Cycling Jargon Guide

Tinkoff riding in a line

To an outsider, cycling jargon can be very confusing and can sound like a different language at times! There are a number of phrases that we all know and use day in, day out and the responses from non-cyclists (the confusing stare, the ‘what’re you on about’ frown, the one eyebrow up expression) are a common ground between us all. So here’s our beginner’s guide to the words we use to help your friends and family understand you when you talk about the world of cycling, and if you’re new to the game then take this guide as an introduction to a world of cycling brilliance!


Cycling Jargon: 

  1. “I need some new overshoes”

    Normal person thinks, overshoes? Shoes that go over shoes? What the point in that?

    What it really means: Cycling overshoes are waterproof covers that go over your cycling shoes to help keep you warm and dry.

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  2. “I lost the wheel/got dropped”

    This doesn’t mean you or your mate actually lost a wheel, or got dropped from a height.

    In cycling terms this means you lost the slip stream from the rider(s) in front or couldn’t keep up with the rest of the bunch.

  3. “I got on the back of him”

    No we don’t mean you actually climbed on his back. Although, this would be funny, but thankfully for you or them this actually means you managed to get in the rider’s slip stream having worked hard to get there.


  4. “He half wheeled me the whole way round”

    What does this even mean?!

    Well this is one of those annoying things that one of your fellow club mates do! It means they cycle the whole way round the ride half a wheels length in front of you to try and put pressure on you and make you suffer. Not very nice is it?

  5. 'I bridged the gap'

    Ok, this does sound like you may have built a bridge over a gap in the road, but in fact, this is a technical term for if you have managed to close a gap that formed from you and the rest of the pack.

  6. “I popped on today’s ride”

    You didn’t literally explode, obviously!

    This means you had nothing left to get yourself home and 1) either had to phone to get a lift home, 2) walk home and push your bike, or 3) ride home at 6 mph crying and delete the ride on Strava like it never actually happened!

  7. 'I hung on'

    If you could actually ‘Hang on’ to another rider that would be brilliant wouldn’t it,  but this is not really allowed! This term actually means you managed to keep with the main group of riders by the skin of your teeth!

  8. “That climb was gritty”

    What normal people think: So there was gravel all over the road?

    No it wasn’t gravelly. This is one of those words that are used to describe a difficult climb that put you in the red.

  9. “I am training in Zone 2 today”

    Normal people would probably think where is this? Is it a place or a frame of mind?

    What it really means: you are sticking to a Heart rate zone somewhere between 60%-70% of your maximum Heart rate.

  10. “On the drops”

    What drops, cherry drops? Haha, if only!

    What it really means: This means that you’re using the drops on your handlebars. This position is normally used if you are trying to get in an aerodynamic position, or descending.

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  11. “Chewing the bars”

    Normal people think you may be actually taking a bite out of the bars!

    What it really means: This is a term used when a rider is suffering and their head drops down making them look like they are chewing the bars.

  12. “Grinding a gear”

    No not chewing up gears! This is often used when you see a rider with very slow cadence who is struggling to push the gear.

  13. “Do you want a gel?”

    We don’t mean hair gel – we wear helmets what would be the point in that! This wouldn’t be any good when in fact you actually need some liquefied sugar and caffeine! Gels are a mix of carb, sugar and caffeine to help replenish your carbohydrate stores and raise sugar levels.

  14. “It’s tights weather”

    This doesn’t refer to the tights girls wear under their dresses! These are warm winter leggings that are skin tight with a cycling pad in them to keep you warm in the winter.

  15. “He went down the road”

    No he didn’t just go for a ride down the road – it’s a term used when a cyclists crashes!

  16. “Yeah I attacked!”

    Normal people may think you went at your competitors with a baseball bat!

    Thankfully this means you made a strong move away from the other competitors.

  17. “I’m going to have to get myself a turbo”

    No sorry this doesn’t mean you get to drive around in a turbo charged Supercar.

    This means you are actually going to put yourself through hell in a stationary trainer with resistance to help you to get fitter and stronger.

  18. “Yeah, I managed to push out 450 watts”

    They may think you’re talking about light bulbs or something. Who knows…

    What it really means is that you are able to achieve 450 watts of power for x amount of time. Cyclists may get impressed by these figures…Mum not so much!

Now that your friends and family are experts on all cycling jargon, the next step is to get them all kitted up. Send them our way so that they can buy all they need here at ProBikeKit!

Writer and expert