Bike Terms & Definitions

Dick Timberlake


Bike Path – similar to a bike lane, but with thorns and fecal matter instead of detritus from car accidents.
Boozy Bozos Busting Beer Bottles in Bikeways Maxims:
  1. Beer bottles are apparently heavier once they are empty. Otherwise, why would consumers leave them in shards on the pavement?
  2. All that glitters is probably glass.
  3. It’s the sliver you don’t see that flattens your tire.


Cable – A stranded wire that may control a brake or a derailleur. Cables usually wear out on hilly terrain. The sequence of breakage is: shifter cable on the ascent, brake cable on the descent.


Derailleur – a lever to help you select the wrong gear.
Drafting – A game of chance, in which a rider maneuvers his/her bike’s front tire to within 10 microns of the bike ahead. The bet is that the trailing rider will use less effort. The result is often that the drafter earns some street crud and road rash.


Endemic – describes how frequently an awkward seatuation occurs.


Fenders – accessories that are so clumsy and heavy that few bicyclists are willing to install these due to the extra effort required to ride with them. Even the lightest road fenders weigh an astonishing 180 grams per pair.
Flat tire
  1. The result of a sharp object puncturing a tube.
  2. A well-known malt beverage that has been left out overnight.


Gruppo (or Groupset) – a group of bike components such as gear and brake levers, brakes, derailleurs, bottom brack, crankset & chain. A gruppo can keep you entertained for hours as you do the following several times: disassemble your bike and (re-)install the new components incorrectly.


Hand signal – A sign given to motorists and other bike riders that you intend to change direction or speed. The proper way to use these is to wait until the last second, then signal. Motorists like this and will often raise a single digit to salute you for your consideration.
Hornication – The obnoxious practice of blowing a horn for no particular reason. Practiced by a minority of motor vehicle drivers, but still disconcerting to bikers.


Jury-rig (or jerry-rig) – The act of making a quick, supposedly temporary, fix. For example, a person named Dick might use some pink safety tape to support a fender after the bracket has broken.


Kickstand - see Antigravity Stick.


Linear-pull brakes - These brakes are just as curvy as other brakes, so why are they called “linear”?


Mountain bike – a bike that could theoretically be used to climb a mountain. These used to be called fat tire bikes, until the recent appearance of bikes with monster-truck tires.


  1. Part of a fastener. On bikes, these are usually hex-head nuts, and usually of a size for which the rider doesn’t have the correct wrench when a field fix is needed.
  2. (As in bike nut) Fanatic about having the best bike and components.


Penny-farthing – also called a high-wheel or ordinary bike. “Penny-farthing” comes from old English coins: the penny was a large disk, and the farthing (1/4 penny) was a small one.
Phonication – the habit of many drivers to talk or text while completely oblivious to their surroundings, thus creating a loose-cannon sort of hazard.
Pump – A tool for inflating tires. There a pumps for Shrader valves and Presta valves. In the event of a flat tire, a pump is useful for re-inflating after a tube is patched. In the unlikely case that you have the right kind of pump for your valve type, 100 or more strokes on the pump will inflate a tire to about half-pressure. Some pumps can use CO2 cartridges, which, if not already empty, can inflate a tire quite well.


Quandary Peak – a fourteener in Colorado. Get your fat tire bike and climb! (But acrophobes beware…)


Richard’s Rule of Wretchedly Rough Road Repair: Any new asphalt patch on a road is probably bumpier than the crazed surface it replaced.
Rotation mass – The mass of a wheel, tire and tube. The less of this mass, the better, which is why valve caps must be eschewed.


Spoke – A thin bit of wire that helps hold the wheel in shape. Spokes are subject to breakage. This usually occurs on the cassette side of the rear wheel, when one is 50 miles from nowhere.
Street sweeper – A machine about as common as a unicorn. When seen at its appointed task of creating a cloud of noxious dust, the street sweeper also has the happy side effect of removing some of the tire hazards from bike lanes.


Tandem – A bike for 2 or more riders. Etymological note: “Tandem” is the Latin word for “finally”. The bike term is likely from some Latin scholar who was relieved when finally finishing a ride on a tandem.
Thornication – Possible result of riding on a bike trail, usually causing a flat tire (def. 1).
Tire – The delicate rubbery bit attached to the wheel. Tires are literally the rubber that meets the road, and the glass, and the thorns, and sharp metal bits, and pointed bits of gravel, any of which can cause a flat. Tires are actually miraculous, because the sharp stuff on the road rarely causes a flat, except at the most inopportune times.
Truing – the process of ensuring a wheel is not warped. This is accomplished by adjusting the spokes. Procedure is:
  1. Tighten and/or loosen spokes a bit.
  2. Spin the wheel to check the truitude.
  3. Repeat steps 1 & 2 until:
    1. The wheel is truedOR
    2. You break a spokeOR
    3. You become so frustrated that you want to throw your (bleep) bike into a dumpster.
If the end of your truing session is (a), congratulations! Otherwise, take your bike to bike shop, which you should have done in the first place.
Tuppence-ha’penny – The rare tandem version of a penny-farthing. It’s basically two penny-farthings stuck together. The name of this bicycle (or actually quadricycle) comes from the fact that tuppence (two pennies) plus a ha’penny (half a penny) is twice as much as a penny and a farthing. Those who can actually ride a tuppence-ha’penny are even rarer than the vehicle.


U-brake – U brake or U crash and then U break.


Velodrome – A place where riding a bike with no brakes, gears or accessories is not only encouraged but required. This elliptical track also allows riders to go places without going anywhere.


Wheel – A circular bike component usually held together with spokes. Said spokes are not usually adjusted properly. See Truing.


X – A linguistic rating given to DIY bike fixers’ language. The less said about this, the better.


Y intersection – A junction where three roads come together. These are named for their resemblance to the letter “Y”, as well as the question “Y did the street engineers create intersections like this?”


Zig-zag – A maneuvering method that can get you through heavy traffic. When practiced successfully, this can get you to your destination in a few seconds less than patient obeying traffic rules. Unsuccessful zig-zaggers get a consolation ride in a hearse.
Volume 7, Issue 6 - December 2014

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