Cycling 101

Cycling 101 Glossary by VeloNews

Terms from Wikipedia


A racing cyclist who excels in both climbing and time trialing, and may also be a decent sprinter. In stage races, an all-rounder seeks a top-10 place in the General Classification. Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong were notable all-rounders; Ivan Basso, Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans, Danilo Di Luca, and Alberto Contador are more contemporary examples.


To quickly accelerate while riding in a pack, or in smaller numbers, with a view to create a gap between yourself and other riders.


A group of riders in a stage race (typically non-climbers and suffering domestiques) who ride together as a group on the mountain stages with the sole intention of finishing within the stage's time limit to allow them to start the next day.

Bonk or “Hit the Wall”

To completely run out of energy on a long ride.

Boxed in

To be positioned in a peloton or other pack of riders, regardless of size, such that one is unable to move ahead of the other riders. This usually refers to the sprint where one is unable to improve one's finish placing due to the inability to maneuver around other riders.


Breakaway, or break in short, is when a small group of riders or an individual have successfully opened a gap ahead of the peloton.


The rate at which a cyclist pedals (in revolutions per minute).


The team cars following behind the peloton in support of their racers.


A group of one or more riders who are ahead of the peloton trying to join the race or stage leader(s). There may be none, one, or many chases at any given point in a race.


A rider who specializes in riding uphill quickly, usually due to having a high power-to-weight ratio.

Counter attack

An attack that is made when a break has been caught by chasers or the peloton.


A cyclist who excels at fast descents, often using them to break away from a group, or bridge a gap.


A rider whose job it is to support and work for other riders in their team (literally "servant" in French).


To ride closely behind another rider to make maximum use of their slipstream, reducing wind resistance and effort required to ride at the same speed.


To be dropped is to be left behind a breakaway or the peloton for whatever reason (usually because the rider cannot sustain the tempo required to stay with the group). To drop someone is to accelerate strongly with the intent of causing following riders to no longer gain the benefit of drafting.


(French) a line of riders seeking maximum drafting in a crosswind, resulting in a diagonal line across the road.

False flat

A low-gradient climb, usually occurring partway up a steeper climb. So-called because while it may look deceptively flat and easy (especially after the steep climb preceding it), it is still a climb.

Feed zone

In road bicycle racing, a location along the course of a long race where team personnel hand musettescontaining food and beverages to passing riders. Ideally, a feed zone should be along a long, uncongested straight section of road, with a wide shoulder for team personnel and vehicles. 


A distance between two or more riders large enough for drafting to no longer be effective. While gaps are usually achieved through attacks, on mountain climbs, where slower speeds means the advantage of drafting is much less significant, riders are often gapped who simply cannot maintain the tempo of the faster riders.

Individual time trial (ITT)

Race where riders set off at fixed intervals and complete the course against the clock; fastest time wins. Drafting is not allowed.

Lead out

Sprinting technique often used by the leadout man where the rider will accelerate to maximum speed close to the sprint point with a teammate, the sprinter, drafting behind, hoping to create space between the sprinter and the pack. When the leadout man is exhausted he will move to the side to allow his teammate to race in the sprint. 

On the rivet

Describes a rider who is riding at maximum speed. When riding at maximum power output, a road racer often perches on the front tip of the saddle (seat). 


(from French, literally meaning little ball or platoon and also related to the English word pellet) is the large main group in a road bicycle race. May also be called the field, bunch, or pack. Riders in a group save energy by riding close (drafting or slipstreaming) near and, particularly behind, other riders. The reduction in drag is dramatic; in the middle of a well-developed group it can be as much as 40%.


A short individual time trial before a stage race, used to determine which rider wears the leader's jersey on the first stage.

Road rash

Severe skin abrasions caused from sliding on the asphalt in a crash.

Sag wagon

Support motor vehicle following long races or recreational rides to pick up riders unable to complete the event. 


Rider with the ability to generate very high power over short periods (a few seconds to a minute) allowing for great finishing speeds, but usually unable to sustain sufficiently high power over long periods to be a good time triallist, and is usually too big to have a high enough power-to-weight ratio to be a good climber.


One part of a multi-day race, such as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

Time Trial

A race against the clock where riders are started separately (ranging from 30 seconds to 5 minutes apart). The winner of the race is determined by the fastest person across the course. No drafting may be employed in a time trial as it is a solo race event.


A steep incline along a race's course.

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