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
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all are, like they're all quoting from the same out-of-date document.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
ABCs: Angry Biker Clothes. See Angry
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."]
- Backwards: slow; e.g., "Dude, I was
Bald: the condition of a veteran biker's
scalp being hopelessly worn out. Also refers to bike tires suffering the same
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
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
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.
- 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
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.
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
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.
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.]
- Hardtail: a word used by dorks to
describe non-suspension mountain bikes and moreover to demonstrate their utter
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.
- Kit: see ABCs. [Origin: the widespread
myth that expensive clothing can turn you into a great biker, like making
something from a kit.]
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
Post-ironic: indicative of a biking term
that was mimicked in the spirit of mockery until it gradually evolved into
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
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
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.
- 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
Other Dana Albert Articles:
T-Mobile Int'l: A Spectator’s Eye View by Dana Albert
2003 - Riding
La Marmotte by Dana Albert
La Marmotte - Part 1 Preparation
Return to La Marmotte
- Part 2 Race Day
La Marmotte - Part 3 Notes & Climb Profiles
Five Seconds on
a Mountain Pass (Descending)
an Undoper Part 1,
Pioneer Michael Aisner - Part 1
Pioneer Michael Aisner - Part 2
Zinger/Coors Classic DVD Release Party
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