Cycling Terms, A – Z

Components of a road bike and a glossary of terms and jargon that you are likely to hear during a club ride, or afterwards at the coffee shop.


Components of a road bike


Areo Bars: Extension of the handlebars usually allowing the rider to rest their elbows and benefit from improved aerodynamics. Often found on time-trial bicycles, they are not good for group rides.

Bonk: When a rider completely runs out of energy on a long ride. Riders should always carry extra food or gels to eat during the ride to avoid bonking.

Cadence: The rate a cyclist pedals, measured in revolutions per minute (RPM).

Cleats: A fixture that bolts to the bottom of cycling shoes to attach them to the bike's pedals. Cleats require maintenance and replacement when they are worn to prevent accidents or injury.

Drafting: Riding closely behind, or beside, another rider to make use of their slipstream to reduce wind resistance and effort required to ride.



Echelon: A line of riders seeking maximum drafting in a crosswind, resulting in a diagonal line across the road.

Following a Wheel: To match the pace of riders who are setting the tempo. When riding in a group, a rider will often watch the wheel in front of them to draft and avoid overlapping wheels.

Gap: When the space between two or more riders is large enough for drafting to no longer be effective.

Kit: The term 'kit' comes from the British military and it means standard equipment and attire. Thus, bibs and jerseys are cycling 'kit,' although, kit may also include a vest, arm and leg warmers, and socks.

Lead Out: A sprinting technique where a rider will accelerate to maximum speed with one or more teammates drafting behind. The lead out rider will pull off before the finish line, when she or he is exhausted, and other lead-out riders or a sprinter will continue on to the finish line.

Off the Back: Falling of the pace of the other riders in your group and getting dropped enough to form a gap.

Overlapping Wheels: When the leading edge of a rider's front wheel is ahead of the trailing edge of the rear wheel of the rider they are following. Overlap can cause the trailing rider to crash, because they can only turn only in one direction (away from the wheel of the rider ahead).

Three types of pace lines: double, single, and circular

Three types of pace lines: double, single, and circular

Pace Line: A group of riders riding at high speed by drafting one another. Riders will take turns at the front to break the wind, then rotate to the back of the line to rest in the draft. Larger group rides will often form double pace lines with two columns of riders.

Pedaling Squares: This happens when a rider is fatigued and is unable to maintain an efficient pedaling form that is strong and smooth.

Peloton: A group of riders. In a road race, this is the main group, and may also be called the field, bunch, or pack. Riders in a group save energy by riding close to to each other.

Pull: To lead a pace line or echelon. The lead rider does more work and sets the pace for the group.

Rollers: A type of hills, which we have in the Midwest, that repeatedly go up and down at a moderate gradient. Also, a type of trainer composed of rolling cylinders under the rear wheel linked to a single rolling cylinder under the front wheel which allow the rider to practice balance while training indoors.

Saddle: On bicycle, like a horse, this is the part that you sit on. The saddle is one of three touch points with your bike, so find one that's comfortable for you. It may also be called a seat.

Tempo: Riding at steady pace. A hard tempo can be used to discourage riders from going to the front and a slow tempo can be used to block riders or to allow riders who've been dropped to re-join the group.

Tempo Pace: Sometimes referred to as "riding tempo," a level of exertion just below the rider's anaerobic threshold. This is the highest level of exertion that a given rider can sustain.

Trainer: A device that allows a bicycle to be ridden while stationary, so that they can warm up before a race or so that a rider can maintain fitness during a Minnesota winter, for example.

You can find many other cycling terms on Wikipedia.