time!

So here is some terminology that you may find useful:

  • Cadence – the number of revolutions (complete turns) of the crank per minute and the rate which you are turning the pedals as you ride (revolutions per minute, RPM).
  • Di2 – Shimano electronic gear system.
  • Crank – the arm that your pedals connect to.
  • Aero – serious cyclists will do anything to be more aero, meaning be more aerodynamic.  This can include many elements not just the bike but also kit and anything to help with less wind resistance for maximum speed.
  • Drops – most road bikes have handlebars with a curved part at the widest point, which is referred to as the drops – used by cyclists mostly for sprinting or on flat roads.
  • Bottle cages – the attachments to the frame to hold your water bottles.
  • Stem – the part of the bike that connects the handlebars to the front fork steerer tube.
  • Lid – another name for your helmet.
  • Chaingang – cyclists riding in a group that rotate turns on the front to share the effort load.
  • Peloton – cyclists riding in a large group.
  • Bibs – shorts or tights worn as cycling kit that have straps that go over your shoulders (they are more comfortable even if you do look like a wrestler).
  • Chamois – the pad in bib shorts/cycling shorts/bib tights.
  • Chamois cream – cream applied to under areas (most polite way of describing the area) to avoid chaffing when cycling.
  • Power – energy you are putting out when cycling, measured in watts.
  • Presta – the valve you can see on your wheel that is used to inflate/deflate the inner tube.
  • Shifters – the gear levers on your handlebars used to change gear.
  • Cleats – the attachment to the cycling shoe that clips in to your pedal.
  • Bike fit – conducted by a specialist or qualified bike shop to ensure the set up of your bike is correct for both comfort and performance.
  • Sit bones – the area that carries most of your weight when sitting, I would recommend having a fit for a saddle where they measure your sit bones to recommend you the best saddle.
  • Drafting – when you ride directly behind another rider and by doing so you use less energy.
  • Tempo – not quite full maximum effort, but roughly 76% to 90%.
  • Bonk – nutrition is key when cycling (as in many other sports) and if you bonk it is basically a sudden loss of energy if you have not fuelled correctly.
  • Chainring – some bikes have a triple chain set up but most are double which has the big ring and little ring.  They are the metal discs with ‘teeth’ that the chain sits on, connected to the crank.
  • Carbon – carbon fibre material used for some bikes, benefits claimed to be a more comfortable ride and they are generally lighter in weight.
  • Clincher – reference for tyres that are used that clinch to the rim of the wheel as the inner tube is inflated.
  • Cassette – rear gears, cogs found attached to the back wheel of the bike.
  • Derailleur – front derailleur guides the chain into either the big or little ring in the front. The rear derailleur guides the chain on to your selected gear while keeping tension in the chain.
  • Granny gear – the little ring often used for climbing.
  • Strava – an app to record your rides – if it’s not on Strava did it even happen?
  • Audax – latin word for bold and in cycling terms refers to a long distance ride that is completed within a set time limit having a brevit card stamped to prove that you have been to necessary check points.
  • Sportive – an organised cycling event.

And lets not forget the acronyms:

  • SPD – Shimano Pedalling Dynamics – one of the many clip in pedal/cleats, more commonly used for mountain biking but often also used for road cycling too.
  • SPD-SL – as above, more commonly found on road bikes.
  • MTB – mountain bike.
  • RPM – revolutions per minute or how many full rotations of the pedal per minute when you are cycling.
  • FTP – functional threshold power – maximum power you can sustain for a given period.
  • AP – average power – what it says really – the average power put out when cycling over a set time/distance.
  • CRIT – criterium race – which is general a short distance, high speed, including many corners type of cycle race.
  • TT – time trial – a ride that covers a set distance and is timed.  These can be done solo or 2-up, which is where you can work with another person. Also known as the race of truth as it is you and the bike!
  • MAMIL – middle aged man in lycra (a term often used by those who are not as fond of cyclists).

You’re welcome – now chat like a cycling pro!

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