Glossary of cycling terms
Do you hear the words 'general classification' and 'bidon' and wonder what they mean? Look no further - we've put together a complete glossary of cycling terms that will help you speak the unique language of cycling.
When a rider quits during a race.
A design of cycling equipment or a riding position that reduces wind resistance.
All-rounders are good at all parts of the race - climbing, sprinting etc. See our Cycling 101 guide for more.
The sharpest part of a turn where the transition from entering to exiting takes place.
An aggressive, high-speed move away from other riders also referred to as a ‘breakaway’. 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.
The French word 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. Santos Tour Down Under bidons are sponsored by Powerade.
This is a legal move to impede the progress of opposing riders to allow teammates a better opportunity for success.
To suddenly be unable to continue at the required pace due to overexertion. This is said to happen to a cyclist who suddenly loses their energy and can no longer keep up the pace. This is as a result of exhaustion, lack of food or lack of fitness.
An abbreviation for beats per minute in reference to a rider’s heart rate.
A rider or group of riders that has moved ahead/escaped the pack.
To catch a rider or group that has opened a lead. This is to ‘bridge the gap’.
This is the word used to describe the main field of riders throughout the race, also known as the 'peloton'.
A bunch sprint can be very spectacular, occurring when the bunch approaches the finish line as a whole and all have the same desire to win.
The number of times during one minute that a pedal stroke is completed.
CHAMOIS (sounds like 'shammy')
No, not what you use to dry your car... this is a soft piece of leathery material that is sewn into the crotch of the 'knicks' to prevent chafing. Riders do not wear underwear under their 'knicks' for the same reason!
This can have a few meanings, but is basically when someone drops back behind the bunch and then 'chase' to get back up to them, or the bunch 'chasing' or 'closing the gap' on breakaway riders.
This is a course that is ridden two or more times to compose the race.
Classifications are different categories that riders compete for - Sprint, Mountain, Young Riders and the overall General Classification.
Riders have different strengths and abilities, so classifications give more riders a chance at winning jerseys as opposed to just being the first rider over the finish line.
The different classifications are signified by coloured cycling jerseys.
The metal or plastic fitting on the sole of a cycling shoe that fits into the pedal.
These are cyclists who are strong at climbing mountains with a steep elevation. See our Cycling 101 guide for more.
CLOSING THE GAP
This is literally the bunch gaining on the leading rider or riders.
A road race covering multiple laps of a course that is normally between 1 – 2 kilometres in length
A French word describing those riders who are the workhorses of the team. These cyclists have the job of doing anything possible to help their team leader perform well. This can even mean sacrificing your own wheel if your team leader has a puncture. See our Cycling 101 guide for more.
Riding closely behind another rider to take advantage of the windbreak (slipstream) to use less energy.
A rider who has not been able to keep up with the bunch or riders they are riding with is known as ‘dropped’. This is usually a result of exhaustion or mechanical failure. They fall behind the pace and can no longer keep up.
This is 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 bunch of riders fall in behind each other in this way, they have formed an echelon.
Crashing over the bike’s handle bars.
This is a stationary, bicycle-like device with adjustable pedal resistance used for indoor training.
A designated area throughout a race course where riders are handed food and drinks.
This is the dash for the finish line by the main group of riders.
The crouched position by a rider used for maximum speed on descents.
This is the term for the overall standings in a stage race and is often referred to as the 'GC'.
The key to strong pedalling power are the gluteus muscles of the buttocks.
A Grand Tour is one of the three major European professional cycling stage races: Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España.
The races go for around 3 week and involve back-to-back days in the saddle with a mix of individual and team time trials, mountain climbs, and sprints.
When you are 'hunger flat' you lose your energy, feel weak, nauseous, achy and generally awful, all caused by a lack of food.
This is a structured method of training that alternates brief, hard efforts with short periods of easier riding.
This is the name for the tight, stretchy fabric tops worn by cyclists. Jerseys are awarded after each stage to the cyclists who win key moments within the race. The Leader's Jersey will be given to the rider who has the fastest time across the entire race - not necessarily the rider who crosses the line first.
King/Queen of the Mountain Jersey, Sprint Jersey and a Young Rider Jersey are also awarded. Riders who are awarded the jerseys wear them on the following day's stage.
You can see the Santos Tour Down Under jerseys and classifications here.
KING OF THE MOUNTAIN
To reward those riders who are good at climbing mountains there is a competition within the Santos Tour Down Under called the Škoda King of the Mountain. Jerseys are awarded for the winners.
These are the tight, lycra shorts worn by cyclists
This is the name given to the rider who finishes last in the race and is the French word for 'red lantern'. The name apparently originates from the fact that the last carriage on a train has a red lantern on the back of it.
The overall leader and winner of the Tour Down Under wears the Ochre Leader’s Jersey. See 'Overall Leader' below for more details.
A lead out is when 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.
Cycling events such as road races and criteriums in which all competitors leave the start line at the same time are referred to as having a mass start.
To ride behind a motorcycle or other vehicle that breaks the wind.
OFF THE BACK
See the definition of 'Dropped'.
ON A WHEEL
This is related to what was described in 'echelon', it is a term used to describe the riders who sit close behind the cyclist in front to gain the maximum benefits.
The Overall Leader is the person who is currently leading in overall time of the tour. Each stage presents chances for individuals to gain advantages to their overall time in the stage results and sprint category. The Overall Leader also carries the glory of wearing the coveted Santos Tour Down Under Ochre Leaders Jersey.
A group formation in which each rider takes a turn breaking the wind at the front before pulling off, dropping to the rear position, and riding the others' draft until at the front once again.
Panniers are large bike bags used by touring cyclists, motorbike riders or general commuters.
The French word for bunch, the main group of riders in a race or large event.
PRIME (pronounced ‘preem’)
A special award given to the leader on selected laps during a criterium, or the first rider to reach a certain landmark in a road race. It's used to create additional excitement in the race.
A prologue is an individual time trial at the beginning of the stage race that doesn't exceed 8 kilometers.
It's not regarded as a stage, but the rider's times still count towards general classification. It's primarily used to determine who wears the leader's jersey on the first stage.
Punchers (or Puncheurs) are riders best suited to rolling courses with short, steep climbs. See our Cycling 101 guide for more.
The Queens Stage is the most difficult stage of a multi-day road race, typically involving multiple difficult climbs.
A mass start race staged on the road that goes from point to point, covers one large loop or is held on a circuit longer than those used for criteriums.
Stages often start with a 'race neutral zone' which is a few kilometres where the riders pace through the host town behind a lead car, before being given the signal to begin racing in earnest once they are out onto clear roads.
Any skin abrasion resulting from a fall. This can also be referred to as crash rash.
Rollers are an indoor training device consisting of three long cylinders connected by belts.
Skin problems in the crotch that develop from chafing caused by the pedalling action are known as saddle sores.
A very common question asked of cyclists is why do they shave their legs? Well, apart from the fact that it looks good there are practical reasons. Shaved legs reduce wind resistance (even if only to a tiny degree), make for more comfortable massages and reduce the chance of infection caused by bacteria carried on hairs if the rider should fall.
Each day before the start of the stage, all cyclists who intend to race must sign their name on either a sign-on board or sheet. If someone forgets to sign on they can no longer participate in the race.
SIT ON A WHEEL
This is to ride in someone's draft. See ‘Sitting On’.
As seen in 'echelon' cyclists gain advantages from riding behind each other to gain from wind breaks and this is referred to as ‘sitting on’.
This is the pocket of calmer air behind a moving rider.
These are team staff members that are a combination of masseurs, medics and general aids to the cyclists. They are an integral part of the team support.
A sprinter is a rider who excels at covering short distances very quickly. See our Cycling 101 guide for more.
Cycling races/tours that are held over a number of days are broken down into stages. Each day a different stage will be held, but all stages add up to create the overall tour. Results from each stage are cumulative and determine the overall winner on the last day.
The stage winner is the first rider to cross the finish line.
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.
Each team is made up of two types of riders: the team leader and the domestiques. The team leader is that cyclist who has been chosen to try to win the race, usually determined by previous performances.
TIME TRIAL (TT)
A race in which individual cyclists or teams are sent out at intervals to cover a specific distance. The contestant or team with the fastest time for the distance wins.
The UCI is an abbreviation for the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body of cycling, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
To race at WorldTour level in cycling means to race at the most elite and competitive level in the world.