Cycling: learning a new language

cycling learning a new language

If you had of asked me this time last year if I’d be up before 8am on a Sunday morning to watch a cycling event, I’d probably have laughed at you. Or suggested you drink more gin. After almost 12 years, we’ve managed to avoid all sorts of weekend sports and had no plans to change that.

And along came cycling. It’s been a ride, so to speak, to get to where we are, with Poss making her debut at the Glenvale Crits on the weekend, kicking off the start of the summer cycling season.

(In fact, I recently wrote a post about how cycling has become a whole family affair over here, for the Blue Room.)

This all sounds great, you’re probably thinking, but unless you’re already in the cycling world, you’ve probably got no idea what a Crit is, or why it matters. And that’s ok. Neither did we.

It seems that cycling has it’s own language, along with a bunch of specific terms which I’ve got to say, made it seem kind of like a closed club, where if you didn’t understand a secret handshake, you couldn’t get in.

Luckily for us, the club that we’ve joined is incredibly welcoming, and the long-term cycling parents are so patient about answering all my dumb questions. And that’s great, because there’s been a lot of them.

But if you’re not so lucky, I thought it might be helpful* to put together a little 101 on a few of the things you might want to know if you or your kids are interested in cycling – even if it’s just watching it from the couch…

  • Crit. Let’s start here as I’ve mentioned it above. It’s actually a Criterium race, which is usually a short-ish race, over about a 1km road track. They do laps for a time period, and then race for a set number of laps at the end. In Poss’ case, she rides for 30 minutes and then races for three laps, but this varies as the riders get older and more experienced.
  • Knicks are the shorts with the padded bum. Some cyclists wear a bib style (like overalls), while others wear more traditional shorts. Poss prefers the bib style as they don’t fall down as much, but I think this is personal preference.
  • A jersey is the cycling top. It’s usually a pretty light-weight material and often has a little handy pocket on the back.
  • Cleats (also known as click click shoes – or maybe that’s just me) are the special shoes that riders wear that click into the pedals. This helps them with speed. Or something.
  • Gloves are pretty self explanatory, but they help protect the hands – not only when riding, but just in case you come off, as your hands will often be the first things to hit the ground.
  • The glasses. While they look kind of like a prop from the Matrix, the glasses actually help eyes from watering when riding at high speed. That’s why they’ll often wear them inside and at night… it’s not just to look cool.
  • A kit is the complete outfit that a cyclist wears, including the cleats, knicks and jersey.
  • Track or road? This is pretty straight forward – do you prefer racing on the road, or on the track? Lots of riders do a bit of both, especially in the junior years. You do need a different bike for each though; the track bike will have no gears or brakes, while the road one will.
  • Cadence is a term used in training, which measures how many times the pedals are rotating per minute.
  • A roller (or wind trainer) is a stationery bike trainer. That means that Poss can train indoors, no matter what the weather is, on one of her existing bikes.
  • A peloton is the group of riders that lead the pack in a race. While we’re not too concerned about the peloton just yet, you’ll often hear them speak of it in races like Tour de France.

What sports do your kids do? And do they come with their own language? What did you always want to know about cycling?


*Let’s be clear, I’m no expert and I’m still learning, so if you are an expert and I’ve got something wrong in the above, please let me know. 

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  1. Cheers for the tips. Even I hadn’t heard of a Crit before!

  2. Thanks for explaining the cycling terms here. Some are new to me too!

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