From MAMILs to derailleurs and sportives to saddlebags, cycling involves a whole different language. Even with a pretty thorough knowledge of cyclospeak, there are always more words and phrases to learn and for you to use. There are things you probably do everyday on your ride yet didn’t realise there’s an “official” name for it. Here’s a small selection of some of the more inventive and fun cycling speak.
A couple of these come from the excellent Bike Snob NYC, while the rest were chosen as our favourites from the excellent dictionary of bike commuter slang at Bikehacks. Some might make you laugh out loud, others you’ll raise an eyebrow at, and some might just make you go “huh?”
Any new ones you’ve heard? Let us know in the comments?
Bike salmon (Bike Snob NYC)
A bike salmon is when a rider “swims up stream” – by cycling the wrong way down a one way street. Something I must admit I do myself each day for about ten seconds – but it does chop about 8 minutes off my journey.
You can probably work this one out. I see it far too often – cyclists who fail to clip in or out and end up having a little bit of a wobble before saving themselves just in time. We shouldn’t laugh, but…
A cyclist who uses the pavement to turn when the lights are red. In the process annoying pedestrians, unless they dismount. Can also be found riding on the pavement.
A rider with excessively expensive equipment, equipment that is really designed for professional cyclists. A Fred’s ability/experience will never catch up to the technology purchased.
Shoaling (Bike Snob NYC)
Ever find yourself waiting at traffic lights when a fellow cyclist practically pushes his way in front of you, before you have to overtake them when the lights go green? That’s shoaling
Eye of Mordor
This is one of my favourites, and you see plenty in London. The Eye of Mordor is the bit of skin visible when someone ‘s wearing a t-shirt not designed for cycling and it’s flapping in the wind. Who needs an air vent?
A firefighter – someone who insists on telling absolutely everyone that they’re on their way by ringing their bell incessantly. A bell can be effective when used rarely – but surely it becomes pointless when in constant use?
A cyclist in flip-flops. I tried it once, and it’s almost as bad as trying to drive a car in flip-flops – i.e., you’re asking for trouble. After losing my right flip-flop, I vowed that was that and invested in a pair of espadrilles.
When you see a male cyclist riding with his shirt off. Also called a “Pool Boy”. You become a “Hoff” only if you have a chest hair that resembles the Amazon rainforest.
The fun game that cyclists play in our heads – constantly overtaking, and being overtaken by, a London bus. I play this myself with the number 47, particularly fun when you need to take your mind off the weather!
A cyclist that is incredibly serious about off-road riding on the weekends and decides it’s a great idea to commute on his dual suspension downhill bike with huge tyres. You can quickly identify a “hummer” by the sound of them humming along the road as their knobbie tires touch the ground.
These are the cyclists that like to ride around with no lights on when it’s pitch black outside. They’ve removed all reflective gear to maximise their ninja status. They frequently pop up out of nowhere.
Join 9,241 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter
Sign up for our free newsletter to get...
- Advice on the best cycling gear
- A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
- Exclusive content not available on the blog
Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)
*No spam, ever!
As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.