Bike Racing 101

Here are some cycling terms that you may hear at the race…

Attack
A sudden acceleration to move ahead of another rider or group of riders.

Bell, Bell Lap
A bell is rung to signify the last lap before the finish or a prime.

Block
In road racing, an attempt to disrupt a chase by slowing down a paceline, using your bike to interfere with another’s progress. Also used to describe the cassette on the back wheel with the sprockets.

Boxed in
Trapped in a group of riders and unable to go forward, back or sideways.

Break, Breakaway
A rider or group of riders that has left the main group behind.

Bridge
To leave one group of riders and join another one that is further ahead.

Cadence
Pedaling rate, in revolutions per minute of one of the cyclist’s feet.

Campag, Campy
Short for Campagnolo, an Italian bike manufacturer.

Caravan, Race Caravan
The official and support vehicles in a race.

Cat, Category
Rider competition levels in USCF races. Cat 5=Beginner, Cat 4=Novice, Cat 3=Sport, Cat 2=Expert, Cat 1=Elite, Master’s = 35 and over.

Century, Metric Century
A hundred mile bike race, or a 100km bike race.

Chainring
A large toothed ring (part of the chainset) that drives the chain via the pedals and cranks.

Chainset
The setup comprising the chainwheels, chain and rear sprocket.

Chase, Chasers
Riders trying to catch a breakaway group or rider.

Clipless
A type of pedal and matching shoe in which the shoes lock into the pedal. The clips cannot be seen when clipped in, hence “clipless.”

Crosswind
Wind that comes from the side.

Derailleur
The mechanism which moves the chain from one chainring or sprocket to another.

Digging a pedal
A pedal hitting the ground while the rider is leaning into a turn.

Doping
Using chemicals or substances to boost performance – usually refers to the use of substances that have been banned by the UCI.

DNF
Did not finish a race.

Draft
To ride closely behind a competitor, saving energy by using that racer as a wind break. Riding in front is very strenuous but affords a great energy-saving advantage to the rider behind.

Echelon
A staggered line of riders, each downwind of the rider ahead, allowing them to move considerably faster than a solo rider or small group of riders. In windy sections where there are crosswinds, a large peloton will form into
echelons.

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

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

Flyer
A surprise attack, usually by a solo rider. Also a rider who gains speed within the peloton attempting to reach the front.

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

Gear
The mechanism on a bike that changes its rate of motion; low gears make it harder to pedal while high gears make it easier.

General Classification, GC
The overall time rankings in a race. The rider with the lowest time is number one on the GC.

Granny gear
The smallest chainring on a bike, combined with the biggest sprocket to make the lowest gear.

Hammer
To ride hard. Also, to “put the hammer down.”

Hook
To suddenly move ones back wheel to the side, forcing the following rider to slow down to avoid running into it.

Jersey
A bicycling shirt often with team and sponsors’ logos, also usually with pockets in the back. Colored jerseys in races, such as the Tour de France, denote the leader in a certain category.

Jump
A quick acceleration which usually develops into a sprint.

Kick
A burst of acceleration for the final sprint.

Lapped
A rider who has fallen behind another rider by one lap of the track, course or circuit is said to have been lapped.

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

Off the front
When a rider takes part in a breakaway.

On the rivet
Riding really hard.

On the tops
Riding with the hands on the top of the handlebars like the brake leavers.

Paceline
A string of riders that moves at high speed with each individual taking turns setting the pace and riding in the draft of the others. See also Train.

Peloton
The main group of riders; also called the pack, bunch or field. French.

Prime (pronounced preem)
French word for an award given for the rider to reach a certain point mid-race in a sprint.

Pull
To take a turn at the front of the group, maintaining the same speed of the group.

Rail it
To ride fast and cleanly through a corner.

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

Rotating
The action of each rider going to the front of a group and riding at the front in turn to keep the pace high.

Saddle
The bike seat.

Slipstream
The area of least wind resistance behind a rider. See drafting.

Spokes
The arms inside a wheel rim that connect tim to hub.

Sprint
1. A high-speed race, usually over a short distance. 2. The final high-speed dash for the finish line in race of any distance.

Sprocket
The rear cog, normally a smaller toothed ring, which fits onto the rear wheel; also called a cog or cogwheel. The sprockets fit onto a cassette which is called a “block” by riders. Today these blocks usually contain 9 or 10 sprockets.

Stage race
A bike race held over successive days, with a different course each day. Stage races often feature a combination of long road races, a criterium and a time trial. The rider with the lowest total time (or most accumulated points) after completion of all the stages wins the overall race.

Sweeper
A wide turn.

Tempo
Brisk cadence.

Time trial
A race in which riders start individually and race against the clock. The fastest over a set distance is the winner.

Train
A fast moving paceline of riders.

USA Cycling
Cycling’s national governing body in the U.S. USA Cycling supervises the activities of the USCF (US Cycling Federation), NORBA and USPRO (US Pro Cycling), and establishes criteria for the US Olympic CyclingTeam.

Velo
French for bike.

Velodrome
A banked bicycle racing track. Can be indoors or outdoors, made out of wood (pine) or bitumen