'Off the What?' A Bicycle Racing Glossary

Feed station/zone: An area where riders can pick up both food and liquid refreshments, usually placed in a slower-paced area such as an uphill section. It's an unwritten rule that riders do not attack a group in the feed zone.

Field sprint: A sprint at the finish among the main group (peloton) of riders in a road race.

Force the pace: To increase speed to make the group go faster.



Gap: The amount of time or distance between a rider or group of riders and another rider or group.

Gear: The mechanism on a bike that changes its rate of motion via a combination of front chainring and rear sprocket; 'low' gears are easier to pedal (usually used when riding uphill), and 'high' gears are harder to pedal (usually used on flats or for faster speed).

General Classification, GC: The overall time rankings in a race. The rider with the lowest cumulative time is first place on the GC.

Grand tour: A major stage race, usually lasting up to three weeks. The Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy), and the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) are the three grand tours of international pro cycling.

Granny gear: The smallest front chainring combined with the biggest rear sprocket to make the lowest (easiest to pedal) gear.



Hammer: To ride hard.



Jersey: A bicycling shirt with pockets in the back, often decorated with team colors and sponsors' logos. Special colored jerseys in races such as the Tour de France denote the leader in a certain category.

Jump: A quick acceleration.



Kick: A burst of acceleration for the final sprint.

KOM: King of the Mountains. Award for the best climber.



Lactic, lactic acid: Describes the byproduct in the muscles that causes the burning sensation after strenuous physical exertion.

Lead out: A sacrificial race tactic in which you allow a teammate to draft immediately behind you ("on your wheel") as you accelerate to high speed, to give them a head start for their own impending attack or sprint.



Mechanical: Slang for a mechanical problem with the bicycle.



Neutral support: The support given to a rider by a neutral party, i.e. a mechanic in a follow vehicle not attached to any particular team.



Off the back: When a rider or riders cannot keep pace with the main group and lag behind.

Off the front: When a rider, or group of riders, break away from the main group.

On the rivet: Riding very hard. (Some old leather bike saddles had a rivet on the nose of the saddle, and you tend to sit closer to the nose when pedaling very hard.)



Paceline: A string of riders moving at high speed, with individuals taking turns setting the pace at the front and then dropping back into the draft of the others.

Palmares: A rider's race results during their career. ("He has an impressive palmares.")

Parcours: French for "the race course."

Peloton: The main group of riders in a race; also called the pack, bunch or field. Can also refer to pro cyclists collectively: "He's respected in the peloton."

Prologue: A short time trial held on the first day of a stage race, before Stage 1.

Pull: To take a turn at the front of the group or paceline.

Pull off: To move out of the front position in a group or paceline, so that a following rider can take over.

Puncture: Flat tire.



Road rash: Skin abrasions resulting from a fall or crash onto the road.



Saddle: The bicycle seat.

Sitting in, Sit on a wheel, Sitting on: Drafting, or riding closely behind the rider immediately in front to save energy.

Soigneur: A member of the team staff who cares for the riders, including physical therapy, food preparation, transport, etc. French for "care giver."

Sprint: The final high-speed dash for the finish line in a race of any distance.

Sprocket: One of the cluster of toothed cogs comprising the "cassette" or "block" attached to the rear wheel. Often referred to by the number of teeth on each cog (the higher the number, the easier the gear): "She's riding in the 21 going up this hill."

Stage race: A bike-race format in which different races (stages) are held on different courses in the same geographical region over a period of consecutive days -- all of the stages together compose the "race." The rider with the lowest cumulative time after all of the stages wins the race. The Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Tour of California, etc, are stage races.



Team captain: A seasoned rider within a team, who directs the team's strategy during a race.

Team leader: The rider who is the focus of a team's tactics and strategy -- the rest of the team rides in order for the leader to win a stage or race.

Tempo: A brisk speed or pedal cadence. ("The team is riding tempo at the front of the group.")

Time trial: A race in which riders start individually at given intervals, and race the course against the clock. Also known as "the race of truth."

Team time trial: Same idea as an individual time trial [see above], but with teams of riders racing together against the clock, each team riding in unison as a group. Usually a set number of team members must cross the line before a finishing time is recorded.

Train: A fast moving paceline of riders, often comprising teammates working together for tactical purposes.

Tuck: A riding position with the head and torso low, back flat, and arms close to the body, for best aerodynamics and maximum speed. Most riders will get into a tuck position on a very steep descent to save energy and increase speed.



UCI: Union Cycliste Internationale, the international governing body of cycling.



Velo: French word for "bike."


Related Article:

      • Your Guide to Common Bike Terms

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