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A Veteran's Dictionary of Modern Biking Usage
By Guest Contributor
Date: 3/27/2008
A Veteran's Dictionary of Modern Biking Usage

A Veteran's Dictionary of Modern Biking Usage
Cycling has a rich oral tradition that is highly regional and evolves rapidly. A current & "post ironic" dictionary of obscure cycling terms.

By Dana Albert

A couple of days before the Tour of California started, I checked the official website for a start list, and couldn't find one. But right away I found the inevitable glossary of bike racing terminology. It had all the normal cycling terms: attack, bonk, etc. (You can tell this glossary was written for American readers because it has "bonk" in it. My wife and I used to ride with her British Reuters colleagues, and one day she told her boss, "I brought a Powerbar because I don't want to bonk." Her boss blushed crimson and stammered, "I beg your pardon?!")

This got me thinking about all the cycling glossaries I've seen over the years in the backs of race programs and such, and I realized how incomplete they all are, like they're all quoting from the same out-of-date document. Cycling has a rich oral tradition that is highly regional and evolves rapidly. I fear that some of the newer riders on my bike club may not be up on some of the more obscure cycling terms, so I created this Veteran’s Dictionary of Modern Biking Usage.

A Veteran's Dictionary of Modern Biking Usage

A - ABCs: Angry Biker Clothes. See Angry Biker.

Angry biker: a biker who has a fancy bike, fancy clothes, and usually a stern expression, who really needs to lighten up. In other words, just about everybody on the road.

Arseless: a generic term for your bike, especially an old three-speed you ride to work. [Origin: from a book by Irish writer Roddy Doyle, shortened from "Arseless Carriage."]

B - Backwards: slow; e.g., "Dude, I was going backwards."

Bald: the condition of a veteran biker's scalp being hopelessly worn out. Also refers to bike tires suffering the same affliction.

Ballast: the aesthetically amenable but physically unfortunate padding that a veteran angry biker tends to develop.

Basso Lamento: 1. [Music] Also called "descending tetrachord." A musical scale of four notes, bounded by the interval of a perfect fourth (an interval the size of two and one-half steps, e.g., c-f). 2. The widespread sorrow surrounding Ivan Basso's admission to doping (or "planned doping").

Bibs: cycling shorts with shoulder straps instead of an elastic waistband. Popular among juniors who rightly fear being "pantsed," and among older riders for the comfort and corset-like effect.

Bike porn: glossy bike catalogs that incessantly arrive in your mailbox.

Biker: the preferred term for "cyclist" among crusty old veterans, as they mock the relative newcomers who insist on being called cyclists.

Bike widow: a wife or girlfriend forced to look elsewhere during weekends because her angry biker husband or boyfriend is off pursuing his suffering centers.

Bitter biker: an angry biker who is also old.

Bleb: the almost, but not completely, broken membrane on a gel packet, when the top has been torn off at just the right point so it won't dribble out but can be zipped into your mouth. [Etymology: unknown; possibly borrowed from medical nomenclature.]

Blow chunks: to ride very poorly. [Originally a term for projectile vomiting, though this actually happens in the minority of cases.]

Bulby: see Young Bulb, The.

C - Carbo-load: to eat a whole "shìtload" of carbs, because you love them and because you can, and because you despise the Atkins craze. Not to be confused with the training nutrition système once used by Bernard Hinault, which just about nobody actually understands.

Cawbun Fibuh: carbon fiber. [Origin: crazy Berkeley-area angry biker who assailed a bike shop customer who was innocently test-riding a steel road bike.]

Chamois: a synthetic pad in biking shorts designed to give angry bikers another thing to complain about. See also Mr. Flippy Floppy, Skid Mark.

Crapture: gratifyingly swift evacuation of the bowels, especially right before a race.

Crash hat: helmet.

Cripple: a triple crankset, used by angry bikers who are not only weak and worthless, but shameless.

Cyclo-sportif: a popular type of amateur race popular in Europe. Almost the opposite of an American race; instead of dozens of bikers paying $40 each to suffer for 40 minutes in an industrial park, thousands of bikers pay $20 each to suffer for 8 hours in the most amazing mountains on earth.

D - Datas: the arguably interesting but probably valueless information that can be gleaned from modern bike computers and heart monitors. [Origin: this odd double-plural form derives from instruction manuals poorly translated from the German.]

Dawn patrol: post-ironic term for a very early morning ride. (See Post ironic)

Detonate: to suddenly become unable to pedal the bicycle. Usually the consequence of going too hard for too long on too little training, or from just being fricking old.

F- Flat: The sensation you have at the beginning of a ride that your tire is flat, or you're dragging an anvil behind you. Formerly used to indicate the state of being over trained, as if that were ever actually possible.

Flats: a popular Berkeley area ride, known to be about the flattest ride in the area as it features only 1,400 feet of vertical gain.

Float: the foot rotation offered by modern cleats, to allow your feet to do any damn thing they want instead of being fixed where they ought to be.

G - Geriatric sports: bonking. [Chiefly British.]

Glycogen window: the period of 30-40 minutes after exercise during which an angry biker eats gobs of sugary snacks because he has convinced his wife/girlfriend and/or himself that this is actually useful somehow.

Goggles: sunglasses. Used by those who arguably go a bit far in avoiding the use of terms like "eyeshade système."

Gooseneck: preferred term for handlebar stem, intended to indicate lack of techie-dweebhood. Real old-timers can remember when a stem actually slightly resembled a goose's neck.

Grind: anything undesirable; e.g., "Dude, those Speedplays are such a grind." [Origin: post-ironic mimicry of the Wheels of Boulder founder's favorite expression.]

H - Hardtail: a word used by dorks to describe non-suspension mountain bikes and moreover to demonstrate their utter dorkiness.

Inflation cartridge: a malfunction-prone device used by an angry biker to increase his blood pressure, while adding needlessly to our landfills, all because he's too lazy to use a proper pump.

Intervals: the increasingly long periods between a veteran biker's rides.

K - Kit: see ABCs. [Origin: the widespread myth that expensive clothing can turn you into a great biker, like making something from a kit.]

L - LAGOS: following too closely or eagerly - a modern form of the phrase "wheel-sucking." [Etymology: post-ironic acronym for "like a gorilla on shìt," a bizarre phrase uttered by a college racer - Man, he's on you like a gorilla on shìt!"—to an area biker, and which somehow stuck. Or didn't.]

Light it up: see Throw Down.

Lima bean: a frame with compact geometry and more than a foot of seatpost showing. [From one rider's analysis of these frames: "They're like lima beans ... I suppose they have a right to exist, but I don't like them."]

Lubed: assisted by illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

M - Material: see Ride.

Mech: derailleur (not to be confused with the French "mec," meaning big thick guy).

Megamix: post-ironic term for an MP3 playlist created for working out on the trainer. [Origin: overheard by an area biker; uttered by some dip standing in line for an early-80s U2 concert.]

Mr. Flippy Floppy: a biking-shorts-related ailment occurring only in males; usually results from geriatric sports.

Muffin ride: an easy ride, whether or not a bakery exists on the route.

N - Novocain legs: an all-encompassing muscular complacency making it impossible to ride hard, usually resulting from geriatric sports.

O - Out of shape: a term used by an angry biker to indicate that he secretly plans to attack you and hopes you'll underestimate him; e.g., "Dude, lets go super-easy today because I'm soooo out of shape."

P - PCT: peak conversational threshold. The degree of effort beyond which a rider can no longer keep up a conversation, and a useful indicator that you've got the upper hand.

Plastic: a derisive term for carbon fiber. See Cawbun Fibuh.

Pocket climber: a very lean, slight biker who specializes in hill climbs. Generally used bitterly by someone too heavy to climb.

Podium: the three-tiered boxy platform that winners get to stand on, not to be confused with a lectern, which is the stand that holds a lecturer's notes. [Etymology: Latin, from Greek podion, base, diminutive of pous, pod-, foot. Okay?!]

Positive sensations: general feeling of surprising strength. [From countless bike racing news stories; either a popular expression in the European peloton, or a lazy approximation of one or another non-English expression.]

Post-ironic: indicative of a biking term that was mimicked in the spirit of mockery until it gradually evolved into standard usage.

Psyched: caffeinated, especially in accordance with an un-doping regimen. See Un-doping.

R - Race weight: the weight of your bike without pedals, as if you could pedal without them. [Origin: formerly referred to a rider's weight during the racing season, before the focus shifted from fitness to equipment.]

Rack: a stationary trainer. [Origin: short for "torture rack."]

Rain bike: the second road bike that an angry biker would ride on rainy days, if he actually rode on rainy days. Mainly used when the primary bike has a flat tire.

Recovery: the occasional return to an area biker of one or more of his stolen bikes. Formerly used to indicate restoration of a biker's physical capacities, back when this was actually possible.

Retirement: the phase of life during which an angry biker pretends he doesn't race anymore, but actually merely refocuses his competitive impulses on friends and innocent strangers.

Ride: a bike; e.g., "Dude, just four more months and I'll be rockin' my brand-new ultimate super-fly ride!"

Road Look: a term that describes a relative novice who is shaming you; e.g., "I was going about as hard as I could and then this frickin' Road Look dude passes me." [Origin: from the saddle with "Road Look" on the back that came on cheap Fuji road bikes in the 1970s.]

Royal: the coffee shop at the corner of College and 63rd in Oakland, regardless of what the current owners feel the need to call it. Meeting place for local angry bikers.

S - School: to shame by outperforming. See Road Look.

Skid mark: discoloration of the chamois caused by sweat - only sweat! - and the reason for the modern chamois being blue or black instead of brown.

Soaps: sew-ups, tubular tires.

Spank: see School.

Spare tube: the contents of a veteran biker's spare tire. See Ballast. See also Carbo-load.

Stack hat: see Crash Hat.

Stuffing: an angry biker's ability to perform, roughly equivalent to mojo; e.g., "Poor fellow, he's had the stuffing knocked out of him." [Chiefly British.]

Système: a fancy word for "system," used by somebody who is trying to seem sophisticated and Euro; e.g., "Dude, these aren't sunglasses, this is a highly advanced factory eyeshade système, okay?"

T - Technova: 1) overly modern, gimmicky, unproven, and/or shoddy. 2) Defunct nickname for Dr. Shimano's kid brother. [Origin: model name of awful Panaracer tires that came on late-80s Miyatas.]

Throw down: to attack, usually foolishly.

T.I.: bike bling; e.g., "Man, Eden is really a high-end shop, so much T.I. there." [Origin: uttered by an area biker who refuses to divulge what, if anything, the letters stand for.]

Titanium: one of the most plentiful elements on earth, used for increasing bike industry profit margins.

Toe-clip overlap: a characteristic of a properly designed frame, where the shoe hits the front tire when the crank is in the 3-o'clock position. Lack of toe-clip overlap indicates too shallow a head tube angle. Understanding of head tube angle indicates nerdiness.

Tool: 1) See School. 2) Somebody who rides too fast and unpleasantly increases the pace of your group ride.

Torched: see wappered.

Tranja [TRON-yah]: energy drink. [Origin: an episode of the original 1960s "Star Trek" in which the Gentle Ben-looking alien says, "Drink ... it's tranja. I hope you relish it as much as I."]

U - Un-doping: the systematic non-consumption of caffeine, designed to create a freakish lack of tolerance for it, so that a single pre-ride No-Doz can instill the effect of an illegal performance-enhancing drug. See Undoping.

V - Vein: a specific type of vanity common to bikers with really veiny legs.

W - Wappered: knackered. [Chiefly British.]

Widowmaker: a dangerously rusty bike, or one that has been inherited from a fellow angry biker who is convinced it harmed his knees somehow.

Young Bulb, The: a young rider, especially an enthusiastic one. [Origin: nickname for Paul Kimmage in the early 1980s.]

Other Dana Albert Articles:
T-Mobile Int'l: A Spectator’s Eye View by Dana Albert
2003 - Riding La Marmotte by Dana Albert
Return to La Marmotte - Part 1 Preparation
Return to La Marmotte - Part 2 Race Day
Return to La Marmotte - Part 3 Notes & Climb Profiles
Five Seconds on a Mountain Pass (Descending)
Confessions of an Undoper Part 1Part 2, Part 3

Coors Classic
Coors Classic Pioneer Michael Aisner - Part 1
Coors Classic Pioneer Michael Aisner - Part 2
Red Zinger/Coors Classic DVD Release Party

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