Cycling Terms for Beginners & Noobs: Cyclist Lingo Decoded


I’ve been riding bikes since forever – including an almost-daily 1 hour commute to & from work for the last few years. However, I’ve only recently started getting into cycling a bit more than your “average commuter who rides to work on paved roads while wearing shorts and a t-shirt & using a mountain bike” (aka, a “Fred” or a “Doris”) …not that I’d use that term!

As such, I’ve started to hear, and use, some more exotic terminology when describing bike-related things… so I thought I’d start compiling a list of terms I’ve used / come across.

By the way, this is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive list – rather, just a list of words I’ve come across, and perhaps a list that you may come across as a beginner, or newbie in this arena.



A sudden attempt to pull ahead from other riders. As expected, this is frequently used in racing. Also known as a breakaway.


Bib Knicks / Cycling Shorts / Knicks / Padded Shorts

Cycling shorts with a waistband, usually made from Lycra.


Bib Shorts

Bib shorts are Bib Knicks / Cycling Shorts / Knicks / Padded Shorts held up by a bib (integral suspenders / braces) instead of an elastic waistband. Serious cyclists prefer these over shorts, as there is no elastic waistband, which can cause tightness, chafing & general discomfort as ride duration increases.



See Attack.


Crit / Criterium

A multi-lap, one-day race on a closed, short course where the length of each lap or circuit ranges from about 1km to 2km. Typically lasts less than an hour.



The female version of Fred.



A ridiculing term used by serious road cyclists to describe others who do not conform to their norms with regard to equipment, dress, etc – and appear amateurish to them.



Riding about a half-wheel ahead of the person next you. I’m led to believe that many cyclists dislike this.



A specialised jersey (shirt) for cycling. Usually zip-up, with pockets at the lower-back (outside) for storing essentials. Jerseys offer certain advantages over regular t-shirts, including a reduction in air resistance, sweat / moisture-wicking properties.

There are different jerseys fits too – such as a ‘race’ or ‘performance’ fit (tight / figure hugging), regular, relaxed / casual (loose / baggy). Tight jerseys will obviously reduce air resistance and, as such, can increase your speed.



A cyclists outfit; hopefully matching (like seriously, who would go riding in a lime green jersey with red socks, a canary yellow helmet and a blue polka-dot bib). Some cyclists will co-ordinate their kit colours with their bike. My personal kit colours are generally red, black and white.


On ‘Ya Right / On ‘Ya Left

Yell this out when you’re about to overtake another cyclist in front of you, to let them know you’re coming. If you’re in Australia, like me, you’d say “On ‘ya right”, since we drive / ride on the left side of the road, and overtake on the right.


Peloton / Paceline

The main group of cyclists in a race. Cyclists on an attack, will obviously breakaway from the peloton. Sticking together in a group can help reduce drag (…unless you’re up front, of course). Being up the front is also known as being the Pull.



The poor person up the front of a peloton who doesn’t get the benefit of slip-streaming.



Bike seat.


Shy Shorts

Also called baggy shorts, there are bike pants (usually with padding) that can be worn under regular shorts. Good for those who want comfort without the Lycra look. Also popular amongst recreational cyclists.


TT / Time Trial

A road race against the clock that can be done alone or with a team, and features aerodynamic bikes, helmets, and skin-suits.

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