Have you ever wondered what the word “bonk” meant?
I first heard the word “bonk” when I was cycling with a group of fellow cyclists from Clifton Park, up West Road towards Sacandaga Lake and back. It was my first century event with the total mileage cycled recorded at 109 miles. I am not sure how to best describe West Road, but I will say my first adventure climbing this hill brought me closer to the heavens. If I remember correctly, I think my average rate of speed was 2 – 3 mph. That day, I heard many cyclists reach their “point of no return” and “bonked”; nothing left in the tank. Exhaustion.
Bonk: Total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient glycogen (carbohydrates/food) during a long race or ride. Also sometimes called a “hunger knock.”
During that year, in passing I heard many words and terms mentioned and had no idea what they meant. So, to those fellow cyclists who wondered what a word meant, here is a glossary:
Abandon: To quit during a race and remove yourself from competition.
Attack: A sudden acceleration, usually by a solo rider, to move ahead of another rider or group of riders.
Boxed in: To be trapped in a group of riders and unable to go forward, back or sideways.
Break, breakaway: A rider or group of riders that has left the main group behind, gaining an advantage.
Bridge: To leave one group of riders and join another group or rider that is further ahead.
Cadence: Pedaling rate, in revolutions per minute of one of the cyclist’s feet.
Chainring: A large toothed ring (part of the chain set) that drives the chain via the pedals and cranks.
Chase, chasers: Riders trying to catch a breakaway group or rider.
Clipless: A type of pedal and matching shoe in which the shoes lock into the pedal via the sole of the shoe. The system does not use the old “toe clip” (toe strap) style; hence “clip less.”
Cranks: The arms which drive the chain wheels. Cranks are bolted to the crankshaft.
Derailleur: The mechanism that moves the chain from one chainring or sprocket to another. A racing bicycle has a front and a rear derailleur.
Draft: To ride closely behind a competitor, saving energy by using that racer as a wind break. Riding behind a rider is much less strenuous and can give a 30% energy-savings advantage.
Echelon: A staggered line of riders, with each rider positioned downwind and off to the side of the rider ahead, creating a diagonal effect. In strong crosswinds, a large group will form into echelons.
Feed station/zone: An area where riders can pick up both food and liquid refreshments, usually placed in a slower-paced area such as an uphill section. It’s an unwritten rule that riders do not attack a group in the feed zone.
Field sprint: A sprint at the finish among the main group (peloton) of riders in a road race.
Force the pace: To increase speed to make the group go faster.
Gap: The amount of time or distance between a rider or group of riders and another rider or group.
Gear: The mechanism on a bike that changes its rate of motion via a combination of front chainring and rear sprocket; ‘low’ gears are easier to pedal (usually used when riding uphill), and ‘high’ gears are harder to pedal (usually used on flats or for faster speed).
General Classification, GC: The overall time rankings in a race. The rider with the lowest cumulative time is first place on the GC.
Grand tour: A major stage race, usually lasting up to three weeks. The Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy), and the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) are the three grand tours of international pro cycling.
Granny gear: The smallest front chainring combined with the biggest rear sprocket to make the lowest (easiest to pedal) gear.
Hammer: To ride hard.
Jump: A quick acceleration.
Kick: A burst of acceleration for the final sprint.
KOM: King of the Mountains. Award for the best climber.
Lactic, lactic acid: Describes the byproduct in the muscles that causes the burning sensation after strenuous physical exertion.
Lead out: A sacrificial race tactic in which you allow a teammate to draft immediately behind you (“on your wheel”) as you accelerate to high speed, to give them a head start for their own impending attack or sprint.
Mechanical: Slang for a mechanical problem with the bicycle.
Off the back: When a rider or riders cannot keep pace with the main group and lag behind.
Off the front: When a rider, or group of riders, break away from the main group.
On the rivet: Riding very hard. (Some old leather bike saddles had a rivet on the nose of the saddle, and you tend to sit closer to the nose when pedaling very hard.)
Paceline: A string of riders moving at high speed, with individuals taking turns setting the pace at the front and then dropping back into the draft of the others.
Peloton: The main group of riders in a race; also called the pack, bunch or field. Can also refer to pro cyclists collectively: “He’s respected in the peloton.”
Pull: To take a turn at the front of the group or paceline.
Pull off: To move out of the front position in a group or paceline, so that a following rider can take over.
Puncture: Flat tire.
Road rash: Skin abrasions resulting from a fall or crash onto the road.
Saddle: The bicycle seat.
Sitting in, Sit on a wheel, Sitting on: Drafting, or riding closely behind the rider immediately in front to save energy.
Sprint: The final high-speed dash for the finish line in a race of any distance.
Sprocket: One of the cluster of toothed cogs comprising the “cassette” or “block” attached to the rear wheel. Often referred to by the number of teeth on each cog (the higher the number, the easier the gear): “She’s riding in the 21 going up this hill.”
Tempo: A brisk speed or pedal cadence. (“The team is riding tempo at the front of the group.”)
Train: A fast moving paceline of riders, often comprising teammates working together for tactical purposes.
Tuck: A riding position with the head and torso low, back flat, and arms close to the body, for best aerodynamics and maximum speed. Most riders will get into a tuck position on a very steep descent to save energy and increase speed.
UCI: Union Cycliste Internationale, the international governing body of cycling.
Velo: French word for “bike.”
I hope this information is helpful. If there is a word you would like help with, let me know and I will see if I can find it in the Cycling Dictionary.